Vague Email Controversy Brings Out the Worst in TV News Media

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If you have stood within earshot of a television, peeked at a social media stream, or scanned the front page of a newspaper, you may have noticed that e-mails are once again the subject of commentator frenzy. And yet there is little consensus on what, in fact, the news actually is. Oct 28, in an alarmingly vague letter to Congress, FBI director James Comey wrote that the investigation into whether or not Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton had endangered national security by using a private e-mail server was once again, possibly, relevant. Reporting since then has indicated that the FBI investigation into disgraced politician Anthony Weiner, who may have sexted a 15-year-old, surfaced e-mails that were stored on the server — probably because Weiner’s now-estranged wife, Huma Abedin, is a top Clinton aide, and the two shared devices. Even in Comey’s initial letter, the possible involvement of Hillary Clinton is either tangential or speculative — the e-mails may have been on this controversial private server, but they may also have already been in the possession of the FBI, albeit on a different device. They may implicate Clinton or Weiner; they may also do no such thing. It is explicitly unknown, and Comey confirmed that in a leaked internal memo.

That has not stopped media organizations, in the full flush of pre-election coverage, to make this some kind of “October surprise” for the Clinton campaign, seizing on it as a turning point in the narrative of election 2016. And due to the confluence of Comey’s inept attempt at transparency and the media’s appetite for inflated controversy, Comey’s letter has had the effect of lighter fluid on the finally cooling embers of a house fire. This election has been defined by the breakdown of our best intentions in the Byzantine political-media complex, where time must be filled, takes must be filed, and we as a nation have struggled to wholly apprehend what we have become.


Vague Email Controversy Brings Out the Worst in TV News Media