July 16, 2017

NYT headline: "Soviet Veteran Who Met With Trump Jr. Is a Master of the Dark Arts."

The article is about Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist.

What are the "dark arts" and how is he "a master"?

According to the first paragraph, Akhmetshin has often told journalists not to use email to send information that you want kept secret. That's something everyone should know though, right? That can't rate the "dark art" label? Just because someone as smart as Hillary Clinton didn't seem to know something doesn't mean it's ultra-sophisticated knowledge. It's something everyone functioning in the modern world ought to know.

A little further down, we see that Akhmetshin has done a lot of "opposition research" — he "was a skilled practitioner in the muscular Russian version of what in American politics is known as opposition research." Does it become a "dark art" because it's "muscular" and "Russian" and he's "skilled"? Opposition research is a normal part of American politics. What's "dark" about his "version" of it?

The article says that in Russia, opposition research uses "stolen or fabricated documents," "pilfering private information through hacking and physical intrusion into offices and filing cabinets." I think we have that in America too. And I'm not seeing Akhmetshin accused of doing any stealing or fabricating, only that he "has acquired a reputation for obtaining" these things. Again, is that unusual? The NYT is famous for publishing the Pentagon Papers. Is it practicing a "dark art" when it "obtains" information other people have broken the law to get?

Very well into the article we get this (boldface added):
There is no evidence that Mr. Akhmetshin’s efforts on behalf of any of his clients, whether they had close or hostile relations with the Kremlin, were illegal. Nor is there evidence that he personally engaged in the technical aspects of hacking himself....
Maybe he's so good at the "dark arts" that he leaves no evidence. Anyway, I'm disturbed by the headline and the straining to tar this man.

And I do understand that the phrase "dark arts" is used in the area of spying. For example, from 2013 (in ZDNet): "GCHQ's dark arts: Leaked documents reveal online manipulation, Facebook, YouTube snooping/A fresh set of documents leaked by Edward Snowden show how the UK intelligence agency can manipulate online polls and debates, spread messages, snoop on YouTube and track Facebook users."

But I'm uneasy and skeptical when I see this term used in a headline and the definition and support for it are not apparent. It's as if journalism is some sort of... dark art.

IN THE COMMENTS: Freeman Hunt said: "Trump Jr. met with a witch!"

50 comments:

Temujin said...

That would be the 'dark art' of lobbying.

rhhardin said...

Dark arts is how men wind up doing better than women all the time.

campy said...

What are the "dark arts" and how is he "a master"?

Maybe he's a Durmstrang Academy alumnus?

Humperdink said...

"The article says that in Russia, opposition research uses "stolen or fabricated documents ..."

In the US, the media practices dark art in a different manner:

> Stolen = leaked
> Fabricated = fake

And the media is definitely the opposition.

Mattman26 said...

Maybe just being Russian is a "dark art" these days.

tds said...

Putting NYT journalism standards aside, it feels a bit weird, that Soviet Union intelligence officer is given US citizenship and then let to register formally as a lobbyist and let inside the Congress to promote Russian interests.

Hagar said...

"The Emperor's New Clothes."

Hagar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hagar said...

On the local news last night, Veselnitskaya and this guy had grown into "a group of Russians." (And he is not even "a Russian," only a former one!)
It is classic Goebbels.

BudBrown said...

"Just because someone as smart as Hillary Clinton didn't seem to know something doesn't mean it's ultra-sophisticated knowledge."

When did Hillary seem not to know the danger in using email? She did get too cloyingly
trumpesque with her wiping the drive routine but her emails as SoS are about the only
government emails that didn't get spread far and wide. Heck, setting up her own server
to bypass the honeycomb of intrigue at State shows she was in the know. She's accused of
using her private server to avoid FOI requests and destroying email that should have been
turned over to the government but those are accusations.
A main concern for Hillary, I think, would be the safety of her family so she'd be well
aware of how compromised email could jeopardize that safety.

Freeman Hunt said...

