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Rolling Stone: WaPo ‘fake news/Russian propaganda’ story is shameful and disgusting



Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone:

Last week, a technology reporter for the Washington Post named Craig Timberg ran an incredible story. It has no analog that I can think of in modern times. Headlined “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say,” the piece promotes the work of a shadowy group that smears some 200 alternative news outlets as either knowing or unwitting agents of a foreign power, including popular sites like Truthdig and Naked Capitalism.

The thrust of Timberg’s astonishingly lazy report is that a Russian intelligence operation of some kind was behind the publication of a “hurricane” of false news reports during the election season, in particular stories harmful to Hillary Clinton. The piece referenced those 200 websites as “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.”

The piece relied on what it claimed were “two teams of independent researchers,” but the citing of a report by the longtime anticommunist Foreign Policy Research Institute was really window dressing.

The meat of the story relied on a report by unnamed analysts from a single mysterious “organization” called PropOrNot – we don’t know if it’s one person or, as it claims, over 30 – a “group” that seems to have been in existence for just a few months.

It was PropOrNot’s report that identified what it calls “the list” of 200 offending sites. Outlets as diverse as, and the Ron Paul Institute were described as either knowingly directed by Russian intelligence, or “useful idiots” who unwittingly did the bidding of foreign masters.

Forget that the Post offered no information about the “PropOrNot” group beyond that they were “a collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds.”

Forget also that the group offered zero concrete evidence of coordination with Russian intelligence agencies, even offering this remarkable disclaimer about its analytic methods:

“Please note that our criteria are behavioral. … For purposes of this definition it does not matter … 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.”

What this apparently means is that if you published material that meets their definition of being “useful” to the Russian state, you could be put on the “list,” and “warrant further scrutiny.”

Forget even that in its Twitter responses to criticism of its report, PropOrNot sounded not like a group of sophisticated military analysts, but like one teenager:

“Awww, wook at all the angwy Putinists, trying to change the subject – they’re so vewwy angwy!!” it wrote on Saturday.

“Fascists. Straight up muthafuckin’ fascists. That’s what we’re up against,” it wrote last Tuesday, two days before Timberg’s report.

Any halfway decent editor would have been scared to death by any of these factors. Moreover the vast majority of reporters would have needed to see something a lot more concrete than a half-assed theoretical paper from such a dicey source before denouncing 200 news organizations as traitors.

But if that same source also demanded anonymity on the preposterous grounds that it feared being “targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers”? Any sane reporter would have booted them out the door. You want to blacklist hundreds of people, but you won’t put your name to your claims? Take a hike.

Yet the Post thought otherwise, and its report was uncritically picked up by other outlets like USA Today and the Daily Beast. The “Russians did it” story was greedily devoured by a growing segment of blue-state America that is beginning to fall victim to the same conspiracist tendencies that became epidemic on the political right in the last few years. […]



  1. One good thing about the PropOrNot report is that it has given me a rich source of news sites to follow. I previously knew of only the main ones, like RT, Southfront, The Saker and Russia Insider.

  2. “But if that same source also demanded anonymity on the preposterous grounds that it feared being “targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers”?” I don’t know what that means.

    I hope that the corporatocracy pays that gatekeeper well. Not one. Not a half dozen progressive sites, but 200 (and I don’t think that there are 200 genuinely progressive websites)! On the other hand, If this loser’s enablers have any standards at all, then that would have to mean little remuneration for him (or…).

    I’d love to know why Matt ditched First Look.

  3. Daniel Rich says

    This is the Jewish way of dealing with defeat; never take the blame, blame someone else instead and attack it/them. When ‘you’ own over 90% of all news outlets [US] you have the power to prop up HRC [and she still loses] and go after anyone who does not agree with ‘you’ [as in MSM] and make sure there’s a huge segment of ‘guilt by association’ injected into he poisonous diatribe, vomited all over the place.

    A bit like that dead Jewish guy on a cross… Feel guilty. Very,very guilty.

    • Systematic says

      Well, you certainly managed to insert (or vomit) a poisonous diatribe into this post.

      • I would argue that there has been so much ‘cultural appropriation’ (– to use one of the latest divisive buzz-phrases –) on all sides down through the millennia that nowadays its impossible to tell the originally ‘imagined’ and ‘fabricated’ and ‘contrived’ differences between goyims and Jews. To suggest that Jews, in contrast to others, have there own special way of dealing with defeat

        I also find it interesting that all the vices and virtues attributed to this or that ethnicity or “race” or culture or whateverthefuck are the same vices and virtues that posses members of that tribe which insists against all of my earnest protestations that I am one of, namely, French Canadian; and not that I want to underscore just how precocious I may have been as a lad, quite the contrary, but to highlight how little insight is required, given that even a child can rise to it, but I don’t think I was more than eight or so by the time I made that observation for myself, since I had both French and English bigots as friends, and as far as I could tell, all of my friends, whether French or English, were about equally clever and daft, endearing and repulsive.

        Yes, it starts at an early age, doesn’t it, I mean the whole group/cultural identity thing. Not that one’s parents or education has anything to do with that, eh. I wish that people could just grow up and drop the whole deal. The truth is that there are no goyims anymore than there are Jews, anymore than there are ‘whites’ or ‘blacks’ or ‘whateverthefuck.’ There are just people from different places, who through geographical distance in times past developed different habits by dint of isolation and environmental demands, and now coming together for the first time note their differences in habits and manners and unfortunately think these differences point up ‘essential’ characteristics. In reality, what they underscore are the signs and voices of ancestry, and when these voices are hostile to other cultural voices, they are in our modern context of global interaction the inhuman voices of ancestry.

