Washington Post’s ‘Fake News’ Guilt, by Robert Parry

Gathered together in one place, for easy access, an agglomeration of writings and images relevant to the Rapeutation phenomenon.

Re: Washington Post’s ‘Fake News’ Guilt, by Robert Parry

Postby admin » Tue Dec 27, 2016 7:13 am

‘Fake news’ in America: Homegrown, and far from new: The corporate state created this monstrous propaganda machine and bequeathed it to Trump.
By Chris Hedges
December 20, 2016



The media landscape in America is dominated by “fake news.” It has been for decades. This fake news does not emanate from the Kremlin. It is a multibillion-dollar-a-year industry that is skillfully designed and managed by public relations agencies, publicists and communications departments on behalf of individuals, government and corporations to manipulate public opinion. This propaganda industry stages pseudo-events to shape our perception of reality. The public is so awash in these lies, delivered 24 hours a day through electronic devices and print, that viewers and readers can no longer distinguish between truth and fiction.

Donald Trump and the racist-conspiracy theorists, generals and billionaires around him inherited and exploited this condition, just as they have inherited and will exploit the destruction of civil liberties and collapse of democratic institutions. Trump did not create this political, moral and intellectual vacuum. It created him. It created a world where fact is interchangeable with opinion, where celebrities have huge megaphones simply because they are celebrities, where information must be entertaining and where we can all believe what we want to believe regardless of truth. A demagogue like Trump is what you get when you turn culture and the press into burlesque.

Journalists long ago gave up trying to describe an objective world or give a voice to ordinary men and women. They became conditioned to cater to corporate demands. News personalities, who often make millions of dollars a year, became courtiers. They peddle gossip. They promote consumerism and imperialism. They chatter endlessly about polls, strategies, presentation and tactics or play guessing games about upcoming presidential appointments. They fill news holes with trivial, emotionally driven stories that make us feel good about ourselves. They are incapable of genuine reporting. They rely on professional propagandists to frame all discussion and debate.

There are established journalists who have spent their entire careers repackaging press releases or attending official briefings or press conferences – I knew several when I was with The New York Times. They work as stenographers to the powerful. Many such reporters are highly esteemed in the profession.

The corporations that own media outlets, unlike the old newspaper empires, view news as simply another revenue stream. Revenue streams compete inside a corporation. When the news division does not make what is seen as enough profit, the ax comes down. Content is irrelevant. The courtiers in the press, beholden to their corporate overlords, cling ferociously to their privileged and well-compensated perches. Because they slavishly serve the interests of corporate power, they are hated by America’s workers, whom they have rendered invisible. They deserve the hate they get.

Most of the sections of a newspaper – “lifestyle,” travel, real estate and fashion, among others – are designed to appeal to the “1 percent.” They are bait for advertising. Only about 15 percent of any newspaper is devoted to news. If you were to remove from that 15 percent the content provided by the public relations industry inside and outside government, news falls to single digits. For broadcast and cable news, the figure for real, independently reported news would hover close to zero.

The object of fake news is to shape public opinion by creating fictional personalities and emotional responses that overwhelm reality. Hillary Clinton, contrary to how she often was portrayed during the recent presidential campaign, never fought on behalf of women and children – she was an advocate for the destruction of a welfare system in which 70 percent of the recipients were children. She is a tool of the big banks, Wall Street and the war industry. Pseudo-events were created to maintain the fiction of her concern for women and children, her compassion and her connections to ordinary people. Trump has never been a great businessman. He has a long history of bankruptcies and shady business practices. But he played the fictional role of a titan of finance on his reality television show, “The Apprentice.”

“The pseudo-events which flood our consciousness are neither true nor false in the old familiar senses,” Daniel Boorstin writes in his book “The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America.” “The very same advances which have made them possible have also made the images – however planned, contrived, or distorted – more vivid, more attractive, more impressive, and more persuasive than reality itself.”

Reality is consciously deformed to easily digestible sound bites and narratives. Those involved in public relations, political campaigns and government stay relentlessly on message. They do not deviate from the simple sound bite or cliché they are instructed to repeat. It is a species of continuous baby talk. And it dominates the news and talk shows on the airwaves.

“The refinements of reason and shading of emotion cannot reach a considerable public,” Edward Bernays, the father of modern public relations, noted cynically.

The rapid-fire, abbreviated format of television precludes complexities and nuance. Television is about good and evil, black and white, hero and villain. It makes us confuse induced emotions with knowledge. It reinforces the mythic narrative of American virtue and goodness. It pays homage through carefully selected “experts” and “specialists” to the power elites and the reigning ideology. It shuts out, discredits or ridicules all who dissent.

Is the Democratic establishment so clueless it believes its party lost the presidential election because of the leaked John Podesta emails and FBI Director James Comey’s decision, shortly before the vote, to send a letter to Congress related to Clinton’s private email server? Can’t the Democratic leadership see that the root cause of the defeat was that it abandoned workers in order to promote corporate interests? Doesn’t it understand that although its lies and propaganda worked for three decades, Democrats eventually lost credibility among those they had betrayed?

The Democratic establishment’s outrage over the email leak to the website WikiLeaks ignores the fact that such disclosure of damaging information is a tactic routinely used by the U.S. government and other governments, including Russia’s, to discredit individuals and entities. It is a staple of press coverage. No one, even within the Democratic Party, has made a convincing case that the Podesta emails were fabricated. These emails are real. They cannot be labeled fake news.

As a foreign correspondent, I was routinely given leaked, sometimes classified, information by various groups or governments seeking to damage certain targets. The national intelligence agency of Israel, the Mossad, told me about a small airport owned by the Iranian government outside of Hamburg, Germany. I went to the airport and wrote an investigative piece that found that, as the Israelis had correctly informed me, Iran was using it to break down nuclear equipment, ship it to Poland, reassemble it and send it on transport planes to Iran. The airport was shut down after my exposé.

In another instance, the U.S. government gave me documents showing that an important member of the Cypriot parliament and his law firm were laundering money for the Russian mafia. My story crippled the law firm’s legitimate business and prompted the politician to sue The New York Times and me. Times lawyers chose not to challenge the suit in a Cypriot court, saying they could not get a fair trial there. They told me that, to avoid arrest, I should not visit Cyprus again.

I could fill several columns with examples like these.

Governments do not leak because they care about democracy or a free press; they leak because it is in their interest to bring down someone or something. In most cases, because the reporter verifies the leaked information, the news is not fake. It is when the reporter does not verify the information – as was the case when The New York Times uncritically reported the Bush administration’s false charge that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction in Iraq – that he or she becomes part of the vast fake news industry.

Fake news is now being used in an attempt to paint independent news sites, including Truthdig, and independent journalists as witting or unwitting agents of Russia. Elites of the Republican and Democratic parties are using fake news in an attempt to paint Trump as a stooge of the Kremlin and invalidate the election. No persuasive evidence for such accusations has been made public. But the fake news has become the battering ram in the latest round of Red-baiting.

In a Dec. 7 letter to Truthdig, a lawyer for The Washington Post, which printed an article Nov. 24 about allegations that Truthdig and some 200 other websites had been tools of Russian propaganda, said that the article’s author, Craig Timberg, knows the identity of the anonymous accusers at PropOrNot, a group that made the charges. [Editor’s note: The lawyer wrote, in part, concerning the Nov. 24 story and PropOrNot, “The description in the Article was based on substantial reporting by Mr. Timberg, including numerous interviews, background checks of specific individuals involved in the group (whose identities were known to Timberg, contrary to your speculation). …”] The Post says it has to protect PropOrNot’s anonymity. It passed along a false accusation without evidence. The victims in this case cannot respond adequately because the accusers are anonymous. Those who are smeared are told that they should appeal to PropOrNot to get their names removed from the group’s “blacklist.” The circular reasoning gives credibility to anonymous groups that draw up blacklists and fake news as well as to the lies they disseminate.

The 20th century’s cultural and social transformation, E.P. Thompson wrote in his essay “Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism,” has turned out to be much more than the embrace of an economic system or the celebration of patriotism. It is, he pointed out, part of a revolutionary reinterpretation of reality. It marks the ascendancy of mass culture and the destruction of genuine culture and genuine intellectual life.

Richard Sennett, in his book “The Fall of the Public Man,” identified the rise of mass culture as one of the prime forces behind what he termed a new “collective personality … generated by a common fantasy.” And the century’s great propagandists would not only agree but would add that those who can manipulate and shape those fantasies determine the directions taken by the “collective personality.”

This huge internal pressure, hidden from public view, makes the production of good journalism and good scholarship very, very difficult. Those reporters and academics who care about the truth and don’t back down are subjected to subtle and at times overt coercion and often are purged from institutions.

Images, which are how most people now ingest information, are especially prone to being made into fake news. Language, as the cultural critic Neil Postman wrote, “makes sense only when it is presented as a sequence of propositions. Meaning is distorted when a word or sentence is, as we say, taken out of context; when a reader or a listener is deprived of what was said before and after.” Images do not have a context. They are “visible in a different way.” Images, especially when they are delivered in long, rapid-fire segments, dismember and distort reality. The condition “recreates the world in a series of idiosyncratic events.”

Michael Herr, who covered the Vietnam War for Esquire magazine, observed that the images of the war presented in photographs and on television, unlike the printed word, obscured the brutality of the conflict. “Television and news were always said to have ended the war,” Herr said. “I thought the opposite. These images were always seen in another context – sandwiched in between commercials, so that they became a blancmange in the public mind. I think if anything, the blancmange coverage prolonged the war.”

A populace divorced from print and bombarded by discordant and random images is robbed of the vocabulary as well as the historical and cultural context to articulate reality. Illusion is truth. A whirlwind of emotionally driven can’t feeds our historical amnesia.

The internet has accelerated this process. It, along with cable news shows, has divided the country into antagonistic clans. Members of a clan watch the same images and listen to the same narratives, creating a collective “reality.” Fake news abounds in these virtual slums. Dialogue is shut down. Hatred of opposing clans fosters a herd mentality. Those who express empathy for “the enemy” are denounced by their fellow travelers for their supposed impurity. This is as true on the left as it is on the right. These clans and herds, fed a steady diet of emotionally driven fake news, gave rise to Trump.

Trump is adept at communicating through image, sound bites and spectacle. Fake news, which already dominates print and television reporting, will define the media under his administration. Those who call out the mendacity of fake news will be vilified and banished. The corporate state created this monstrous propaganda machine and bequeathed it to Trump. He will use it.
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Re: Washington Post’s ‘Fake News’ Guilt, by Robert Parry

Postby admin » Tue Dec 27, 2016 7:30 am

Corporate media’s “fake news” war is backfiring by showing the world the power of alt media: This battle has literally nil to do with fake news – or even Russia – and everything to do with the power of dissent.
By Claire Bernish
December 19, 2016



As you’ve likely heard by now, Facebook has taken its war against “fake news” to a whole other level – employing third-party media and fact-checking organizations to judge whether news items are legitimate – to the consternation of countless users who see the platform overstepping red lines.

Servile corporate media immediately parroted the wealth of benefits that Facebook’s plan will ostensibly provide, from an alert and gateway system forced onto articles deemed “disputed,” to the organizations making the “kiss of death” judgment call: Snopes, FactCheck.org, Politifact, and ABC News.

Anyone with passing knowledge of bias in media is probably spitting out their coffee – all four organizations are notoriously left-leaning and liberal, and the list includes no outlets with any other of myriad ideological tilts.

Indeed, right-leaning outlets from Breitbart to the Drudge Report, as well as the sizable alternative media community – who, collectively, held themselves to higher journalistic standards throughout the election cycle than “old media” titans like the New York Times and Washington Post – quickly condemned the unabashed bias imbued in Facebook’s plan.

Mark Zuckerberg, a large consensus concluded, just declared war on dissent – if not information, itself.

But in an article intended to criticize purveyors of “fake news” and applaud the social media platform’s oh-so-noble efforts to strike such outlets from the American interwebs, The Atlantic’s Kaveh Waddell posited, “Will Facebook’s Fake News Warning Become a Badge of Honor?”

Waddell asks this question, the reader doesn’t discover until more than halfway through the article, through a lens of myopic bias – if not outright scorn – against anyone who dare question the motives of Facebook or its choice of fact-checkers.

“There’s a danger that people who are disinclined to trust traditional sources of information will treat Facebook’s warnings as a badge of honor,” Waddell clarifies. “If fact-checking organizations deem a story questionable, they might be more likely to read and share it, rather than less. There’s reason to believe this group might think of itself as a counterculture, and take the position that anything that ‘the man’ rejects must have a grain of subversive truth to it.”

For a journalist in a nationally regarded publication to display such seething condescension toward a category of people perhaps most critical to preventing a narrowing of news media to a single viewpoint is criminally self-interested, indeed – evincing the paranoia among old media to validate its reporting in the wake of horrendous election coverage.

Regardless of his patronizing tone, Waddell’s question presents what might be the thinnest silver lining to having a Facebook-approved information gatekeeper – news deemed “disputed” will be viewed by non-establishment thinkers as bearing the Scarlet Letter C – censored for being problematic for the political elite.

In other words, this soft censorship could facilely create a Streisand Effect – whereby efforts to suppress content backfire and instead draw greater attention to something than it ever would have received otherwise.

Waddell and the Atlantic, among others, like the Daily Beast – known mouthpieces for the Democratic establishment scrambling to blame Hillary Clinton’s loss on everything but the kitchen sink of a horribly flawed campaign – realize to some degree the threat posed by legitimate criticism of the accepted narrative.

This battle has literally nil to do with fake news – or even Russia – and everything to do with the power of dissent.

Of course, a brazen irony in Facebook’s purge of random items is CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s comments on the subject prior to mass Democratic and corporate media hysteria over iterations Donald Trump won because Russia:

Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99 percent of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.

Zuckerberg’s protestations and resistance to acknowledge “fake news” as influencing the outcome of the election quickly melted under pressure from the pro-Hillary camp – and evaporated as Clintonites and a smattering of miffed Republicans switched gears and ratcheted up New Red Scare propagandizing.

When utterly unfounded, un-researched, and unverified reporting by the Washington Post termed the collective body of independent, right-slanted, or pro-Jill Stein media organizations as either active agents of Russia or the Putin’s “useful idiots,” those outlets formed an implicit bond for having been scurrilously blacklisted.

Once the Post’s thinly-veneered paper tiger went down in flames for it being impossible to substantiate, the outlet threw journalistic integrity out the window and proffered another unprovable paragon of irresponsibility: “Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House.”

This gem swears CIA officials have performed an extensive assessment of the election and can prove individuals with ties to the Russian government as responsible for submitting documents on the Democratic Party to WikiLeaks for publication – an allegation Julian Assange emerged from the shadows to dispel in an interview with Sean Hannity on Thursday.

WikiLeaks – whose published documents have never been proven inauthentic – found itself on the Post’s “Russian agent blacklist.”

In other words, by relying on user-reporting and biased outlets to flag articles means any “disputed” contents feasibly earned that label on a subjective – not hard and fast – basis.

But should there be any labeling – read: moderate censorship – of articles and items by a social media behemoth who claims impartiality while rubbing elbows with Democratic heavy-hitters? All grumblings on Facebook’s status as a private entity aside, when your platform acts as the primary news aggregator for millions, there is a staunch obligation to preserve the rights of everyone to speak their version of truth.

To be honest, that includes outlets spewing horrendously false news items as the real thing.

In this new age of information aptly deemed the post-truth era by the Oxford Dictionaries this year, the onus of consequence for sharing any erroneous or fabricated information falls squarely on the shoulders of the fecklessly lazy who don’t bother checking sources and hyperlinks – or, in most cases, read more than the title – before disseminating information online.

Because that basic duty was apparently too much for so many to bear, we’re now all faced with the Huxleyan prospect of being spoon fed vanilla government propaganda disguised as news – while legitimate news earns the dystopic “disputed” label.

Maybe, just maybe, Waddell and the others have it all wrong. Maybe the imminent Streisand Effect will thwart Facebook gatekeeping in its tracks. Maybe people have wearied of the perilous penchant for categorization. Maybe this Scarlet Lettering of dissenting viewpoints will disgust the wary and students of history.

Maybe Facebook will see its fast-approaching, inevitable demise and decide the suppression of information does not a profitable business move make – or maybe the “disputed” info plot represents the ultimate poison pill.

Claire Bernish writes for TheFreeThoughtProject.com, where this article first appeared.
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Re: Washington Post’s ‘Fake News’ Guilt, by Robert Parry

Postby admin » Tue Dec 27, 2016 7:13 pm

Return of the Blacklist: What’s Next — Book Burning?
by John Laurits
December 15, 2016




My friends — when you search the sky, can’t you tell whether it will rain or not? And when you look out at the colors of the leaves & the fields, you know which season comes next, don’t you? Just as you read the signs of the earth, read the signs of the times — listen to what is being said in the media, read what is written in the headline, & look at what the vipers of Capitol Hill are doing. A grave time is upon us. As I wrote earlier this week, the senate has passed a law which appropriated funds for an official United States propaganda agency and the hypocrites in the media continue to aggressively press the narrative (with no evidence, of course) that shadowy foreign powers are using “fake news” to poison our minds & undermine our so-called ‘American democracy.’ And now we are witnessing the return of the blacklist.

Return of the Blacklist

Anti-Russian blacklist propaganda, United States in the ’50s

According to the dictionary that I hold in my hand, “blacklist” is a noun referring to “a list of persons under suspicion, disfavor, censure, etc.” or to lists of names forbidden to work in an industry “for holding opinions considered undesirable.” The most notorious instance of blacklisting in the United States, of course, was the entertainment industry blacklist or the so-called “Hollywood blacklist.”

This lasted several decades (more or less) which peaked in the 40s & ’50s and was meant to silence or ruin the careers of countless writers, artists, journalists, activists, & musicians who were members of the communist party, socialists, or merely accused of having communist, socialist, or Marxist sympathies. During the Red Scare, right-wing publications & even congressional committees created formal blacklists accusing newspapers, TV programs, radio broadcasts, & individuals of disseminating pro-Russian propaganda. At the same time, the bosses of large media companies & public officials held informal lists by private agreements about who held the wrong opinions…

Red Channels & Counterattack

Red Channels – a blacklist published by conservative newsletter Counterattack

An important blacklist, called the Red Channels, was published in 1950 by the conservative newsletter Counterattack. The initial list of 151 entertainers, writers, & artists were claimed to be knowingly or unknowingly part of a communist effort to disseminate pro-Russian propaganda in the US through the media & entertainment industry. The authors of the blacklist also claimed the Russian propaganda used issues like “academic freedom, civil rights, [and] peace” (Red Channels, pg. 2-3) to convey its message — and, according to professor of history & McCarthy-era expert Ellen Schrecker:

“By 1951, the television networks and their sponsors no longer hired anyone whose name was in [Red Channel]”
— from Schrecker’s Blacklists & Economic Sanctions

Blacklist v2.0 — Coming Soon!

All in all, it is acknowledged that at least 10,000 entertainers, activists, & journalists lost the ability to work in their professions during the Hollywood blacklist, though Schrecker believes the real number is probably much higher. In light of these historical facts, you might think that our society would be eager to leave the repression of blacklisting behind — but, if you thought that, it is now my depressing duty to tell you that you’re wrong…

“Your Friendly Neighborhood Propaganda Identification Service”

The Modern Blacklist, PropOrNot
*poker face*

I’d love to tell you that “Your Friendly Neighborhood Propaganda Identification Service” is a satirical tagline that I made up to add a dash of charm & a sprig of humor to this article. Unfortunately for both of us, I can’t. This is because it’s the actual tagline of a new website called “PropOrNot,” which enjoyed a huge boost of publicity the other day when the dingbats at the Washington Post recklessly published a glowing review — (ahem!) eh, I meant “article” — about the fledgling thought-police organization. PropOrNot, of course, is merely another in a recent plague of online blacklists, which I’ve written about in the article, “Real or Fake News — Who Gets to Decide?” And now the mainstream media is giving them free publicity — here’s how the Washington Post introduces them:

“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….”

“Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say”

A “nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military, and technology backgrounds” — sounds nice, doesn’t it? Ah! But I forgot to mention the fact that — as the real journalists, Ben Norton & Glen Greenwald, noted — PropOrNot keeps themselves anonymous. I even ran a ‘Whois’ search on InterNIC & found that their DNS registration info is hidden by a company called ‘Domains by Proxy LLC’ — which means they could literally be any person or group of people. Why, then, does the Post call them “experts?”

In other words, the Washington Post has just elevated irony to a whole new level of “are-you-listening-to-yourself-right-now?” by publishing an article alleging Russians are spreading harmful & unverifiable information by citing information that is itself harmful & unverifiable. To compound the irony, the article also serves as an impressive example of why the public has a hard time distinguishing between satire & reality.

“The List“

Here’s where things get concerning — the Jr. Witch-Hunting Scouts over at PropOrNot have put together a section that they’re calling “The List.” Now — instead of making fun of that hillariously ominous title — I am compelled, as both an independent journalist & socialist, to tell you that seeing this list disgusted me (as in I literally lost my appetite) and I hope that conveys the gravity with which I now write.

I’ve reproduced their list in the box below and I’ve highlighted a handful of the websites that I was shocked to see blacklisted, though none of them should be on there, of course…

4thmedia.org newswithviews.com
4threvolutionarywar.wordpress.com nowtheendbegins.com
abeldanger.net nsnbc.me
activistpost.com off-guardian.org
ahtribune.com oftwominds.com
allnewspipeline.com oilgeopolitics.net
americanlookout.com opednews.com
americasfreedomfighters.com orientalreview.org
amren.com patriotrising.com
amtvmedia.com paulcraigroberts.org
ancient-code.com platosguns.com
anonews.co pravda.ru
anonhq.com pravdareport.com
antiwar.com prepperwebsite.com
asia-pacificresearch.com presstv.com
assassinationscience.com prisonplanet.com
baltimoregazette.com rbth.com
barenakedislam.com readynutrition.com
beforeitsnews.com redflagnews.com
bignuggetnews.com regated.com
bioprepper.com rense.com
blackagendareport.com righton.com
blacklistednews.com rinf.com
christianfightback.com ronpaulinstitute.org
collective-evolution.com rt.com
conservativedailypost.com rumormillnews.com
consortiumnews.com ruptly.tv
corbettreport.com russia-insider.com
cosmicscientist.com sana.sy
countercurrents.org sentinelblog.com
counterinformation.wordpress.com sgtreport.com
dailyoccupation.com shiftfrequency.com
dailystormer.com shtfplan.com
darkmoon.me silentmajoritypatriots.com
darkpolitricks.com silverdoctors.com
davidstockmanscontracorner.com sott.net
dcclothesline.com southfront.org
dcleaks.com sputniknews.com
defenddemocracy.press stormcloudsgathering.com
dennismichaellynch.com strategic-culture.org
disclose.tv superstation95.com
disclosuremedia.net survivopedia.com
drudgereport.com the-newspapers.com
educate-yourself.org theantimedia.org
educateinspirechange.org thecommonsenseshow.com
endingthefed.com thedailybell.com
endoftheamericandream.com thedailysheeple.com
endtime.com theduran.com
eutimes.net theearthchild.co.za
eutopia.buzz theeconomiccollapseblog.com
ewao.com theeventchronicle.com
eyeopening.info thefederalistpapers.org
fellowshipoftheminds.com thefreethoughtproject.com
filmsforaction.org themindunleashed.org
floridasunpost.com thenewsdoctors.com
foreignpolicyjournal.com therebel.media
fourwinds10.net therussophile.org
freedomoutpost.com thesaker.is
gaia.com thesleuthjournal.com
galacticconnection.com thetruenews.info
gangstergovernment.com thetruthseeker.co.uk
gatesofvienna.net theunhivedmind.com
geopolmonitor.com thirdworldtraveler.com
globalresearch.ca toprightnews.com
godlikeproductions.com trueactivist.com
govtslaves.info trunews.com
greanvillepost.com truth-out.org
guccifer2.wordpress.com truthandaction.org
hangthebankers.com truthdig.com
healthnutnews.com truthfeed.com
henrymakow.com truthkings.com
heresyblog.net ufoholic.com
humansarefree.com undergroundworldnews.com
ihavethetruth.com unz.com
in5d.com usanewshome.com
informationclearinghouse.info usapoliticsnow.com
infowars.com usasupreme.com
intellihub.com usdcrisis.com
intersectionproject.eu usslibertyveterans.org
intrepidreport.com vdare.com
investmentresearchdynamics.com veteransnewsnow.com
investmentwatchblog.com veteranstoday.com
jackpineradicals.com vigilantcitizen.com
jamesrgrangerjr.com viralliberty.com
jewsnews.co.il voltairenet.org
journal-neo.org wakeupthesheep.com
katehon.com wakingtimes.com
kingworldnews.com washingtonsblog.com
lewrockwell.com wearechange.org
libertyblitzkrieg.com weshapelife.org
libertywritersnews.com whatdoesitmean.com
makeamericagreattoday.com whatreallyhappened.com
memoryholeblog.com wikileaks.com
mintpressnews.com wikileaks.org
moonofalabama.org wikispooks.com
nakedcapitalism.com worldnewspolitics.com
naturalblaze.com worldpolitics.us
naturalnews.com http://www.fort-russ.com
newcoldwar.org yournewswire.com
newstarget.com zerohedge.com
in5d.com usanewshome.com
informationclearinghouse.info usapoliticsnow.com
infowars.com usasupreme.com
intellihub.com usdcrisis.com
intersectionproject.eu usslibertyveterans.org
intrepidreport.com vdare.com
investmentresearchdynamics.com veteransnewsnow.com
investmentwatchblog.com veteranstoday.com
jackpineradicals.com vigilantcitizen.com
jamesrgrangerjr.com viralliberty.com
jewsnews.co.il voltairenet.org
journal-neo.org wakeupthesheep.com
katehon.com wakingtimes.com
kingworldnews.com washingtonsblog.com
lewrockwell.com wearechange.org
libertyblitzkrieg.com weshapelife.org
libertywritersnews.com whatdoesitmean.com
makeamericagreattoday.com whatreallyhappened.com
memoryholeblog.com wikileaks.com
mintpressnews.com wikileaks.org
moonofalabama.org wikispooks.com
nakedcapitalism.com worldnewspolitics.com
naturalblaze.com worldpolitics.us
naturalnews.com http://www.fort-russ.com
newcoldwar.org yournewswire.com
newstarget.com zerohedge.com

As you can see, WikiLeaks is officially “Russian propaganda” and so is TruthDig, a publication which Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman & the Pulizter Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges both write for, as well as Truthout, an independent non-profit which publishes exquisite investigative journalism & insightful editorials. Also on the list is the quality news-aggregator & activist forum, Jack Pine Radicals, who kindly link to many of the articles on this site, and Naked Capitalism, a well-curated site focused on issues of finance, economics, politics, & power, which also often includes my writing.

Why are these sites listed as Russian propaganda?

The beginning of PropOrNot’s criteria to make it onto the list of their Book-Burning Club, from The Black Friday Report =

On November 26th, the guardians of truth & ideological purity at PropOrNot released what they called “The Black Friday Report,” which claims to explain their methods for determining which sites are insidious Russian propaganda sites, including “echo” sites who amplify their evil messages. They wrote that they created the blacklist as:

“an effort to prevent propaganda from distorting U.S. political and policy discussions. We hope to strengthen our cultural immune systems against hostile influence and improve public discourse generally.” (emphasis mine, -JL)
— p4-5 of The Black Friday Report

PropOrNot’s Propaganda Detection Methods Is Merely Bullying Pretending to be Science

Our “cultural immune system?” What, are Russians some kind of virus? I’ve examined their methods and found them to be deceptive but this topic deserves an article of it’s own. That’s why I’ve decided to publish a thorough follow-up by midnight on Friday which will devastatingly & incontrovertibly expose the dishonest, bigoted, & logically incoherent nonsense behind PropOrNot.com’s deceptive but scientific-sounding witch-hunting manual.

Expect it.

For now, I’ll briefly point out that one of the common ways that PropOrNot selectively labels indie-media they don’t like as Russian propaganda (or echo-sites) is by using their links to media associated with Russia to build a pseudoscientific “case” against them. This includes popular online news-sites like RT, which was the most popular source for news videos from 2011-12. Presumably, this is because they recieve funding from the Russian government. I guess this means that our friend Lee Camp was a no-good, communist conspirator the whole time! (don’t worry, we still love ya, Lee).

Independent Media Must Stand Up to Ideological Bullies

In closing, I’d like to exhort all of my brothers, sisters, & others in the independent media not to remain silent in the face of this ideological control — whether you’re a podcast host or a photographer, a commentator or a citizen-journalist or a reader or a watcher, this affects all of us. If we stand together & work together — if we continue to call upon our allies reason, curiosity, & critical thinking, we will prevail over all thought police, all ideological bullies, & all who are short-sighted enough to side against the collective human struggle for the liberty to express our thoughts, our ideas, & the treasuries of information.

And to you — you anonymous creatures who love the dark because you’d be ashamed for the world to see what you do — to you, PropOrNot, I have but one request. I’d like to be on your list of propaganda, if you’re willing to place me there. I meet most of your criteria and I’d be happy to furnish you with the evidence which incriminates me — just ask for it & I’ll save you the trouble.

You see — To me — this seems like a good list — a list of people like Amy Goodman, like Julian Assange, like my friends in the activist forums you’ve denounced as mindless repeaters of falsehoods — people who dare to speak truth to power. There is nothing I can think of that I want more than to stand with my friends & with fearless journalists & truth-sayers, whoever & wherever they may be.

In solidarity,
John Laurits

P.S. Here’s a tweet that folks can RT to call these dingbats out:

John Laurits @JohnLaurits
How's the witch-hunt coming along, @propornot? http://www.johnlaurits.com/2016/12/15/r ... blacklist/
12:15 PM - 15 Dec 2016
Return of the Blacklist: What's Next — Book Burning? »
Is a revival of blacklisting happening in the United States? John looks at current reporting on "fake news" and anti-Russian politics...
Site Admin
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Re: Washington Post’s ‘Fake News’ Guilt, by Robert Parry

Postby admin » Tue Dec 27, 2016 8:12 pm

Part 1 of 2

PropOrNot: Is It Propaganda or Not?: Your Friendly Neighborhood Propaganda Identification Service, Since 2016!
Black Friday Report: On Russian Propaganda Network Mapping
By The PropOrNot Team
November 26th, 2016




Web: http://www.propornot.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/propornot
Reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/propornot/
Email: propornot@gmail.com

Thanks to the Generous Sponsorship of: Nobody (Funding? Hah!)

Executive Summary:

Russia’s attempts to influence the U.S. election via hacking and selectively leaking sensitive U.S. government and political data were not conducted in isolation. They were accompanied by large-scale, long-term efforts to build online “fake news” propaganda outlets with significant audiences in the U.S. PropOrNot has so far identified over 200 distinct websites, YouTube channels, and Facebook groups which qualify as Russian propaganda outlets according to our criteria and target audiences in the United States. Drawing on existing research and using a combination of automated and manual review techniques, we estimate the regular U.S. audiences of these outlets to number in the tens of millions. We are currently gathering data to measure that more precisely, but are confidant that it includes at least 15 million Americans.

Table of Contents:

• Background on PropOrNot
• Characteristics of Identified Sites
• Methodology
• A Prior-Research Case Study: ZeroHedge.com
• Spidering, Correlating, Reviewing, Spidering
• Following a Specific Story: The Tale of the Painted Jets
• Following a Specific Story: The Tale Hillary Clinton’s “Parkinson’s”
• Following a Specific Story: Ourselves!
• Using Google Trends to Measure Larger-Scale Effects
• Preliminary Conclusions
• Next Steps

Introduction and Context

Throughout the election season of 2016, an increasing number of reporters and journalists have done remarkable work investigating the origins and operations of “fake news” outlets on the internet. Some notable examples include:

How Facebook powers money machines for obscure political 'news' sites
By Dan Tynan, Aug 24 2016, The Guardian

Online Scam Artists Are Using Hoaxes About Terrorist Attacks To Make Money
By Craig Silverman, Aug 19 2016, Buzzfeed News

Facebook Made This Sketchy Website’s Fake Story A Top Trending Topic
Craig Silverman, Aug 29 2016, Buzzfeed News

We Tracked Down A Fake-News Creator In The Suburbs. Here's What We Learned
Larua Sydell, Nov 23 2016, NPR

Seattle’s own ‘click-bait’ news site serves up red meat for liberals
Danny Westneat, Nov 25, 2016, Seattle Times

How Fake News Goes Viral: A Case Study
Sapna Maheshwari, November 20 2016, New York Times

Buzzfeed News in particular has done pioneering analytical work on this, and their stories on the “fake news” issue are an excellent resource. Public discussion has now correctly recognized that “fake news” is a serious problem with real-world consequences, and a number of innovative actors have started to discuss, research, and develop potential solutions. However, the public discussion of all this has, until very recently, generally assumed that the “fake news” problem has been mostly driven by “clickbait”-style commercial motivations:

Renegade Facebook Employees Form Task Force To Battle Fake News
Sheera Frenkel, Nov 14 2016, BuzzFeed News

Facebook's Fight Against Fake News Was Undercut by Fear of Conservative Backlash
Michael Nunez, Nov 14 2016, Gizmodo

Here’s a Chrome Extension That Will Flag Fake-News Sites for You
By Brian Feldman, Nov 15, 2016, New York Magazine

We Have a Bad News Problem, Not a Fake News Problem
By David Mikkelson, Nov 17 2016, Snopes

How to Spot Fake News
By Lori Robertson and Eugene Kiely, Nov 18 2016, FactCheck.org

This evolving thread of stories analyzing “fake news” has been simultaneously accompanied by a very different but parallel thread of stories and public discussion about Russian cyberespionage, propaganda, and “active measures” targeted at the West. Reporting on this initially focused on Russian-backed comment-troll farms, but quickly expanded beyond that:

Documents Show How Russia’s Troll Army Hit America
By Max Seddon, Jun 2 2014, Buzzfeed News

The Agency: From a nondescript office building in St. Petersburg, Russia, an army of well-paid “trolls” has tried to wreak havoc all around the Internet — and in real-life American communities
By Adrian Chen, Jun 2 2015, New York Times

Salutin' Putin: Inside a Russian troll house
Shaun Walker in St Petersburg, The Guardian, 2 April 2015

While the public discourse correctly recognized that “fake news” was becoming a serious problem, especially in light of the election, very few journalists and researchers sought to systematically connect the dots between fake news and Russian cyberespionage, propaganda, and “active measures” generally. However, as the election season ramped up an increasing number of intrepid reporters and researchers started investigating this connection, which had been discussed extensively in the specialist press for years. Much of this research inspired our efforts at PropOrNot. For example:

Unmasking the Men Behind Zero Hedge, Wall Street's Renegade Blog
By Tracy Alloway and Luke Kawa, Apr 29, 2016, Bloomberg

Social Network Analysis Reveals Full Scale of Kremlin's Twitter Bot Campaign
Lawrence Alexander, Apr 2 2015, Global Voices

When Online Kremlin Propaganda Leaves the Web, It Looks Like This
Lawrence Alexander, Sep 29 2015, StopFake

Social Media as a Tool of Hybrid Warfare ,
Sanda Svetoka, Jul 7 2016, NATO StratCom

The Fringes of Disinfo: A Network Based on Referrers
By Andrew Aaron Weisburd, Feb 7 2016, in активные мероприятия

Putin's Army Of Internet Trolls Is Influencing The Hillary Clinton Email Scandal
By Paul Roderick Gregory, 5 June 2016, Forbes

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin: Russia's information war meets the US election
By Chris Zappone, 15 June 2016, Sydney Morning Herald

The Kremlin’s Candidate: In the 2016 election, Putin’s propaganda network is picking sides
Michael Crowley, May/June 2016, Politico

Prof. Chodakiewicz discusses Russian military and influence operations at US Army Europe Senior Leaders Forum
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, Jan 27 2015, Institute of World Politics,

Until very recently no public research connected the dots as extensively as this article:

Trolling for Trump: How Russia Is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy
By Andrew Weisburd, Clint Watts and JM Berger, Nov 6 2016, War on the Rocks

These previously separate threads of public discussion about “fake news” and about Russian propaganda are now, finally, being connected. In our view, this is long overdue. We at PropOrNot are proud to be contributing to that discussion.

Background on 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 currently volunteering our time and skills to identify propaganda - particularly Russian propaganda - targeting a U.S. audience. We collect public-record information connecting propaganda outlets to each other and their coordinators abroad, analyze what we find, act as a central repository and point of reference for related information, and organize efforts to oppose it.

Some of our members have been aware of Russian influence operations in a professional context for quite some time, but others have become increasingly aware of existing research on the subject in light of recent events in Ukraine, Western Europe Europe, and the Middle East. We formed PropOrNot as an effort to prevent propaganda from distorting U.S. political and policy discussions. We hope to strengthen our cultural immune systems against hostile influence and improve public discourse generally.

We are completely independent, because we not funded by anyone, and we have no formal institutional affiliations. We are nonpartisan, in that our team includes all major political persuasions except the pro-Russian kind. We are anonymous for now, because we are civilian Davids taking on a state-based 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 again, we can in some cases provide much more detail to journalists and other researchers in order to contextualize their reporting.

The growth of computers, the Internet, and niche marketing means that you don't have to be a Goliath to get along. Like David's sling, these new technologies empower the little guy to compete more effectively. They have, in fact, spawned a veritable army of Davids, now busily competing with the Goliaths in all sorts of fields. And, as with the beer, even where that competition is no real threat to the big guys, it tends to push them to do a better job.

-- An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths, by Glenn Reynolds

By enabling virtually anybody with a computer to disclose information to world, the Internet is dissolving the boundaries between professional journalists and amateurs. Glenn Reynolds, a law professor and author of the very popular blog Instapundit, extols the virtues of the amateur journalist in his book, An Army of Davids. With the growth of blogs, he observes, "power once concentrated in the hands of a professional few has been redistributed into the hands of the amateur many." Known as The Blogfather because he created one of the first blogs, Reynolds argues that "technology has made it possible for individuals to become not merely pamphleteers, but vital sources of news and opinion that rival large metropolitan publishers in audience and influence." For Reynolds, these developments are marvelous: "I don't think that weblogs and flash media will replace Big Media any time soon. But I keep seeing evidence that they're doing a better and better job of supplementing, and challenging, Big Media coverage. I think that's a wonderful thing, and it's one reason why I'm such an evangelist for the spread of enabling technologies like Web video and cheap digital cameras."

-- The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet, by Daniel J. Solove

It’s the volume of work being produced that tips you off that you may be dealing with a professional hatchet-man. As I review the products of research into Popehat, I’m struck by the amount of time spent on the activity, and the very large number of his Rapeutation victims. I gradually have drifted from thinking that it was absurd to imagine he’d be getting paid to conduct Rapeutations to entertaining the possibility in theory, to definitely not ruling it out.

