Experts, who discovered Russian meddling in the US elections, finally revealed

The most important news in the past several months, after the presidential elections themselves, has been Kremlin helping President-elect Donald Trump win these elections. This campaign has been the favorite child of the US mass media led by the champion of everything anti-Russian and anti-Trump: The Washington Post. Russia was hacking everything from the Democratic National Committee to the Illinois voter database to Stanford University. It also created secret bank accounts to fund Donald Trump. And so on. What was the proof provided for these claims? Well, there was nothing that can be called “proof”. The entire campaign was based on the clams that “experts say” or “experts suspect”. The names of these experts were seldom revealed, as they spoke “on the condition of anonymity”.

Until yesterday that is, when The Washington Post finally revealed some of these experts. Well, not their exact names, but their web site and their Twitter account:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/russian-propaganda-effort-helped-spread-fake-news-during-election-experts-say/2016/11/24/793903b6-8a40-4ca9-b712-716af66098fe_story.html

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November 24

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This list of “Russia-controlled media” (see below) is comprised of a whole slew of sites ranging from Noam-Chomsky-like and Bernie-Sanders-like places to ultra-conservative to Libertarian sites, including the highly respected Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity and The Drudge Report.

What they all have in common is criticism of the US government’s foreign policies in the support of the ultra-right-wing militia in Ukraine and the Sunni jihadists in Syria.

Wait. Did I say “all”? Not true. There are some sites on this list that seem to have nothing to do with politics. For example, 2 nutrition sites that sell vitamins:  nutritionfacts.org and  readynutrition.com. I haven’t looked at all their pages, but it seems that they have nothing to do with politics at all. Why are they on this “enemy” list? Hard to tell. I can venture only two explanations:

  1. One of the PropOrNot’s “experts” had a bad experience buying vitamins from them and decided to retaliate
  2. One of the PropOrNot’s “experts” owns a vitamin shop and wants to eliminate competition

Which brings up the natural next question: what do we know about these PropOrNot “experts” other that they are anonymous? Let us go to their Twitter account. And when we do, we suddenly discover that these ” nonpartisan experts” are not Americans, but … wait for the drum rolls… Ukrainian right-wing extremists, peddling propaganda of the notorious Ukrainian fascist group called OUN(b) (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists-Bandera), which actively helped Hitler to commit Holocaust in Ukraine and kill roughly a million innocent Jewish civilians, and on its own slaughtered 100 000 innocent Polish civilians.pr0

https://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A1%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%B2%D0%B0_%D0%A3%D0%BA%D1%80%D0%B0%D1%97%D0%BD%D1%96!

Слава Україні! — українське вітання, гасло українських націоналістів.

Це вітання використовували в часи УНР та міжвоєнні роки. «Слава Україні — Героям Слава!» було поширене в УПА підконтрольному ОУН (б). В канонічній ОУНУПА під проводом А.Мельника натомість вживали «Слава Україні — Навіки Слава!»[1].

«Слава Україні — Героям Слава!» – “Glory to Ukraine – Glory to the Heroes!” – Ukrainian greeting, slogan of Ukrainian nationalists. This greeting was common in the UPA controlled OUN (b).

Moreover, we discover that this “nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds” is actually nothing more than one or a couple of foul-mouthed simple-minded teenagers:

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In case you were wondering, “Путінхуйло” is Ukrainian for “Putin is a Dickhead!”, only more obscene.

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Ron Paul (born August 20, 1935) is an American author, physician, and former politician. He was formerly the U.S. Representative for Texas from 1976 to 2013. On three occasions, he sought the presidency of the United States: as the Libertarian Party nominee in 1988 and as a candidate in the Republican primaries of 2008 and 2012.

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

Here is their list:

http://www.propornot.com/p/the-list.html

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“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 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.”

