The Washington Post’s Propaganda about Russian Propaganda

By William K. Black
November 28, 2016     Kansas City, MO

The Washington Post has published a fevered piece of propaganda about Russian propaganda.  The trouble begins in the headline and the first sentence of the article.  The headline is: “Russian Propaganda Effort Helped Spread ‘Fake News’ During Election, Experts Say.  The first sentence reads:

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.

The article provides no basis for its claims about “experts” and “independent researchers” who purportedly used (unspecified) “Internet analytics tools” in their “study.”  The first group, which does not purport to have used any scientific methodology explicitly resurrects 1992 USIA word pictures and charts in lieu of analysis.

The web site of PropOrNot, the supposed expert that supposedly studied the role of Russian propaganda using the unspecified “tools” calls itself “Your Friendly Neighborhood Propaganda Identification Service, Since 2016!.”   The same web site states that:

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.

So, how did the Washington Post know that (a) that PropOrNot is (a) expert, (b) independent, and (c) produced a real study using scientifically reliable “internet analytics tools” (which it won’t describe to the public)?  And what does the assassination of the UK MP Jo Cox have to do with Russia or PropOrNot?  Under that claimed basis for anonymity every American could demand anonymity whenever talking to the media.  We are not supposed to worry that PropOrNot will condemn and call for congressional investigations of real analysts it disagrees with on the basis of methodologies they will not disclose because their web site assures us that “we have sophisticated analytical tools at our disposal.”

The Washington Post allowed the alleged executive director of PropOrNot to be quoted anonymously on the following grounds (which assumes the accuracy of the anonymous persons’ claims).

[T]he executive director of PropOrNot … spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers.

How do we know that is why they demanded anonymity?  Sources often know that if their identity were known their claims would be subject to great doubt by readers for a host of reasons such as bias and a tendency to overstate greatly the facts.  Here is how the paper described PropOrNot:

Another group, called PropOrNot, a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds, planned to release its own findings Friday showing the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns.

Gosh, it’s almost as if the Washington Post (in an article complaining about this kind of uncritical practice) simply summarized and parroted back PropOrNot’s self-description on its website with no independent analysis or inquiry by the journalist.  As Greenwald shows, the Washington Post’s executive editor did the same in an even more cursory twitter format.

Who is PropOrNot?

We are 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 nonpartisan, in that our team includes all major political persuasions except the pro-Russian kind.

The website says that the group has over 30 members, so how can the Washington Post know that the team is, for example, “non-partisan?”  How can we possibly know whether PropOrNot is actually “independent?”  Its terminology is frequently identical to the phrases used in the article by the three identified authors.  Are the three authors in fact not associated in any way with PropOrNot?  How did the Washington Post check on the claim that the two groups were not associated given the anonymity of PropOrNot’s membership?

The Washington Post, of course, has the traditional reasons for being uncritical when it comes to its sources at PropOrNot.

PropOrNot’s monitoring report …was provided to The Washington Post in advance of its public release….

PropOrNot’s list of web sites that are purported propaganda outlets for Russia fails the straight face test.  On the list is one of the world’s top financial web sites, Naked Capitalism.  If PropOrNot had any analytical integrity this result would have been impossible.  (I know Naked Capitalism’s site well so I limit my comments to its inclusion on the list.)  After I wrote most of this article I discovered that Glenn Greenwald has made many of these points in a recent column.

This is PropOrNot’s own description of its methodology and its analytics.

An Initial Set of Sites That Reliably Echo Russian Propaganda

We have used a combination of manual and automated analysis, including analysis of content, timing, technical indicators, and other reporting, in order to initially identify (“red-flag”) the following as Russian propaganda outlets. We then confirmed our initial assessment by applying whatever criteria we did not originally employ during the red-flag process, and we reevaluate our findings as needed.

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 [emphasis and links in the original].

