CNBC Pushes the Financial-Terrorism Nonsense

"Really good information" on why "outside forces may have" caused the 2008 Crash

I took the hammer to The Washington Times the other day for a dumb story on a report that says terrorists may have caused the financial crash of 2008.

Now the best thing I can say for The Washington Times’s is that it isn’t known for its business journalism. Neither is Glenn Beck, and as predicted, Fox News loaded the financial-terrorism story into its puke funnel yesterday.

Actually, this is the perfect Fox News story: based on innuendo rather than fact, fear rather than reason, and swarthy terrorists are to blame instead of ruddy capitalists. The icing on the cake: Reporting the story sows confusion, misdirecting attention from Murdoch-supported policies like deregulation that actually caused the crisis and onto our enemies, including Al Qaeda, Iran, China, and even Hugo Chavez. Hey, maybe George Soros is involved? See: You can report anything when you put a question mark after it and say you were just asking a question.

CNBC, like Beck and The Washington Times is (mostly, anyway) a right-wing outlet. On the other hand, it portrays itself as sophisticated business journalism. So it has no such excuse to recycle this nonsense.

Yesterday, though, Maria Bartiromo brought on the report’s author Kevin Freeman to talk about his report. Okay. Probably not the best idea unless the idea is to push back hard against the silliness.

But here’s how she introduced the segment:

The economic meltdown of 2008 could have been more than what we know. Was it caused by overleveraged borrowing or soaring real estate or something else? Outside forces may also have something to do with it, apparently. That’s the theory behind the new uncovered report, which was commissioned by the Pentagon several years ago.

She asks Freeman some not-very-aggressive questions about his “uncovered report,” but too late. She’s already lent credibility to it by, well, treating it as if it’s credibile. It’s not.

Bartiromo further gives it cred by even quasi-endorsing Freeman’s argument as she ends the segment:

Really good information. We’ll be watching this story.

I’ll bet you will. The “good information” included gems like this from Freeman:

I didn’t find proof that it happened but I found proof that it could have happened.

I wrote yesterday that the “terrorists did it” thing by my count is now the third leg of the Look Over There stool. First came blame-the-borrowers. Then came blame-the-gubmint (mostly via Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, de-emphasizing, of course, that these were New York Stock Exchange-traded corporations pushing for Countrywide and Ameriquest-style profits for their multimillionaire executives and shareholders).

CNBC has had a leading role in purveying both those angles, which serve to deflect attention from Wall Street and the government philosophies that let it run roughshod over the economy. CNBC’s very own Rick Santelli kicked off the Tea Party with a blame-the-borrowers rant, for crying out loud. So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that it’s throwing the financial terrorism “story” against the wall.

You never know what’s gonna stick.

(many thanks to David Gaffen for pointing this out to me on Twitter)

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,