In his article, Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say,” the Washington Post’s so-called reporter Craig Timberg shows how far the corporate media have sunk.
He wrote, “The flood of ‘fake news’ this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.”
Who are these “independent researchers” who have compiled a blacklist of websites it accuses of peddling fake news and Russian propaganda? A good question. The only WHOIS public information is that they run a website called Is It Propaganda Or Not?, whose domain name was registered through GoDaddy on Aug. 21, 2016. They joined Twitter, PropOrNot ID Service, that same month and also have a Facebook page, Prop Or Not: Your Friendly Neighborhood Propaganda ID Service. But who is behind it is completely anonymous, except Timberg claims to know who the executive director is and he isn’t telling.
On its FAQ page, PropOrNot offers this excuse for its anonymity: “We are completely independent, because we not funded by anyone, and we have no formal institutional affiliations. We are nonpartisan, in that our team includes all major political persuasions except the pro-Russian kind. We are anonymous for now, because we are civilian Davids taking on a state-backed adversary Goliath, and we take things like the international Russian intimidation of journalists, “Pizzagate”-style mob harassment, and the assassination of Jo Cox very seriously, but we can in some cases provide background information about ourselves on a confidential basis to professional journalists. We do not publicly describe all of our sources and methods, although we describe most of them, and again, we can in some cases provide much more detail to journalists and other researchers in order to contextualize their reporting.”
PropOrNot tweeted, “We’ll consider revealing our names when Russia reveals the names of those running its propaganda operations in the West.”
Max Blumberg wrote in AlterNet, “Though the supposed experts behind PropOrNot remain unknown, the site has been granted a veneer of credibility thanks to the Washington Post, and journalists from the New York Times, including deputy Washington editor Jonathan Weissman to former Obama senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer, are hailing Timberg’s story as Pulitzer-level journalism. “Russia appears to have successfully hacked American democracy,” declared Sahil Kapur, the senior political reporter for Bloomberg. The dead-enders of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president have also seized on PropOrNot’s claims as proof that the election was rigged, with Clinton confidant and Center For American Progress president Neera Tanden declaring, “Wake up people,” as she blasted out the Washington Post article on Russian black ops.”
Timberg wrote, “PropOrNot’s monitoring report, which was provided to The Washington Post in advance of its public release, identifies more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season, with combined audiences of at least 15 million Americans. On Facebook, PropOrNot estimates that stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.”
Here is where this McCarthyite PropOrNot’s libelous hit job gets chilling, because it’s not only left or progressive outlets it is going after, encouraging people to mark articles that dissent from Washington’s official line with “YYY” (YYYcampaignYYY) but right wing and libertarian outlets, too. After all, those of us on its preliminary list might cause people to think and question.
Ironically, it has the gall to write, “We are not accusing anyone of lawbreaking, treason, or “being a member of the Communist Party”. We fiercely believe in the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press, and have no interest in seeing anyone punished for exercising them. Quite to the contrary.
“However, when outlets and individuals echo, repeat, and refer their audience to Russian propaganda, we’re going to highlight it. They have the right to do that, and we have the right to call them on it. We are also encouraging others to help us research this further, and we are calling for formal investigations by the US government, because we think the American people have the right to know when foreign governments are trying to mess with them.
“Also, the kind of folks who make propaganda for brutal authoritarian oligarchies are often involved in a wide range of bad business. We strongly suspect that some of the individuals involved have violated the Espionage Act, the Foreign Agent Registration Act, and other related laws, but determining that is up to the FBI and the DOJ.”
On its The List page, it says, “Please note that our criteria are behavioral. That means the characteristics of the propaganda outlets we identify are motivation-agnostic. For purposes of this definition it does not matter whether the sites listed here are being knowingly directed and paid by Russian intelligence officers, or whether they even knew they were echoing Russian propaganda at any particular point: If they meet these criteria, they are at the very least acting as bona-fide “useful idiots” of the Russian intelligence services, and are worthy of further scrutiny.”
Among the 200-plus sites listed, you will find Intrepid Report (which must be a “useful idiot,” since IR is neither knowingly nor unknowingly directed or paid by Russian intelligence officers) along with Black Agenda Report, Consortiumnews, CounterPunch, Global Research, Information Clearing House, OpEdNews, Paul Craig Roberts, Truthdig, What Really Happened and a host more. At least IR is in good company.
This whole thing reeks of a government operation to silence all dissent. It’s like something Cass Sunstein, who was administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2012, would come up with.
Sunstein, who is married to US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, in 2008 co-authored a paper, Conspiracy Theories, with Adrian Vermeule in which they proposed that Washington employ teams of covert and pseudo-independent agents to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups, websites and chat rooms that advocate views they deemed “false conspiracy theories to increase people’s trust in government and undermine the conspiracists’ credibility.
As for fake news and propaganda, there has been fake news and propaganda ever since there have been newspapers, radio, television and now the Internet. That is why if you read, hear or see something that seems far-out or fishy, you check it out rather than simply spread it. If you fall for this latest hysteria, you can say goodbye to the First Amendment right of free speech and a free press.
Keep in mind that the US government is the biggest purveyor of propaganda.