Buzzfeed, Question Time & the purpose of Fake News

Kit Knightly

Image source.

Two days ago BuzzFeed published a front page story, under a “BREAKING” banner, headlined: President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project

In the article, Buzzfeed reporters Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier claim to have been told, by two anonymous sources, that Robert Mueller’s “Russiagate” investigation had evidence Donald Trump had instructed his lawyer to lie to Congress. That would be a felony, and obviously an impeachable offence.

The reaction of the news media and associated twitterati was as quick as it was predictable. MSNCBC, CNN, the BBC, The Guardian…the usual suspects. They were all over it within hours.

But then, less than a day later, Robert Mueller’s spokesperson Peter Carr issued this statement:

BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate,”

Despite this, BuzzFeed is sticking to its guns. Insisting that Mueller’s statement is vague, and therefore does not undercut the heart of their story.

The rest of the mainstream media are sensing the tone though and jumping ship. The Washington Post – not known for their pro-Trump slant – ran an editorial pointing out the scarcity of Mueller’s public comment (this the first statement Mueller has ever issued concerning evidence or claims in the press), and arguing that the rush to refute the BuzzFeed article means it is probably completely false.

Nevertheless, BuzzFeed has not retracted or altered their story in any way – except for putting in one small paragraph reporting that Mueller’s office disputes their story. There is no note of the update, and the rest of the story remains unchanged.

There is a striking parallel here, with a story Luke Harding contributed to The Guardian in late November last year: “Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy”

The article claimed Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort had met with Julian Assange at least three times prior to the 2016 Presidential Election. No evidence was produced, save the word of “unnamed intelligence officials”, “secret Ecuadorian documents” and the like. While the predictable news outlets picked up the story and ran with it with the eagerness of a 6-month-old Golden Retriever, we in the alternative media were quick to point out the logical and factual deficiencies in the story.

Within hours, The Guardian had edited its language to be rather more circumspect, and include the denials made by both accused parties. The edits made to the article were not noted or highlighted in any way, we only know they exist because of internet archives. The next day The Guardian released a brief, terse, defensive statement. That statement was itself refuted by both Manafort and WikiLeaks. As of today, WikiLeaks is actively pursuing legal action in this case.

Later, it was revealed that a key contributor to the story had been previously been convicted of forgery.

No apology has been made, and no retraction issued, no explanation given. Both the editor, Katherine Viner, and Luke Harding have been totally silent on the topic.

So, in the last 2 months both Buzzfeed and The Guardian have issued “BREAKING NEWS” stories that made bold claims, but were not backed up with any evidence. Both these stories were shown to be untrue in less than 24 hours.

Anonymous sources are a common area here – both stories rely exclusively on the word of “unnamed sources” from either “the intelligence services” or “government agencies”. Anonymous sources are the batarangs on the propagandist’s utility belt. Flexible, simple, timeless.

Anonymity allows government agencies to leak misinformation on purpose, without hurting their credibility. It allows newspapers to control public opinion without having any actual facts on hand. It allows intelligence agencies to plant narratives they may want to revisit, or to give targets of blackmail operations a warning. And, most obviously, it allows journalists to simply make stuff up.

I don’t know which specific class these two stories fall into – but I do know it’s one or all of them.

So we come to the question of motive: BuzzFeed and The Guardian must have known there was no evidence to back up their assertions (yet, anyway). They must know the “significant minority” of the population who believe “conspiracy theories about their own government” will research and refute these claims.

So why publish them?

Well, in the Guardian’s case, every story demonising Assange discredits WikiLeaks’ future output, whilst also softening public sympathy for Assange in preparation for potential extradition of to the US. All the mainstream press have turned on WikiLeaks, but The Guardian – for some reason – has a particularly strong institutional axe to grind with WikiLeaks, and specifically Julian Assange.

Similarly, every “Russia bad!” story primes the public to accept increased defence spending, increased control of the internet by the government and increased social media censorship. It is very much the gift that keeps on giving in that regard.