First, note that in addition to not knowing who did the analysis we do not know how they did the analysis.  We are told only that they used “a combination of manual and automated analysis” – a phrase designed to be so vague that it is meaningless.  Second, note their “analytics.”  While they do not know why a web site published any article, they say there are only two possibilities.

  1. They “are knowingly directed and paid by Russian intelligence officers,” or
  2. They are “at the very least acting as bona-fide “useful idiots” of the Russian intelligence services”

So, PropOrNot doesn’t know, and has no proof, of why any website published any article but they are sure that anyone who ran articles they dislike is either a paid agent for Russian intelligence or a “useful idiot” for Russia’s spies.  PropOrNot’s analytics are classic smears – facially ridiculous propaganda.  If you are on PropOrNot’s list, you are conclusively guilty under that group’s (substitute for) analytics.  Greenwald gives examples of PropOrNot’s recurrent juvenile messaging.  None of this troubles the Washington Post, which treats these sham analytics as if they are represented revealed truth.

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.

Of course, the Washington Post could have applied some basic standards of evaluating the reliability of a source.  Here are the relevant suggestions that one media critic publishes on its web site.

5) Check to see whether the social-media account/commenter/outlet lacks the hallmarks of good actual journalism: Are the stories factual? Are the facts placed in appropriate context? Do the headlines match the content? Are the agendas of the sources clearly disclosed? Are there good explanations? Does it bring clarity to complicated issues? Is there an absence of hype?

6) Check to see whether the social-media account/commenter/outlet has been called out by other fact-checkers, journalists, debunkers, etc, already.

8) Given all that, check to see whether the social-media account/commenter/outlet qualifies under our definition of propaganda:

A systematic form of persuasion that attempts to influence the emotions, attitudes, opinions, and actions of specified target audiences for political, ideological, and religious purposes, through the controlled transmission of deceptive, selectively-omitting, and one-sided messages (which may or may not be factual) via mass and direct media channels.

The Washington Post story fails #5 in multiple ways.  The social media sources they rely on so uncritically do not have their agendas disclosed because the people involved are not disclosed so it is impossible to know their agendas.  I’ve explained how the title does not track the content.  Both the article and PropOrNot reek with hype.  There are no good explanation for the methodologies or the analytics.

The story fails #6 for one cannot check whether the authors of the PropOrNot “study” have previously been “called out” by other fact-checkers because the authors are anonymous.

The Washington Post article and the two reports meet the definition of “propaganda” provided in #8.  The social media site that suggested these basic tests of journalism is PropOrNot.

As I noted, the report by the three authors and PropOrNot’s web pages often employ identical phrases suggesting that they are share a common underlying theory.  It is important to understand how expansive that underlying theory is and how bizarre its implications are for its propaganda claims.  The common underlying theory, as phrased by the three named authors, is “Russia’s desire to sow distrust in the American system of government.”  The way to fix problems with U.S. institutions is to write about the nature of those problems in a candid and blunt fashion.  But the authors, most of them anonymous, that the Washington Post relied on define such candor as “propaganda” for Russia.  As anyone who knows my economic views understands, I think that returning to the gold standard is a terrible policy idea.  But I would never list supporting the gold standard as an indicator of pro-Russian propaganda – as PropOrNot does.

The three authors claim that Russian propaganda “sows distrust” in four areas.  In politics, it sows distrust by revealing political corruption.  In economics, the three authors claim the following forms of distrust are the goal.

Financial propaganda weakens citizen and investor confidence in foreign markets and posits the failure of capitalist economies. Stoking fears over the national debt, attacking institutions such as the Federal Reserve, and attempts to discredit Western financial experts and business leaders are all part of this arsenal.

