Permanent Investigation: How the Media Uses the anti-Netanyahu Playbook Against Trump
And how to resist it.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
The latest news from Israel’s left-wing media outlets is that Ratan Tata, an Indian billionaire, testified to the Israeli police about Prime Minister Netanyahu. The story turned out to be fake news. And that’s true of most of their anti-Netanyahu hit pieces along with the police investigations that accompany them.
But that doesn’t matter.
Americans are just now being introduced to the permanent investigation and its scandal rolodex. Israelis have been living with this Deep State assault against their democracy for much longer. Over eight long years, leftists in the judicial system and the media have manufactured a non-stop campaign of scandals and investigations against Netanyahu. The investigations and the scandals fall apart, but it doesn’t matter because there are usually several being rotated in and out from the scandal rolodex.
The scandals and investigations fall into two categories that should be familiar to Trump supporters.
Category one scandals link some random billionaire to Netanyahu through a chain of connections. The random billionaire in this case is Indian. Then there’s an Australian billionaire in Mexico, German shipbuilders and whatever part of the globe the media-judicial alliance throws a dart at next.
The fake news media in this country is following the same game plan. The latest media hit pieces target Wilbur Ross, Trump’s Secretary of Commerce, in much the same way. Indeed the Russia scandal developed out of media hit pieces that used Trump’s international network of businesses to build up very similar conspiracy theories about foreign interests and influences.
These types of scandals constantly imply corruption without ever actually proving it. But by generating a whole lot of them, they create the sense that Netanyahu or Trump must have done something wrong.
Though no one can say what, because no one can keep track of all the fake scandals.
Category two scandals are character attacks. “He’s a bad person.” Typical examples are Trump’s condolence call controversy and accusations that Netanyahu’s wife is mean to employees.
These types of scandals are straightforward gossip. But lefties have tried to transform them into legal cases. Just about anyone who has ever worked for the Netanyahu family can walk out of the door and have a standing offer to file a lawsuit and do a tour of the media alleging horrible treatment. And the left is trying to advance similar lawsuits against President Trump.
There are lessons to be learned for Trump and Trump supporters from Netanyahu’s experiences.
First, permanent investigations don’t resolve. Trying to wait them out doesn’t work. They never go away until the left wins. An investigation that doesn’t pan out gets swapped out for another one. There are three investigations targeting Netanyahu. If none of them get results, there will be three others.
Everyone knows that.
Second, the purpose of a permanent investigation isn’t to get results. The left would love it if their investigations finally brought down Trump or Netanyahu, but they know that’s a long shot.
The permanent investigation’s real goals are to inflict electoral and policy damage: tying down a targeted politician in scandals so that the public loses confidence in him and preventing him from focusing on his policies. What the left wants is to win elections and stop conservative policies.
The scandals and investigations are political sabotage. And should be treated that way. They’re not about Trump or Netanyahu. They’re about protecting illegal immigration and Islamic terrorists.
Third, the investigations isolate their target by harassing staffers, friends, donors and political allies.
The investigations are a political operation. And so their targets are political. The purpose of the attack is to take out loyal staffers and force allies to keep their distance out of fear that they’ll be next.
Taking out Flynn left Trump with few options except McMaster. And that allowed the swamp to reclaim the National Security Council and protect the eavesdropping operation against Trump. The likely Flynn charges have little to do with the reason he was forced to resign or any accusations against Trump.
But that doesn’t matter. The real goal was to remove Flynn. The details don’t matter.
Thinning out a target’s inner circle makes it harder for him to find competent and loyal replacements. And that makes it all too easy for the swamp to plant its own people in his inner circle. And even if the staffers and allies stay loyal, the investigations make it harder for them to get anything done.
And that too is the point.
This may seem like a grim picture of what the next term or two will look like. But it’s not all grim.
Netanyahu made it through eight years by not letting the scandals drag him down. Even when the attacks against him and his family were as vicious, nasty and personal as the left could get.
He even turned the constant scandals and investigations into a hilarious campaign ad.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has accepted them as a fact of life in a political system where the left’s anti-Israel extremism has made it toxic to voters even while it still controls much of the establishment.
The permanent scandal has been met with permanent scandal fatigue by the public. Israelis have been living through years of hysterical headlines about Netanyahu’s ice cream eating (CNN did its own version of a Trump ice cream scandal with “Trump gets 2 scoops of ice cream, everyone else gets 1”), his wife’s bottle deposits, their children’s misbehavior, their nannies and his bed.
Hardly anyone outside the media bubble cares. Netanyahu’s reputation has been damaged with the media’s low information voters, but he’s still Israel’s longest serving consecutive prime minister.
The Israeli lefty media reacted to its narrative failures the same way that its American counterparts did.
After Trump’s win, the media launched a crusade against “fake news” enlisting Google and Facebook to censor results based on the opinions of the media’s “fact check” operations. Their Israeli counterparts were even more brazen. After a previous Netanyahu victory, they rolled out the “Law for the Advancement and Protection of Written Journalism in Israel”.
The law “advanced and protected” written journalism by banning the distribution of successful free newspapers. The real purpose of the law was to ban the pro-Netanyahu paper, Israel Hayom.
But the media’s censorship crusade didn’t accomplish anything.
The media has an exaggerated sense of its own power and of the gullibility of the public. The two fallacies are interrelated. When people don’t listen to it, the media assumes that since they’re too stupid to have their own ideas, they must be getting all their ideas from some other source. Stamp out this other source, online or offline, and the people will go back to believing what they’re told.
It doesn’t work so well when the media has a worldview and interests that are at odds with the people.
Netanyahu is still around because he represents the public better than the establishment does. The same is true of Trump. And the establishment can’t look in the mirror long enough to understand that.
In free countries, the left operates on two tracks: the democratic and the undemocratic. When it loses democratically, it redoubles its undemocratic efforts to retain power. Scandals and investigations are the tools of an undemocratic establishment. But they can’t overthrow the will of the people.
When conservative leaders stay strong, the scandals and investigations blow away like the wind.