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.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/washington-post-blacklist-story-is-shameful-disgusting-w452543

The ‘Washington Post’ ‘Blacklist’ Story Is Shameful and Disgusting

The capital’s paper of record crashes legacy media on an iceberg

8 hours ago

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 AntiWar.com, LewRockwell.com 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.

…..   This was remarkably similar to the response of PropOrNot when asked by The Intercept to comment about its “list” report. The only difference was, Phillips didn’t use emoticons:

“We’re getting a lot of requests for comment and can get back to you today =)” PropOrNot told The Intercept. “We’re over 30 people, organized into teams, and we cannot confirm or deny anyone’s involvement.”

“They” never called The Intercept back.

Most high school papers wouldn’t touch sources like these. But in November 2016, both the president-elect of the United States and the Washington Post are equally at ease with this sort of sourcing.

Even worse, the Post apparently never contacted any of the outlets on the “list” before they ran their story. Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism says she was never contacted. Chris Hedges of Truthdig, who was part of a group that won the Pulitzer Prize for The New York Times once upon a time, said the same. “We were named,” he tells me. “I was not contacted.”

Hedges says the Post piece was an “updated form of Red-Baiting.”

“This attack signals an open war on the independent press,” he says. “Those who do not spew the official line will be increasingly demonized in corporate echo chambers such as the Post or CNN as useful idiots or fifth columnists.”

These journalists seemed totally indifferent to the Pandora’s box they were opening. They didn’t understand that most politicians have no use for critical media. Many of them don’t see alternative points of view as healthy or even legitimate. If you polled a hundred politicians about the profession, 99 would say that all reporters are obstructionist scum whose removal from the planet would be a boon to society.

The only time politicians like the media is when we’re helping them get elected or push through certain policies, like for instance helping spread dubious stories about Iraq’s WMD capability. Otherwise, they despise us. So news outlets that get into bed with politicians are usually making a devil’s bargain they don’t fully understand.

They may think they’re being patriotic (as many did during the Iraq/WMD episode), but in the end what will happen is that they will adopt the point of view of their political sponsors. They will soon enough denounce other reporters and begin to see themselves as part of the power structure, as opposed to a check on it.

This is the ultimate in stupidity and self-annihilating behavior. The power of the press comes from its independence from politicians. Jump into bed with them and you not only won’t ever be able to get out, but you’ll win nothing but a loss of real influence and the undying loathing of audiences.

Helping Beltway politicos mass-label a huge portion of dissenting media as “useful idiots” for foreign enemies in this sense is an extraordinarily self-destructive act. Maybe the Post doesn’t care and thinks it’s doing the right thing. In that case, at least do the damn work.

https://www.thenation.com/article/the-washington-post-promotes-a-mccarthyite-blacklist/

‘The Washington Post’ Promotes a McCarthyite Blacklist

“PropOrNot” has smeared working journalists as agents of the Kremlin while wrapping itself in a cloak of anonymity.

On November 24, The Washington Post published what at first glance looked to be a deeply troubling report on the far-reaching, insidious influence of the Kremlin on the American media. The Post’s national technology reporter Craig Timberg writes that “a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of…helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy.”

According to Timberg, a group which goes by the moniker PropOrNot, a “nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds” has identified “more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season, with combined audiences of at least 15 million Americans.”

PropOrNot, which has yet to identify its members or its source of funding (its executive director spoke to Timberg on the condition of anonymity) accuses the right-wing Drudge Report, left-wing Counterpunch, Consortium News (whose founder and editor was recently awarded the I.F. Stone Medal from Harvard University), the libertarian Antiwar.com, Naked Capitalism, David Stockman’s Contra Corner, Truth-Out, TruthDig, as all being “useful idiots” of the Kremlin.

Still worse, “PropOrNot estimates that stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.” Yet, like much else about this anonymous outfit, how it came up with this figure is something of a mystery.

It should be noted that the PropOrNot Web site shares the same hallmarks of the very disinformation campaigns it warns against: a complete lack of transparency, a shoddy methodology, and zero information about its funders, claiming that its members “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.”