In BuzzFeed’s case, it has been apparent for a while now that the Mueller investigation is likely to fizzle. Articles and interviews from various media sources have been prepping the public for a “let down” for a few weeks. At this point, there is no case for impeaching Trump. But the Deep State still needs to keep him over a barrel.

Trump has been a disappointment to his base and is yet to implement half the policies he discussed on the campaign trail, but he’s not fully and totally being controlled by the warhawking Deep State yet, either. His policy of peace with North Korea and decisions to pull out of Syria and Afghanistan show that there is a tug-of-war ongoing inside the administration. It’s probably no coincidence that this latest of many “bombshells” comes so quickly on the heels of Trump’s announcement of the Syria withdrawal.

Careful “leaks”, planted stories and social media witch-hunts remind Trump how precarious his position is, whilst simultaneously distracting the public – both pro-Trump and anti-Trump – from real issues.

The case-specific “why?” doesn’t matter so much as the general aim of this type of manipulation. The important question is: Why does the media tell lies if they know they will be revealed as such?

Clearly, the lies serve a purpose, regardless of their retraction or qualification.

Telling a lie loudly and then taking it back quietly is an old propaganda trick – it allows the paper to maintain a facade of “accountability”. The point of this practice is to propagate lies into the public consciousness. It’s a method that can be used to distract and disseminate and divide.

The accuracy of the statement is immaterial. The point is, once it has been said it cannot be unsaid. There are countless examples: “Assange was working for Russia”, “Trump ordered Cohen to lie to Congress”, “Russia hacked the US election”, “Donald Trump worked for the KGB”, “Assad gassed his own people”, “Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite”.

The list goes on and on and on. None these have been proven. All were asserted without evidence, fiercely defended as facts, and then discretely qualified.

That is the purpose of “fake news”, to forge the Empire’s “created reality”, and force us all to live in it. These are world-shaping, policy-informing, news-dominating narratives…and are nothing but feathers in the wind.

A perfect exemplar of this occurred just two days ago on the BBC’s flagship Political debate show Question Time:

The (notionally impartial) host not only sided with right-wing author Isabel Oakeshott in criticising Labour’s polling, but then joined in mocking the Labour MP Diane Abbott for attempting to correct the record.

Both Oakeshott and Fiona Bruce, the host, were factually incorrect – as shown a hundred times over since. But that doesn’t matter. The lie was told, the audience laughed, the reality was created. “Labour are behind in the polls, anybody who says otherwise is a laughingstock”.

The lie goes around the world while the truth is still putting its boots on.

That’s why fake news is so important to them, and so dangerous to us.

Kit Knightly is co-editor of OffGuardian. The Guardian banned him from commenting. Twice. He used to write for fun, but now he's forced to out of a near-permanent sense of outrage.

Filed under: featured, latest, On Guardian, Other Media, Russia, United States


Kit Knightly is co-editor of OffGuardian. The Guardian banned him from commenting. Twice. He used to write for fun, but now he's forced to out of a near-permanent sense of outrage.

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Chris Friel

Here’s a short piece on Muralgate as part of Israeli information warfare:
Was the antisemitism crisis in the UK Labour Party designed as a distraction from Gaza? Very early on some complained that Jeremy Corbyn was a victim of a smear campaign, but might it be more accurate to say that UK politics witnessed a deliberate smokescreen? As controversial as this narrative is, I think that all the evidence points in that direction.

Martin Usher
Martin Usher

I’ve never thought of there being an antisemitism crisis in the Labour party but rather think of it as part of a concerted attack on anyone opposing Israeli policy towards Palestinians, occupied territories and so on. There’s two reasons for this; one being that the intellectual base of left wing politics has historically has always included a lot of Jewish thinkers. The other is that we don’t have a Labour party here in the US but any organization that’s critical of these policies gets tarred in exactly the same way. Its a lazy ‘fill in the blanks’ approach that obviously does the job (because the media just takes up the banner and runs with it, it doesn’t hang around to ask questions) but at the same time its really easy to see through if you know what to look for.

