The big story that British journos are now desperate to break is ‘How Russia hacked Brexit’. Once that rolls out, Britain can be like America, where nobody knows if Vladimir Putin is their true master or just the bogeyman of a paranoid elite.
But newspapers should be wary: Russia collusion stories can make the press look deeply silly. Mr Steerpike hears, for instance, that this summer the New York Times fell hook, line and sinker for a great Trump-Russia hoax in London. Apparently, an unknown source contacted the Gray Lady to say he had Russia-related kompromat material which could bring down the US President — but he had to give it to them in person. Where? On the Abbey Road, by the famous zebra crossing. A rendezvous was arranged for the weekend of August 12th, allegedly, and the New York Times duly despatched two senior journalists from their London office to the scene of The Beatles Crossing to obtain the evidence. It was a real cloak and dagger operation, like in the movies. The hacks waited and waited…but nobody came. Had the source been rumbled? Neutralised?
The paper later discovered that the whole thing was a ruse perpetuated by someone who wanted the satisfaction of watching distinguished representatives of the 4th Estate standing around like lemmings on the free and publicly available Abbey Road webcam service.
Alas, Steerpike’s attempts to get hold of webcam footage from that weekend have so far been unfruitful, and the New York Times press office declined to comment. They didn’t deny the story, though, and one of the senior New York Times journalists involved admitted that an ‘amusing’ hoax had taken place. Annoyingly, he refused to confirm any details before checking with head office, who promptly told him to keep schtum.
So did some adolescent prankster fool the Russia-obsessed New York Times? Or was it the dark forces of the Kremlin again playing post-modern silly buggers? Is it Fake News? That’s the thing about Russia and the truth, you never really know…