This is a group that has assembled a media blacklist and smeared working journalists as agents of the Kremlin, all the while cravenly wrapping itself in a cloak of anonymity.

The group’s intentions are clear. They are “calling for formal investigations by the US government” of these Web sites because they think “the American people have the right to know when foreign governments are trying to mess with them.” What is more, they “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.”

That the Post would rely on the “findings” of a shoddy, anonymous blacklist that seeks to stifle dissent on Russia policy is deeply troubling.

In the days following the publication of the report, I e-mailed both Timberg and Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron asking whether it was appropriate for the paper to cite the “findings” of an anonymously authored blacklist. Timberg’s initial response was, “If you want a hand in reporting what I reported on—what researchers say about Russian efforts to influence the election—I am happy to lend a hand on background.”

When I followed up by asking, “What convinced you to run a story based partly on the ‘data’ and claims of this group—which doesn’t identify its members or funders and has named some very respectable outlets like Naked Capitalism and Consortium as Russian ‘propaganda’?,” Timberg quickly withdrew his offer of assistance, writing, “Questions about decisions about what the Post publishes and why are properly directed to Marty Baron.”

Baron has yet to respond.

Nevertheless, this is not the first time a media blacklist of journalists critical of US policy towards Russia has been promoted in the mainstream media. In late 2014 the Mikhail Khodorkovsky–funded Interpretermagazine (now part of the US government–funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty network) issued a report calling for an “internationally recognized ratings system for disinformation” that would furnish news organizations and bloggers with the “analytical tools with which to define forms of communication.” The report also urged newspapers to staff “counter-disinformation editors” who would “pick apart what might be called all the news that is unfit to print.”

The Interpreter report was praised in the pages of The New York Review of Books, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic. Yet at the time I wrote that“one would have hoped that journalists, of all people, would object to this project in the strongest possible terms. That no one has yet done so is an ominous sign.”

An ominous sign, as well as a sign of things to come, since, as we have seen, throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, much of the liberal commentariat worked itself into a neo-McCarthyite frenzy from which it has not yet recovered. By this point it hardly needs pointing out that some liberal pundits have themselves been actively engaged in a disinformation campaign for some time. How else can one describe former New Republiceditor Franklin Foer’s thoroughly debunked piece on the Trump Organization’s “secret email server” connected to a Russian bank.

Not surprisingly, almost as soon as the Washington Post report appeared, prominent members of the liberal commentariat tweeted it out to hundreds of thousands of people, as though it were hard-won vindication of their collective efforts to portray Trump’s surprise victory as the work of the Russian government. This despite the Obama administration’s statement of November 26 that the election results “accurately reflect the will of the American people.”

That these journalists and high-profile Clinton supporters would promote the PropOrNot blacklist is a measure of how debased our politics have become.

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-11-29/publications-called-russian-propaganda-distributors-consider-suing-anonymous-experts

Publications Called Russian-Propaganda Distributors Consider Suing Anonymous ‘Experts’

Some editors say the person or group called PropOrNot crafted a ‘McCarthyite’ list that defamed them.

By Steven Nelson| Staff Writer Nov. 29, 2016, at 5:53 p.m.

Libertarian, left-wing and collaborative news sources were among the 200 websites declared distributors of Russian propaganda by the anonymous group PropOrNot. (PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Several American news outlets are considering legal action against the anonymous person or group that last week published a widely distributed list of alleged Russian propaganda outlets and “bona-fide ‘useful idiots’” of the Kremlin.

Online publications including the influential news-aggregating Drudge Report, the primary-source publisher WikiLeaks and news outlets of various leanings made “the list” hosted on the website PropOrNot.com.

The Washington Post leaned heavily on the anonymous group’s claims last week in an article reporting that “two teams of independent researchers” – including the Foreign Policy Research Institute and PropOrNot – had found a “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’” ahead of the recent presidential election.