He could be working for somebody steady, like Lenny Sands works for Howard Hughes in James Ellroy’s “American Tabloid,” stalking and exposing Hollywood personalities Hughes wants to pressure for business purposes, or wants to crush because they obstruct his right wing social agendas. Or he could run a sleaze-for-hire shop of that sort that have existed in LA since the first swindlers showed up to sell whatever suckers would pay for. Ellroy’s character Ward Littell, a lawyer/FBI agent who turns from a Kennedy worshipper to a conspirator in his assassination, is the very epitome of a person who traffics in black information, gathered from law enforcement, private investigators and freelance mercenaries at a very high level. Ken Popehat White might be a sort of micro-version of Ward Littell, gathering his information from his “army of Davids,” and spreading his poison through the same network.

-- Sparking Up A Cyber-Frankenstein: Pushing Yellow Journalism To The Megacrowd, by Charles Carreon

Safe inside his cover story, Popehat is machinating like L. Ron Hubbard targeting suppressives. His head thrust against his periscope, he ceaselessly scans the sea for the latest foolish captain to pilot the S.S. Douchebag into his sights. “Fire 1! Fire 2!” A pause to gauge the effects, then, “We hit her amidships!” Popehat’s crew roars with triumph, and Popehat himself, oblivious to all but the delicious sensation of having his hindquarters laved by eager tongues, hoarsely exhorts his “army of Davids” to further reputational mayhem.

-- Embarrassing Followers, by Charles Carreon

http://www.popehat.com/2012/12/26/vote-in-the-secondannual-popehat-censorious-asshat-of-the-year-poll/ White conceived a special dislike for the Lawyer, recruiting readers to play a “Twitter hashtag game: #charlescarreonnewcareers,” and recruited them as an “Army of Davids” to “take a screenshot or print … to pdf [any] web page” showing that the Lawyer had made “an inconsistent statement [or] shows hypocrisy.” (Carreon Dec. ¶ 5; Exhibit 1.) When served with a subpoena for documents in this case, White responded with the disclosure that he had exchanged over 200 emails with the Gripesite Operator, and refused to produce anything, claiming that the Lawyer possesses “animus” towards White. (Carreon Dec. ¶ 5; Exhibit 2.)

Much of the footnote is true. I am a criminal defense attorney. I have a libertarian following. I deride attorneys, including Mr. Carreon, as censorious asshats. I conceived a special dislike for Mr. Carreon. I made up a hashtag game about him, and recruited people to point out where Mr. Carreon and his wife had engaged in rhetoric that was inconsistent with his contrived pearl-clutching horror over the contents of Mr. Inman's blog.

-- In Which Charles Carreon Says Mostly True Things About Me In A Footnote, by Ken White

You guys who keep coming up with the examples of falsehood and hypocrisy just rock. You're the Army of Davids. Do me a favor — whenever you find a good web page showing an inconsistent statement, or an item that shows hypocrisy, take a screenshot or print it to pdf in case he memory-holes it.

-- Kenneth Paul White, Popehat.com

Think of it as Mitt Romney’s revenge. When Romney suggested, back during the 2012 election, that Russia was the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, Barack Obama mocked him with a line lifted from Seinfeld, saying “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”

Well, you wouldn’t know that to listen to Democrats talking today. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has been issuing dark warnings of Russian election-tampering. In a letter sent to FBI Director James Comey, Reid warned that the threat of Russian election-tampering is more serious than generally appreciated (it’s like he’s been reading my columns on the subject or something!) and “may include the intent to falsify official election results.”

-- The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming!, by Glenn Harlan Reynolds

The leaks that are out are allegedly from a hacker calling himself Guccifer 2.0, but given that many suspect this is just a blind for Russian intelligence.

-- Putin for president 2016, by Glenn Harlan Reynolds

We are American, although our team includes Ukrainian-American, Iraqi-American, and quite a few other varieties of American members. We are united in our overall objectives: to identify, help counter, and eventually deter Russian propaganda. Any time an outlet consistently echoes, repeats, or refers its audience to Russian propaganda, we’re going to analyze it and call it out.

Characteristics of Identified Sites

We at PropOrNot do not reach our conclusions lightly. We have arrived at them after systematically employing a combination of manual and automated analysis, building on the work of other researchers and journalists, in order to map out a related collection of websites, social media, video, and other outlets, which:

1. Include official state-owned and semi-official Russian propaganda outlets, such as Russia Today , Sputnik News , Russia Insider , etc.;

2. Consistently cite official state-owned and semi-official Russian propaganda outlets, including the Russian defense ministry and other official spokespeople;

3. Consistently reuse text directly from official state-owned and semi-official Russian propaganda outlets and government spokespeople, often without attribution;

4. Have a history of generally echoing the Russian propaganda "line", by using themes, arguments, talking points, images, and other content similar to those used by official state-owned and semi-official Russian propaganda outlets;

5. Have a history of echoing the Russian propaganda "line" in ways unrelated to the purported focus of their branding, and in sequence with (at the same time as, or shortly after) official state-owned and semi-official Russian propaganda outlets;

6. Qualify as propaganda under a rigorous definition: “A systematic form of purposeful persuasion that attempts to influence the emotions, attitudes, opinions, and actions of specific 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”;

7. Have in many cases already been called out by other fact-checkers, researchers, journalists, or debunkers;

8. Share technical “tells” suitable for automated analysis, such as Google Analytics IDs, Amazon affiliate codes, WHOIS data, hosting data, ad-network utilization, SEO techniques, referral patterns, in some cases strongly suggesting direct Russian involvement;

9. Refer their audiences to each other, via hyperlinks and other means, at disproportionately high rates;

10. Are consistently visited by the same audiences, both directly and via search, demonstrating that those intra-network referrals build “brand loyalty” in their audiences over time;

11. Are consistently visited by their audiences after searches for terms which congrue with the Russian propaganda “line”, and are unrelated to the purported focus of their branding;

12. Are categorized as "similar sites" by automated services in spite of their purportedly distinct focuses;

13. Have content characterized by automated services in ways that are consistently very different from their purported subjects, but align with the Russian propaganda “line”;

14. Have content aligning with the “Eurasianist” philosophy of Alexander Dugin ;

15. Include specialized sites targeted at a wide range of seemingly unrelated audiences, including U.S. military veterans, Wall St. finance industry professionals, environmentalists, peace activists, racists, conspiracy theorists, and political junkies;

16. Appear to be effectively influencing public opinion in significant and very problematic ways, by promoting:

a. Conspiracy theories about and protests against U.S. military exercises (“Jade Helm”),

b. Isolationism and “anti-interventionism” for the US, but not for Russia,

c. Support for policies like Brexit, and the breakup of the EU and Eurozone,

d. Opposition to Ukrainian resistance to Russia and Syrian resistance to Assad,

e. Support for the anti-vax, anti-Zika spraying, anti-GMO, 9/11-”truther”, gold-standard, and other related movements;

17. Have extremely large audiences in the U.S., such that tens of millions of people appear to use them as primary “news” sources, supplanting actual journalism;

18. Appear to be part of a larger “active measures”-style Russian influence operation, which also includes hacking and selectively leaking sensitive U.S. government and political data, along with more-traditional espionage and military activity, intended to:

a. Confuse public opinion, encourage paranoia and passivity, and distract American audiences away from relying on actually-accurate journalism,

b. Blunt opposition to and strengthen popular support for Russian strategic priorities.

Please bear in mind that these characteristics of propaganda outlets are motivation-agnostic. They are independent of questions about whether the sites we’ve identified 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 display these characteristics, they are at the very least acting as " useful idiots " of the Russian intelligence services, and are worthy of further scrutiny.

We have been following recent reporting about for-profit political, commercial, and other kinds of clickbait, hoax, and fake-news sites, and while our automated tools and our manual techniques have occasionally identified sites as Russian propaganda which others have recently identified as commercially or otherwise motivated, if they meet our criteria, we see no reason not to flag them. Our tools are evolving, but because we focus on behavior, not motivation, we are less interested in why any particular outlet echoes or spreads Russian propaganda, than on whether they do. Whether for money or out of ideological affinity, the end results are the same.


We use a combination of manual and automated analysis, including analysis of content, timing, technical indicators, and other reporting, in order to initially identify (“red-flag”) and then confirm an outlet as echoing, repeating, and referring its audience to Russian propaganda.

Our volunteers have developed multiple suites of software tools, leveraging publicly available data and commercial analytics services (like Quantcast , Alexa , SimilarWeb , uStat , SiteLinks , My Web of Trust , AnalyzeID , SocialBlade , and Buzzsumo , among others), in order to discover and perform automated analysis of Russian propaganda outlets, but everything we do is in principle replicable using manual searching and data entry.

We started our automated analysis from the domains and social-media accounts of Russian official and semi-official media outlets, including:


We also drew on other public investigative journalistic reporting which highlights outlets and social media accounts as particularly and unusually pro-Russian, and, after doing our own research sometimes use them as starting points as well. This analysis is used as an example later in this report:

Unmasking the Men Behind Zero Hedge, Wall Street's Renegade Blog
By Tracy Alloway and Luke Kawa, Apr 29, 2016, Bloomberg

We then use our custom tools to “spider” out from those identified sites and accounts, discovering new, connected propaganda sites and social media accounts by examining their technical characteristics, including Google Analytics IDs, Amazon affiliate codes, WHOIS data, hosting data, ad-network utilization, SEO techniques, social media activity, and word-frequency metrics. We can then graph the results in various ways that highlight degrees of similarity, like this ego network diagram :

Ego network diagram illustrating link distance distance metric and density overlap between sites sharing technical identifiers (in this case, a Google Analytics ID)

We use previous reporting and automated analysis along with a systematic manual analysis process in order to flag, check, and double-check anything we review, in order to rigorously identify and expose Russian propaganda, avoid false positives and McCarthyism, and effectively encourage others to get their news from more reliable sources. As such, we have developed and use the following steps, or Checks, when performing manual analysis of potential propaganda outlets and highlighting them in various ways:

1) Check to see whether the social-media account/commenter/outlet consistently cites obvious Russian propaganda outlets such as Russia Today/rt.com, the Russian defense ministry, and other official Russian spokespeople.

2) Check to see whether the social-media account/commenter/outlet has a history of reusing text directly from obvious Russian propaganda outlets, especially without attribution.

3) Check to see whether the social-media account/commenter/outlet has a history of generally echoing the Russian propaganda "line" by using themes, arguments, talking points, images, and other content similar to those used by obvious Russian propaganda outlets. These themes include:

● How wonderful, powerful, innocent, and righteous Russia and Russia's friends are: Putin, Donald Trump, Bashar al-Assad, Syria, Iran, China, radical political parties in the US and Europe, etc. Investigate this by searching for mentions of, for example, "russia", on their site by Googling for "site:whateversite.com russia", and seeing what comes up.

● How terrible, weak, aggressive, and corrupt the the opponents of Russia and their friends are: The US, Obama, Hillary Clinton, the EU, Angela Merkel, NATO, Ukraine, Jewish people, US allies, the "mainstream media", and democrats, the center-right or center-left, and moderates of all stripes. Investigate this by searching for mentions of, for example, "NATO", on their site by Googling for "site:whateversite.com NATO" and seeing what comes up.

● An obvious bias towards Russia and Russian-backed policy in foreign affairs, including:

○ How fantastic Brexit and Ukrainian/Georgian separatism is, but how terrible Chechen separatists are,

○ How advanced Russian technology is, and how dangerous Western technology is,

○ How great it is when Western secrets get exposed, but how terrible it is when Russian ones do,

○ How militarily powerful Russia and their friends are, and how weak and craven Russia's enemies and their friends are, etc.

● How dangerous standing up to Russia would be: It would inevitably result in "World War 3", nuclear devastation, etc, and regardless of who shot first or is bombing civilians where now, would be the West's fault. Russian propaganda never suggests it would just result in a Cold War 2 and Russia's eventual peaceful defeat, like the last time.

● Pre-emptive discouragement of critical analysis: Assertions about them "having the truth", or the need to "wake up the sheeple", or how the "mainstream media" can't be trusted.

● Hyperbolic alarmism, anti-Western conspiracist insinuations, "Eurasianism", racism, gold-standard nuttery and attacks on the US dollar, 9/11-trutherism, anti-Semitism, anti-"globalism", anti-vax/anti-GMO paranoia, and generally ridiculous over-the-top assertions, which cites Russian propaganda outlets as "evidence".

Please review our Frequently Asked Questions and our Reference Articles pages on our site for more background.

4) Check to see whether the social-media account/commenter/outlet has a history of echoing the Russian propaganda "line" in weird ways:

● Do they have propaganda-like content that mentions Russia in a positive light for no clear reason?

● Do they have propaganda-like content that randomly extols Russia and belittles the US?

● Do they have propaganda-like content unrelated to the purported focus of their branding?

● Does the timing of their propaganda-like content coincide with or closely follow similar content on known Russian propaganda outlets?

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.

7) Check to see whether the social-media account/commenter/outlet steadfastly avoids coherently proposing constructive solutions to anything. The point of propaganda isn't just to get people worked up--it's also to create a sense of decision paralysis, and fear of a complex and seemingly frightening world.

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.

As an example of how this all can work, refer to our example post about this on our site, where we review the domain HangTheBankers.com .

After building on previous reporting, using our automated tools, and then checking our work manually, we again use our software tools to fill in the blanks, collecting a wide range of data about any new target sites discovered through the previous steps, and seeing how they might fit into the existing network of previously red-flagged and identified outlets. We have built out a significant network of websites, YouTube channels, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, etc, which appear to be part of the same larger Russian influence operation. Every time we feel confidant that we have discovered most of them, we uncover more.

A Prior-Research Case Study: ZeroHedge.com

In some cases, traditional-journalist reporting has uncovered interesting connections between outlets which we have identified, through our multiple overlapping checks and analyses, as Russian propaganda. Take, for example, ZeroHedge.com , which we review on our site, but examine in more technical detail here.

Targeted at Wall St. professionals and people interested in the finance sector, it is now the 407th most-popular site in the United States (according to Alexa.com ), with 18.7m monthly page views in the U.S., averaging roughly 8 minutes a visit (according to SimilarWeb.com ). It is one of the top finance-industry news sources for American audiences, and was rated as one of the top ten most popular financial blogs in the U.S. by Time Magazine .

The ZeroHedge.com homepage, sans ads, as of October 23rd 2016

New York Magazine ran an extensive profile of the site, titled The Dow Zero Insurgency , in September 2009, doing some research into the site’s apparent founder, Daniel Ivandjiiski, and including this comment about Zerohedge’s tone:

“It’s nihilist, and that kind of vision lends itself to all manner of overreaching and conspiracy,” says Felix Salmon of Reuters. “You need some kind of critical judgment to separate out the [stories] that make sense and the ones that don’t. Zero Hedge just seems to not care about that. It doesn’t matter if it’s not true.”


At the heart of Leo Strauss's political thought is an open apology for terrorism. This idea is illuminated in Strauss's exchange of comments with Alexandre Kojeve, a neo-Hegelian official of the French finance ministry, in the 1950s. At the heart of this debate is the question of the universal and homogenous state, and how philosophers should react to its existence. The universal homogenous state means something like a world where war and underdevelopment have been eliminated, and in which leisure time and well-being are rising. For most people, the universal homogenous state would look like a world of peace, progress, and prosperity.

But for Strauss and Kojeve, peace, progress, and prosperity mean the end of history because they wipe out the higher human values, which depend upon politics, and thus upon war. (Implicit also is the idea that peace, progress, and prosperity are bad for oligarchical domination, a cause dear to Strauss and Kojeve.) Strauss sums it up thus: "This end of History would be most exhilarating, but for the fact that, according to Kojeve, it is the participation in bloody political struggles as well as in real work or, generally expressed, the negating action, which raises man above the brutes." (Strauss 208)

For Strauss and Kojeve, "unlimited technological progress and its accompaniment, which are indispensable conditions of the universal and homogeneous state, are destructive of humanity. It is perhaps possible to say that the universal and homogeneous state is fated to come. But it is certainly impossible to say that man can reasonably be satisfied with it." (Strauss 208) This view of technology is that of the Greek historian called the Old Oligarch (who did not like the long walls and the Athenian navy), and is certainly not that of Plato. For Strauss, Greek philosophy is a screen upon which he projects his own ignorant opinions.

Not caring about what Plato really thought, Strauss advances towards his terrible conclusion: "If the universal and homogeneous state is the goal of History, History is absolutely 'tragic. ' Its completion will reveal that the human problem, and hence in particular the problem of the relation of philosophy and politics, is insoluble." (Strauss 208)

In Strauss's view, the imminent coming of the universal homogeneous state means that all progress accomplished by mankind to date has been worthless: "For centuries and centuries men have unconsciously done nothing but work their way through infinite labors and struggles and agonies, yet ever again catching hope, toward the universal and homogeneous state, and as soon as they have arrived at the end of their journey, they realize that through arriving at it they have destroyed their humanity, and thus returned, as in a cycle, to the prehuman beginnings of History." (Strauss 209)

This raises the question of the violent revolt against the universal homogeneous state, which is what Strauss regards as inevitable and desirable: "Yet there is no reason for despair as long as human nature has not been conquered completely, i.e., as long as sun and man still generate man. There will always be men (andres) who will revolt against a state which is destructive of humanity or in which there is no longer a possibility of noble action or of great deeds." (Strauss 209)

When the real men revolt against too much peace, progress, and prosperity, what will be their program? Strauss: "They may be forced into a mere negation of the universal and homogeneous state, into a negation not enlightened by any positive goal, into a nihilistic negation. While perhaps doomed to failure, that nihilist revolution may be the only great and noble deed that is possible once the universal and homogeneous state has become inevitable. But no one can know whether it will fail or succeed. (Strauss 209, emphasis added)

What can be understood by nihilistic negation and nihilist revolution? In the nineteenth century, nihilism was an ideology of terrorism; the crazed bomb-throwers who assassinated statesmen and rulers across Europe and America (including President McKinley) were atheists, anarchists and nihilists. In the twentieth century, the nihilist revolution was synonymous with some of the most extreme factions of fascism and Nazis. "Long live death!" was a slogan of some of them. With these lines, Strauss has opened the door to fascism, murder, mayhem, war, genocide, and most emphatically to terrorism. And he is not shy about spelling this out.


What will the nihilist revolution look like? Strauss writes: "Someone may object that the successful revolt against the universal and homogeneous state could have no other effect than that the identical historical process which led from the primitive horde to the final state will be repeated." (Strauss 209, emphasis added) The primitive horde or primal horde refers to the human communities of the Paleolithic hunting and gathering societies, to the foragers and cave people of the Old Stone Age. Strauss is endorsing a nihilistic revolt that will have the effect of destroying as much as 10,000 years of progress in civilization, and in hurling humanity back to its wretched predicament in the Paleolithic. Here Strauss finds a momentary common ground with Rousseau, who also had a liking for the Paleolithic; here we are close to the ideas which animated the reign of terror in the French Revolution.

Strauss comes as a Job's comforter to those who have been thrown back into the Old Stone Age: "But would such a repetition of the process -- a new lease on life for man and humanity -- not be preferable to the indefinite continuation of the inhuman end? Do we not enjoy every spring although we know the cycle of the seasons, although we know that winter will come again?" (Strauss 209) Springtime for Leo Strauss has thus acquired the idiosyncratic meaning of a return to the horrors of the Old Stone Age.

