Colin Powell Hacked: Theft or Journalism? Messaging Moving Forward

Colin Powell Hacked: Theft or Journalism? Messaging Moving Forward

The recent release of Colin Powell’s hacked emails brings about a brand new and very interesting messaging angle. Democrats are drawing a solid line between “hacked” and “leaked”. And to be clear, they are in fact very different things.

What is the Difference?


When information is leaked, the leaker often times come from the inside and the documents contain information that is paramount to voters. When this information is printed, it is definitely journalism.  No matter your opinion on the man (or Wikileaks for that matter), Edward Snowden leaked important documents, and journalists reported it.


When information is hacked, the attack comes from the outside, and does not have to expose any valuable information at all. Celebrities are hacked for nude photos all the time. This type of information is not “valuable” to the public.

CNN Doesn’t Give a Shit

CNN doesn’t give a shit about the difference. In one of their stories on the issue, a video describes the emails as “Hacked, stolen, and released” in its very first sentence. Meanwhile, the text in the article directly below begins with the word, “leaked”. Those are not the same things CNN!

This isn’t even neutral, and far from objective. They are stating two separate truths, which means they should understand that one of them can’t be true. What do you expect from CNN though?

What is likely happening is that CNN has too many cooks in a giant, god-awful kitchen. The people who write the articles and the producers of their on-air segments don’t talk or even know each other. Good news here though, as this would prove that unlike Fox News, CNN doesn’t have a top-down messaging apparatus that hones their content into a singular unified message. Though this may be soon changing at Fox News with the recent ousting of serial sexual-harasser and long time piece of human garbage Roger Ailes.

What about Independent Media like The Young Turks?

In an amazing display of open debate and critical thinking, TYT’s John Iadarola decided not to cover the story. Despite Jimmy Dore’s insistence, Iadarola opted out of sharing any information learned from the hack after a brief back-and-forth with co-host-on-that-day Michael Shure. It was truly amazing, and really shone as a representation of what independent media is all about. Clearly, nobody is forcing them to cover anything.

I’m trying to get a link to the video of the conversation, and will repost when it goes live.

What Magical Messaging is Causing This?

From my friends who work for the Democratic Party, I’ve seen a lot of posts about it being “accessory to theft” for a journalist to cover the hack. While I wouldn’t take it that far, I am wildly intrigued by the ethical dilemma at hand. Most importantly, I do love that messaging from the Democrats. They should double down. Hillary should say, “I never want anyone to get robbed, especially a retiree. It’s mean. And private conversations don’t always represent true feelings. People on the internet say things they don’t mean all the time. He thought it was private so he was just typing to a friend. I’m not worried. I like Colin.”


Trump on the other hand makes little sense in his response. Does he know there were no WMD’s in Iraq? And ending on “We can do better” only makes sense if it was 2005 and Powell was still in office. But it’s not 2005. Powell is 11 years removed from office. We did move on. In fact, your opponent Hillary Clinton is one of the people we moved on to.  But is it bad messaging? Not really. It’s actually fine. In his own sort of incoherent way he blames Powell for Iraq, which people still see Trump as having always opposed. Not bad, psychopath.

Ryan Black is a documentary filmmaker, political consultant, and digital media professional who writes about Progressive Politics.

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