Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Fake News Fights Back

With the mainstream media performing their anti-"fake news" dance since the Clinton campaign lost their birthright to the Oval Office, a recent development shows us where this side show might be heading.

Here is a copy of the legal document filed by James A. Moody, the legal representative for Aurora Advisors Incorporated, the publisher of one of my favourite websites, Naked Capitalism with the key sections highlighted:

While the Washington Post is the target of this action by Naked Capitalism, the source of much of this media finger-pointing can be laid at the feet of a new group, Propornot, the internet's new, self-proclaimed guardians of untainted, non-Russia-sourced news.  In case you were curious, you can find a link to Propornot here.  In its own words, Propornot describes itself as:

"...a resource for people who want to understand Russian influence operations targeted at US audiences, distinguish between propaganda and commercial "clickbait", and help identify propaganda and push back."

Here is Propornot's current and evolving list of tainted media outlets:

Interestingly, after "constructive conversations with outlet operators", Propornot removed several sites including counterpunch.orgnutritionfacts.org and abovetopsecret.com

Here is more background information on who exactly (well, maybe not exactly since they prefer to remain anonymous) Propornot is and why this group is suddenly interested in "fake news":

"PropOrNot is an independent team of concerned American citizens with a wide range of backgrounds and expertise, including professional experience in computer science, statistics, public policy, and national security affairs. We are currently volunteering time and skills to identify propaganda - particularly Russian propaganda - targeting a U.S. audience. We collect public-record information connecting propaganda outlets to each other and their coordinators abroad, analyze what we find, act as a central repository and point of reference for related information, and organize efforts to oppose it. 

We formed PropOrNot as an effort to prevent propaganda from distorting U.S. political and policy discussions. We hope to strengthen our cultural immune systems against hostile influence and improve public discourse generally. However, our immediate aim at this point is to empower the American voter and decrease the ability of Russia to influence the ensuing American election."

In response to accusations that the purveyors of Russian-backed media coverage are being persecuted similar to the McCarthyism of the 1950s, here's was Propornot has to say:

"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."

While they may claim otherwise, this has the distinct odour of the defeated party in the 2016 presidential election being poor losers although, without knowing the exact identity of the characters involved, we have no real idea of their motivation (and source of funding for that matter).

Let's close with this quote from Yves Smith, the person behind Naked Capitalism, a blog which seeks to "...promote critical thinking through the medium of a finance and economics blog (and a well done job at that)":

"We have another post today that describes how the few things that are verifiable on the PropOrNot site don’t pan out, as in the organization is not simply a group of inept propagandists but also appears to deal solely in fabrications. If the site is flagrantly false with respect to things that can be checked, why pray tell did the Washington Post and its fellow useful idiots in the mainstream media validate and amplify its message? Strong claims demand strong proofs, yet the Post appeared content to give a megaphone to people who make stuff up with abandon. No wonder the members of PropOrNot hide as much as they can about what they are up to; more transparency would expose their work to be a tissue of lies."

Given that Propornot and the Washington Post have provided no proof that Naked Capitalism had any connection to Russian-sourced news, one has to question who really is the purveyor of "fake news" in America.  In any case, it will be interesting to see if the actions by Naked Capitalism are just the first stage in a rather lengthy legal process against the purveyors of fake news propaganda.

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