Short of turning back the clock to the Paleolithic, Strauss sees one promising possibility latent in Kojeve's universal homogeneous state. This concerns the opportunity for political violence, yet another form of terrorism: "Kojeve does seem to leave an outlet for action in the universal and homogeneous state. In that state the risk of violent death is still involved in the struggle for political leadership .... But the opportunity for action can exist only for a tiny minority. And besides, is this not a hideous prospect: a state in which the last refuge of man's humanity is political assassination in the particularly sordid form of the palace revolution?" (Strauss 209) Such sporadic and limited violence is not enough for Strauss.

Marx and Engels had written about the realm of freedom which would result from higher stages of economic development in the form of a communist utopia. Strauss transforms their communist slogan into an invective against middle class progress and middle class values in general when he concludes this passage with the call: "Warriors and workers of all countries, unite, while there is still time, to prevent the coming of the 'realm of freedom.' Defend with might and main, if it needs to be defended, the 'realm of necessity."' (Strauss 209) Putting aside the superficial polemic against communist utopia, Strauss's goal here is to argue that peace, progress, and prosperity are destructive to oligarchy, and anything must be preferred to such an outcome.

Here we have a blanket endorsement of forms of violence and mayhem, including terrorism and war, in doses large enough to send world civilization back to the Stone Age. This implies genocide on a scale far beyond Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. Today's world population is about 6.25 billion, and barely subsists on the basis of realized technological and industrial progress. But under hunting and gathering conditions, the demographic carrying capacity of the earth would be reduced to 25-50 million. If implemented today, Strauss's program for dismantling the universal homogeneous state would mean a genocide of something approaching 6 billion victims, two whole orders of magnitude beyond Hitler.

And even this must be put into perspective. Strauss notoriously feared to write what he really believed; the public could never face the full truth of his doctrines. Therefore, what we find written in On Tyranny is very likely a somewhat diluted view of his real views. So if Strauss lite, the exoteric version that he felt comfortable publishing at the height of his career, spells up to 6 billion victims, God save us from the full fury of Strauss's esoteric version as it may be transmitted among the neocons infesting and controlling the United States government under the Bush regime.

The most urgent anti-terrorist measure of them all would thus appear to be a purge of neocons from all branches of government (including the Carl Schmitt disciples Scalia, Rehnquist, and Thomas on the Supreme Court), and a general quarantine of neocons as what they really are, neo-fascists and neo-Nazis.

-- 9/11 Synthetic Terror Made in USA, by Webster Griffin Tarpley
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Re: Washington Post’s ‘Fake News’ Guilt, by Robert Parry

Postby admin » Tue Dec 27, 2016 10:28 pm

Part 2 of 2

In November 2011, the Streetwise Professor blog did some excellent digging , and is to our knowledge the first writer to systematically compare ZeroHedge to Russia Today/RT:

‘ZH’s editorial line on the US and European economies parallels almost exactly that of RT. Moreover, although ZH is unsparing in its criticism of virtually every Western government leader, it never whispers the slightest word of reproach about Vladimir Putin or Russia. Indeed, a tweet mentioning that fact almost immediately drew a response from ZH: a link to a ZH piece spouting a common line of Russian propaganda argument about the superior fiscal foundation of Russia as compared to the US.’

Our followup research and content analysis has confirmed that that seems to be the case. The Streetwise Professor story goes on to make the connection that the the father of Zerohedge’s founder appears to have been a Bulgarian intelligence officer during the Cold War:

‘Its creator is Daniel Ivandjiiski, a native of Bulgaria. Daniel has a very dodgy past, including losing a job and his securities license for insider trading. None of this is hard to find out: it was covered in a New York Magazine piece that ran soon after ZH first gained notoriety. Mr. Ivandjiiski’s checkered past perhaps explains his clearcut antipathy for Wall Street. But there may be more to it than that.

In light of my flash analogy of ZH to a Soviet disinformation operation, what is really interesting is the background of Daniel Ivandjiiski’s father. Ivandjiiski pere (Kassimir) was a Bulgarian “journalist” and “envoy” during the Cold War. A member of the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Trade, in the COMECON and EU departments. A journalist. A “special envoy” (hence presumably with very useful diplomatic cover) in every proxy war in Central Asia and Africa in the 1970s and 1980s.

That is an intel operative’s CV with probability 1. Probability 1. Every one of those jobs was a classic cover. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever—none—that Mr. Divandjiiski senior was a member of the Bulgarian Committee for State Security (Държавна сигурност or DS for short)—the Bulgarian equivalent of the KGB. And remember that Bulgarian DS was the USSR KGB’s most reliable allied service during the Cold War. It carried out wet work in western countries, notably the “umbrella murder” of Georgi Markov in London...

Perhaps it is just coincidence that the son of an obvious Warsaw Pact intelligence service agent with the “journalistic” and “diplomatic” background commonly used in influence and disinformation operations starts a website that employs classic influence and disinformation methods, and spouts an editorial line dripping with vitriol and hostility for American (and Western European) financial institutions and governments: a line that follows that of RT quite closely. Perhaps.’

Three years later, in November 2014, the Streetwise Professor Blog ran a followup story about Zerohedge, called How Do You Know That Zero Hedge is a Russian Information Operation? Here’s How , which analyzed a particularly egregious case in which ZeroHedge echoed a deeply misleading story on an obscure Russian-language website, Iskra News , blaming the U.S. for Ukrainian gold going missing from the central-bank vault:

‘Shortly after Yatsenuk disclosed the theft of the gold, stories started appearing on the web, first on a Russian website, claiming that the gold had been spirited out the country: including on ZH, which quoted the Russian web story. This obviously serves a Russian purpose: it presents a counter-narrative that blames the theft of the gold not on Yanukovych, or the Russians, but on the new Ukrainian government and the United States.

This is the classic Soviet/Russian agitprop MO that I noted 3 years ago. A story appears in an obscure publication, typically outside the US or Europe, where it has been planted by Soviet/Russian intelligence. It is then picked up by another, more widely read publication, in Europe or the West. Maybe it works its way through several additional media sources. It then gets disseminated more widely in the west, sometimes making it to prestige publications like the NYT.

In the era of the web, the information weapon needn’t make it that far. Getting into a widely-read web publication like Zero Hedge which is then linked by numerous other sources and tweeted widely ensures that the lie goes viral.

ZH is an important transmission belt moving the story from Russian propagandists/information warriors to western news consumers. It happens a lot. This is a particularly egregious example, but the transmission belt runs almost daily. ZH is as much a part of Putin’s information warfare as RT. If you follow closely enough, it’s as plain as the nose on your face.’

Then, in April 2016, Bloomberg ran a story called Unmasking the Men Behind Zero Hedge, Wall Street's Renegade Blog , which extensively quoted a disgruntled former employee of Zerohedge named Colin Lokey, who described “writing as many as 15 posts a day of as many as 1,500 words each”, and getting some very relevant quotes:

‘Lokey, who said he wrote much of the site’s political content, claimed there was pressure to frame issues in a way he felt was disingenuous. “I tried to inject as much truth as I could into my posts, but there’s no room for it. “Russia=good. Obama=idiot. Bashar al-Assad=benevolent leader. John Kerry=dunce. Vladimir Putin=greatest leader in the history of statecraft,” Lokey wrote, describing his take on the website's politics...

“I can’t be a 24-hour cheerleader for Hezbollah, Moscow, Tehran, Beijing, and Trump anymore. It’ s wrong. Period. I know it gets you views now, but it will kill your brand over the long run,” Lokey texted Ivandjiiski. “This isn’t a revolution. It’s a joke.”’

Meanwhile, in February 2016, Andrew Aaron Weisburd’s blog Aktivnyye Meropriyatiya|Active Measures published an analysis of SimilarWeb referrer data, highlighting ZeroHedge, and building out a network graph of sites which refer their audience to each other, titled The Fringes of Disinfo: A Network Based on Referrers . We at PropOrNot replicated and evaluated that initial work, and found it to contain a significant number of false positives. While meeting narrow technical criteria of interlinkage, many sites in his network did not have key characteristics of Russian propaganda, in terms of content or other “tells”, which we outlined earlier in this report.

However, Weisburd’s follow up research was much more focused, and we started building off it. Later in February 2016, he posted Disinformation Flows - A Second Look , in which he focused down the core referrer network surrounding ZeroHedge:

ZeroHedge.com referrer network (illustration by Andrew Aaron Weisburd)

Weisburd then went on to drill down into the subset of the referrer network subset of the network which included sites that had been flagged on Twitter by the @EUvsDisinfo team as propagating Kremlin disinformation. The @EUvsDisinfo account is a project of the European Union’s East Strategic Communications Task Force, and does excellent work, which we at PropOrNot are also using to inform our efforts.

Weisburd’s network next graph just included the sites identified by EUvsDisinfo, with the ones in ZeroHedge’s core referral network highlighted in blue:

ZeroHedge.com referrer network focused on sites identified as disinformation by @EUvsDisinfo (illustration by Andrew Aaron Weisburd)

We have systematically confirmed the EUvsDisinfo/Weisburd findings in this case. Weisburd’s comment from that post bears repeating here:

‘To the extent any of these sites are involved in supporting Russian objectives that run counter to Western interests, they - and more to the point, the people who operate them - should be of interest to the security services of the Western countries in which they live, work, and acquire services related to their websites. At the same time, one frequently finds direct links from these websites to Russia and individuals in Russia clearly associated with the Kremlin and Russian intelligence services. It is always worthwhile to look for criminal activity occurring on the periphery of such websites, particularly on the backend of the operations, involving people who host the sites, register the domain names, and otherwise provide logistical support. And finally, many sites involved in Kremlin disinformation work now solicit donations online, raising the distinct possibility that the online fundraising accounts are being used to move or launder funds.’

Our analysis is clear that some of these sites Weisburd identifies are Iranian, like PressTV, which is an official state-run Iranian propaganda outlet, and Al-Masdar News, which is the official TV network of Hizballah. Nonetheless, they reuse each other's content extensively, echo messages similar to each other, and consistently refer their audiences to each other. This makes sense considering that Russia, Iran, and Hizballah are allies. It would be surprising if they dd not.

That analysis of Zerohedge’s referral data leads to a remarkable collection of similar sites and provides us with a useful jumping-off point for our own research.

Spidering, Correlating, Reviewing, Spidering

We at PropOrNot conducted our own research into ZeroHedge, and found that it definitely qualifies as Russian propaganda according to both our “initial red-flag” and “detailed” criteria. We also replicated and extended Andrew Aaron Weisburd’s research above, and collected all relevant public-record information about the site, the people involved, etc, along with what we could about its finances, audience, and reach.

However, we have extended existing research to use tools like AnalyzeID.com , as well as analysis of the site code itself, to examine whether ZeroHedge shares interesting technical “tells” with other sites. These tells include things like Google Analytics IDs, Amazon affiliate codes, WHOIS data, hosting data, ad-network utilization, SEO techniques, etc. For example, we discovered that Zerohedge shares Amazon Affiliate Codes with two other sites, which share Adsense and Google Analytics IDs with each other:


This suggests that the same folks may run ZeroHedge.com, ReadyNutrition.com (“The Prepper’s Blueprint”) and SHTFPlan.com (“When it hits the fan, don’t say we didn’t warn you”). At the very least, some of the revenue derived from sales that they refer to Amazon may go to the same accounts, and this provides a useful jumping off point for further research.

ReadyNutrition.com and SHTFPlan.com are undoubtably run by the same team, considering that they share the same Google Analytics ID and Adsense ID. Follow-up manual and automated analysis has found that, according to our criteria, both ReadyNutrition.com and SHTFPlan.com consistently echo, repeat, and refer their audience to official and semi-official Russian propaganda outlets. They thus qualify as Russian propaganda outlets themselves, regardless of how they host advertising and “prepper”-related affiliate marketing as well.

Many of the other websites, social-media accounts, commenters, YouTube Channels, etc, that we have identified share similar technical “tells”, and we are using them to build out our map of outlets and the connections between them.

One less-technical way to explore this is by using custom search operators to identify sites which quote arbitrary snippets of text from official state-owned and semi-official Russian propaganda verbatim. For example, by using the "site:rt.com putin" syntax in the Google search bar, one can search the state-owned RT website for mentions of Putin. By using Google's Tools -> Any Time -> Custom Range feature, one can search for mentions of "putin" from a given date range, and find a presumably obscure story about Putin. Searching for text from that story in quotes reveals that a surprising set of other websites will have effectively echoed RT's story about Putin. It looks like this:

First search the state-owned RT.com website for mentions of Putin from a random time

Find some random text from a random story on RT.com and search for exact matches, using quotemarks

These domains are echoing RT.com directly, sometimes without attribution, and are potential targets for different kinds of automated and manual analysis

We are also applying plagiarism-analysis algorithms to investigate what websites, social media accounts, and other outlets share the same talking points, with a particular focus on seeing who reuses text directly from Russian official and semi-official propaganda outlets - especially without attribution. Searches across social networks, YouTube, and other platforms can often yield interesting results as well, and we are starting to explore them.

Our team of volunteers are automating this process, integrating commercially-available analytics services, and building out an infrastructure capable of mapping and analyzing the spread of Russian propaganda across the major online-media platforms, and measuring its reach into U.S. audiences. We would ideally like to help lay the groundwork for rigorous academically-publishable research in this regard, and we encourage others to develop their own approaches to replicating our findings.

Following a Specific Story: The Tale of the Painted Jets

Besides using automated analysis, manual analysis, and prior reporting to identify new outlets and accounts as echoing, repeating, and referring their audience to Russian propaganda, we also use similar approaches to track particular stories and analyze their audiences over time.

One example is a remarkable fake-news story about US military aircraft being repainted (in order to attack Syria while pretending to be Russia, naturally) that went completely viral, even though it was essentially debunked before it it even got started. This is one example of how fake-news propaganda outlets can amplify a story that advances Russian strategic narratives, and integrate with official Russian state-owned media like Russia Today to push a story to US audiences through multiple channels. Thanks to its specificity, this is a story we can get something of a handle on.

On October 6th, a Canadian journalist, Christian Borys, took pictures of US military aircraft in pseudo-Russian colors, noting that it is "standard training, but interesting nonetheless", and posted the photos on Twitter :


A veritable army of Pro-Russian Twitter accounts picked it up immediately, asserting that this was preparation for some larger "false flag" operation, in which the US would presumably attack some civilian target and then blame it on Russia. Over the next few days, Mr. Borys repeatedly complained that the "U.S uses "aggressor units" to train pilots. The paint schemes make fighters similar to Russian counterparts. Stop with the conspiracies", but that didn't help:



In addition to being a day of terrorism, 9/11 was also a day of military and civilian maneuvers. These may turn out to have been more closely connected than many people might think. Let us recall a recent coup d'etat of US history, that of March 30, 1981. On that day John Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate President Reagan. Scott Hinckley, the elder brother of the would-be assassin, was a personal friend of Neil Bush, the son of the Vice President who would have assumed the presidency if Reagan had died that day. George H. W. Bush presided over a cabinet meeting that same day which declared it to be the official policy of the US government that Hinckley was a lone assassin who had acted by himself, without any accomplices. But the question of the close relations between the Bush and Hinckley families has never been cleared up. (Tarpley 1992)

The aspect of the attempted assassination of Reagan which concerns us here is the fact that the shooting had occurred on the eve of two important maneuvers, one military and one civilian. As I described these events in my 1992 Unauthorized Biography of Bush the elder;

Back at the White House, the principal cabinet officers had assembled in the situation room and had been running a crisis management committee during the afternoon. Haig says he was at first adamant that a conspiracy, if discovered, should be ruthlessly exposed: "It was essential that we get the facts and publish them quickly. Rumor must not be allowed to breed on this tragedy. Remembering the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, I said to Woody Goldberg, 'No matter what the truth is about this shooting, the American people must know it.'" But the truth has never been established. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger's memoir of that afternoon reminds us of two highly relevant facts. The first is that a "NORAD [North American Air Defense Command] exercise with a simulated incoming missile attack had been planned for the next day." Weinberger agreed with General David Jones, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that this exercise should be cancelled. Weinberger also recalls that the group in the Situation Room was informed by James Baker that "there had been a FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Administration] exercise scheduled for the next day on presidential succession, with the general title 'Nine Lives.' By an immediate consensus, it was agreed that exercise should also be cancelled." (Tarpley 1992, Chapter -XVII -- The Attempted Coup D'Etat of March 30, 1981)

The FEMA exercise was much more than an uncanny coincidence -- that a presidential succession exercise was planned for the day after a real presidential succession was supposed to take place. It is very unlikely that Hinckley acted alone, and it is likely that whoever prodded him to act when he did could well have been aware of the upcoming presidential succession exercise. This suggests that we need to think about the ways in which military maneuvers which seem to be coincidental and routine events can prepare and promote other types of actions, including important terrorist attacks.

Military exercises come in two varieties -- there are the field exercises or live-fly exercises, war games in which real tanks or real planes move around in the fields or the sky. There are also staff exercises, which mainly involve officers assigned to the headquarters, who move markers in a sandbox, map grid, or computer screen.

The classic use of war games has been to prepare a sneak attack. The aggressor army announces that it is holding its summer maneuvers near the border of the target state. The deployment takes place under the cover of press releases announcing that these are merely maneuvers. When the troops are in position, they receive an order for a real attack. If field exercises can be used for fooling the adversary, then staff exercises are more useful for deceiving ones own side. In December 1975, in the wake of the US defeat in Vietnam, when the Pentagon was smarting from the reverse and looking for ways to redress the balance, there were certain circles in NATO who considered using the staff exercise HILEX 75 to set up a confrontation with the Warsaw Pact in Europe. Staff officers of countries who were not party to that plan were told not to be alarmed by the war preparations they saw; after all, those were only part of a staff exercise. Fortunately, due to the efforts of a network of alert citizens in a number of NATO countries, word got out about the really explosive potential of HILEX 75, and the confrontation option was abandoned. But these are at least two models of how maneuvers can be used for deception that we should keep in mind; there are more.

Staff exercises or command exercises are perfect for a rogue network which is forced to conduct its operations using the same communications and computer systems used by other officers who are not necessarily party to the illegal operation, coup or provocation as it may be. A putschist officer may be working at a console next to another officer who is not in on the coup, and who might indeed oppose it if he knew about it. The putschist's behavior is suspicious: what the hell is he doing? The loyal officer looks over and asks the putschist about it. The putschist cites a staff maneuver for which he is preparing. The loyal officer concludes that the putschist's activities are part of an officially sanctioned drill, and his suspicions are allayed. The putschist may even explain that participation in the staff exercise requires a special security clearance which the loyal officer does not have. The conversation ends, and the putschist can go on with his treasonous work.

Most civilians would assume that a military exercise or drill, be it a field or live fly exercise, or a staff drill, would tend to enhance the readiness of the military units taking part. This was the view expressed by 9/11 widow Mindy Kleinberg to 9/11 commission in March 2003, when she remarked that: "... on September 11, NEADS (of the North East Air Defense System of NORAD) was several days into a semiannual exercise known as 'Vigilant Guardian.' This meant that our North East Air Defense System was fully staffed. In short, key officers were manning the operation battle center, "fighter jets were cocked, loaded, and carrying extra gas on board."' (Testimony to 9/11 commission, March 31, 2003) But in reality the maneuvers may have introduced confusion and scattered available resources. The drills included false radar blips, military aircraft pretending to be hijacked, and the transfer of many NORAD fighters to northern Canada and Alaska.

