Tag Archives: fake news

The real enemy of the people, by Kevin Smith

One group that is certainly a real enemy of the people is the fake news peddlers. From Kevin Smith at off-guardian.org:

We are all familiar with the terms ‘conspiracy theorist’ and ‘apologist’ used by the establishment and media to smear independent journalists, experts and other commentators. For some time this has been particularly evident in the debates we see over the Middle East wars and Russia. It’s common knowledge that people who use these terms can’t argue rationally so resort to smears.

Western government support for terrorism, staged events and spreading disinformation via groups such as Integrity Initiative has come under closer scrutiny recently. As more revelations of wrongdoing by our governments and misreporting by our media have been exposed, the censorship and smears against independent media has intensified.

A DISTURBING NEW RHETORIC

I’m sure some of us have noticed that the language used has been ramped up yet again. I came across one example recently of someone promoting the anti-Russia narrative on Twitter making an analogy between one researcher’s legitimate investigation and criticism of Integrity Initiative and the actions of the World War II traitor, ‘Lord Haw-Haw’. And I think many readers will be familiar with this post from John Sweeney of the BBC and clip from his programme on Sputnik News.

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The Fetishization of the Corporate Media, by C. J. Hopkins

How many “bombshells” can the mainstream media drop, only to have them discredited and discarded within a day or two, before people stop paying attention to them at all? From C. J. Hopkins at unz.com:

So the corporate media have gone and done it again. As they have, repeatedly, for the last two and half years, they shook the earth with a “bombshell” story proving beyond any reasonable doubt that Donald Trump colluded with the Russians to steal the presidency from Hillary Clinton, or at least committed an impeachable felony in connection with something to do with the Russians, or Ukrainians, or other Slavic persons … which story turned out to be inaccurate, or not entirely accurate, or a bunch of horseshit.

This time it was BuzzFeed’s Jason Leopold, “a reporter with a checkered past” (i.e., a history of inventing his sources) who broke the “bombshell” Russiagate story that turned out to be a bunch of horseshit. Leopold, and his colleague Anthony Cormier, reported that Trump had directed his attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about plans to construct a Trump Tower in Moscow, thus suborning perjury and obstructing justice. Their sources for this “bombshell” story were allegedly “two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.”

Approximately twenty-four hours later, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office (i.e., the office “involved in an investigation of the matter”) stated that the BuzzFeed story was “not accurate,” which is a legal term meaning “a bunch of horseshit.” BuzzFeed is standing by its story, and is working to determine what, exactly, Mueller’s office meant by “not accurate.” Ben Smith, BuzzFeed’s Editor-in-Chief, has called on Mueller “to make clear what he’s disputing.”

Liberals and other Trump-obsessives have joined in the effort to interpret the Special Counsel’s office’s cryptic utterance. French hermeneuticists have been reportedly called in to deconstruct the meaning of “accurate.” Professional Twitter semioticians are explaining that “not accurate” doesn’t mean “wrong,” but, rather, refers to something that is “accurate,” but which the user of the word doesn’t want to disclose publicly, or that legal terms don’t mean what they mean … or something more or less along those lines.

Glenn Greenwald, in August 2018, reporting on another “bombshell” story that turned out to be a bunch of horseshit, compiled a partial list of Russiagate stories that the corporate media had published and promoted over the course of the previous eighteen months which turned out to be a bunch of horseshit (i.e., the stories did, not Greenwald’s list). In the wake of this latest horseshit story, Greenwald revised and renamed this list “The 10 Worst, Most Embarrassing U.S. Media Failures on the Trump/Russia Story.

But Greenwald’s list is just a small sample of the Russiagate stories that have turned out to be horseshit. For the record, here are several more:

My personal favorite remains the one about how Hillary Clinton may have been poisoned by Putinist operatives back in 2016. And then there’s the pot-smoking, prostitute-banging, incompetent Novichok perfume assassins, the African American-brainwashing memes, the Putin-orchestrated Yellow Vest rebellion, the brain-eating Russian-Cubano crickets, and various other bunches of horseshit.