David Eire
David Eire

Buzzfeed is a complete scam. I remember the night of the Presidential election their running vote tallies were completely false – they had Hillary Clinton leading the whole time. They know exactly what they are doing. It’s not like they are making mistakes.


BuzzFeed is a useful outlet for fake news because no intelligent person takes the zine seriously. But CNN/MSNBC/etc. consumers only see hear the manic assertions and miss where the ‘news’ came from … then later miss the corrections. If Brian Stelter is later pressed he can say “Well, it’s BuzzFeed, I mean, come on. CNN had nothing to do with it.” BuzzFeed says a couple of prostitutes peed on a bed to amuse Trump, the story is discredited, but a lot of people still believe it. And on and on.

Now the story that Trump hat wearing high school kids were harassing black people who were quoting the Bible – and then laughed at an old Native American who stepped in to prevent the kids from assaulting the blacks – is falling apart. Seems odd that Anderson Cooper or Don Lemon haven’t invited the Black Israelites on to talk about civil rights in 2019 – especially LGBT rights and anti-antisemitism..

Martin Usher
Martin Usher

This is the classic way to insert stories in the main stream media. You use postings on Internet sites which reverberate — they get reposted (which you may do a bit of as well) so they build up a veneer of credibility. They are then quoted as ”authoritative” by more established media.

The technique isn’t new and its not confined to politics. This is how product marketing works, using a combination of press releases, ‘leaks’, ‘exclusive access’ and so on to get ‘buzz’ about the product. As with politics it often finds itself in a gray area where it might be marketing a product that doesn’t exist (yet), often to forestall a competitor’s advantage. (Disclaimer — I’ve never worked in marketing but I have spent my working life developing products and technologies. Sometimes what gets published about what you and your colleagues have developed is a bit of a surprise…..but that’s just how business works!)



Good article Kit, just please correct the few times where I thought you missed a word. “All were asserted without evidence, fiercely defended as facts, and then discretely qualified.” Did you not mean disqualified? Similarly at the very end.

Mike Thornbury
Mike Thornbury

No, his sentence makes perfect sense, and is constructed well.

“Qualified”, in this context, means to frame a set of boundaries: ‘he qualified his off-the-cuff remarks by asserting it was what he heard’


Qualified was the intended word

Badger Down
Badger Down

But why “discretely qualified”?
Were they qualified separately?
Shouldn’t it be “discreetly qualified”?

Badger Down
Badger Down

Then there’s fake news and no-news about the “israeli” invasion of Palestine:


The creation of chaos appears to be the aim.
And it’s working just fine.
When it gets bad enough, the engineers of the chaos just move in and reorganize things the way they have always wanted them.
It’s what I would do if I were a soulless, incompetent fathead.


There is of course another possibility: click bait.

The public click thru absolutely outrageous headlines more than measured ones. They are like junkies neding a fix.

James Delingpole gets huge click thru metrics using a pre-adolescent puerile in-your-face rudeness. He has a captive audience of very right people, mostly on Breitbart.

There is similar behaviour on the left, equally calculated.

You want this sort of thing to stop, the general populace must turn away in huge droves from the click bait.


Any idea what Cadwalladr is on about in her latest tweet?
A girlfriend of an oligarch manhandled at a Moscow airport?

Still no mention of II/IoS and Caroles links with them and their anti Russian disinformation.

She mentions the usual bogeymen , trump, mannafort, farage, but not Murdoch, Mandy, Blair or Tory MP’s.

Meanwhile the plot of a coup to by-pass parliamentry democracy reaches a denoument this week – all the neocon/lib forces are to be marshalled under the patrician Grieve and Cooper along with all the right-thinking forces of the land in the final fight between to regain the land for … Mordor. A unholy alliance of the Willing to stop the Corbynite Hobbits ridding the land of the ancient powers!


Latest bit of fake news by the Groaniad
‘May’s move comes as fresh polling evidence suggests the public are sanguine about the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.
A poll by ICM conducted in the wake of last week’s historic government defeat and seen by the Guardian asked voters what should happen next.’