-- 9/11 Synthetic Terror Made in USA, by Webster Griffin Tarpley

His attempts at rebuttals did not stop the rumor-mongering. Pro-Russian and Russian-speaking Twitter accounts exploded with this nonsense, like this gray-market currency systems developer , pro-Russian "Ukrainian" , and pro-Russian Dutch fascist , among others. This rattled around the Twittersphere, and the Russian state-controlled social network VK, for a few days.

On October 7th, a notable US-facing Russian propaganda outlet, moonofalabama.org, posted an article with the same pro-Russian conspiratorial spin as the above-mentioned pro-Russian Twitter accounts , ignoring all Mr. Borys’ attempts to debunk it:

Moon of Alabama echoing “false-flag” rumors and tying in larger nefarious motives

A wide range of other outlets that consistently echo, repeat, and redirect their audiences to Russian propaganda immediately ran with and reposted Moon of Alabama’s post:

Global Research echoing Moon of Alabama, on October 8th (<2k shares, but 77 linking domains)

Conspiracy Cafe echoing Moon of Alabama on October 8th

Over the next several days, other consistently pro-Russian sites repeated their own variations of the same theme, racking up an increasing amount of views and social media engagements, reaching an ever-larger number of people, and boosting the story’s search engine visibility.

Also on October 8th, a consistently pro-Russian account pushed it to Reddit:

Reddit post of the same story on October 8th

SuperStation95 echoing the story further, on October 9th (garnering more than >38,000 Facebook engagements, and getting links from 49 separate domains!)

The “Public Intelligence Blog” echoing the story further, on October 10th

NoTerror.eu echoing the same story on October 12th

Various obscure and frequently pro-Russian YouTube accounts started pushing out badly-made video content about it. This one alone got over 11,000 views, and it is exceptionally terrible and content-free:


On October 10th, Snopes, the famous fact-checkers, picked it up and comprehensively rebutted the whole thing. That didn't stop it:

Snopes rebuts the “painted jets” rumor-mongering, October 10th (<1k shares, 16 linking domains)

Then, on October 11th, the day after the Snopes rebuttal, Russia Today picked up the rumors, with a story focused on reporting the rumors, and their piece got an immense amount of coverage. Russia Today did not include and still does not include a link to the Snopes analysis debunking the rumor:

Russia Today stokes the rumor-mongering, after it was debunked by Snopes, October 11th (garnering 34,600 engagements on Facebook, many more views, and 117 linking domains!)

We invite the other researchers to explore this story and others like it, using Buzzsumo, Google, Trendalizer, etc. The engagement and linking domain data comes from Buzzsumo, starting here :


To review, the story was preemptively debunked by the originator, but echoed and repeated and referred to by a wide array of pro-Russian social media accounts and websites that consistently echo, repeat, and refer their audiences to each other, and to Russian state-owned media - even after it had been roundly debunked by Snopes. It was false from start to finish, yet garnered over 100,000 likes, comments, and shares on Facebook alone, and was linked to by scores of separate websites.

Following a Specific Story: The Tale Hillary Clinton’s “Parkinson’s”

On Aug 22, 2016 a particularly intense spate of Hillary Clinton health rumors, which greatly increased that narrative's exposure in the context of the campaign, were sparked by this story, from a relatively-obscure but typically pro-Russian propaganda outlet, TruePundit.com :


A wide range of outlets, but especially Russian propaganda outlets, had been discussing Hillary's health previously, but this assertion cited Wikileaks, and then got cited by by a more-significant pro-Russian outlet (ThePoliticalInsider.com) . It really took off, garnering over 74,000 Facebook engagements and being linked to by over 154 separate domains. The rest of the fake-news echo chamber network, notably including angrypatriotmovement.com , americasfreedomfighters.com , beforeitsnews.com , and wearechange.org , immediately picked it up and started rebroadcasting it: Over the next few days it got over 90,000 Facebook engagements and over 8m views, through the at least 152 separate domains that linked to it.

The next day the Daily Beast nicely rebutted it , in an article that got around 1,700 Facebook engagements and over 30k views through the over 62 separate domains that referred to it.

The rebuttal helped, but wasn't enough. It appears to have had well over an order of magnitude less engagement than what it was trying to rebut.

This case is particularly interesting because, while a wide range of other media (including noted Russian propaganda outlets, as rebutted by pieces like this ) had been discussing Hillary's health for some time, this particular narrative was sparked by a groundless assertion based on Wikileaks, picked up by a typically Kremlin-echoing site, and then amplified by the rest of the noise machine, which domestic American sites picked up a bit as well... but not nearly as significantly.



From: Jake Sullivan
To: Hillary Clinton
Date: 2011-10-24 14:29

UNCLASSIFIED U.S. Department of State Case No. F-2014-20439 Doc No. C05784708 Date: 10/30/2015


From: Sullivan, Jacob J <SullivanJJ@state.gov>
Sent: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 9:29 PM
To: Subject: Provigil

So I was wrong that it was invented by the military, but right about military use of/interest in it. Background on the drug below.

Provigil (Modafinil)

• Provigil is used to treat excessive sleepiness caused by narcolepsy or shift work sleep disorder (sleepiness during scheduled waking hours among people who work at night or on rotating shifts). It is also often prescribed to treat excessive sleepiness in patients with Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and multiple sclerosis. Additionally, it has also gained a following among students, truckers, and others who want to stay awake for extended periods of time.

o Modafinil was developed by the French firm Lafon and was approved by the FDA to treat narcolepsy in 1998. It is now sold under the brand name Provigil by the Pennsylvania drugmaker Cephalon.

o Modafinil gained attention in the medical community because it is the first effective stimulant with no significant potential for abuse. Modafinil is in a class of medications called wakefulness promoting agents; it works by changing the amounts of certain natural substances in the area of the brain that controls sleep and wakefulness.

o The precise way that modafinil works is unknown: it seems to slow the release a GABA, a sleep promoter in the brain. It may also affect the histamine system, which is connected to sleep regulation.

o It can be used for two or three day stretches at a time, with few known side effects and little risk of addiction. Provigil's impact on the body is different from other pick-me-ups, which tend to be indiscriminate in their function: it confines its activity to the particular neurological processes connected with wakefulness and does not act as a broad stimulant. This is probably why it has not gained popularity as a street drug.

o Amphetamines, on the other hand, promote wakefulness by causing dopamine to flood to the brain. Dopamine is a "broad hitter;" it sets the heart racing and makes the user feel high, impacting the entire central nervous system. Caffeine affects a different pathway that deals with the neurotransmitter adenosine, and is also a broad stimulant. The military, for obvious reasons, is interested in the consequences of prolonged sleep deprivation and has tested modafinil heavily, particularly on pilots.

o A study carried out by the Air Force Research Laboratory found that fatigued pilots on modafinil maintained flight accuracy within approximately 15-30 percent of baseline levels, whereas performance under the no-treatment condition declined by as much as 60-100 percent. Here, benefits were most noticeable after 24-32 hours of continuous wakefulness. A French study yielded similar results and found that for missions of about 24 hours, modafinil for soldiers is preferable to naps.

o In the U.S. military, modafinil has been approved for use on certain Air Force missions. The French, British, and Indian militaries have all expressed interest in modafinil.

It’s Time for the DNC to Pick an Alternative Candidate to Hillary Clinton!

She Has Parkinson Disease with Levodopa induced Dyskinesia [PLID]. Her coughs/pneumonia are due to neurological dystonia called “Aspirational Pneumonia.” Now, there is no doubt that Hillary’s Dr. Lisa B. Bardack and other medical accomplices in the DNC [Dr Howard Dean, etc.] have lied to the public about Hillary’s “pneumonia incident on 9/11”.

Hillary had a Parkinson brain freeze with syncope and a subsequent aspirational pneumonia/ fatigue from her daily treatment of LDOPA over a five to ten year period of time. LDOPA is the only known treatment for Parkinson Disease [PD] because it reconstitutes the depleted element in the Substantia Nigra area of the brain.

Yet, LDOPA creates all types of dystonic movements including head nods, seizures, and brain freeze that does not allow her to respond to any ongoing stress or crises [as in the press interview where she jerked back her head and talked irrationally about ‘drinking a latte’].


I am not wishing Hillary or any part of her family/friends ill-will. I am simply stating a diagnosis that many of my board certified colleagues have also made from just watching her over the past year. We do not have to be her personal physician in order to make that definitive diagnosis because of all the video available which simulates an excellent picture of a particular type of patient that has the classical symptoms of long term Parkinson Disease [PD] with the side effects of her medicine,LDOPA. The result is called Parkinson Disease Levodopa Induced Dyskinesia [PDLID–head bobbing, brain freeze, bizarre hand postures, seizure-like activities, bulging eyes, syncope etc.]. Eventually, dementia sets in and the patient becomes disoriented to place, time, and space.

I will not argue the diagnosis. It’s there!

It’s a diagnosis corroborated by the brave men/women of the Secret Service to whom I owe a apology. I have been very critical of them for not having revealed, up to now, her long-standing debilitating neurological disease. Recently, it was stated that they spent over $250K [taxpayer money] per SUV so that Hillary could enter any car without having to fall down or hurt herself in the process.

The Secret Service went out of their way to give us this information because, like myself, and my other of my colleagues in the intelligence/military community, we are very much concerned about having anyone with severe Parkinson Disease becoming POTUS. We all know such a calamity will compromise our national security.

Many have tried to appeal to the better half of the Clintons to cease and desist Hillary’s misguided attempt to become POTUS. However, as most of you know by now, it was a waste of time. Now I appeal to Don Fowler, Chairman of the DNC during Bill Clinton’s presidency from 1995-1997.

In an article published in Politico, 9/12/16, Kyle Cheney writes in bold letters, the following: “Former DNC chairman calls for Clinton Contingency plan”. That is a very wise move. Fowler adds that the “plan should be developed by 6pm this afternoon.” That was over twenty-four hours ago.

He adds: “It’s something you would be a fool not to prepare for… She better get well before she gets back because if she gets back too soon, it [Parkinson Disease and Pneumonia] might happen again.”

Hillary can never become POTUS because of her deteriorating neurological condition. Time is ticking away. There will be no delay in the elections process!

I am sorry that the DNC did not listen to many of us a year ago, when we warned them that she had a serious neurological problem. Unfortunately, the Clintons’ lies, as well as Dr. Bardack’s clear malpractice, have cost the DNC an important opportunity to win the election when they had such a vibrant candidate like Bernie Sanders.

Now, there will be a widespread consensus that Columbia Physicians and Surgeons Hospital must open their medical records to explain how she had been tested/treated for her past falls, concussions and ongoing Parkinson Disease. As expected, the toadies of the mainstream press acted accordingly, the CNN Neurosurgeon, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, exhibited his complete ignorance of general/neurological medicine. Hillary made a special telephone call to CNN darling, Anderson Cooper, in order to assure him that “she was in fine condition and was simply fatigued from overwork.”


For a war-hardened correspondent, Cooper did a magnificent job of being cajoled, flummoxed, and ill-equipped to handle an inveterate, pathological liar like Hillary. As long as she talks, we can always calibrate the truth by simply reversing 180 degrees everything she says, has said, or will say! The Clinton Spin Doctors are trying everything to stop from circling the drain.

-- Time for DNC to pick New Candidate!, by Dr. Steve R. Pieczenik, MD, PhD

Our research shows that all the non-propaganda outlets which covered the story, including foxnews.com , toprightnews.com , chicksontheright.com , and youngcons.com , when combined, had less than 8k Facebook engagements and 900k views through the fewer than 10 separate domains that referred to them. That is an order of magnitude less engagement than the pro-Russian echo-chamber propaganda network got out of the story, and several times more than the rebuttal got.

To review, the story started with a consistently pro-Russian propaganda outlet, TruePundit.com, citing a Russian cyberespionage/influence operation, Wikileaks, to add a bogus "data point" to an existing narrative, which had previously been extensively hyped by other types of media but especially Russian propaganda. Non-propaganda media also ran with it, but their effect on the story pales in comparison to that of the Russian propaganda network. The rebuttal, while scathing and comprehensive, was essentially insignificant in comparison.

We invite the other researchers to explore this story and others like it, using Buzzsumo, Google, Trendalizer, etc. The engagement and linking domain data comes from Buzzsumo, starting here :

Buzzsumo “hillary health wikileaks” story overview, sorted by Facebook engagement

Following a Specific Story: Ourselves!

In the early stages of our project, we developed a number of hypotheses about what would happen as our efforts became increasingly well-known. We like to test things, and while rigorously-controlled experimental testing with “in the wild” social media environments is often difficult for projects like ours, we sought to make some predictions about what would happen, and use the resulting coverage to discover new outlets worthy of follow-up review and analysis. Among other things, we expected that:

1) The core Russian propaganda outlets (like Russia Today, Sputnik, The Russophile, Southfront, Russia Insider, etc) would be predictably outraged.

2) The more-deniable Russian outlets that we identified, along with the Russian comment-troll farms and social-media botnets, would quickly follow suit, in ways that mirrored the core outlets.

3) The primary focus of their messaging would be to distract public discourse away from the actual content of the story. They would find whatever else they could to talk about other than whether the websites we highlighted actually echoed, repeated, or referred their audiences to Russian propaganda.

4) We would be able to divide the resulting commentary into two general categories: Engagers and subject-changers. The former would engage with the material, attempting to analyze it on its own terms, in historical context, and in light of other research. The latter would be led by the core Russian propaganda outlets, and do everything they could to change the subject.

We are still collecting data on this, but thus far have not been disappointed. Will be releasing our analysis of this over the coming days in order to contribute to the conversation.

Using Google Trends to Measure Larger-Scale Effects

Another line of effort at PropOrNot is attempting to measure the effects of Russian propaganda on the public discourse generally. This is a subtle task, but there are interesting angles from which we can approach it, and we encourage others to experiment in ways that go beyond our findings. We are confidant that data scientists at major tech firms and universities will be able to shed significantly more light than we can.

One simple and interesting but decidedly less-than-rigorous example follows from the way that Russian propaganda has long used "globalism" and “globalists” as derogatory scare-words instead of "globalization", in an attempt to demonize what has been largely seen in the West as a relatively secular process resulting from increasingly efficient global communications and transportation. The New York Times did a great backgrounder on how it has recently been used by Trump et al , but did not mention how, almost exclusively, Russia and Russian-aligned actors in the West have been using it for over a decade.

For example, here’s Russia Today, in 2005, highlighting the credentials of one of their talking heads , who was the "Chairman of the Public Chamber Commission on Questions of Globalism and National Strategy Development, Moscow".

Here's Russia Today, in 2009, interviewing Kremlin-aligned neo-fascist British politician Nick Griffin : "The UK is being broken by internationalism and globalism and needs a nationalist response, says Nick Griffin, leader of the far-right British National Party."

Here's Russia Today, in 2012, interviewing a Kremlin-aligned neo-fascist French EU MP politician , Bruno Gollnisch, about it: “Europe should have been protected against the side effects of globalism...”

Here's Russia Today, in 2013, giving a platform to Rand Paul as he accuses Obama of plotting with ‘anti-American globalists’ to grab guns.

Here's Russia Today, in 2015, with an editorial from a pro-Russian Yemeni echoing the standard Kremlin line, including this: "We have now entered the uncharted territories of a US-run supra-national police state system, where globalism rhymes with authoritarianism."

And here's Russia Today again, in 2016, decrying "globalism" in all kinds of ways and highlighting Putin as the answer to it : "So while I understand westerners who – rightly disillusioned by their own countries – choose to see Putin as a lone hero fighting a rear-guard action against globalism, I don’t exactly share their sentiments. One can’t help but have a twinge of envy when looking at Russia’s Putin..."

We used Google Trends to evaluate the utilization of the term "globalism" , which has historically almost exclusively occurred on Russian propaganda outlets and been used by pro-Kremlin actors, over the past five years. It looks like this:


In contrast, the utilization of the term "globalization" fluctuates seasonally , apparently in line with the academic calendar:


For comparison purposes, note that the Kremlin and its allies everywhere strongly dislike George Soros. He's one of their major boogiemen, primarily due to his successful efforts promoting human rights and democratization in Eastern Europe and elsewhere , and their propaganda demonizes him constantly.

Bearing that in mind, compare the Google Trends for "globalism" to the Google Trends for "George Soros" :



UNCLASSIFIED U.S. Department of State Case No. F-2014-20439 Doc No. C05778285 Date: 09/30/2015


From: Sullivan, Jacob J SullivanJJ@state.gov
Sent: Monday, January 24, 2011 4:40 PM
To: H
Subject: Fw: Unrest in Albania


-- Original Message –
From: Gordon, Philip H
To: Verma, Richard R; Sullivan, Jacob J; Abedin, Huma; Burns, William J
Sent: Mon Jan 24 16:23:01 2011
Subject: RE: Unrest in Albania


This email is UNCLASSIFIED

--Original Message –
From: Verma, Richard R
Sent: Monday, January 24, 2011 5:41 AM
To: Sullivan, Jacob J; Abedin, Human; Gordon, Philip H; Burns, William J
Subject: FW: Unrest in Albania

Below message is from George Soros for the Secretary. Understand his organization was sending through other channels as well

-- Original Message --
From: Jonas Rolett [DELETE]
Sent: Sunday, January 23, 2011 1:39 pm
To: Verma, Richard R
Subject: Re: Unrest in Albania


Here’s the text of the message. I’m available to talk at any time.




Dear Hillary,

A serious situation has arisen in Albania which needs urgent attention at senior levels of the US government. You may know that an opposition demonstration in Tirana on Friday resulted in the deaths of three people and the destruction of property. There are serious concerns about further unrest connected to a counter-demonstration to be organized by the governing party on Wednesday and a follow-up event by the opposition two days later to memorialize the victims. The prospect of tens of thousands of people entering the streets in an already inflamed political environment bodes ill for the return of public order and the country’s fragile democratic process.

I believe two things need to be done urgently:

1. Bring the full weight of the international community to bear on Prime Minister Berisha and opposition leader Edi Rama to forestall further public demonstrations and to tone down public pronouncements.

2. Appoint a senior European official as a mediator.

While I am concerned about the rhetoric being used by both sides, I am particularly worried about the actions of the Prime Minister. There is videotape of National Guard members firing on demonstrators from the roof of the Prime Ministry. The Prosecutor (appointed by the Democratic Party) has issued arrest warrants for the individuals in question. The Prime Minister had previously accused the opposition of intentionally murdering these activists as a provocation. After the tape came out deputies from his party accused the Prosecutor of planning a coup d’etat in collaboration with the opposition, a charge Mr. Berisha repeated today. No arrests have been made as of this writing.

The demonstration resulted from opposition protests over the conduct of parliamentary elections in 2009. The political environment has deteriorated ever since and is now approaching levels of 1997, when similar issues caused the country to slide into anarchy and violence. There are signs that Edi Rama’s control of his own people is slipping, which may lead to further violence.

The US and the EU must work in complete harmony over this, but given Albania’s European aspirations the EU must take the lead. That is why I suggest appointing a mediator such as Carl Bildt, Martti Ahtisaari or Miroslav Lajcak, all of whom have strong connections to the Balkans.

My foundation in Tirana is monitoring the situation closely and can provide independent analysis of the crisis.

Thank you.

