Monday, December 05, 2016

The "fake news" and the hyped scare over Russian propaganda

It looks like the paired stories on "fake news" and alleged Russian manipulation of the US election will percolate for a while.

It's hard to tell at this point who and what are behind this particular meme. I always suspected that the anti-Russian emphasis of the Hillary Clinton campaign was in part meant to lay the groundwork for a more aggressive policy against Russia than even the Obama Administration has run. Part of it was what they saw as a convenient way to duck questions about the Wikileaks revelations of the campaign's e-mails.

Specifically branding Wikileaks as Russian sockpuppets was also an obvious part of the intention of both the Clinton campaign and the Obama Administration. Obama has literally had a more severe policy against whistleblowers than even the Cheney-Bush Administration and Hillary Clinton supported that stance, as well. Wikileaks has obviously played a role in investigative reporting that the corporate media have to a large extent abandoned.

Lee Fang explains that Trump's allies are producers of "fake news" in Some Fake News Publishers Just Happen to Be Donald Trump’s Cronies The Intercept 11/26/2016. For instance:

Laura Ingraham, a close Trump ally currently under consideration to be Trump’s White House press secretary, owns an online publisher called Ingraham Media Group that runs a number of sites, including LifeZette, a news site that frequently posts articles of dubious veracity. One video produced by LifeZette this summer, ominously titled “Clinton Body Count,” promoted a conspiracy theory that the Clinton family had some role in the plane crash death of John F. Kennedy, Jr., as well as the deaths of various friends and Democrats.

The video, published on Facebook from LifeZette’s verified news account, garnered over 400,000 shares and 14 million views.
Progressive news and commentary sites listed on a frivolous list of alleged Russian-influenced "fake news" websites, which the Washington Post publicized as though it were a legitimate and credible group, have been pushing back. Natasha Hakimi breaks it down in Truthdiggers of the Week: Journalists Who Ripped Washington Post, PropOrNot for McCarthyite Hogwash Trughtdig 12/03/2013:

The list, which some in the media have branded “McCarthyite,” has been widely criticized, particularly because Timberg and the Post did not disclose sufficient identifying details about the accusing group, which has not released its members’ names. And neither Timberg nor Post editors have provided any insight on their reasoning in publishing PropOrNot’s findings. For its part, PropOrNot continues to offer erratic, at times childish, responses to the backlash.
She cites Ben Norton's and Glenn Greenwald's article, Washington Post Disgracefully Promotes a McCarthyite Blacklist From a New, Hidden, and Very Shady Group The Intercept 11/26/2016, where they justifiably charge, "Yet the [WaPo] article is rife with obviously reckless and unproven allegations, and fundamentally shaped by shoddy, slothful journalistic tactics."

She also references and provides quotes from these additional pieces:

Adrian Chen in The Propaganda About Russian Propaganda New Yorker 12/01/2016, which gives an excellent summary of how flaky the PropOrNot group's criteria for pushing Russian propaganda are.
Matt Taibbi, The 'Washington Post' 'Blacklist' Story Is Shameful and Disgusting Rolling Stone 11/28/2016
Joshua Frank, CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear Counterpunch 12/02/2016; also including the following Vimeo report featuring Joshua Frank:

Truthdig also has another article about the smear effort, Preserving Independent Journalism and Fighting the New McCarthyism 11/29/2016. Also including video, Robert Scheer: PropOrNot List 'An Attack on Internet Freedom" You Tube truthdig 12/02/2016:

Truthdig's Editor in Chief Robert Scheer has been here before. He was the editor of Ramparts magazine, a left alternative magazine from the 1960s and 1970s. Int hat role, he was well known for his critical coverage of the Vietnam War. One of his best-known scoops was breaking the story at Ramparts about how the CIA was clandestinely infiltrating student groups in the United States. He also worked at the Los Angeles Times.

The attorney of one of the smeared sites, the financial blog Naked Capitalism, has sent a Request for retraction of: "Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say" (November 24, 2016), for public apology, and for opportunity to respond, accusing WaPo's article of Making "false and defamatory accusations." While I'm not at all a big fan of legal actions against publication for defamation, promoting unsubstantiated allegations effectively suggesting that a group is acting as an illegal foreign agent really is pretty serious.

The letter includes some further web links on the topic.

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