We can now solve the mystery of why these two groups despise Naked Capitalism.  The issue has nothing to do with Russian propaganda.  It has everything to do with the high quality of analysis in Naked Capitalism.  My God, authors often criticize the Federal Reserve on the pages of Naked Capitalism!  Wow, they must be Putin’s useful idiots.  We also present evidence of the epidemics of fraud led by “financial experts and business leaders” on the pages of New Economic Perspectives and Naked Capitalism.  We must be the modern incarnation of the KGB (FSB).

But wait, there is a sting in the tail that the three named authors missed.  Naked Capitalism is known for debunking “fears over the national debt.”  The chances that PropOrNot understand that fact closely approach nil.  Which folks are infamous for “stoking fears over the national debt?”  They include each of the prominent politicians that these two self-described anti-propaganda groups claim are the primary victims of Russian propaganda – Bill and Hillary Clinton, President Obama, and John Podesta.  Each of these politicians is a fierce austerity hawk that loves to stoke fears over the national debt.  Naked Capitalism authors overwhelmingly seek to counter these financially illiterate fears.

The broader point, however, is that while I am a severe critic of these austerity hawks I have never thought that they favored austerity due to Putin.  Bob Rubin is a far likelier explanation for why New Democrats think continuing the long war of austerity against the working class is good economics and good politics.

The third supposed focus of Russian propaganda for sowing distrust is race.  Recall that both of the self-described anti-propaganda outfits is highly associated with support for Hillary Clinton.  Consider the extraordinary price America and Americans would bear if we were to fail to speak candidly about this range of issues that the two groups view as Russian propaganda.

Social issues currently provide a useful window for Russian messaging. Police brutality, racial tensions, protests, anti-government standoffs, online privacy concerns, and alleged government misconduct are all emphasized to magnify their scale and leveraged to undermine the fabric of society.

Recall that PropOrNot claims its members insist on anonymity because of their “online privacy concerns.”  (They say they are afraid they will be assassinated if their identity becomes known to intelligence services.)  Recall also that because of disclosures, which the Obama administration sought zealously to prevent, we know that the NSA routinely violates U.S. citizens’ privacy interests.  Police brutality and racism “undermine the fabric of society.”  Sunlight is the best disinfectant against such maladies, which requires candid discussions of our problems and how to fix them.  It takes breathtaking hypocrisy for these groups to complain about blog sites disclosing and documenting U.S. “government misconduct” when these groups’ self-described purpose is to disclose and document “government misconduct” by Russia.

23 Responses to The Washington Post’s Propaganda about Russian Propaganda

  1. Check out
    https://sputniknews.com/us/201611281047941070-nyt-krugman-putin-fbi-trump/

    NYT Columnist: FBI Director, Putin Installed Trump President of the US
    One of Hillary Clinton’s biggest supporters throughout the election cycle, New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, is now claiming that FBI Director James Comey and Russian President Vladimir Putin “installed” Donald Trump.

    Ever since it became clear that Trump would be the next President of the United States, Krugman has been lashing out in a big way on Twitter. His latest claims may be his most far fetched to date.

  2. Very good.
    I was talking to a rather bright friend today about Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s interview on Charlie Rose. Even there, although it was pretty good, it was pretty one-sided. Nobody bothered to give the context for that conflict with Putin, and with what Putin had to accomplish to keep his country from falling apart. At that time, the budget for the whole country was around $100 billion, roughly the budget of New York City. And even though Mikhail was imprisoned 10 years, he looked awfully good.

    There was no discussion of how Mikhail refused to play ball with the Kremlin when the nation was in desperate straits. Little time was spent on the fact that Mikhail wasn’t some sweetie pie – he was someone who seized state assets for virtually nothing and got drunk with power. He was a minor petty dictator out there in the hinterlands. In my travels in Russia and Central Asia, I never ran across an oligarch without a private army, and the ones I peripherally interacted with were killers who negotiated by, in one case, leaving the body of a colleague’s secretary dead in a park across the street bound with wire.