George Soros

Preliminary Conclusions

Thus far we at PropOrNot have identified well over 200 distinct website domains which qualify as Russian propaganda outlets according to our criteria, and target audiences in the United States. We estimate the regular U.S. audiences of these sites to number in the tens of millions. We are gathering data to measure that more precisely, but we are confidant that it includes at least 15 million Americans. We estimate that stories planted or promoted by these were viewed over 213 million times, across various social media platforms and directly. We have yet to to analyze at least a couple hundred more websites, along with many more YouTube channels, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts.

We assess that this overall Russian effort is at least semi-centralized, with multiple Russian projects and influence operations working in parallel to manage the direct and outsourced production of propaganda across a wide range of outlets. It is data-driven, and rewards effective entrepreneurship and innovation with increased funding and other resources. There are varying degrees of involvement in it, and awareness of involvement. Some people involved seem genuinely unaware that they are being used by Russia to produce propaganda, but many others seem to know full well.

This Russian propaganda effort resembles a viral marketing effort, with roughly a dozen individual outlets ("sources”) actually producing large amounts of original propaganda content. That content is echoed, extended, and amplified through an immense number of other sites, YouTube channels, Facebook pages, social-media botnets, etc. ("repeaters"), and there are both source and repeater outlets targeting different audiences: U.S. military veterans, Wall St. insiders and finance specialists, natural-food and health enthusiasts, racists, homophobes, peace activists, and politically-active Americans on both the right and left.

Next Steps

We are building out our website, and expect to be online in the next day or so. We intend to launch in conjunction with a concerted effort to make the YYYcampaignYYY go viral, begin crowdsourcing the resulting investigation, and start an informed and perhaps even humorous national conversation about Russian propaganda. It might be too much to hope that such a conversation will be conducted in a calm, sober, or minimally reasonable fashion, but we will do our best to start it off in good spirits.

We are also constantly improving our analytic systems, and expect to have publicly-available and peer-reviewable data available in the near future. However, we are loathe to go public with all our sources and methods for the time being.

While there are a number of long-term possibilities for this nascent initiative, we are keenly aware of the urgency of the story in a larger context. We are working hard to build our systems and launch in a timely fashion, but we request the assistance of professional journalists and other researchers in a few areas:

● Increase public awareness of the fact that that Russian disinformation is bigger than hacked e-mails - Russian hacking and selective leaking is accompanied by large-scale, long-term, and remarkably effective efforts to build online propaganda outlets targeting U.S. audiences. Sites with U.S. audiences estimated in the millions echo Russian state-owned propaganda consistently and relentlessly attack actual journalism. However, media coverage of Russian disinformation regarding the election has focused on the hacking of e-mails leaving the average voter with no understanding of the concerted effort to influence their thinking regarding Russian interests and ultimately affect their vote.

● Give this story the systematic and incisive coverage it deserves - We have brought together a range of concerned citizens with relevant experience and expertise to follow breadcrumbs and connect dots in an effort to identify propaganda targeting a U.S. audience. We want to prevent foreign disinformation aimed at Americans from distorting U.S. political and policy discussions. Instead, we want to strengthen our cultural immune systems against hostile influence, while hopefully improving public discourse generally. In order to get from this point, where we’ve identified a significant network of disinformation, to our ultimate goal, we need the community of journalism professionals throughout the U.S. to follow up. We need actual journalists addressing this issue, asking the tough questions, and providing citizens with the objective analysis that makes the fourth estate such an invaluable part of the democratic process that is currently under assault. We’re eager to help inform those journalistic efforts as best we can.

● Help answer the following questions , via questions to official spokespeople and other tools of traditional reporting, in light of the larger circumstances which lend them urgency:

○ Does the U.S. government have any information about Russian propaganda efforts to build or use fake-"media" online gray and black disinformation outlets, which conceal their association with Russia, to influence U.S. public opinion?

○ What information is the government able to share with the American people now that they’ve cast their votes in the November election?

○ What does the U.S. government assess that Russian propaganda and influence operations in the U.S. include? What are their target audiences, objectives, and funding and control methods? How successful have they been?

○ Does the U.S. government asses that any particular fake-"media" propaganda outlets targeting U.S. audiences are under direct or indirect Russian influence or control? If so, which ones?

○ Has Russia been using these propaganda outlets in an attempt to influence the U.S. election? If so, in support of which candidate? Did it work? Isn’t that the sort of information the U.S. government should tell the American people about?

○ Is the U.S. government constrained by constitutional press freedoms when considering how to address fake-"media" propaganda claiming to conduct actual journalism?

○ Are such constraints preventing the U.S. government from alerting the American people to disinformation efforts intended to manipulate them, especially as they exercise their right to vote?

○ Was the U.S. government concealing related information from the public in order to avoid interfering in the domestic U.S. political process , and/or leaving propaganda channels operating in order to monitor and analyze them?

○ By seeking to avoid interfering in the domestic U.S. political process itself, did the U.S. government allow Russia to manipulate the U.S. domestic political process , through the use of online propaganda along with other methods, in favor of one political candidate over another?

○ By allowing Russian attempts to influence the U.S. election through online propaganda to proceed unhindered, and not alerting the American people to the full extent of ongoing disinformation activity, has the U.S. government withheld pertinent information from the American people directly related to the election?

Thank you very much for taking the time to review this report, and thank you in advance for whatever following and contributions you might have. We look forward to continuing the conversation.


-- The PropOrNot Team
November 25th, 2016
Site Admin
Posts: 36135
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Washington Post’s ‘Fake News’ Guilt, by Robert Parry

Postby admin » Wed Dec 28, 2016 5:15 am

Investigation Into ‘PropOrNot Blacklist Case’ Finds Shoddy Methods and an Ominous Potential
By Bill Boyarsky
Dec 15, 2016



Editor’s note: This investigation of the “PropOrNot blacklist case” was conducted independently by political reporter Bill Boyarsky. It underwent routine editing. Boyarsky is a Truthdig columnist, a former city editor of the Los Angeles Times, the author of several books, a former lecturer at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California and a former member of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.

If you believe the shadowy organization PropOrNot—a subject of a recent article in The Washington Post—I’m a Russian intelligence agent or a “useful idiot.” Maybe a violator of the Espionage Act and the Foreign Agent Registration Act. PropOrNot also thinks I should be investigated by the FBI and the Justice Department.

It’s not because I have a Russian surname, Boyarsky. It’s because I write for Truthdig, one of more than 200 websites named in a study by PropOrNot, short for Propaganda Or Not. The sites, the study said, were pro-Russian, either intentionally or by being stupid enough to be tools of the Kremlin.

PropOrNot’s study was released in November. It might have vanished without much notice, but The Washington Post reported on it. With that boost from a big name, the study exploded across the internet.

The Post story, by Craig Timberg, appeared Nov. 24 under the headline “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during the election, experts say.” Timberg wrote that the goal of the propaganda effort, according to “independent researchers who have tracked the operation,” was “punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy.” [On Dec. 7 the Post placed an editor’s note at the top of the Timberg article saying, in part, “The Post, which did not name any of the sites, does not itself vouch for the validity of PropOrNot’s findings regarding any individual media outlet, nor did the article purport to do so.” Click the hyperlink above to see the full statement.]

Timberg also wrote, “Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery—including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human ‘trolls,’ and networks of websites and social media accounts—echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.”

Timberg cited as one of his sources PropOrNot, which he described as “a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technological backgrounds.” The PropOrNot report, Timberg said, “identifies more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda. …”

First off, as its readers well know, Truthdig has never posted Russian propaganda, either knowingly or unwittingly. So the question is: Why is Truthdig on the list?

In seeking to answer it, I started with the Post story. Timberg is the newspaper’s national technology reporter, specializing in privacy, security and surveillance. He joined the Post in 1998 and has worked as a reporter, editor and foreign correspondent. He co-authored a book, with Daniel Halperin, “Tinderbox: How the West Sparked the AIDS Epidemic and How the World Can Finally Overcome It.”

I emailed Timberg to say I was writing a story for Truthdig on his article and PropOrNot. I told him, “The point of my story will be precisely how did Truthdig and the other sites get on this list.” I said answering that question wouldn’t be easy for me: “PropOrNot is pretty opaque, just as Senator Joseph McCarthy was when he produced a sheet of paper in a 1950 speech which he said contained the names of 205 State Department employees who were known members of the Communist Party.”

I asked Timberg, “Did you know precisely how PropOrNot compiled its list? I think you owe an answer and an explanation to Truthdig, to me and to the other journalists and organizations that were included [either directly or indirectly]—and red baited—on the PropOrNot list.” [Editor’s insert added here for clarity.]

Timberg replied, “Hello Mr. Boyarsky. I’m directing your questions to the person at the Post who is authorized to respond, Kris Coratti. She is copied on my reply. Thank you. Best, Craig.”

Coratti has not replied.

Several days later Truthdig legal counsel sent a retraction demand to The Washington Post. In a letter dated Dec. 7, a lawyer for the Post replied, saying in part: “… we believe readers recognize that the Post itself was not making factual claims of any kind about each of more than 200 sites identified in PropOrNot’s research. …” The letter also said, “… it bears noting that the Article, on its face, did not purport to vouch for or corroborate the conclusions of the four research bodies whose work was mentioned. …”

Timberg, in his story, said he had communicated with 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 cowardly of the PropOrNot executive to point fingers at organizations and hurt their reputations without having the courage to identify herself or himself and take responsibility for the accusations.

In the Post article, Timberg said PropOrNot 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.” This bit of tech jargon did not give me the information I needed.

I read and reread Glenn Greenwald’s and Ben Norton’s excellent critique of the Post story on The Intercept. That piece led me to two articles by Mathew Ingram on the Fortune website. One, published Nov. 25, the day after the Post story appeared, was under the headline “No, Russian Agents Are Not Behind Every Piece of Fake News You See.” The second, posted Nov. 28, was headlined “What a Map of the Fake-News Ecosystem Says About the Problem.” Ingram wrote about research by professor Jonathan Albright of Elon University in North Carolina, a pioneering expert in data collection who has worked for Google and Yahoo. Albright has created a map of how fake news stories spread from one site to another.

I interviewed Albright by phone. He told me that in his work he was looking for connections between right-wing websites. He had swept or “scraped” sites that he identified as right wing. Scraping, as described by the website Techopedia, “is a term for various methods used to collect information from across the Internet. Generally, this is done with software that simulates human Web surfing to collect specified bits of information from different websites.” It is similar to what intelligence agents sometimes do in analyzing emails.

Albright said he didn’t examine the content of the sites; he was interested in connections. PropOrNot, he said, in using a procedure apparently similar to his own, seemed to take the process a step further and look at content. That, I theorized, was how PropOrNot works, scraping sites in search of material that would fit its description of purveyors of Russian propaganda. Apparently, Truthdig and the other publications were caught up in a PropOrNot sweep.

In an email to PropOrNot, I asked whether this was the case.

PropOrNot replied, saying: “Jonathan Albright’s approach is similar to what we call our ‘automated analysis’ in our writing and website, although we use a few tricks he doesn’t and vice versa. It’s sort of like having an automated spam filter. However, unlike his approach, ours also includes a process of manual review to winnow what the automated collection processes catch. His list of 306 sites does not appear to have been systematically winnowed by anything like that.” The site called its manual review part of an “all-volunteer, ad-hoc, quick-turnaround strategy.”

I asked PropOrNot how Truthdig got on the list. In reply the group named a handful of stories it said had been “highlighted by our reviewers.”

The several articles it presented amounted to sparse evidence indeed.

The tiny list in the PropOrNot email was composed of articles that originated at Truthdig and articles reprinted by Truthdig from other sites. They included:

● A piece by David Swanson picked up by Truthdig from his Let’s Try Democracy blog. The article was titled “What’s Behind Time Magazine’s Putin Demonizing?” and it dissected a Time magazine story claiming Vladimir Putin was interfering with the recent U.S. election.

Swanson reaches the conclusion that “U.S. elections are almost completely unverifiable and do not even pretend to meet international standards. … Much voting is done on machines that simply must be trusted on faith. Whether they accurately count the votes entered is simply unknowable. …”

Swanson, a writer, a peace activist and a host of Talk Nation Radio, thus repeated criticism of a broken U.S. election system often voiced by academics, political leaders and journalists like myself.

● A Truthdig story posted by Truthdig Managing Editor Eric Ortiz. The Ortiz article concludes, “Julian Assange should be praised for having the guts to stand up to power and reveal how the sausage gets made in Washington, D.C. His journalism—and that is what WikiLeaks is doing—is a public service. …” That seems like fair comment to me. Generations of historians may use WikiLeaks as a source.

PropOrNot complained that the Ortiz item was linked by a site called New Cold War, which PropOrNot says is a Russian propaganda operation. But the New Cold War site also links to articles in Harper’s and The Guardian and to California Gov. Jerry Brown’s review in The New York Review of Books of a book by former Secretary of Defense William Perry, “My Journey at the Nuclear Brink.” In other words, PropOrNot bagged those two famous fellow travelers, Jerry Brown and William Perry, and a magazine not known as a Kremlin stooge, The New York Review of Books.

● A Truthdig piece by Scott Ritter, a noted author and disarmament expert. PropOrNot’s citing of this article is another flagrant example of the group’s poor analysis.

Ritter writes, “Today, the foreign policy playbook calls for confrontation, containment and isolation of Russia. This is a terrifying proposition. … President-elect Trump’s willingness to break with the foreign and national security establishment’s playbook, and seek to normalize relations with Russia, is a welcome development. The time for a genuine reset with Russia is long overdue, not just for old cold warriors like me, but for anyone who is vested in a better future for the U.S., Europe and the world.”

Argue with that. Self-identified as one of the “old cold warriors,” Ritter is now a peace advocate. He was a chief weapons inspector for the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq, which he quit after seven years because of U.S. interference in the process. He was in the Marine Corps for 12 years as an intelligence specialist, retiring as a major, and served under Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf in the Gulf War.

By including Ritter’s article as a reason for blacklisting Truthdig, PropOrNot showed that it effectively was targeting dissent and imposing a form of censorship on dissenters.

PropOrNot’s apparent intent is also shown by questions the site posed to me in response to my questions.

1) Do you assess that Putin’s Russia is a brutal authoritarian kleptocracy, which represses independent media at home, while using “fake news” as online propaganda abroad?

2) Do you assess that that poses a significant threat to our constitutional democracy?

3) Are you interested in genuinely constructive solutions for doing something about it? If you don’t like our all-volunteer, ad-hoc, quick-turnaround strategy, fine, but we’re interested in your thoughts and suggestions generally.

If we’re on the same page on the above, we’re on the same team.

No matter what my opinions are about Russia and Putin, I don’t want to be on that page, or play on the PropOrNot team.

When I read the PropOrNot questions I immediately thought of the Hollywood 10, the screenwriters and directors who went to jail because they refused to answer questions from the House Committee on Un-American Activities. It sounded as if PropOrNot wanted me to be what was known to the committee as a “friendly witness,” bowing and scraping before self-appointed judges.

The Washington Post article, in addition to citing PropOrNot as a source, named Clint Watts of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He has been a U.S. Army infantry officer, a FBI special agent on a joint terrorism task force and the executive officer of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. Watts and two colleagues, Andrew Weisburd and JM Berger, wrote a report, “Trolling for Trump: How Russia Is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy,” which appeared in the online magazine War on the Rocks, specializing in national security. The article’s subheading was “Trump isn’t the end of Russia’s information war against America. They are just getting started.”

In surveying the blacklist, I couldn’t find a common denominator among the occupants. This was unexpected. The political positions of the websites ranged from the left to the far right. I contacted some of the organizations.

One was American Renaissance, and I spoke with its publisher, Jared Taylor, who told me his website is, in his words, “race realistic” and supports “white advocacy.” The American Renaissance website defines race realism as “a body of views that was so taken for granted it had no name, but it can be summarized as follows: That race is an important aspect of individual and group identity, that different races build different societies that reflect their natures, and that it is entirely normal for whites (or for people of any other race) to want to be the majority race in their own homeland. If whites permit themselves to become a minority population, they will lose their civilization, their heritage, and even their existence as a distinct people.”

When I spoke with him, Taylor said of his group, “We are considered alt-right.” I said it was odd that PropOrNot put Truthdig and American Renaissance on the same list, considering that the two organizations are far removed from each other on the political spectrum. Did American Renaissance take orders from the Kremlin? I ask Taylor. “Absolutely not,” he said. Was he surprised his group was on the list? “We’re flabbergasted,” he said. “We have no contact with the Russkies,” he said. “We are not foreign policy oriented at all,” although “we have a certain sympathy with Eastern European countries.”

I also talked to Filip Karinja, who runs the Hang The Bankers site, which has published articles saying the U.S. currency is declining and China’s is rising. “Congrats on making the list!” he wrote in an email to me. “Anyone that disagrees with US policy is instantly labeled an agent of Russia. It’s such poor propaganda.”

All News Pipeline, another list occupant, emailed me: “While enraged as well that such a list would be made, we also see it as a ‘badge of honor’. Almost all of our favorite websites are on that list, and it’s a group of people/websites that has totally exposed the mainstream media as the lying fools/tools they are. Fortunately, it hasn’t hurt us at all and has only exposed us to other people who like alternative news and had never heard of us before ... that’s a win even if PropOrNot tried to make it a ‘loss’ for us. It’s been quite fun watching it all blow up in their faces, and that includes the Washington Post!”

I don’t find it funny. The PropOrNot blacklist case points to a grave danger that bogus systems of searches and classifications could pose—censorship. The threat of censorship has been increased by the furor over fake news. (One consumer of phony reports fired an assault weapon in a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor last week as he tried to find nonexistent abused children hidden there.)

Government censorship is one possibility. On Nov. 30 The Washington Post’s Timberg reported that members of Congress had “approved an initiative to track and combat foreign propaganda amid growing concerns that Russian efforts to spread ‘fake news’ and disinformation threaten U.S. national security.”

Another danger is censorship by the internet giants Facebook and Google. Using methods more sophisticated than those of PropOrNot, they could “scrape” entries on their websites and limit or remove those they think could get them in trouble with the government or bring them unwanted publicity.

Earlier this year, Facebook caused a controversy when it removed posts featuring Associated Press photographer Nick Ut’s powerful 1972 picture of a naked, screaming child running from a napalm attack in Vietnam. Facebook deleted the shot from a Norwegian author’s page and later other pages. It said the photo violated Facebook’s rules on nudity. Faced with worldwide protests, the website reversed its decision.

Professor Albright, the Elon University communications scholar, told me he feared such censorship. As he assembled his maps and charts of interconnected websites, he said, he saw how it could happen and be widespread.

He said, “Facebook is trying to develop a patent for a fake-news detection system. … It is turning into a form of censorship or could be developed as censorship.” He said he was concerned that Facebook, Google or the government could develop filters “to determine what is [supposedly] fake and make decisions about that.” They could hunt for particular words, sentences and ways the news is framed. Dissent could be filtered out, as could articles with unusual, non-mainstream slants. “There are going to be key words and language that will not be standard, and alternative voices will be buried,“ Albright said.

Were it not for The Washington Post, PropOrNot’s blacklist might have disappeared in the mass of fake news, odd notions, serious journalism, advertising and other material that both clutter the internet and make it a valuable source of information. What pulled PropOrNot from the obscurity it deserves was that pillar of mainstream journalism, now experiencing a resurgence thanks to its purchase by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.

The most frightening aspect of all this is the likelihood that PropOrNot’s shady approach, after being abetted by the Post, will be adopted by others trying to suppress the dissent that makes Truthdig and similar sites so distinctive and valuable.