“seen by the Guardian” “the public are sangunie”

Look into my mystical crystal bowl eyes, you are sanguine, sanguine…!

Do they even know what ‘sanguine’ means?

Dear Off-G you could do with a perma link to the ticker tape of all the twaddle the Obssesive Groaniad prints, we could all contribute.


“Dear Off-G you could do with a perma link to the ticker tape of all the twaddle the Obssesive Groaniad prints, we could all contribute…”
Yes. The obvious course is for OG to take on the task of exposing Hte Garuniad’s lies and manipulations, in real time.
Not that this is a criticism of the excellent work currently being done.


“The lie goes around the world while the truth is still putting its boots on.”

This is one of the most pertinant phrases today, particularly with the speed of modern communications. The lies which led to the invasion of Iraq, the lies around so called chemical weapons attacks, the lies about the White Helmets, the media lies which lead to the demonisation of Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott
If the media keeps on propagating lies and misinformation, then we could find ourselves on the brink of a final catastrophic war.


Illusions operate in place of true for that is their function, given them by those who hold them dear.
Belief you are separate (from life – each other and world) is the belief that truth is different for each one and that there is a hierarchy of illusions – where some are held as more true than others. Each must establish this for themself by attack on others to make their own true.
The errors seen in others are thus always a call for attack and not for undoing, healing or correction.
The mind is thus set at war with itself by war of self-reinforcing self-illusion with obviously distressing results to the willingness to those who give reality to its dictate.

If you see the underlying principles of a mind at war with (in active denial of) living truth, are recognisably insane but normal premise to human confusion, then you are no longer altogether listening to confusion.

That there is fear of truth in us would be more evident if we were not so active in the engagement within illusions as if some illusions can be victorious over other illusions.
The mind of deceit seems to be the saviour from confusion, while actually protecting and persisting it as the sin seen or flagged onto others. This protects ‘sin’ or irrevocable guilt that calls for punishment, as the framework of perception by the attempt to put it out on another and MAKE it true.

But then an underlying fear of truth is magnified by the fear that what we thought to get rid of, will come back to us and damn us. Which will SEEM true while we persist in seeing errors as uncorrectable AND as the means to protect and maintain defences for a false sense of possession and control.

Insane defences protect insanity against healing.

There is a work I companion with over many years as a daily inspiration that I associate with synchronicity of recognition or resonance of what is apparently going on, with emerging perspective of desire to see – rather than persistence in habits and patterns of thought that are brought to light by choosing not to automatically react as if true.


Illusions cannot ‘save themselves’ by struggle or assertion. But any awakening point of recognition of false as false is an opportunity to simply call on truth instead of trying to make true.

“Survival’ within a battle of illusions is seeking a ‘better’ illusion within a self-damnation that can only arrive at its starting place. Releasing this as the point from which to receive identity is through the willingness or choice NOT to use it by opening to another in desire for a peace of being that is prior to – or beneath – the coverings of a buzz feed of fake news.
Questioning what we are, made a questionable mind and gave it the time of day to rob us of the joy in the day thereof. Another way to say this – is the interjecting of the mind of thought and control upon the flow of communication and relation that life already is the being and sharing of – as a ‘self-consciousness’ of inhibition and division.

This curious capacity to become both subject and object – and as if separate from fearful life – is associated with lack of power and lack of love by the drive to then regain it or protect the little we hath from a sense of total loss.


Does this mean that it is safe to eat cheerios?

Badger Down
Badger Down

only if you wanna say cheerio to gut health


see discussion of similar issues here:


Gezzah Potts
Gezzah Potts

Edward Bernays, Walter Lippmann, Joseph Goebbels, Luke Harding (and his many vile clones in the Western media) Manufacturing Consent…. You nail it Kit in one single article. The phrase ‘created reality’ says it all. Sort of a bit like the 2 minutes of hate thing from that famous book. And of course, now the slime have NewsGuard ready to roll out as well as many having their Facebook and Twitter accounts suspended or terminated. Incidentally, my Facebook account has been suspended 5-6 times now for ‘breaching community standards’.


my Facebook account has been suspended 5-6 times now for ‘breaching community standards’.