I am using the terms “horseshit” and “a bunch of horseshit” (as opposed to terms like “failures” and “errors”), not just to be gratuitously vulgar, but, also, to try to make a point. One is not supposed to use these terms in connection with “serious,” “respected” news outlets. Which is why journalists like Greenwald and Aaron Maté (who have extensively reported on the corporate media’s ongoing production and dissemination of horseshit) do not use such terms in the course of their reporting, and instead use less inflammatory terms like “false,” “inaccurate,” “mistake,” and “error.” Principled journalists like Greenwald and Maté are constrained by (a) their journalistic ethics, (b) their integrity, and (c) their belief in the idea of a “free and independent press,” which is one of the pillars of Western democracy.

Being neither a respected journalist nor a believer in the existence of an “independent press,” I am under no such constraints. Because I’m not trying to get or keep a job, or maintain a “respectable” reputation, I’m free to call a spade a spade and a bunch of horseshit a bunch of horseshit. I am also free to describe “journalists” like Leopold, Luke Harding, Craig Timberg, Franklin Foer, and many of their corporate media colleagues (not to mention TV clowns like Rachel Maddow) as the liars and rank propagandists they are. I don’t need to pretend their fabricated stories are simply the result of “shoddy journalism,” or “over-reliance on official sources,” or any other type of “error” or “failure.” These people know exactly what they are doing, and are being extremely well paid to do it. They went to school to learn how to do it. Then they butt-sucked and back-stabbed their way up the ladder of establishment power to be able to do it.

Yes, of course, there are still principled journalists working for the corporate media, but they are doing so by walking a very fine line. No one has to tell them where it is. Every professional journalist knows precisely where it is, and what it is there for. Though they are permitted to walk right up to it, occasionally (to keep them from feeling like abject whores), one step over it and they will be cast into the Outer Darkness of the Blogosphere and excommunicated from the Church of Respectable Journalism. If you don’t believe me, just ask Seymour Hersh, or John Pilger, or any other journalistic heretic.

If Russiagate serves no other useful purpose, it is at least exposing the corporate media as the propaganda factories that they are. Given the amount of obviously fabricated horseshit they have disseminated during the last two years, you’d have to be a total moron or a diehard neoliberal cultist not to recognize the function they perform within the global capitalist ruling establishment (which is essentially no different than the function the establishment media perform in any other society, namely, to disseminate, maintain, and reify the official narrative of its ruling classes).

Sadly, there’s no shortage of morons and cultists. I don’t blame the morons, because … well, they’re morons. The cultists are another species entirely. These are people who, no matter how often the corporate media feed them another “explosive,” “bombshell” Russiagate story that turns out to be a bunch of horseshit, will defend the concept of the “independent media” like head-shaven, bug-eyed Manson followers. Confront them with facts contradicting their beliefs and they close their eyes and start chanting and humming and repetitiously babbling banishing spells. The notion that the Western corporate media may serve the interests of the ruling establishment (just like the media in every other society serve that society’s ruling classes) is unimaginable and tantamount to heresy.

This fetishization of “the independent press” is a phenomenon unique to Western capitalism. Basically, it’s a childish fairy tale, like believing that Santa Claus is an actual person or that voting in elections in a corporate oligarchy has anything to do with actual democracy. Think about it dispassionately for a minute. Why would any ruling establishment permit a genuinely “independent” press to disseminate ideas and information willy-nilly throughout society? If it did, it wouldn’t last very long.

Most people understand this intuitively, which is why the corporate media relentlessly repeat the mantra-like phrase, “free and independent press,” over, and over, and over again. Seriously, switch on NPR, or have a look at The Guardian or the Washington Post, or any of the other corporate media repeatedly reminding you how “independent,” “free” and “democratic” they are. It’s essentially Neuro-linguistic programming.

So let’s not be shocked when the corporate media continue to bombard us with “bombshell” stories about Trump and Russia that turn out to be horseshit. Personally, I welcome these stories. The more corporate media horseshit the better! Who knows, if they dish out enough blatant horseshit, more people might lose their “trust in the media,” and begin to investigate matters themselves. I know, that makes me a Nazi, right? Or at least a Russian propagandist? I mean, encouraging folks to distrust the corporate media? Isn’t there some kind of law against that? Or have they not quite gotten around to that yet?