The search for fake news is becoming a witch hunt, accompanied by the rumors, smears and faulty investigations of the McCarthy era. Such is the state of the media in today’s world.
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Re: Washington Post’s ‘Fake News’ Guilt, by Robert Parry

Postby admin » Wed Dec 28, 2016 11:43 pm

PropOrNot: Evidence of a CIA Psychological Operation
by Kurt Nimmo
December 15, 2016
Copyright © 2016 Boiling Frogs Post



On November 24, The Washington Post published a story citing the anonymous group PropOrNot. The story accused the Russians of building a large propaganda operation that worked to defeat Hillary Clinton and elect “insurgent candidate” Donald Trump. It claimed a large number of alternative news websites are acting as Russian agents, dupes, and useful idiots.

Prior to this, in March 2015, the Voice of America insisted Russia has organized “around-the-clock operation in which an army of trolls disseminated pro-Kremlin and anti-Western talking points on blogs and in the comments sections of news websites in Russia and abroad.”

Voice of America is a propaganda service created by the CIA during the Cold War.

In January, the Institute of Modern Russia and its Interpreter Mag teamed up with the CIA through Voice of America to combat “Kremlin disinformation and propaganda.” The Institute of Modern Russia maintains close relationships with many Russian opposition leaders.

Critics took The Washington Post to task for using PropOrNot as a source. The website and PropOrNot’s Facebook and Twitter accounts give no indication who is behind the effort. Despite this, the Post cited the site to make the argument many alternative websites are “fake news” sites working in tandem with the Russians.

PropOrNot has all the hallmarks of an intelligence operation run by the CIA, FBI, or one of a number of other intelligence agencies.

Following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the official narrative pushed by the government and echoed dutifully by the establishment media claimed Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda masterminded the attack from a cave in Afghanistan. This and other elements of the official narrative were criticized, primarily by the alternative media. The government and its propaganda media dismissed the criticism of the official narrative and began characterizing critics as conspiracy theorists.

In early 2008, Cass Sunstein, a Harvard scholar and later the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration, wrote a paper with colleague Adrian Vermeule titled simply “Conspiracy Theories.” Sunstein and Vermeule argue the existence of conspiracy theories “may create serious risks, including risks of violence, and the existence of such theories raises significant challenges for policy and law.”

In addition to proposing outright censorship of information the government considers“extremist theories,” Sunstein and his co-author suggest using “cognitive infiltration” of groups and networks.

Instead of a covert operation resembling the FBI’s Operation COINTELPRO using physical infiltration to disrupt and discredit political groups, Sunstein proposed attacking targeted groups in cyberspace.

Sunstein and Vermeule write that “whatever the tactical details, there would seem to be ample reason for government efforts to introduce some cognitive diversity into the groups that generate conspiracy theories.”

In 2011, The Guardian reported the US military was developing software that would allow it secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.

General and later CIA director David Petraeus suggested using online psychological operations aimed at “countering extremist ideology and propaganda.” The objective of the Pentagon effort was “to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives,” according to the report.

The effort to counter alternative websites is not limited to the United States. In September 2014, writes noted researcher and author Thierry Meyssan, the British government created the 77th Brigade, a unit established to counter foreign propaganda.

“The brigade will be made up of warriors who don’t just carry weapons, but who are also skilled in using social media such as Twitter and Facebook, and the dark arts of ‘psyops’—psychological operations,” the BBC reported last January.

The unit works with British intelligence through MI6 and collaborates with the 361st Civil Affairs Brigade of the US Army. “These military units were used to disrupt Western websites trying to establish the truth… on September 11 [and] the war against Syria,” writes Meyssan.

MI6 is also involved in a European effort to undermine Russian and alternative media. In March 2015, the European Council asked High Representative Federica Mogherini to prepare a plan of “strategic communication” to denounce the disinformation campaigns of Russia about Ukraine.

The following month, Mogherini created within the European External Action Service a strategic information unit headed by Giles Portman, a British MI6 agent. It provides anti-Russian propaganda to European news services.

Others have called for an outright ban on what European governments consider “fake news” dispensed by Russia and its supposed operatives and dupes. In February 2015, the think tank of the French Socialist Party called for censorship and the French minister of education organized workshops to warn students about supposed conspiracy theories.

The Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington think tank dedicated to the study of Central and Eastern Europe, also set-up an information warfare unit directed against the Russian Federation.

Its advisory council includes Zbigniew Brzezinski (former national security advisor and virulent Russophobe), Eliot Cohen (Bush era neocon and former adviser to the secretary of state Condoleezza Rice), and Madeleine Albright (Clinton administration secretary of state who said killing 500,000 Iraqi children was “worth it”).

Although PropOrNot strives to remain anonymous, it does reveal connections to Modern Russia and its Interpreter Mag and thus, through Voice of America, its association with the CIA. Interpreter Mag is listed under “Related Projects” on its website.

PropOrNot also collaborates with Polygraph Fact-Check, a purported fact-checking website produced by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America, in other words, the CIA.

Another so-called fact-checking operation is listed, Politifact. It is a project of the Tampa Bay Times and the Poynter Institute and shares a donor with the Clinton Foundation, the Omidyar Network, created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. He is a major donor of Kiev-based Hromadske TV, “the symbol of the info wars between Moscow and the Western world,” according to Forbes. The effort is also supported by the US State Department, a number of European governments, and NGOs involved in Ukraine prior to and after the US-sponsored coup.

[Narrator] So are all of these revolutions actually initiated by the Americans? We can look back at what happened during the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine for evidence. The events that took place in Kiev in 2005 appear to endorse this assumption.

Traditionally, the Ukraine was part of Russia, but by the end of 2004 the tide had turned.

The United States pumped millions of dollars into the opposition movements in favor of regime change.
We are meeting with the two former leaders of the Ukraine revolution. Just by being a member of the opposition movement, Pora, they received significant sums of money, together with training in civil disobedience. Finally, they were given the book.

[Mychailo Swystowitsch, Former Ukraine Activist] Oh yes, the book by Gene Sharp. We all used it. And it connected us with everybody. Without Pora in Serbia, the opposition movement in Belarus and Kmara in Georgia, ...


[Narrator] It was in November, 2004, when hundreds of thousands of people flooded Independent Square in Kiev and demanded Viktor Yushchenko for their president. At the end of the revolution, the crowd got what they demanded. Yushchenko became president due to the massive support he received from the Western World.

[Dmytro Poteschin, Political Consultant] We had a number of great examples of dramatizing, as well as having fun on the streets.

[Narrator] The revolution as a celebration. This is the spirit of Gene Sharp. Every movement becomes a brand with its own symbolism.

Oranges in Ukraine, the Rose Revolution in Georgia, the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, the Denim Revolution in Belarus.

All different symbols, but with the same concept and the same sponsor: The United States of America.

-- The Revolution Business, Report by Patrick A. Hafner, Alexander Steinbach -- Illustrated Screenplay

PropOrNot’s connections indicate the website and its effort to take down alternative media is a project initiated by the establishment and likely a psychological operation directed by the CIA either directly or through its circle of private contractors.

The defeat of Hillary Clinton has nothing to do with the effectiveness of Russian propaganda. More accurately, Clinton’s election loss is a direct result of her corruption and deep insider status. The alternative media played an instrumental role in exposing Clinton’s criminality and her penchant for war and mass murder, primarily in Libya and Syria.

The alternative media has done an effective job of exposing the crimes of the elite and its political class and this news coverage did, in fact, have an impact on the election. Alternative media is a serious threat to the ruling elite. It no longer controls the flow of information and its propaganda is now directly challenged on a daily basis.

The Washington Post and the establishment media have latched on to the ludicrous PropOrNot campaign to denounce alternative media as some sort of nefarious Russian plot to undermine the political system in the United States. Despite this, millions of Americans continue to read the alternative news and make their own informed decisions, a trend that has set off alarm bells in the deepest recesses of the establishment.
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Re: Washington Post’s ‘Fake News’ Guilt, by Robert Parry

Postby admin » Wed Dec 28, 2016 11:56 pm

Who’s Behind PropOrNot’s Blacklist of News Websites
By Pam Martens and Russ Martens
December 7, 2016
© 2016 Wall Street On Parade.



A shadowy group called PropOrNot (shorthand for Propaganda Or Not) that has gone to a great deal of trouble to keep its funders and principals secret, is promulgating a blacklist of 200 alternative media websites that it has labeled “Russian propaganda outlets.” On Thanksgiving Day, Washington Post reporter Craig Timberg amplified this smear campaign in an article giving credence to the anonymous group’s research.

While a handful of state-funded sites are included on the list, both the Washington Post and PropOrNot have come under withering criticism for engaging in McCarthyism by including dozens of respected sites like Naked Capitalism, Truthout, Truthdig, Consortium News and, initially, CounterPunch, on the list. (CounterPunch has since been removed and Naked Capitalism’s lawyer has sent a scorching letter to the Washington Post demanding a retraction and an apology.) The widely read Paul Craig Roberts also landed on the blacklist. Roberts is a former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury for Economic Policy under President Ronald Reagan, a former Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal and a former columnist at BusinessWeek. He held Top Secret clearance when he worked for the U.S. government.

Wall Street On Parade closely examined the report issued by PropOrNot, its related Twitter page, and its registration as a business in New Mexico, looking for “tells” as to the individual(s) behind it. We learned quite a number of interesting facts.

As part of its McCarthyite tactics, PropOrNot has developed a plugin to help readers censor material from the websites it has blacklisted. It calls that its YYYCampaignYYY. In that effort, it lists an official address of 530-B Harkle Road, Suite 100, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505. That’s one of those agent addresses that serve as a virtual address for the creation of limited liability corporations that want to keep their actual principals secret. The address has dozens of businesses associated with it. There should also be a corresponding business listed in the online archives of the business registry at the Secretary of State of New Mexico. However, no business with the words Propaganda or PropOrNot or YYY exist in the New Mexico business registry, suggesting PropOrNot is using a double cloaking device to shield its identity by registering under a completely different name.

PropOrNot’s Twitter page provides a “tell” that its report may simply be a hodgepodge compilation of other people’s research that was used to arrive at its dangerous assertion that critical thinkers across America are a clandestine network of Russian propaganda experts. Its Tweet on November 7 indicates that the research of Peter Pomerantsev, a Senior Fellow at the Legatum Institute in London, who has also been cooperating on research with the Information Warfare Project of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) in Washington, D.C, inspired its efforts.

According to SourceWatch, the Legatum Institute “is a right-wing think tank promoting ‘free markets, free minds, and free peoples.’ ” SourceWatch adds that the Legatum Institute “is a project founded and funded by the Legatum Group, a private investment group based in Dubai.”

Barack Obama’s repeated insistence that Bashar al-Assad must leave office – and that there are ‘moderate’ rebel groups in Syria capable of defeating him – has in recent years provoked quiet dissent, and even overt opposition, among some of the most senior officers on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. Their criticism has focused on what they see as the administration’s fixation on Assad’s primary ally, Vladimir Putin. In their view, Obama is captive to Cold War thinking about Russia and China, and hasn’t adjusted his stance on Syria to the fact both countries share Washington’s anxiety about the spread of terrorism in and beyond Syria; like Washington, they believe that Islamic State must be stopped.

The military’s resistance dates back to the summer of 2013, when a highly classified assessment, put together by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then led by General Martin Dempsey, forecast that the fall of the Assad regime would lead to chaos and, potentially, to Syria’s takeover by jihadi extremists, much as was then happening in Libya. A former senior adviser to the Joint Chiefs told me that the document was an ‘all-source’ appraisal, drawing on information from signals, satellite and human intelligence, and took a dim view of the Obama administration’s insistence on continuing to finance and arm the so-called moderate rebel groups. By then, the CIA had been conspiring for more than a year with allies in the UK, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to ship guns and goods – to be used for the overthrow of Assad – from Libya, via Turkey, into Syria. The new intelligence estimate singled out Turkey as a major impediment to Obama’s Syria policy. The document showed, the adviser said, ‘that what was started as a covert US programme to arm and support the moderate rebels fighting Assad had been co-opted by Turkey, and had morphed into an across-the-board technical, arms and logistical programme for all of the opposition, including Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State. The so-called moderates had evaporated and the Free Syrian Army was a rump group stationed at an airbase in Turkey.’ The assessment was bleak: there was no viable ‘moderate’ opposition to Assad, and the US was arming extremists.

Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, director of the DIA between 2012 and 2014, confirmed that his agency had sent a constant stream of classified warnings to the civilian leadership about the dire consequences of toppling Assad. The jihadists, he said, were in control of the opposition. Turkey wasn’t doing enough to stop the smuggling of foreign fighters and weapons across the border. ‘If the American public saw the intelligence we were producing daily, at the most sensitive level, they would go ballistic,’ Flynn told me. ‘We understood Isis’s long-term strategy and its campaign plans, and we also discussed the fact that Turkey was looking the other way when it came to the growth of the Islamic State inside Syria.’ The DIA’s reporting, he said, ‘got enormous pushback’ from the Obama administration. ‘I felt that they did not want to hear the truth.’

‘Our policy of arming the opposition to Assad was unsuccessful and actually having a negative impact,’ the former JCS adviser said. ‘The Joint Chiefs believed that Assad should not be replaced by fundamentalists. The administration’s policy was contradictory. They wanted Assad to go but the opposition was dominated by extremists. So who was going to replace him? To say Assad’s got to go is fine, but if you follow that through – therefore anyone is better. It’s the “anybody else is better” issue that the JCS had with Obama’s policy.’ The Joint Chiefs felt that a direct challenge to Obama’s policy would have ‘had a zero chance of success’. So in the autumn of 2013 they decided to take steps against the extremists without going through political channels, by providing US intelligence to the militaries of other nations, on the understanding that it would be passed on to the Syrian army and used against the common enemy, Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State.

Germany, Israel and Russia were in contact with the Syrian army, and able to exercise some influence over Assad’s decisions – it was through them that US intelligence would be shared. Each had its reasons for co-operating with Assad: Germany feared what might happen among its own population of six million Muslims if Islamic State expanded; Israel was concerned with border security; Russia had an alliance of very long standing with Syria, and was worried by the threat to its only naval base on the Mediterranean, at Tartus. ‘We weren’t intent on deviating from Obama’s stated policies,’ the adviser said. ‘But sharing our assessments via the military-to-military relationships with other countries could prove productive. It was clear that Assad needed better tactical intelligence and operational advice. The JCS concluded that if those needs were met, the overall fight against Islamist terrorism would be enhanced. Obama didn’t know, but Obama doesn’t know what the JCS does in every circumstance and that’s true of all presidents.’

Once the flow of US intelligence began, Germany, Israel and Russia started passing on information about the whereabouts and intent of radical jihadist groups to the Syrian army; in return, Syria provided information about its own capabilities and intentions. There was no direct contact between the US and the Syrian military; instead, the adviser said, ‘we provided the information – including long-range analyses on Syria’s future put together by contractors or one of our war colleges – and these countries could do with it what they chose, including sharing it with Assad. We were saying to the Germans and the others: “Here’s some information that’s pretty interesting and our interest is mutual.” End of conversation. The JCS could conclude that something beneficial would arise from it – but it was a military to military thing, and not some sort of a sinister Joint Chiefs’ plot to go around Obama and support Assad. It was a lot cleverer than that. If Assad remains in power, it will not be because we did it. It’s because he was smart enough to use the intelligence and sound tactical advice we provided to others.’

The public history of relations between the US and Syria over the past few decades has been one of enmity. Assad condemned the 9/11 attacks, but opposed the Iraq War. George W. Bush repeatedly linked Syria to the three members of his ‘axis of evil’ – Iraq, Iran and North Korea – throughout his presidency. State Department cables made public by WikiLeaks show that the Bush administration tried to destabilise Syria and that these efforts continued into the Obama years. In December 2006, William Roebuck, then in charge of the US embassy in Damascus, filed an analysis of the ‘vulnerabilities’ of the Assad government and listed methods ‘that will improve the likelihood’ of opportunities for destabilisation. He recommended that Washington work with Saudi Arabia and Egypt to increase sectarian tension and focus on publicising ‘Syrian efforts against extremist groups’ – dissident Kurds and radical Sunni factions – ‘in a way that suggests weakness, signs of instability, and uncontrolled blowback’; and that the ‘isolation of Syria’ should be encouraged through US support of the National Salvation Front, led by Abdul Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian vice president whose government-in-exile in Riyadh was sponsored by the Saudis and the Muslim Brotherhood. Another 2006 cable showed that the embassy had spent $5 million financing dissidents who ran as independent candidates for the People’s Assembly; the payments were kept up even after it became clear that Syrian intelligence knew what was going on. A 2010 cable warned that funding for a London-based television network run by a Syrian opposition group would be viewed by the Syrian government ‘as a covert and hostile gesture toward the regime’.

But there is also a parallel history of shadowy co-operation between Syria and the US during the same period. The two countries collaborated against al-Qaida, their common enemy. A longtime consultant to the Joint Special Operations Command said that, after 9/11, ‘Bashar was, for years, extremely helpful to us while, in my view, we were churlish in return, and clumsy in our use of the gold he gave us. That quiet co-operation continued among some elements, even after the [Bush administration’s] decision to vilify him.’ In 2002 Assad authorised Syrian intelligence to turn over hundreds of internal files on the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria and Germany. Later that year, Syrian intelligence foiled an attack by al-Qaida on the headquarters of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, and Assad agreed to provide the CIA with the name of a vital al-Qaida informant. In violation of this agreement, the CIA contacted the informant directly; he rejected the approach, and broke off relations with his Syrian handlers. Assad also secretly turned over to the US relatives of Saddam Hussein who had sought refuge in Syria, and – like America’s allies in Jordan, Egypt, Thailand and elsewhere – tortured suspected terrorists for the CIA in a Damascus prison.

It was this history of co-operation that made it seem possible in 2013 that Damascus would agree to the new indirect intelligence-sharing arrangement with the US. The Joint Chiefs let it be known that in return the US would require four things: Assad must restrain Hizbullah from attacking Israel; he must renew the stalled negotiations with Israel to reach a settlement on the Golan Heights; he must agree to accept Russian and other outside military advisers; and he must commit to holding open elections after the war with a wide range of factions included. ‘We had positive feedback from the Israelis, who were willing to entertain the idea, but they needed to know what the reaction would be from Iran and Syria,’ the JCS adviser told me. ‘The Syrians told us that Assad would not make a decision unilaterally – he needed to have support from his military and Alawite allies. Assad’s worry was that Israel would say yes and then not uphold its end of the bargain.’ A senior adviser to the Kremlin on Middle East affairs told me that in late 2012, after suffering a series of battlefield setbacks and military defections, Assad had approached Israel via a contact in Moscow and offered to reopen the talks on the Golan Heights. The Israelis had rejected the offer. ‘They said, “Assad is finished,”’ the Russian official told me. ‘“He’s close to the end.”’ He said the Turks had told Moscow the same thing. By mid-2013, however, the Syrians believed the worst was behind them, and wanted assurances that the Americans and others were serious about their offers of help.

In the early stages of the talks, the adviser said, the Joint Chiefs tried to establish what Assad needed as a sign of their good intentions. The answer was sent through one of Assad’s friends: ‘Bring him the head of Prince Bandar.’ The Joint Chiefs did not oblige. Bandar bin Sultan had served Saudi Arabia for decades in intelligence and national security affairs, and spent more than twenty years as ambassador in Washington. In recent years, he has been known as an advocate for Assad’s removal from office by any means. Reportedly in poor health, he resigned last year as director of the Saudi National Security Council, but Saudi Arabia continues to be a major provider of funds to the Syrian opposition, estimated by US intelligence last year at $700 million.