    It’s clear that Mikhail was treated as well as he could be. I’m sure he didn’t like it, but when Michail went in, a 5 year prison sentence for most people was a 50% chance of death. (Putin has improved that as well.) Then they let him go, let him leave the country, and sent him off with a sizeable fortune – enough he never has to work again.

    I explained that to me, this was another example of how restrained Putin actually is. He could have killed Mikhail, easily. Death in prison? No problem at all. It would have been a cheaper, and probably wiser, political course. But he didn’t.

    Mostly, that’s what I’ve seen in Putin. He’s very careful, calculated, deliberate. He doesn’t kill or crush people if he can avoid it. He tries to make a deal. In rare cases like Mikhail’s when he knocks them down, it’s for a reason. Russia is not the USA folks. And if he can, pretty much, he does the minimum he possibly can, even if it creates risk for himself down the road. Putin’s decision making process is for the good of his country from what I see. Certainly more than our politicians are. Russia has gotten lucky.

    What I am getting at here is the pervasive “isms” that pervade even the best instances of journalism and warp our world view.

  3. Great post. Accusing Russia is a right wing tactic. Today on Here and Now, David Levinson of the University of Minnesota discussed Bannon’s plans for infrastructure spending http://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2016/11/28/economics-trump-infrastructure. I will write to H&N and request that they interview a MMT-ite. Is there a well funded team that handles responses to news articles and interviews such as this? I wish.

  4. Almost everyone in media, except I guess the WA Post now, seems to be madly in love with Putin and Russia. I find this sudden shift to be kind of eery, given that the opposite was true even a few years ago. I don’t know who propornot is. But since they express a viewpoint different from the most common one, I think that their web site is worth looking at, and their viewpoint worth considering.

    Accusing Russia is no longer a Right Wing tactic, although it used to be. Trump obviously has a big man crush on Putin, and the whole Republican party is going along with him now. I looked at news articles about propornot, the comments under the articles, and the replies in their twitter stream. Everyone and news site, except the writer of that WA Post article apparently, puts them down pretty much unanimously. And now Dr. Black, at this site also, is added to the very long list of propornot critics.

    Propornot is likely not measuring what groups think about austerity or the national debt or U.S. government misconduct. Why should they be involved with that? What they say they are doing is measuring whether the groups echo Russian propaganda themes, regardless of what else they may cover. If they do that, propornot apparently puts them on their list.

    As I said, I know nothing about propornot. But just because some web sites on their list are ones that you like, and just because those web sites are correct on certain issues, that would not necessarily mean that those web sites are not echoing the views of e.g. Russia Today, which is funded by the Russian government. That’s all they are claiming to measure. I don’t know if they are correct or not. But, if so, a web site’s coverage of other news items, on which RT may be silent, would be irrelevant.

    • Rather than say “echoing the views of e.g Russia Today [RT]” one might say that many of those on the list are, within their own perspectives, of course, telling the truth rather than spreading deceptive propaganda. When one reports truth from the source then one is not echoing others reporting the same truth.

      I haven’t looked at all those sites, and some may be there simply to confuse the issue. I don’t know if there is some common elements which could be isolated, given the seeming subjects of some of them, yet I have been familiar with many of the more prominent sites and found reporting that largely echoed the real situations, backed up by various sources I’ve seen which were not from simple reporting but more primary sources which refuted US propaganda and disinformation.
      Now, Wikileaks is in a class of it own in that it does not do ‘reporting’ as such, or interpretation, or opinion, but transmitting primary material others have sent to them. This is not to say that all the ‘alternative news’ always has it right, or that some may not also spread disinformation, but judging the reliability of each of those sites has nothing to do with WP’s fake news article or Propornot site — or previous instances of US propaganda and ‘manufacturing consent’.

      At the same time, it is easy to see how the US media, with corporate and government input, is an echo chamber with often little or no relevance to the truth, but rather based on building a narrative (actual ‘fake news’) which supports the agenda of someone with power (Iraq’s (non-existent) WMDs, the incubator babies in Kuwait, and the Ghouta chemical sarin attacks being well known examples).

