Suddenly right-wingers are in love with the New York Times AND government regulations.

The New York Times handed the right-wing media attack machine a big, yummy early Easter egg with their journalistically challenged report on Hillary Clinton’s use of private e-mail as Secretary of State.

The article was heavy on suggestion but unclear to the point of misleading on whether Ms. Clinton had violated any laws when she forwent a government account and opted for a private system which she used for all official business.

Since then other outlets have attempted to fill in the gaps in the Times report and the consensus is that no laws were broken.

The law pertaining to use of private e-mail that the Times report seemed to be referring to (again, the report was indefinite) was not in place until over a year after Clinton left her post at State. The Times has since come back to say they were referring to other statutes, but if that’s the case, why were they not mentioned specifically in the original reporting?

Colin Powell also used private e-mail during his tenure as Secretary of State but I don’t recall any outcry then. Maybe the Times was too busy at the time churning out false reports on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction that had the effect of helping the Bush administration mislead the nation into war.

It’s not that issues around the use of private e-mail by high-profile public officials aren’t worthy of attention and that concerns around transparency and national security are not involved. They are.

The problem is that the Times’ vague and misleading report raised more questions than it answered and was more about insinuation than facts and hard journalism.

As a result a picture was painted that was a perfect Rorschach, in which the right-wing media smear machine could project all its paranoid conspiratorial imaginings while being able to point back to the alleged credibility of the Times to bolster its case.

But we should not by now be surprised to see the “lame stream media” acting as an amplifier and enabler of Fox/talk radio-style faux journalism. In 2013, 60 minutes’ Laura Logan interviewed an “eye-witness” to the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, whose testimony was then trumpeted by Fox and the rest of the echo chamber as validation of their conspiracy theories and political talking points. 12 days later, CBS was forced to pull the report when serious issues became known concerning the credibility of their source’s claims alleging to be a witness of events that night. In other words, he lied on-air and CBS broadcasted his lies after failing to do due journalistic vetting beforehand.

This is what is so disturbing and dangerous: it seems we can no longer grapple with real issues in the way that is necessary in a democracy because everything becomes fodder for the conspiracy mill of the right-wing media fear & smear machine.

Meanwhile, mainstream outlets that should know better, and that should have the integrity and skill to do better, are more and more succumbing to the paradigm of sensationalism, cynicism, and misinformation that haunts our politics and culture like a curse.

The result is commentators like Bill O’Reilly who, when revealed to be a serial liar, is shielded from consequence because his ratings remain high, reporters like Lara Logan who is given a few months off to let the dust settle before taking up where she left off at CBS, and the New York Times which is now refusing to address the glaring journalistic deficiencies of their “Hillary-gate” reporting.