C. J. Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright, novelist and political satirist based in Berlin. His plays are published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK) and Broadway Play Publishing (USA). His debut novel, ZONE 23, is published by Snoggsworthy, Swaine & Cormorant Paperbacks. He can be reached at cjhopkins.com or consentfactory.org.

MSM Begs For Trust After Buzzfeed Debacle, by Caitlin Johnstone

Out and out fabrications from the mainstream media are old news. Caitlin Johnstone dissects the latest. From Johnstone at medium.com:

Following what the Washington Post has described as “the highest-profile misstep yet for a news organization during a period of heightened and intense scrutiny of the press,” mass media representatives are now flailing desperately for an argument as to why people should continue to place their trust in mainstream news outlets.

On Thursday Buzzfeed News delivered the latest “bombshell” Russiagate report to fizzle within 24 hours of its publication, a pattern that is now so consistent that I’ve personally made a practice of declining to comment on such stories until a day or two after their release. “BOOM!” tweets were issued by #Resistance pundits on Twitter, “If true this means X, Y and Z” bloviations were made on mass media punditry panels, and for about 20 hours Russiagaters everywhere were riding the high of their lives, giddy with the news that President Trump had committed an impeachable felony by ordering Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a proposed Trump office tower in Moscow, a proposal which died within weeks and the Kremlin never touched.

There was reason enough already for any reasonable person to refrain from frenzied celebration, including the fact that the story’s two authors, Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier, were giving the press two very different accounts of the information they’d based it on, with Cormier telling CNN that he had not personally seen the evidence underlying his report and Leopold telling MSNBC that he had. Both Leopold and Cormier, for the record, have already previously suffered a Russiagate faceplant with the clickbait viral story that Russia had financed the 2016 election, burying the fact that it was a Russian election.

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n Western media, publishing fake news about Russia is a good career move… with no consequences, by Bryan MacDonald

You can make up virtually any lie you want about Russia and Putin and nobody will question your integrity. From Bryan MacDonald at rt.com:

Fighting “Russian disinformation” in the West has become a lucrative business. But, in reality, you’re far more likely to encounter deceitful agitprop directed at Russia.

MOSCOW – CP Scott remains a towering figure in the annals of British journalism. Editor of the then “Manchester Guardian” for an astonishing 57 years, he celebrated his paper’s centenary by laying down a set of legendary principles.

Comment is free, but facts are sacred,” Scott intoned in the missive. Sadly, almost a hundred years later, facts are free and the right to spread disinformation is becoming sacred, as far as his successors are concerned. Particularly when it comes to coverage of Russia.

Yet another example came over the New Year break. Following a few weeks out of the spotlight after peddling an obviously fake story about Julian Assange/Paul Manafort meetings in London, Luke Harding reappeared. And he came armed with his particular brand of bulls*** and sloppiness.

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Back to the USSR: How to Read Western News, by Patrick Armstrong

Veteran readers of Soviet journalism well know how to deal with Western fake news. From Patrick Armstrong at strategic-culture.org:

The heroes of Dickens’ Pickwick Papers visit the fictional borough of Eatanswill to observe an election between the candidates of the Blue Party and the Buff Party. The town is passionately divided, on all possible issues, between the two parties. Each party has its own newspaper: the Eatanswill Gazette is Blue and entirely devoted to praising the noble Blues and excoriating the perfidious and wicked Buffs; the Eatanswill Independent is equally passionate on the opposite side of every question. No Buff would dream of reading the “that vile and slanderous calumniator, the Gazette”, nor Blue the ”that false and scurrilous print, the Independent”.