"Trump Jr. met with a witch!"

Terry Vance said...

Isn't it strange that the article doesn't mention WHY reporters have met with him or the type of information he provided? Were they also dark -- i.e. In using him as an unattributed source?

Bob said...

The phrase "dark arts" when used in our day and age comes from Harry Potter.

Freeman Hunt said...

The dark prince set out to find an evil, foreign wizard to curse the old queen and steal her kingdom for his troll father.

This tale brought to you by The New York Times.

Hagar said...

According to Akhmetshin, he served in the Russian army for two years in a unit "associated with intelligence," but he was just a soldier and not in the intelligence part.
This is like being employed as anight guard in one of the 17 (or 23) "intelligence agencies" that agree "The Russians" interfered with the 2016 election in favor of the Trump campaign.

iowan2 said...

Every article concerning damning evidence about President Trump, always has the disclaimer buried in the middle of a paragraph towards the end of the piece of propaganda. To paraphrase, 'contradicting the headline completely, we have nothing of a factual nature to support the lies contained here in.'

Darrell said...

Like the "Spirit Cooking" Podesta talked about in the memos the MSM didn't cover.

Narayanan Subramanian said...

Soon to be revealed by NYT ... Trump is hiding Voldemort under his hair.

David Begley said...

Just another story to keep the narrative going. The narrative being that Russia stole the election for Trump. Let's put aside all of the Dems who didn't vote in Wisconsin. Hillary didn't even appear in the state; they sent the millionaire daughter to Madison.

Darrell said...

Every time the Press tells the story, it gets bigger. The first iteration had their trusted sources giving the full list of attendees. Couple of days ago, the new iteration added the Spook. What's next? Putin himself attended, disguised as a cleaning lady?

MayBee said...

I would love to know the dark arts used for Obama to get two divorce decrees unsealed.
Who knew there would be something in them, and then who approached Axelrod to tell him? Did they discuss it with a judge beforehand? Why did the judge agree?

Imagine those conversations. Dark.

Humperdink said...

"Soon to be revealed by NYT ... Trump is hiding Voldemort under his hair."

OT ... Has anyone seen Manhattan Joe's hair lately? He could grow a crop of sweet corn under that coiffure.

Nell said...

Best NYT headline ever----right from the front page of The Daily Prophet, circa 2010 or so.....

Definitely Drumstrang, Campy....

EDH said...

Since it involves Trump, maybe "Dark Arts" mean he was in a Minstrel Show?

Whereas Megyn Kelly was in a Menstrual Show.

Hari said...

The forces of light are the pollsters who said Hillary would win.
The dark forces are whatever got Trump elected.
'Democracy Dies in the Darkness'

Terry Vance said...

What is the more interesting bet -- whether Akhmetshin ever met with Clinton(s)/Abedin/Podesta or how many times did C/A/P meet with Akhmetshin?

BDNYC said...

"While not, he insisted, an expert in the technical aspects of hacking nor, a spy, Mr. Akhmetshin talked openly about how he had worked with a counterintelligence unit while serving with the Red Army after its 1979 invasion of Afghanistan and how easy it was to find tech-savvy professionals ready and able to plunder just about any email account."

He was born in 1967, making him12 years old in 1979. Though I suppose 1987 is "after its 1979 invasion of Afghanistan." He served for a few years in the army and then moved to the US in 1994.

The NYT invokes the earlier invasion of Afghanistan to exaggerate his experience. They're suggesting he's a deep cover spy for Russia.

Hagar said...

Veselnitskaya: "I am not a witch!"

BDNYC said...

I'm just trying to imagine the stories that could be written about politicians from both parties meeting with pro-Israel lobbyists, many of whom have dual citizenship and experience in the "dark arts" of Israeli counterintelligence since all Israelis serve in the military. Would the NYT dare go there?

Freeman Hunt said...

Maybe the fact-checker can throw him in the water to see if it's true.

Fernandinande said...