    • Annonymous II

      “Almost everyone in media, except I guess the WA Post now, seems to be madly in love with Putin and Russia.” And your point is . . . .? And ‘madly in love’ ? ! ? Are you ‘madly in love’? I saw nothing anywhere in the boatloads of discussion about the wonderful pRopOrnOt debacle, everyone on line, except in your comment about anyone being in love. The question of love-maybe a counselor is needed?

      This statement : “Propornot is likely not measuring what groups think about austerity or the national debt or U.S. government misconduct” shows you really missed the whole point of the discussion from top to bottom. Rewind, play again

  5. from the wikipedia page called Fake News web site:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fake_news_website

    “Fraudulent articles spread through social media during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Two independent teams of researchers tracked fraudulent news and amplification during the election to the government of Russia. These conclusions both by the group PropOrNot, and independently the Foreign Policy Research Institute, were confirmed by prior research from the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University and by the RAND Corporation. Google CEO Sundar Pichai agreed fraudulent news swayed the election. U.S. President Barack Obama said a disregard for facts created a “dust cloud of nonsense”. Google and Facebook banned fake sites from profiting through advertising.”

  6. This quotation rang a bell with me.

    “We are 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 nonpartisan, in that our team includes all major political persuasions except the pro-Russian kind.”

    The grand sweep and vagueness of the claims of who “we” are remind me of a person — yes, one person — who, years ago, assumed a multitude of online personae, some of whom claimed to speak for an organized group of people (who never existed). If, for instance, PropOrNot includes a statistician, it would have been normal to say so, rather than “professional experience in . . . statistics. . . .” Note the hint that statistics might be pertinent to PropOrNot’s claims, but nothing is spelled out. It sounds like a snow job.

    I find it hard to believe that the Washington Post could be easily taken in by a single person or small group, but in this age of the internet their only connection to the person or persons may be online, because of “privacy concerns”. As Matt Taibbi pointed out, “in its Twitter responses to criticism of its report, PropOrNot sounded not like a group of sophisticated military analysts, but like one teenager” (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/washington-post-blacklist-story-is-shameful-disgusting-w452543).

  7. Correction to WaPo article title : Washington Post Propaganda Effort Helped Spread ‘Fake News’ During Election. Let’s contact Julian Assange about hacking WaPo editors email. Surely there’s something juicy there.

  8. Jill – “Almost everyone in media, except I guess the WA Post now, seems to be madly in love with Putin and Russia.”

    You wanna back up this absurd statement with some links to “almost everyone in media?”

    • Do a google search for propornot. The WA Post article is the only positive article I could find on them. All comments here except mine were negative about propornot. Look at the 200 or so media sites that propornot lists on their web site. All pro-Russia and pro-Putin. Ever wonder why there are so many of them? And of course Fox News and all the Trump supporting media outlets are pro-Putin and pro-Russia.

      • One does not need to be ‘pro-Russian and pro-Putin’ to recognize the absurdity of Propornot or the WaPo article.

        In fact, many writers within Russian media are highly critical of Putin, and this is not a simple matter of pro or against in better and more relaiable media and writers around the world. It has been established however, by many media critics and researchers that the western media, US in particular, has been engaged in massive anti-Russian and anti-Putin activity and propaganda, generally with no factual basis or by distorting the facts — often simply lying. One might never understand this if not reading material from outside the US anti-Russian bubble.

        • Where is this US anti-Russian bubble? I’m surprised propornot’s list is not longer. Lots of U.S. sources I read are very pro-Putin and pro-Russia– astoundingly so, compared to only a few years ago. I suppose one could have made the case for a US anti-Russian bubble years ago, but certainly not now. Media will only get more pro-Russian now, with our president elect having a big bromance with Putin, having said that he thinks more highly of Putin than of our current president.