As usual with Dickens it is both exaggerated and accurate. Newspapers used to be screamingly partisan before “journalism” was invented. Soon followed journalism schools, journalism ethics and journalism objectivity: “real journalism” as they like to call it (RT isn’t of course). “Journalism” became a profession gilded with academical folderol; no longer the refuge of dropouts, boozers, failures, budding novelists and magnates like Lord Copper who know what they want and pay for it. But, despite the pretence of objectivity and standards, there were still Lord Coppers and a lot of Eatanswill. Nonetheless, there were more or less serious efforts to get the facts and balance the story. And Lord Coppers came and went: great newspaper empires rose and fell and there was actually quite a variety of ownership and news outlets. There was sufficient variance that a reader, who was neither Blue nor Buff, could triangulate and form a sense of what was going on.

In the Soviet Union news was controlled; there was no “free press”; there was one owner and the flavours were only slightly varied: the army paper, the party paper, the government paper, papers for people interested in literature or sports. But they all said the same thing about the big subjects. The two principal newspapers were Pravda (“truth”) and Izvestiya (“news”). This swiftly led to the joke that there was no truth in Pravda and no news in Izvestiya. It was all pretty heavy handed stuff: lots of fat capitalists in top hats and money bags; Uncle Sam’s clothing dripping with bombs; no problems over here, nothing but problems over there. And it wasn’t very successful propaganda: most of their audience came to believe that the Soviet media was lying both about the USSR and about the West.

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Trump Derangement International, by Raúl Ilargi Meijer

Don’t think that Trump Derangement Syndrome is confined to the US. From Raúl Ilargi Meijer at theautomaticearth.com:

Dirk Kurbjuweit, deputy editor-in-chief of Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine for the past 4 years, unwittingly put his foot a mile deep in his mouth this week when he reacted to a letter written by US Ambassador to Berlin Richard Grenell. His reaction presents perhaps the most perfect example of the downfall of news, journalism, the media in general, that we’ve seen so far. Most perfect among very stiff competition.

After Der Spiegel itself this week ‘outed’ its award-winning star reporter, Claas Relotius, as someone who had made up many of his lauded articles from scratch, Grenell suggested the magazine, and especially its editorial staff, shouldn’t think they can get away with putting all the blame on just this one guy. He tweeted:

We value policy criticism. We love a free press. But @Spiegel literally fabricated stories saying people (Americans) were racist & xenophobic. They made up events, details, & lies – and no editor checked the stories. Every real journalist should be outraged by this.

And he wrote a letter to Der Spiegel, albeit addressed at the ‘wrong’ editor, Steffen Klussman, who won’t be in the post until after Jan. 1:

The recent revelations of completely fabricated stories, completely fictional people and fraudulent details in Spiegel over the last seven years are very troubling to the US Embassy. These fake news stories largely focused on US policies and certain segments of the American people. It is clear we were targeted by institutional bias and we are troubled by the atmosphere that encouraged this recklessness.

While Spiegel’s anti-American narratives have expanded over the last years, the anti-American bias at the magazine has exploded since the election of President Trump. We are concerned that these narratives are pushed by Spiegel’s senior leadership and reporters are responding to what the leadership wants.

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Freedom on the Net 2018: The Rise of Digital Authoritarianism, by Adrian Shahbaz

An authoritative survey of net freedom around the globe. By Adrian Shahbaz at freedomhouse.org:

Fake news, data collection, and the challenge to democracy

The internet is growing less free around the world, and democracy itself is withering under its influence.

Disinformation and propaganda disseminated online have poisoned the public sphere. The unbridled collection of personal data has broken down traditional notions of privacy. And a cohort of countries is moving toward digital authoritarianism by embracing the Chinese model of extensive censorship and automated surveillance systems. As a result of these trends, global internet freedom declined for the eighth consecutive year in 2018.

Events this year have confirmed that the internet can be used to disrupt democracies as surely as it can destabilize dictatorships. In April 2018, Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg testified in two congressional hearings about his company’s role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which it was revealed that Facebook had exposed the data of up to 87 million users to political exploitation. The case was a reminder of how personal information is increasingly being employed to influence electoral outcomes. Russian hackers targeted US voter rolls in several states as part of the Kremlin’s broader efforts to undermine the integrity of the 2016 elections, and since then, security researchers have discovered further breaches of data affecting 198 million American, 93 million Mexican, 55 million Filipino, and 50 million Turkish voters.

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