The Washington Post is promoting a murky group’s calls for a government crackdown on political dissent under the pretense of crushing Russian influence in the alternative media. In a widely circulated Thanksgiving Day column, the WAPO gave legitimacy to a chilling effort to stifle critics of U.S. foreign policy as well as foes of Hillary Clinton. The story included an advance copy of what can only be referred to as a neo-McCarthyist blacklist of alternative media outlets that have been singled out for political persecution and harassment.
The list includes 200 + websites tabbed out as megaphones for Putin’s propaganda and the new favorite meme of the corrupt establishment: “fake news”. The blacklist was provided to the WAPO by a shadowy entity that calls itself PropOrNot which the paper identifies as “a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds” although the WAPO goes to great lengths to provide few actual details.
According to the WAPO piece entitled “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say”:
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.
The researchers used Internet analytics tools to trace the origins of particular tweets and mapped the connections among social-media accounts that consistently delivered synchronized messages. Identifying website codes sometimes revealed common ownership. In other cases, exact phrases or sentences were echoed by sites and social-media accounts in rapid succession, signaling membership in connected networks controlled by a single entity.
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, with combined audiences of at least 15 million Americans. On Facebook, PropOrNot estimates that stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.
Some players in this online echo chamber were knowingly part of the propaganda campaign, the researchers concluded, while others were “useful idiots” — a term born of the Cold War to describe people or institutions that unknowingly assisted Soviet Union propaganda efforts.
The list indeed has many sites that feature dubious content and traffic in conspiracy theories but many legitimate alternative media sites are lumped in without any explanation as to why they would be included. There are many libertarian and conservative websites listed including the hugely popular Drudge Report, Infowars, Zero Hedge, Antiwar.com, Lew Rockwell.com, the Ron Paul Institute, David Stockman’s Contra Corner, Liberty Blitzkrieg and Moon of Alabama.
Two sites where this author has provided commentary – the conservative Federalist Papers project and progressive website OpEdNews are also on the group’s blacklist. I can attest that it’s laughable that either of these sites are megaphones for Russian propaganda but in the former’s case it has been highly critical of Hillary Clinton and in the latter’s of U.S. foreign policy in general. In a piece at Front Page Magazine the diverse range of opinions at OEN was described as: “a radical website that frequently airs calls for President Barack Obama to be tried alongside Dick Cheney for war crimes” and I would like to add that both of those rotten bastards should also be waterboarded.
The rather deranged screed from Front Page writer William R. Hawkins especially took umbrage with this humble author over a piece that I did calling out the neocon backed coup in Ukraine and criticized some of the sleazier elements in the State Department like Victoria “Fuck the EU” Nuland for “Making Ukraine Safe for Corporate Vultures”. Mr. Hawkins falsely accused your’s truly of being a Russian propagandist which is total bullshit:
The author, Donn Martin, a self-styled progressive activist, cites a story from the state-run Russian News and Information Agency which is supposedly not as corrupt as the Western media. On April 9, RIA Novosti reported “The deployment of foreign private security firms in Ukraine is unacceptable as they increase the risk of an outbreak of civil war, Dennis John Kucinich, a former US Representative from Ohio and a two-time presidential candidate, told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.” Kucinich was such a joke as a Congressman that his own Democratic Party contrived to gerrymander him out of his seat. Leftists have often called Western NGOs “mercenaries,” especially the National Endowment for Democracy, which, it has been alleged, stirred up the anti-Yanukovych protests. For leftists like Martin, U.S.-EU policy is simply aimed at “making Ukraine safe for corporate vultures.”
It was a precursor for the PropOrNot/Washington Post scurrilous attack on the alternative media and in a way I should be honored that fuckweasels like Hawkins and his ilk hate my guts, they are vermin of the worst sort who should be outed as traitors and banned from polite civil discourse entirely.
In addition to OpEdNews, other progressive websites that have been critical of U.S. foreign policy — especially in regard to the 2014 overthrow of the legitimate government in Ukraine by American backed neo-Nazi elements — were included. Most notably, Robert Parry’s outstanding Consortium News, the personal website of frequent OEN columnist Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, RINF.com, Truthdig.com, the Black Agenda Report, Naked Capitalism and Information Clearinghouse among others. Wikileaks is also on the list which comes as no surprise given the shrill accusations from Democrats that the whistleblower organization was acting on Putin’s behalf to swing the election to Donald Trump.