Polonium-210 can be used as a poison or as an ionizer in anti-static brushes.

Earnest Prole said...

Unless the Times can work the phrase "Dark Lord" into the piece they're just phoning it in.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

All funny, and several good comments including Freeman Hunt.

Macbeth invited to a meeting of the three sisters, who may be able to foretell his future:
"I love it!"
I guess if the sisters had said: "don't worry, you don't have to murder anyone, we can manipulate someone else into doing it," that would have involved an art even darker than polling.

Amadeus 48 said...

The horror! The horror!

Ray said...

"Trump Jr. met with a witch!"
Correction: He's either a warlock or a gender fluid witch.

dreams said...

"I would love to know the dark arts used for Obama to get two divorce decrees unsealed.
Who knew there would be something in them, and then who approached Axelrod to tell him? Did they discuss it with a judge beforehand? Why did the judge agree?

Imagine those conversations. Dark."

Well, yeah but no Democrat was being harmed and apparently there were no Russians involved.

Darrell said...

The poor Russian Ambassador to the US spends all his time arranging for Democrats to meet with Russian oligarchs. Even if they don't give you a campaign contribution, you can walk away with a Rolex or other bling if you compliment them right.

Humperdink said...

The Russia! Russia! Russia! MSM fetish will subside at some point. It will subside not because there is no there, there - he MSM knew that all along - it will die off because the next big Trump thingy will emerge. Next up will be some phony business scandal or sex scandal.

Note: The Russia obsession may also end when the Clinton are vacuumed into it.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

It's only a "dark art" when you poke around Clinton Corruption.

JAORE said...

Puleeeze...... it is Arts of Color, not dark arts.

tcrosse said...

Art Tatum. He was Dark, and a Master.

Michael K said...

It's very amusing to read all this while reading (via Audible) the Lyndon Johnson biography. When he was a young aide (Secretary) to a Congressman, his assistants noted that he became very secretive. They typed letters to constituents but he did all of his communication with bureaucrats or other politicians by telephone. He would not put anything in writing.

He would go in the Congressman's office (who was usually playing golf) and close the door to do his telephoning.

That was 1934. NO email and nothing on paper that could expose his manipulation.

Freeman Hunt said...

"Correction: He's either a warlock or a gender fluid witch."

I thought of that, but "warlock" didn't sound as good.

Freeman Hunt said...

A media fantasy series about the prince of the troll king allying with witches to trick the orcs into following his father in an overthrow of the beneficent kingdom of the elves.

Josephbleau said...

At long last, have you left no sense of decency Mr. Media?

deepelemblues said...

The media trotted this guy out like he was the second coming of the order to release the Nixon tapes, but then he said that no one on the Trump side was interested after they heard the Russians didn't have conclusive proof of the DNC taking money from Russia. And that after they heard that they ended the meeting ASAP. This doesn't fit the narrative so he must be portrayed in a way that makes him seem a sinister and dangerous man, almost at James Bond SMERSH agent level, but also a man whose words are to be immediately discounted. He must be credible and not credible at the same time. A tight rope the Times is walking.

Saint Croix said...

Trump Jr. met with a witch!"

"She turned me into a newt!"

I got better.

StephenFearby said...

"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day [of Russian collusion stories],
To the last syllable of recorded time [when Trump Castle is finally stormed and leveled;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools [Rob Goldstone, Louise Mensch, Lt Gen (Ret) Michael Dirtbag Flynn, Adam Schiff. etc etc)
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale [The Russian Colusion Story]
Told by [useful idiots], full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

n.n said...

Trump Jr. met with a witch!"

No, everyone knows witches (and warlocks) are fantasies that are highly improbable. Trump Jr. met with a baby, which may or may not be viable (i.e. real). The NYT, WaPo et al have been on a baby hunt to expose her, and abort him, ever since. They are crossing their fingers and checking them twice.

Son of Hercules said...

As Ace is fond to say: Read another ##@$!! book.