“It should have been an open and closed case of a tragic robbing,” writes Gretchen Small in Bustle.com of the 2016 Seth Rich murder, “but what ensued was an alt-right conspiracy theory movement designed to take attention off of Donald Trump and put pressure on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.”
Small accurately summarized the thesis of “A Murder in D.C.,” an episode in the Netflix series, “Web of Make Believe: Death, Lies and the Internet.” I suppose she could be forgiven her failure to know that Rich wasn’t robbed. The producers failed to share that rather critical detail, one detail out of many that allowed them to keep airheads like Small ignorant of the real scandal — the media scandal. In this case, the cover-up may well have been worse than the crime.
Although I do not know who killed Seth Rich, I do know that the media did everything in its power to discourage anyone from finding out. Ron Howard, a loyal Democrat, served as executive producer of this visually well-crafted series. Not surprisingly, the episode in question does little but showcase the media’s ongoing role as protector of Democratic Party secrets.
The Alt Right — whatever that is — had almost nothing to with the case save for a little internet gossip. Julian Assange, the darling of the media before he started releasing DNC emails, was the man who moved the curious beyond the “botched robbery” scenario trotted out by the D.C. Police.
Interviewed on Dutch TV four weeks after the shooting, Assange said, unprompted, “Whistleblowers go to significant efforts to get us material and often very significant risks. There’s a twenty-seven-year-old, works for the DNC, was shot in the back, murdered just a few weeks ago for unknown reasons as he was walking down the street in Washington.” The Netflix producers showed this interview, then spent the rest of the episode trying to dismiss its relevance.
The Dutch TV show host, as compromised as his American peers, tried to head off Assange’s line of thought. He said, “That was just a robbery, I believe. Wasn’t it?” Assange would not be reined in. Said he, accurately, “No. There’s no finding.” Although Assange evaded the question of whether Rich was a source, his offer of a $20,000 reward to find Rich’s killer raised the possibility that Rich was one.
Assange’s theorizing was given legs by B-grade media personality Ellen Ratner. The producers knew about Ratner, a Democrat and Hillary supporter. They showed her on camera and mentioned her in passing as someone who worked with Ed Butowsky, the villain of the piece. They then seem to have forgotten about her. My guess is they chose to edit Ratner’s real contribution out and overlooked the initial intro.
Butowsky, a financial guy with Republican leanings, met Ratner through their occasional TV appearances. Ratner was a friend of Assange. Her late brother Michael Ratner, a hard-core leftist, had been one of Assange’s American lawyers.
On the day after the 2016 election, Ratner boasted during an otherwise banal panel discussion at a Florida university, “I spent three hours with Julian Assange on Saturday at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.” She then added without prompting, “One thing he did say was the leaks were not from, they were not from the Russians. They were an internal source from the Hillary campaign or from somebody that knew Hillary, an enemy.”
Fortunately for the media, Ratner’s self-involved fellow panelists ignored her comments and returned to their banalities. The video did not surface until much later. It did not interest the media when it did surface.