          Donald Trump during third presidential debate praises Vladimir Putin for ‘outsmarting’ Obama administration
          http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/donald-trump-praises-vladimir-putin-outsmarting-obama-article-1.2837407

          And of course Trump brought all of the pro-Putin media along with him in his bromance, and will only bring more media in that direction that want to curry favor with the president elect.

          Take your blinders off. There is no the US anti-Russian bubble. Google propornot. Notice that every article written about them is negative, except for that one Wa Post article. How could that possibly be true of a site that claims to go after Russian propaganda, if the U.S. media were in an anti-Russian bubble. If the U.S. media were anti-Russian, then the media would be singing propornot’s praises.

          • Extremists Turn to a Leader to Protect Western Values: Vladimir Putin
            http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/03/world/americas/alt-right-vladimir-putin.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=a-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

            Between Trump’s love of Putin love and his love of the alt right, we’ve got our work cut out for us, in the coming presidential administration.

          • If you can’t see the anti-Russian / Putin bubble — largely centered in WaPo, CNN, NYT, BBC, but also in the rest of western and neoliberal media, and in the US government, then you are not aware of the world’s situation and press — and I don’t know what else to tell you. “Trump’s love of Putin” is complete nonsense, created by the propagandists, and to a large extent so is the ‘alt-right’ which is just a propaganda gimmick created by the Clinton campaign to confuse the issues.

            I suggest you listen to the last few months’ of Crosstalk to hear some real expertise — albeit to an extent from admittedly pro-Russian sources, and yet basically truthful, and with Peter Lavelle having a somewhat conservative orientation. I also direct your attention to ‘Loud and Clear’, available at Sputnik, conducted by Brian Becker of the Answer Coalition, Chris Hedges, both writings, interviews, and the On Contact show, and the show ‘Unamimous Dissent’, ‘Real News Network’ (pretty decent stuff there), and read Pepe Escobar. Then follow up on the references and guests heard.

            RT, Sputnik, Fort Russ, The Saker, and The Duran, also gives different perspectives from a more Russian point of view, although with some biases also, but again a source of links to other material. Just scratching the surface — I have accessed many dozens of different sources — some left, some right, some sort of in the middles and beyond that simple description. But you have to get out of the political bubble in much the same way that economists have to look beyond neoclassical and the Chicago School.

            I have no blinders. I’ve been closely following the situation for over 15 years, many hours every day, and that includes listening to Russian sources including Putin’s speeches and news conferences, as well as other nations. To think that Russia is being aggressive and wants to expand it’s territory is ridiculous (it is the US and NATO which has expanded and started aggressive wars). I can’t write a book for you, which would touch on only a small part of what I’m familiar with, after tens of thousands of hours of reading and research, and which be fairly tentative even so considering the complexities. It’s not balck and white and doesn’t fit into neat boxes.
            It’s out there, but you have to do the work to find and understand it yourself.

  9. Does their analysis follow the laws of transitivity? (irrespective of their methods)

    For example if they say they are filtering for dubious pro-Russian media stories do they do the same for pro-US media.

    Its all trending down the rabbit hole. I had an inkling this sort of stuff would eventually happen about 6+ years ago with the advent of ‘fact check’ media.
    A one-stop-shop for all your truths about truths. Brought to you by . Who will walk you through the process of factual or not factual using their predicates of logic. Distill the result down to a TRUE | HALF TRUE | FALSE because we all know the world is moving faster and faster and we don’t have time for more than a byte sized ‘fact check’ to stay up to date 😉

    Pick a country: More than likely after so many iterations of failure of the media it would come to this. The best effort journalism used to be the impartial government run (not subject to insolvency) BBC, ABC whatever. But National Broadcasters have reached threshold of quality a few years back due to austerity/cuts, infiltration by government elected mates to sit on the board and of course less physical actuators/reporters doing the first-hand investigation in the physical world. These reasons are as much to fault the news cycle as ‘pro Russian’ media.