Following an acrimonious election season which still isn’t over, many liberals and progressives have cheered the establishment’s attack on “fake news” and the so-called “alt-right” but soon may find themselves hoisted upon their own petards. To groups like PropOrNot it matters little whether one is a right-winger or a left-winger because ANY deviation from the official state media propaganda machine is strictly taboo.
That a diverse collection of writers such as the OEN community is being officially targeted as agents of a foreign power should scare the hell out of regular contributors. This radical escalation in the war on dissent should also serve as a call to arms that there are more important matters than partisan politics and hewing to dogmatic ideology. The Washington Post’s promotion of a return to the dark days of McCarthyism represents an existential threat to not only liberal and progressive ideals but to free speech itself.
“The way that this propaganda apparatus supported Trump was equivalent to some massive amount of a media buy,” said the executive director of PropOrNot, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers. “It was like Russia was running a super PAC for Trump’s campaign. .”.”. It worked.”
While blaming the Russians for Trump’s election has become a knee-jerk response for the establishment types, it’s inexplicable that OpEdNews would be included on the list because let’s face it, OEN hasn’t exactly been a bastion of pro-Trump sentiment. I have tangled often with the rump elements of the Hillary Clinton troll army and just the other day got into a vicious comment battle that earned me a formal admonishment by the site’s proprietor who is also not a Kremlin agent.
However, OEN has consistently been a critic of interventionist foreign policy and especially when it comes to Ukraine. It’s pretty damned hard to find honest reporting on Ukraine but many at OEN have done their part to circumvent the lies that are routinely spewed out by Big Media.
The malevolent nature of this secretive organization is expressed by this terrifying part of their expressed mission via the PropOrNot website:
Isn’t this just McCarthyism?!
No. 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.
The rounding up and prosecution of people on trumped up charges is not exactly a hallmark of a society that values freedom and diversity and through this expression of sentiment it is clear that PropOrNot has little use for traditional American values.
A quick review of the organization’s website is scarce on details as to the identity of that ” nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds” that was touted by the WAPO.
There is a link to this: “Russia and the Menace of Unreality” by Peter Pomerantsev who is treated as the penultimate authority on the alleged Putin efforts to destabilize the U.S. via social media and sowing disinformation. Right around the time that Putin thwarted furious neocon efforts to force President Barack Obama’s hand by attacking Syria over the still unresolved Sarin gas attacks on civilians in Ghouta, this guy Pomerantsev partnered with notorious neocon propagandist Michael Weiss to publish a paper that has enormous currency within high official circles entitled “The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture and Money” which was published by The Interpreter.
Now here’s what is really interesting. The Interpreter is the house organ of a think tank called The Institute of Modern Russia (IMR) which happens to headed up by Pavel Khodorkovsky, the son of Mikhael Khodorkovsky one of the Russian oligarchs who grew wealthy during the Boris Yeltsin era and an arch-enemy of Vladimir Putin.
So a lot of this Kremlin fifth column hysteria may be getting funded (at least indirectly) by Putin foes who are taking advantage of our corrupt domestic media as well as on-the-take politicians and the neocons who a were big part of Hillary’s government in waiting.
What would be totally ironic is if the same group that is now threatening alternative media writers with being hauled in front of tribunals as agents of a foreign power is in essence acting on behalf of one itself albeit a post-Putin government in exile.
It’s just a wild-assed conspiracy theory of mine but hey, they are the ones posting the guy’s articles not me and one must ask cui bono? Perhaps someone who is a far better researcher than I could do a bit of digging into the alliance between Russian foes of Putin and American neocon/neoliberal regime changers of the type that specialize in color revolutions.
Whoever is behind PropOrNot is a menace to us all as well as an affront to all that is still decent in this country – like free speech and free association. The key is to fight these vile bastards tooth, fang and claw because the survival of what remains of a free and open society depends on it.
As is the case with any shady group with nefarious motivations the best disinfectant is sunlight and it’s this humble author’s hope that PropOrNot‘s assault on free speech will motivate a diverse and skilled number of people to engage in some serious investigative journalism to expose who exactly is behind these fascists and where they are getting their money from.
While PropOrNot may be shrouded in secrecy, a little bit of accountability from the charlatans at the Washington Post would also help so any website on the blacklist should seriously consider giving their attorneys a ring or at the very least getting in touch with the WAPO’s ombudsman.