It’s almost like people who are capable of independent thought aren’t wanted there.

Maybe there’s a lesson in that.

Martin Usher
Martin Usher

Another good bit of recent news misinformation was the story about the Chinese ‘spy chip’ that was embedded into server motherboards made in China. This story was well debunked by the technical community — the general response was a combination of “If it was in the SKU we’d have noticed it” and “this is one fantastic part, where can I buy some?” but the story will still come up if you do a search on “Chinese spy chip” rather than the (numerous) rebuttals.

More sinister, and more important, is the global campaign against Huewei. You’ll find numerous instances of countries banning their equipment because of fears that its spying for China, something the company has been at pains to prove false. There’s two levels to this, though. One is the normal Cold War/Chinese intellectual property theft stuff, the other is commercial. Huawei is currently in a position to supply what’s called ‘5G’ wireless equipment, not just the phones but the entire infrastructure that’s needed to make them work. US companies are somewhat behind in their ability to deploy this technology so it has become necessary to slow or eliminate the competition by political rather than technical means. There’s a lot of money at stake, and as we know from the so-called energy sector threatening the hegemony has already caused several wars, coups and what-have-you so its not inconceivable that a similar measures might have to be taken with this technology. (There’s more than money at stake as well — control of the technology is vital if you want to use it for spying. Spying? Everyone does, in fact its gone commercial with the personalization of advertising, its just a question of who gets to reap the rewards.)

Michael Leigh
Michael Leigh

Aside from the aforementioned warnings about HUAWEI’ s ability to competively and profitably manufacture and markert so-called fifth generation wireless telephony systems and products, which are surely based upon simply; jealous commercial slander by Huawei’s competitors.

More important is the strange fact that this ” fifth generation wireless technology ” has not been to be a safe, or even a practical technology, by any of the necessary and acceptable ITU approved standards organisations.

This is more than a source of health and safety concerns all of the population most widely, and is still without he necessary approvals which are still absent, and thus it is an urgent matter for official precautions with health and safety, given the wide scope of this high-speed and wide-band emmission radio wave technology?

Martin Usher
Martin Usher

So called “5G” encompasses a whole basket of technologies, some established and some still being tested. The role of the ITU is to set overall parameters for the technology with other industry groups dealing with the details. The process is well established, its used by all complex technologies that have to interoperate globally, and it invariably ends up with some kind of patent basket where participants share technologies (and spoils). (I’ve been involved peripherally in similar sorts of activities in the past so I’ve seen how these groups work.)

Since this technology is evolutionary rather than revolutionary its likely that equipment manufacturers will deliver it in phases so the race is to get your equipment placed because it can always be upgraded later (typically this will be firmware updates for the infrastructure kit). Here you notice that two of the big players in this are Chinese, they just happen to be ZTE and Huawei. One of the other players is Qualcomm, a company that you may not be familiar with but essentially had a stranglehold on previous generation wireless technology through its IP portfolio (it derives most of its income from licensing rather than manufacturing). Anyone who works in this business and figure out two plus two knows exactly what’s going on when the US government goes after Chinese manufacturers and spying, health and safety and what-have-you are definitely not the real reasons. (the H&S angle I’ve not heard of but since 5G will mostly use existing frequencies there’s no change — anyway the whole electromagnetic radiation thing is one of those voodoo things put out by people who never studied physics at school or beyond)(we can put this into another thread, it doesn’t belong here).

In many aspects of mobile technology the Chinese are, unfortunately, light years of us. (So are the Koreans, BTW.) Its a hard truth but one we must face if we’re to do anything about being competitive.


Years ago, a British company called Sportingbet was cornering the market for bets placed over the internet, punters could use credit cards, the Americans were caught unprepared, hastily put together a statute that got attached to another one (which was debated certain to pass) only hours before voting.

At a stroke, the new law cut off the US punters, the share price of Sporting plummeted, eventually remnants of the company got sold. Within months, an American company emerged, no problem with using credit card placing bets. (The story’s more complex, arrests of Sportingbet execs are a part of it, but the substance of it that matters is as Baron says).