        All that to say to you, Daniel, do make an effort to get the fuck over yourself, eh. Growing up isn’t something that happens. It’s something you do.

  4. Brian Harry says

    That ‘rubbish’ article, printed in the Washington Post, shows just how alarmed and desperate the traditional media in the USA(in this case) have become. The ‘plebs’ are waking up to the ‘visual and verbal vomit’ that spews from the MSM on a daily basis, and the sooner the OLD media goes down the toilet, the better off everyone will be.

  5. George says

    Some might say the “Fake news” narrative is being used to undermine independent journalism and stop people believing the Pizzagate story and to stop the spreading of news that Assange has been taken and Wikileaks compromised. Interesting times.

  6. michaelk says

    As Matt Taibbi points out so well the quality of this shabby article is indcredibly poor, shamefully so. And this is from the Washington Post which is supposed to among the very best the US print media has to offer. How on earth did this stuff ever get past an even half-way competent editor? Whatever happened to quality control and scrutiny of sources? Smearing hundreds of people, sites and professional colleagues like this is really quite awful and from some secretive source who clearly has a hidden agenda. This is US establishment journalism at its worst.

    It’s like their anger at Clinton’s rejection and their own share in her defeat has driven them almost mad and desperate to find the people responsible, as long as it isn’t them, as long as it’s not partly their responsibility, blame it on the Russians and their agents inside the United States. Their fear that no one wants to listen or read what they say, that they are losing the eyes and ears of the American public has driven them crazy. These people live in a kind of vertual Versailles detached from the real world outside and now they can hear and smell the great unwashed in the distance moving towards them shiver with fear and shake with anger.

    • “As Matt Taibbi points out so well the quality of this shabby article is incredibly poor, shamefully so. And this is from the Washington Post . . .”

      Kinda fits my idea of ‘fake news’ from a ‘fake news’ propaganda outlet. In fact, why does it not surprise me that the WP would print such an awful article and try to pass it off as information?

      Oh, that’s right, maybe because it’s only one of a dozen or so bona fide establishment propaganda outlets.

      On the other hand, maybe they‘re trying to telegraph a message, you know, of the ‘watch your back . . . or else’ variety. No research or corroboration necessary: “You know who we are. So here’s the deal, see . . .”

      • michaelk says

        I think one can argue that the main point of this piece in the Washington Post is to intimidate and send out a warning to those independent minded people who have the temerity to challenge the Washington political and economic consensus, which isn’t really a ‘consensus’ grounded in democracy or the views of the American people, who just rejected the WP, but the opposite of a real national agreement about what American should be and do. Washington’s and the Washington Post’s consensus, increasingly sounds like the ravings of a lunatic confined to a tower and screaming abuse at the world outside which is changing before his eyes and is now longer willing to be lead by gang of madmen.

      • Hi Norman, I’m puzzled by your description of WaPo as “one of a dozen or so bona fide establishment propaganda outlets.” I would estimate a vastly larger number or, if we look at ownership, a somewhat smaller group. Could you clarify?

        • Hi Doug,

          Because I didn’t have an exact figure of the number of genuine establishment mouthpieces in the U.S. at my fingertips, so to speak, when I wrote the comment, I figured there had to have been at least a half-dozen or so, if not a few more, eh.

          As for a “vast number” of such mouthpieces, that would only be in appearance, unless claims such as the likes of Robert W. McChesney have made and make are fragrantly untrue.

          See, for example, the inforgraphic embedded in this article: The Illusion of Choice: Ninety Percent of American Media Controlled by Six Corporations

          Note that that information seems to be somewhat out of date, too, apparently stale by some 5 years, and even then, as the title claims, 90% of everything that was a ‘for-profit’ information distribution channel was owned by at least one of only a dozen corporations. Surely, the situation has somewhat worsened since. That would explain my puzzling attribution, I guess.

          Hope that helps.

            • Hey Doug,

              My bad. Try this link,


              If that doesn’t work, just go to the website,, and do a search for the title I provided. It should come up near the top of the list that the search will churn up.

              And if that doesn’t work, a Google of the title should hit a bullseye.

  7. These presstitutes risk bringing down the whole edifice of the media, as Taibbi says very cogently. I wouldn’t shed a tear for some papers and broadcasters.

    But the damage that would do to the public’s grip on reality – to people’s thought processes, to public discourse and the use of information as a basis for decision taking – is immense. They undermine people’s confidence in information at great risk.

    I’ve seen otherwise sensible people turn to paranormals and fortune tellers in their daily lives in places like Russia and Brazil. Such people have turned their back on public discourse and behave quite irrationally. It happens in the US, too, in the Christian fundamentalist variant – and it could easily spread.

  8. Caro says

    And the Washington Post thought that was good journalism??? Journalism we can rely on?????
    Load of garbage, frankly.

    • Most media is spinny. WaPo is established and big, which is why tax evader Jeff Bezos bought it. He knew it was a losing venture, profitability-wise. But he wanted to be a player. It’s interesting how WaPo is not just rightwing, which is what I mean by spinny, but resembles a trashy tabloid quit often. (They aren’t quite at the 3-headed baby level yet, but they are approaching it. And in a way, that’s good. Let folks see it for what it is.) I’m always alarmed at how often progressive (or pretend progressive) writers quote WaPo articles, knowing what I know about WaPo (with fake progressive org Deocracy Now as my source of info). Of course, If the article is useful, there’s that. But WaPo is SO bad so often…

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