Morgan Freeman now narrating … Russiagate?
Sort of. He’s the A-lister enlisted as spokesman in the first ad for the new “Committee to Investigate Russia,” a group of Democratic partisans like Rob Reiner and center-right hawks like David Frum who are joining forces to … investigate Russia? Not really. Judging from the website, it looks more like they’re curating news about people who are investigating Russia.
A clearinghouse for Russiagate information that tries to put new developments in context would be a useful thing, actually, as the plot has become increasingly byzantine. There’s Mike Flynn and his undeclared foreign lobbying; there’s Paul Manafort and his work for Putin’s crony in Ukraine; there’s the half-assed Don Jr meeting with the Russian lawyers; there’s the Agalarov family, which made a cameo in the Don Jr meeting and which has known POTUS for years; there’s Felix Sater and his weird tangle of dubious relationships; there’s the mystery of how Russian ad purchasers knew which American voters to target on Facebook; and on and on. “Explanatory journalism” is usually a euphemism for liberals dressing up their policy preferences as dispassionate analyses of current events and aiming them at a younger audience but Russiagate really could use some user-friendly explanatory journalism. Keep it (mostly) simple, make it graphics-intensive, ensure that it stays on top of the latest news. Add a natsec lawyer or two a la Lawfare to explain legal esoterica when it arises, which will be often. Last night’s Manafort bombshell is an example. To obtain a FISA warrant to wiretap a U.S. citizen, the feds would have needed to produce evidence that he’s an agent of a foreign power. What might that evidence look like in his case?
The site doesn’t really do that, though. The front page does link to Russiagate news items but they’re very brief summaries. The “investigations” page contains running timelines of Mueller’s probe and the congressional investigations but the copy is dense and the timelines are in reverse chronological order, which isn’t how you’d do it if you’re trying to bring an ignorant reader up to speed. The more useful stuff is the timeline of Russian cyberattacks and the section on “How Russia Operates,” both of which place last year’s hackings in political context. But that’s one-and-done material. Many readers won’t look past the front page and there isn’t much there (yet?) to justify sticking around. There’s nothing Internet users enjoy more than a good connect-the-dots conspiracy to get sucked into. That’s what you lead with, not with three-line news bulletins.
It’s day one, though. Maybe they’re working out the kinks. Here’s the Freeman ad, which has a guy who’s played the president on film declaring war on Russia, followed by Frum and Meathead this morning on CNN.