THE WASHINGTON POST on Thursday night promoted the claims of a new, shadowy organization that smears dozens of U.S. news sites that are critical of U.S. foreign policy as being “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.” The article by reporter Craig Timberg — headlined “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say” — cites a report by an anonymous website calling itself PropOrNot, which claims that millions of Americans have been deceived this year in a massive Russian “misinformation campaign.”
The group’s list of Russian disinformation outlets includes WikiLeaks and the Drudge Report, as well as Clinton-critical left-wing websites such as Truthout, Black Agenda Report, Truthdig, and Naked Capitalism, as well as libertarian venues such as Antiwar.com and the Ron Paul Institute.
This Post report was one of the most widely circulated political news articles on social media over the last 48 hours, with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of U.S. journalists and pundits with large platforms hailing it as an earth-shattering exposé. It was the most-read piece on the entire Post website on Friday after it was published.
Yet the article is rife with obviously reckless and unproven allegations, and fundamentally shaped by shoddy, slothful journalistic tactics. It was not surprising to learn that, as BuzzFeed’s Sheera Frenkel noted, “a lot of reporters passed on this story.” Its huge flaws are self-evident. But the Post gleefully ran with it and then promoted it aggressively, led by its Executive Editor Marty Baron:
Russian propaganda effort helped spread fake news during election, say independent researchers http://wpo.st/PHWG2
Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say
Researchers say sophisticated tools were used to boost Trump and undermine Clinton.
In casting the group behind this website as “experts,” the Post described PropOrNot simply as “a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds.” Not one individual at the organization is named. The executive director is quoted, but only on the condition of anonymity, which the Post said it was providing the group “to avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers.”
In other words, the individuals behind this newly created group are publicly branding journalists and news outlets as tools of Russian propaganda — even calling on the FBI to investigate them for espionage — while cowardly hiding their own identities. The group promoted by the Post thus embodies the toxic essence of Joseph McCarthy, but without the courage to attach individual names to the blacklist. Echoing the Wisconsin senator, the group refers to its lengthy collection of sites spouting Russian propaganda as “The List.”
…For starters, Chomsky has long held that the US political system has intentionally offered weak candidates close in ideology, while presenting the illusion of choice, and both wings are dedicated to the business class and business run society. This is why, Chomsky states, we have an extraordinarily violent labor history.
I also think the premise that Chomsky advocates less than evil voting is incorrect. Chomsky, in select circumstances does not advocate less than evil voting, he simply suggests, but never insists, on strategic voting. Simply put, Chomsky holds that if you live in a state that is safe for Democrats, you have the options of: voting for the Green Party, not voting, but most importantly perhaps, carrying on with democratic action and organizing, which Chomsky holds to be the more significant part of the political process. The process is entirely independent of voting and since voting should occupy about five minutes of our time, we need to keep up the important work.
Then, if the state you reside in is not safe, meaning it is a toss-up state that Republicans can win, it’s wise to vote for the Democrat. He never suggests that Democrats should be voted for necessarily, but that voting against Republicans is vital. For one thing, they are not even a party, but a renegade group that can’t even admit climate change is real. Even if someone did not vote for a Democrat in a toss-up state, Chomsky, I think, would be more interested in what the citizen was doing to be collectively engaged.
Chomsky thinks that we shouldn’t so easily tolerate the view which, for example, consigns hundreds of millions of Bengalis to a grim fate as the sea level rises, following Trump-Republican prescriptions. Or at home, the view that says that it’s fine if we get four more Scalias on the Supreme Court.
In reality of course, Smolski, McDonald and Cox share plenty of common ground with Chomsky. Is there a difference between a Democrat and a Republican when it comes to Noam Chomsky’s politics? Yes, but very small. Usually, this is the case anyway, but since the GOP has abandoned parliamentary procedures, they are no longer a political party. They are, literally, a menace to survival and hence the need to vote strategically.
But in the small difference, now maybe colossal, Chomsky maintains, there lies a potential for far reaching consequences when in a toss-up state. But again, as always, there is no substitute for the active citizens that devote themselves to on-going issues to participate in. This, to Noam Chomsky, is true participation and why he likes to quote Howard Zinn and the importance of “the countless small actions of unknown people.”
The question I had was whether the computer file on Weiner’s laptop was, in fact, labeled “life insurance.” Only some of the news sources mentioned this. Others had no mention at all. Is there a way to find out about this? Depends on which news sources you go to that now even mentions this issue. Does the FBI tell us truthfully about that file? Where did this claim come from? Was it made up by people who wanted to make Hillary look bad? Has the fact that it was named “life insurance” been scrubbed from “reputable” news sources in order to make Hillary not look so bad? Will it take a whistleblower risking his or her career to expose the truth?
These tubes discuss the current issue of “fake news”
I’ve wondered whether the kids in the streets here in Portland thought about what they were doing. The President –elect has yet to take office. What are they complaining about? Part of the problem is that, if they have a complaint they aren’t educating the rest of us about the virtues of their position. If the anti-war movement wanted people to oppose the war in Vietnam, they had an effort to educate. Where is the effort by these kids in the streets today to educate anyone about the things they’re concerned about? NADA NOWHERE.
The following tube is a discussion of this issue, what to do…
Sophie Shevardnadze:Dr. Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus at Princeton and New York University, contributing editor at“The Nation”magazine, welcome to the show, it’s always great to have you back. Now, the media backed Clinton, Hollywood backed Clinton - but Trump had a stronger social media presence - his tweets to his 14 million followers made all the news - was that what made the difference in the end? Do Americans not believe in traditional media anymore, do they find social media more trustworthy?
Stephen Cohen:I have no idea - I am not a social media person. I think, the media here has covered this, that there was a profound disenchantment, I guess, anger, with many many people, with the political establishment, both Republican and Democratic, and Trump took on the establishment. I mean, plus, the very bad domestic situation for many people, plus, I think, because he did something no other candidate had done in many years: he ran as what we call “the candidate of detente”, especially with Russia, and people are worried about all these wars, but primarily it was driven by domestic pain, social pain.
SS:I’m sorry to bring you back to social media, but I’m just saying, what analysts are saying, I’m repeating: they’re saying the social media played a big role in this outcome, so is the Internet now the future of election campaigns?
SC: Well, all the analysts were wrong about Trump winning, so I think we should forget all the other analysts. I mean, this was one of the great mis-analyses, miscalculations, mis-prognosis in American political history. It was kind of like Brexit - everybody said it wasn’t possible. And, by the way, he didn’t win the electoral college just by a few votes - he won very substantially. I don’t know, I can’t testify to this. Nonetheless, about 80% of Americans still get their political news from television, so it’s what drives people’s opinions more than the Internet. There’s a lot of chatter out there and I know Trump did a lot of tweeting late at night - but so did the Clinton campaign. After all, it was Obama who really started using social media as an election device, and it helped him win. So, both campaigns knew about it, both campaigns were doing it. I was getting emails every day from the Clinton campaign, I mean, two or three times a day, so I assume that Trump was doing the same thing.