That’s what the American business does, it’s ruthless beyond one’s imagination.


I see they’ve discovered the ‘doc’ who gave Julia Skripal CPR on the park bench.
It turns out the ‘doc’ was Colonel Alison McCourt, Chief Nursing Officer of the Army!
What a coincidence!


See Moon of Alabama for more.


or, alternatively check Colonel McCourt’s award winning daughter , as nominated by mum …

Where would the Skripals be today, were it not for the astounding ‘Lifesaver’ military instincts instilled by mother ?

Maybe someone can get an interview with the daughter, now , as first responder . . . given the monetary value in bread & butter espionage fiction; even, she could write a book titled …

Mother’s Pride & Joy , (as ‘Lifesaver’) >>> itsa’ miracle of modern medicine & Star Wars & all penned with a trick Bic tracheotomy in mind 😉


These smears are all small change by US standards They are the daily fare of what passes for a political system.
Some recent far more entertaining smears:-

Barack Obomber is a Muslim illegal alien.
His wife, Michelle, is really a man.
Clinton is dead. Her place has been taken by a body double.
Trump is having an incestuous relationship with his daughter.
Melania is a hooker.

One Presidential candidate in the 1800s put it about that his opponent had just died. You can’t vote for him, he’s dead. Vote for me instead.

Britain clearly falls way behind in the smear stakes.
The best they can come up with is Steele’s Golden Showers and Jezza is an anti Semite. How pathetic is that?


Saturday Night Live is looking like the more grounded reality. Never loose your sense of humor.

Martin Usher
Martin Usher

The BBC / Diane Abbott story is more interesting when you read reports that the host wound up the audience pre-show to get them to have a go at Ms Abbottt. One person described it as a ‘roast’. The BBC has some serious credibility issues these days (John Reith must be spinning in his grave something rotten — he established the idea that the BBC should be impartial, establishing a reputation that’s been ruthlessly exploited and totally sullied in recent years).

Planting stories in credulous or complicit media relies on journalists who might know how to write but know nothing about what they’re writing about. They’ll turn out copy on anything without asking questions. There are some, though, that seem to want to understand the story, that will ask questions and so on. We have to seek them out and — most important — find a way of paying them because while media is entirely dependent on eyeballs and clicks for income its essentially compromised. (See the articles in the current edition of “Time” magazine about digital media — they’re an important read.)

Toby Russell
Toby Russell

“We have to seek them out and — most important — find a way of paying them”

Via Off-Guardian and similar platforms?

As you say, it is indeed up to us. We have to put our money where our mouth is and develop an alternative, as-incorruptible-as-possible media platform that serious journalists can join. Thousands of people contributing a pound a month is a start, tens and hundreds of thousands would make a real difference.

So disinherit Auntie, stop paying the licence fee, and redirect you monies to where the truth get told.

Philip Nash
Philip Nash

Thank you for a very nicely articulated article.


Quoted tweet: Ollie Richardson 7h
“The funniest thing about GiletsJaunes: At no point in the Syrian war did the Syrian people march on the streets and chant “Assad is a dictator”. … But today the French people are on French streets calling Macron & Co dictators”

[Vexarb adds: The Yellow Jerkins shout, “Macron Must Go” — facing tear gas, truncheons, armoured cars and lethal weapons deployed by the Rothschild Regime.]


i see also that quite a few twitter commentators are calling the gov the Macron regime. delicious.


Tubularsock has noticed that EVERY time the MSM produces clear information it is always misinformation.

It is just the way it’s done.

Funny how that works.


“That is the purpose of “fake news”, to forge the Empire’s “created reality”, and force us all to live in it.” – author


Here in the U.S. the deep state is working hard with “business” to limit access to any progressive media that might challenge the “Empire’s created reality.” Offering software to public libraries that facilitate suppressing the truth in favor of the empire’s lie. Capitalism and the military state at work, joined at the hip. I believe that fits Benito’s definition of “fascism” quite nicely.