By now, you’ve probably thoroughly digested the DoJ indictment implicating thirteen Russians and their affiliated Internet organizations in attempts to sabotage U.S. democracy and help Trump win the 2016 election. For our purposes today, I want to direct your attention to one particular spot on page 22 of that indictment:
Now, if you’ve ever read Paste before, you know that we find Trump and his supporters objectionable for a thousand different reasons, and it’s tempting to use any available ammunition against them. But let’s look at what actually happened here:
1. One group of Trump supporters reached out to another group of Trump supporters in Florida, attempting to promote pro-Trump rallies.
2. The second group of Trump supporters gladly accepted, since they wanted Trump to win the election.
As far as the Florida Trump supporters are concerned, that’s the end of the story. They were practicing democracy, and even though we find their beliefs abhorrent, there’s nothing illegal or suspicious about any of this. And, of course, there was no way for any of them to know—or even begin to suspect—that they were dealing with Russians.
In a perfectly legitimate story about this bizarre scenario, CNN outlined the story of one woman who got caught in that web.
Florine Gruen Goldfarb runs the Team Trump Broward County Facebook page, which posted numerous times about events that were promoted and encouraged by the Russians. Speaking to CNN on Sunday, she said she didn’t believe she was influenced by the Russians and said she thought that Friday’s indictment was a ploy to distract from the FBI’s mishandling of tip-offs it had received about the Parkland, Florida school shooter.
So, that’s all well and good. Seeking comment from someone like that is solid journalism, and exposing her as the usual strain of Trump conspiracy nut is a nice bonus.
But then CNN took it a step further and released this borderline ambush video with Gruen Goldfarb:
This? This is stupid, and not helpful. That woman is infuriating for too many reasons to count, but implicating her as some kind of willing traitor because she couldn’t identify a pro-Trump group on Facebook as a propaganda operation…well, that’s a ridiculous standard, and not the battle any journalist should be fighting.
By all means ask these people how they feel when they learn they engaged with Russia unwittingly. Believe me, they’ll show you who they are every single time. But putting them on video blast in some kind of absurd public humiliation ritual is a bad-faith operation, and not one they deserve. It almost looks custom-designed to prove every right-wing meme about CNN true, and the only effect will be to drum up unmerited sympathy for a group of people who are not at all sympathetic.
In this case, hey were practicing their own version of democracy. A toxic, hateful version, sure. But it’s not their fault they couldn’t spy the Russians hiding behind the curtains.