The term “fake news” has become a flashpoint since the election, with many mainstream media outlets claiming an epidemic of bogus reporting during the election campaign, soliciting stiff pushback from independent outlets that say the term is being used in a bid to censor social media and news platforms of independent viewpoints.

The anonymous website offers no individual analysis to justify its listing of sites, many of them with political views distinct from the mainstream media, such as the Ron Paul Institute, Antiwar.com, the finance blog Zero Hedge and the Black Agenda Report.

The list includes actual Russian government-funded outlets such as Russia Today and Sputnik News but does not distinguish them from the large group declared guilty of “echoing Russian propaganda.”



“I haven’t had any financial damages yet, so that’s the only reason I haven’t started a libel suit,” says Doug Owen, senior editor of Blacklisted News, a popular independent news-hosting website.

The editor of a separate news and commentary website said his organization also is considering a possible libel lawsuit, perhaps as a cooperative effort with other sites on the list. He asked not to be named as this point but said a decision on whether to sue likely would come “fairly soon.”

Mark Allin, chief operating officer of The Above Network, which runs the large news discussion board AboveTopSecret.com, says “at this time we are reviewing our options, nothing is off the table.”

Two editors at the progressive news site CounterPunch also say they are keeping their options open as they work to determine who tarred them as Russian propagandists.

“It’s totally ridiculous – apparently they’ve never even read what I’ve written on Russia in Syria!” editor Joshua Frank says in an email. In June, he condemned Russia’s “murderous air bombardments” producing “piles of dead kids” in Syria and predicted the ultimate demise of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Russian ally.

“My own writings on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin have been nothing but critical,” adds Jeffrey St. Clair, the other CounterPunch editor, adding that “the Russian writers we’ve published, such as Boris Kagarlitsky, are Russian dissidents.”

St. Clair says CounterPunch is “exploring our options and digging on our own into the misty background of PropOrNot.”

Yves Smith, editor of the economics and news site Naked Capitalism, proposed a collective legal “counter-attack” Tuesday night, expressing concern that if unchallenged the characterization might be used to justify censorship on platforms such as Facebook. Smith wrote that a “seasoned First Amendment litigator” had volunteered their services, but asked readers to chip in for additional legal expenses.

The Washington Post reported that the executive director of PropOrNot spoke with the paper “on the condition of anonymity to avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers.”

For now, the identity of PropOrNot’s operator or operators remains stubbornly hidden, as the site is registered with Domains By Proxy, which allows for anonymity. Legal action might have better success at unmasking the individual or entity, which directs inquires to a Gmail email address and maintains accounts on Facebook, Twitter and reddit.

Journalists including Glenn Greenwald and Ben Norton of the Intercept and Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone described the 200-website list as a present-day example of McCarthyism, a term named for former Sen. Joe McCarthy, who infamously claimed in 1950 he had a list of 205 communists within the State Department without providing evidence. The Intercept said the Post story ironically peddled “fake news” itself.

PropOrNot’s methodology for identifying Russian propaganda distributors is unclear.

“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,” the website claims. “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.”

The person or people who operate PropOrNot – which describes itself as “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” – did not directly respond to questions about their expertise and potential legal action.

“We welcome good-faith attempts at dialog from anyone involved, and will be updating our site and list very soon following those discussions,” someone said in an emailed response Wednesday morning.

One Comment

  1. summitflyer
    Posted 2 December 2016 at 12:14 pm | Permalink | Reply

    If I may quote Mr John Swinton , during his retirement speech:

    “In the late 1800′s, at an annual dinner of the American Press Association, John Swinton, an editor at the New York Times, said: “There is no such thing, at this date, of the world’s history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinions out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job.”

    “If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone. The business of the journalist is to destroy truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it and what folly is this toasting an independent press? We are the tools and vassals for rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities, and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.”

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