    • “Pick a country: More than likely after so many iterations of failure of the media it would come to this. The best effort journalism used to be the impartial government run (not subject to insolvency) BBC, ABC whatever. But National Broadcasters have reached threshold of quality a few years back due to austerity/cuts, infiltration by government elected mates to sit on the board and of course less physical actuators/reporters doing the first-hand investigation in the physical world. These reasons are as much to fault the news cycle as ‘pro Russian’ media.”

      Yes, the media business has been in trouble for a long time. And the problems of the news business make them highly vulnerable to more organized and better funded propaganda organizations that are willing to supply “content” and even “investigative journalism” for free.

  10. http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/12/01/fake-d01.html
    “The editors and writers who produce these articles seem not even to notice that their publications have been caught in one colossal lie after another—from the claims of Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” used to justify the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 to the more recent flood of government propaganda in support of neo-colonial wars in Libya and Syria and drone killings in a growing number of countries—all justified in the name of “human rights” and the “war on terror.””

  11. The propornot.com web site is almost universally hated– here on this site, on every comment board of every article about them, and in the reply section of their own Twitter feed. That does not make them correct in their allegations. But it is quite interesting. By contrast, Putin and Russia are now mostly loved in the U.S.– in stark contrast to what the case was just a few years ago.

    Yes, Taibbi did say that “in its Twitter responses to criticism of its report, PropOrNot sounded not like a group of sophisticated military analysts, but like one teenager.” And he’s right. But sounding like a teenager on Twitter is pretty common. And such behavior is not know to stand in the way of any goal– even that of getting elected president.

    • Have you seen
      http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2016/12/03/is-the-us-government-behind-the-fake-news-media-attacks-on-president-elect-trump/
      Is the US Government Behind the Fake News Media Attacks on President-elect Trump?

      Roberts is no teenager, and surely no puppet of Russia, (and neither is Ron Paul) despite what Propornot says:
      “Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments.”

      He worked in government under Regan is pretty confused about economics, and responsible for much of the trickle down nonsense. He is still fairly right wing with some strong libertarian streaks (including fairly anti-war). Old school ‘paleo’ ir ‘Rino’ Republican (which is what he likes about Trump). And he is one of the sanest guys in the political field now, which is a lot for an anarchosocialist like myself to assert, and he likes trying to deal in the truth.

      We need to honestly engage actual conservative in factually based discussion about both politics and economics — what democratic politics is supposed to be, instead of manufacturing consent through deception and propaganda. Trump is hardly a shining light in this, although, oddly, better then many of the rest of the oligarchs and political class. At least he still seems to be against aggressive wars and world war, which may give us some time to work on things. I suspect his ‘building the military’ has more to do with the money than the fighting. You work with the clown you have, and hope he grows into the job — but it requires honesty, and that’s in very short supply in the US establishment now.

    • Since politifact has documented that 70% of Trump’s statements that they checked during the campaign were lies, Trump and fake news have been going together hand in hand, all this time, with Putin holding Trump’s other hand. Of course many Republicans like Roberts are supporting Trump, no matter what, since he will soon be the man with the power.

      I can’t see any reason for optimism here. But I would love to be proven wrong, and to see Trump’s presidency turn out to be something less than a disaster.

      Honesty may be in very short supply in the US establishment now. But it’s in even shorter supply in Trump and his cabinet, so far.

      “We need to honestly engage actual conservative in factually based discussion about both politics and economics.”

      Try that and see how it goes. These people believe, as Trump said, Hillary was planning, if elected, to let 650 million immigrants into the country in one week. What’s fake about that, right?

      That is just one example, but there are tons of such statements that Trump’s followers believe. Good luck having a factually based discussion with people who believe those statements, and who, like you and Roberts, apparently do not believe in “fake news.”

      http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/oct/31/donald-trump/trump-says-clinton-would-bring-650-million-people-/