In July 2013, the Joint Chiefs found a more direct way of demonstrating to Assad how serious they were about helping him. By then the CIA-sponsored secret flow of arms from Libya to the Syrian opposition, via Turkey, had been underway for more than a year (it started sometime after Gaddafi’s death on 20 October 2011).​* The operation was largely run out of a covert CIA annex in Benghazi, with State Department acquiescence. On 11 September 2012 the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, was killed during an anti-American demonstration that led to the burning down of the US consulate in Benghazi; reporters for the Washington Post found copies of the ambassador’s schedule in the building’s ruins. It showed that on 10 September Stevens had met with the chief of the CIA’s annex operation. The next day, shortly before he died, he met a representative from Al-Marfa Shipping and Maritime Services, a Tripoli-based company which, the JCS adviser said, was known by the Joint Staff to be handling the weapons shipments.]

By the late summer of 2013, the DIA’s assessment had been circulated widely, but although many in the American intelligence community were aware that the Syrian opposition was dominated by extremists the CIA-sponsored weapons kept coming, presenting a continuing problem for Assad’s army. Gaddafi’s stockpile had created an international arms bazaar, though prices were high. ‘There was no way to stop the arms shipments that had been authorised by the president,’ the JCS adviser said. ‘The solution involved an appeal to the pocketbook. The CIA was approached by a representative from the Joint Chiefs with a suggestion: there were far less costly weapons available in Turkish arsenals that could reach the Syrian rebels within days, and without a boat ride.’ But it wasn’t only the CIA that benefited. ‘We worked with Turks we trusted who were not loyal to Erdoğan,’ the adviser said, ‘and got them to ship the jihadists in Syria all the obsolete weapons in the arsenal, including M1 carbines that hadn’t been seen since the Korean War and lots of Soviet arms. It was a message Assad could understand: “We have the power to diminish a presidential policy in its tracks.”’

The flow of US intelligence to the Syrian army, and the downgrading of the quality of the arms being supplied to the rebels, came at a critical juncture. The Syrian army had suffered heavy losses in the spring of 2013 in fighting against Jabhat al-Nusra and other extremist groups as it failed to hold the provincial capital of Raqqa. Sporadic Syrian army and air-force raids continued in the area for months, with little success, until it was decided to withdraw from Raqqa and other hard to defend, lightly populated areas in the north and west and focus instead on consolidating the government’s hold on Damascus and the heavily populated areas linking the capital to Latakia in the north-east. But as the army gained in strength with the Joint Chiefs’ support, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey escalated their financing and arming of Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State, which by the end of 2013 had made enormous gains on both sides of the Syria/Iraq border.

-- Military to Military – Seymour M. Hersh on US intelligence sharing in the Syrian war, by London Review of Books

According to the Internet Archive known as the Wayback Machine, the Center for European Policy Analysis previously indicated it was an affiliate of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA). We can see why they might want to remove that affiliation now that the Koch brothers have been exposed as funders of a very real network of interrelated websites and nonprofits. According to Desmog, NCPA has received millions of dollars in funding from right wing billionaires like the Koch brothers and their related trusts along with the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation (heir to the Mellon fortune) along with corporations like ExxonMobil.

CEPA’s InfoWar Project is currently listed as a “Related Project” at PropOrNot’s website. Indeed, there are numerous references within the report issued by PropOrNot that sound a familiar refrain to Pomerantsev and/or CEPA. Both think the U.S. Congress is in denial on the rising dangers of Russian propaganda and want it to take more direct counter measures. Pages 31 and 32 of the PropOrNot report urge the American people to demand answers from the U.S. government about how much it knows about Russian propaganda. The report provides a detailed list of specific questions that should be asked.

In the August 2016 report released by CEPA (the same month the PropOrNot Twitter account was established) Pomerantsev and his co-author, Edward Lucas, recommend the establishment of “An international commission under the auspices of the Council of Europe on the lines of the Venice Commission” to “act as a broadcasting badge of quality. If an official body cannot be created, then an NGO could play a similar advisory role.”

On its website, PropOrNot recommends a much stronger censorship of independent media websites, writing:

“We call on the American public to… Obtain news from actual reporters, who report to an editor and are professionally accountable for mistakes. We suggest NPR, the BBC, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Buzzfeed News, VICE, etc, and especially your local papers and local TV news channels. Support them by subscribing, if you can!”

It has been the experience of Wall Street On Parade that the editors of the New York Times are more than willing to ignore brazen misreporting of critical facts, even when the errors are repeatedly brought to their attention; even when those erroneous facts are then repeated by the President of the United States. (See our report: President Obama Repeats the Falsehoods of the New York Times and Andrew Ross Sorkin on Restoring the Glass-Steagall Act.)

CounterPunch was quick to point out that the Washington Post’s former publisher, Philip Graham, supervised a disinformation network for the CIA during the Cold War, known as Mockingbird. Graham was reported to have died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his farm in 1963.

CEPA’s website indicates that on May 10 it hosted Senators Chris Murphy and Rob Portman to discuss “Russia’s sophisticated disinformation campaign.” CEPA’s President, A. Wess Mitchell is quoted as saying: “What’s missing is a significant effort on the part of the U.S. government. Not nearly enough has been done.”

Six days after Washington Post reporter Craig Timberg ran his first PropOrNot story, he published another article indicating that “Congressional negotiators on Wednesday approved an initiative to track and combat foreign propaganda amid growing concerns that Russian efforts to spread ‘fake news’ and disinformation threaten U.S. national security.” Quoted in the story was none other than the very Senator who had met with CEPA in May on that very topic, Senator Rob Portman.

Portman is quoted as follows: “This propaganda and disinformation threat is real, it’s growing, and right now the U.S. government is asleep at the wheel.” Among Portman’s top three donors to his 2016 Senate race were Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, two Wall Street behemoths that would very much like to pivot the national debate to anything other than Wall Street power and corruption.
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Re: Washington Post’s ‘Fake News’ Guilt, by Robert Parry

Postby admin » Thu Dec 29, 2016 5:37 am

Dugin’s Occult Fascism and the Hijacking of Left Anti-Imperialism and Muslim Anti-Salafism
by Wahid Azal
February 10, 2016



Eurasian Thunderbolt flag.

In his September 2015 CounterPunch piece, “A New Chapter in the Fascist Internationale,” Alexander Reid Ross highlighted the state of the Fascist Internationale in recent times, underscoring the role of Russian fascist and Fourth Position theorist Alexander Dugin and his networks in it. What is however not widely appreciated about the current state of activities by these Duginist networks, especially in social media, is their active recruitment efforts among the Left as well as among disparate groups of anti-Salafist Shiʿi and Sunni Muslims, particularly among supporters of the Resistance Axis. Rather than a legitimate alliance, this turn of events is arguably an attempt to muddy waters by certain behind the scenes power brokers that could potentially fracture (or otherwise neutralize) a united front against Empire from the grassroots and eventually redirect it to more sinister ends. Here a heretofore undiscussed facet of this development will be broached (a guiding feature informing the subtext of Duginism’s ‘beyond left and right’ ideological catchall); and, that is, the Duginist appropriation of a primarily western occultist framework (and specifically the worldview of Chaos magic) and its transformation by the Duginists into a strategy for political action in the service of the Fascist Internationale.

Whither Dugin’s Traditionalism?

Many discussions around Alexander Dugin in print have outlined his vast, often contradictory, influences, background and ideological trajectory. For example, Dugin’s ‘Traditionalism’ or ‘neo-Traditionalism’ – i.e. his adherence to the ideas of French Sufi Muslim convert René Guénon (d. 1951) and the Italian Julius Evola (d. 1974) – has been detailed by Mark Sedgwick and others (see, for instance, Sedgwick’s Against the Modern World, 2004: chapter 12). However, at least in more recent years, Dugin’s Traditionalism appears to be overstated, since his fanatical (almost messianic) Heideggerianism – face to face with the dismissive, often overtly hostile, views held by many eminent figures of the Traditionalist school towards Martin Heidegger – has seemingly placed him outside of the proverbial neo-Traditionalist pale. Comments made in an early chapter of his 2014 book, ‘Martin Heidegger: The Philosophy of Another Beginning’ (2014: 18), where Heidegger has been elevated by Dugin to the status of a culminating eschatological figure on par with the prophet of Islam, only reinforces such negatively held views about Dugin’s ‘anti-Traditionalism’ among some contemporary neo-Traditionalists.

As such Alexander Dugin’s purported Traditionalism, which used to serve at one point as his biographical headliner, is no longer a reliable feature which can be taken uncritically and at face value. If he once was, as of now at least, Dugin is no longer a neo-Traditionalist in any meaningful sense, which makes the use and appropriation of the term by North American white nationalist acolytes of Dugin, such as Matthew Heimbach, hold even less validity. Therefore, to continue discussing Dugin’s current ideas and stances in light of Guénonian-Evolian Traditionalism can in fact be misleading because he has in recent times moved in the opposite direction and into what some neo-Traditionalists would probably characterize as ‘counter-initiatic currents’ and the ‘Counter-Tradition’.

Chaos Magic as the True Duginist weltanschauung

The misanthropic ideas of British occultist and satanist Aleister Crowley (d. 1947) do however inform both the Duginist world view and its contemporary praxis. Indeed it is within the worldview of Chaos magic specifically (which is a spawn of Crowley’s Thelemic philosophy) where much of the paradoxes and seeming contradictions of the Duginist weltanschauung – and especially in its Fourth Positionist catchall of ‘beyond right or left’ – must be sought, since this is (whether explicitly articulated or not) the actual animating locus of the Duginist far-right praxis, beginning with its choice of symbology, i.e. his Eurasian flag of eight white or yellow thunderbolts (or arrows) shaped in a radial pattern and set behind a black background. This symbol by itself is alternatively referred to in Chaos magic as the ‘wheel of chaos’, ‘the symbol of chaos’, ‘arms of chaos’, ‘the arrows of chaos’, ‘the chaos star’, ‘the chaos cross’, ‘the chaosphere’ or ‘the symbol of eight’. Somewhat reminiscent of the Thule Society and then Hitler’s own appropriation of the swastika from the writings of Theosophical Society founder H.P. Blavatsky (d. 1891), Dugin derives his design from the popularizations of it made by western Chaos magicians during the 1970s-1980s who themselves appropriated it from the work of British science fiction and fantasy novelist Michael Moorcock.

It should be noted here that both the number eight as well as the color black play a pivotal role in all neo-Nazi/far-right symbology, not to mention that the ‘wheel of chaos’ itself maintains striking similarities to the well known ‘sun wheel’ symbol used by the SS and many contemporary neo-Nazis (likewise the symbol of the old Spanish Falangists). In his own defence, Dugin would probably assert that the number eight also holds important correspondences within esoteric Christianity as well where it refers to Christ. However, his obvious (or dubious, rather) choice of the ‘wheel of chaos’ over the cross would tend to refute that claim. In addition, as a self-proclaimed Russian nationalist, it is not clear exactly why Alexander Dugin would choose his chief symbol from sources located within the tradition of British occultism rather than from those of his native Russia or, for that matter, from the Eastern Orthodox Christianity that he claims to adhere to. This point alone, we believe, further reinforces the allegations regarding Dugin’s anti-traditionalism, while simultaneously locating him in a very different universe altogether than the one he claims to be speaking for.

Be that as it may, such behaviour in itself would be quite consistent with Chaos magic’s basic dictum regarding the malleability of all beliefs and their pliability as tools in the hands of the Chaos magician. Here it is the Nietzschean ‘will to power’ in-itself that becomes the prime motivation of the black magus turned political activist. Emerging from this, the next significant formula of Chaos magic is that of a continual paradigm shift or the constant arbitrary changing of beliefs, where holding contradictory positions simultaneously becomes the vehicle for self-realization and understanding of the coincidentia oppositorum underlying all phenomena. As a spiritual practice there are numerous correlations and comparisons that can be made with this specific idea among many traditions around the globe (i.e. Taoist, Sufi, Tantric, Zen, Hermeticism, etc.), and in and of itself it is neutral. Except that with Dugin and his acolytes the issue is not linked specifically to any spiritual practice and its realization per se but rather it is purely about political praxis and the will to power in its crudest form. In other words, for Dugin the alchemical laboratory and its ars operativa resides not in the self but rather in the greater world and the theatre of politics where the black magus acts to immanentize the eschaton and where this eschaton represents the inversion of all values.

The Philosopher’s Stone for Dugin is thus power over the world for its own sake and not over the self. This, including other features of his thinking, is what informs the paradigmatic ‘beyond left and right’ catchall latched on to by the Duginists. It is also what makes Duginism particularly dangerous as an ideology and a movement. In other words, in this worldview where Chaos magic acts as the ideological primum mobile, occultist principles are made to serve a fundamentally fascist political program. Some would also call this a form of Satanism and yet another manifestation of the very modernity and ‘materialist West’ that Alexander Dugin has otherwise railed against. Arguably, and whatever else Dugin says to criticize and distance himself from it, Hitlerian National Socialism attempted precisely the very same thing – animated also, as it was, by almost identical underlying ideological concerns and motivations.

That said, René Guénon alleged about Blavatsky and her Theosophical Society that during the nineteenth and early twentieth century they were essentially acting in the capacity of a colonialist trojan horse put up by the imperial British secret services in order to infiltrate and disrupt the traditional religious sub-cultures of the sub-continent (see his, Theosophy: The History of a Pseudo-Religion, 2004). Given Dugin’s networks in Iran, Lebanon, Syria and elsewhere in the Islamic world, not to mention Eastern Europe, it is not entirely out of the realm of possibility that similar patterns and inducements may be motivating and underlying the Duginists’ recruitment agenda whereby Dugin himself can be seen as the new Blavatsky with his networks the successor to the Theosophical Society-cum-British imperial trojan horse. Certainly their attempt to further break down the already fractured left/right spectrum in Europe in order to recruit for the far-right appears to speak to it directly given that their unambiguous racist and reactionary rhetoric on the immigration/refugee crisis, on the face of things, otherwise defies the alliances they have made inside the Islamic world among Iranians, Iraqis, Lebanese, Syrians and other sectors of the Resistance Axis.

Russia, the European refugee crisis and far-right Duginist geopolitics in action

Now, the instrumental role of NATO in the collapse of the Libyan state in 2011; the Syrian war that is now going into its fifth year; ISIS; Ukraine, and, above all, the European refugee crisis appears to have provided the Duginists a rare opportunity to exploit existing splits arising among cross-sections of the western antiwar Left as well as among activists in the Muslim community itself in order to recruit among these groups. This is especially in evidence in the recent talking points adopted by a number of otherwise progressive and left-leaning pundits who regularly appear on RT (Russia Today) and elsewhere in the alternative media where their usually consistent antiwar stance with regard to Syria specifically (and western imperialism generally) has, in paradoxical fashion, given way instead to a melange of reactionary narratives over the European refugee crisis. In short, we have a situation where certain progressives (and even some Muslims) have adopted the contemporary white supremacist kulturkampf rhetoric of fascists and fellow travellers that largely victimizes Mid East/North African immigrants and asylum seekers in Europe, and where rightwing hysteria over a perceived threat to ‘European culture’ and ‘its way of life’ is uncritically repeated, to varying degrees, parrot fashion.

Whereas some blame Russian state policy directly for such recent developments, the point of view of the present author is that such a turn of events ultimately benefits the agendas of Empire itself rather than Russia specifically such that these Duginists may in fact be sheepdogging for long-term Anglo-American Atlanticist policy initiatives rather than specifically Russian ones. Be that as it may, rumours abound that the Russian state has been a generous donor (and in a few cases has even outright financed for protracted periods) fascist/far-right groups such as Jobbik in Hungary and the Golden Dawn in Greece. Since 2014 in Germany, for instance, the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland), the NPD (Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands) and PEGIDA are alleged to have received substantial financial support from Moscow as a means of destabilizing Merkel and the German center who were key actors in the sanctions imposed on Russia following its annexation of Crimea in March 2014. Similarly is held regarding Le Pen’s Front National in France. Certainly much of the anti-immigration/anti-refugee jingoism published regularly on the pages of RT (Russia Today) as of that time would on the face of things tend to support the allegations.

However, even with that, it is not clear exactly how such policies would strategically benefit Putin’s Russia in the long term either, since these very same forces that Russia ostensibly supports at the moment could quite easily be marshalled at any given point in the future by its Anglo-American geopolitical rival and used against Russia itself, as the case of Ukraine amply demonstrates. Certainly it can be argued that Russia and the Anglo-American Atlanticists are using competing far-right proxies against each other’s interests on the continent as a form of asymmetrical warfare, with Germany as one of the key battlegrounds and the refugee issue as the linchpin. But then this would tend to indicate some kind of split in the Fascist Internationale while also explaining one reason for the aggressive recruitment efforts presently undertaken by the Duginists (especially among Muslims and disenchanted Leftists without a home) on social media and elsewhere. Nevertheless in Greece, for instance, it was not with the Golden Dawn but with Syriza that Dugin personally invested the most time, and Syriza’s role during 2015 in further fracturing consensus among the Anglo-European Left has undeniably been a critical one.

Much more can be said, but whatever rhetoric the Duginists spin among assorted activist communities to draw them in, on its own merits Duginism is neither authentically anti-imperialist nor does it genuinely hold any leftwing values. Nor, for that matter, is it Traditionalism either. Rather, on all fronts Duginism actually represents a carefully smokescreened form of fascist white separatism, which is to say yet another ideological permutation of Euro-American white supremacy that has organized itself into a movement. Dugin’s own skewed definition of Eurasia, where in this scheme Eurasia merely represents the horizontal landmass between Vladivostok and Lisbon (and where all of south-west and south-east Asia are categorically excluded from it), reinforces the fact. As such the seductive dangers represented by Duginism and its networks to any united front against Empire among the anti-imperialist Left and anti-Salafist Muslims cannot be underestimated.

Wahid Azal is an independent scholar and political commentator living in Berlin, Germany. He can be reached on his email at wahidazal66@gmail.com
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Re: Washington Post’s ‘Fake News’ Guilt, by Robert Parry

Postby admin » Thu Dec 29, 2016 8:52 pm


Guideposts from Just War Theory: Managing Covert Political Action
by James A. Barry
Central Intelligence Agency

In 1954, at the height of US concern about the threat from international communism, President Eisenhower appointed a panel to make recommendations regarding covert political action as an instrument of foreign policy. The panel, named after its chairman, General Jimmy Doolittle, included the following statement in its report:

It is now clear that we are facing an implacable enemy whose avowed objective is world domination by whatever means and at whatever costs. There are no rules in such a game. Hitherto acceptable norms of human conduct do not apply. If the US is to survive, longstanding American concepts of "fair play" must be reconsidered. We must develop effective espionage and counterespionage services and must learn to subvert, sabotage and destroy our enemies by more clever, more sophisticated means than those used against us. It may become necessary that the American people be made acquainted with, understand and support this fundamentally repugnant philosophy.1

In counseling such a radical departure from American norms, the authors of the Doolittle report adopted an argument that appears in hindsight to be extreme. But in the context of the times, it was consistent with several overlapping schools of thought in international affairs that formed the basis for many Cold War policies. The first was the "realist" tradition in international affairs, which traces its origins from the Greek historian Thucydides through the philosophies of Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza and Rousseau to modern theorists such as Hans Morgenthau and Reinhold Neibuhr. Although realists differ significantly in their views, they tend to emphasize the primacy of power in international affairs, and to exclude morality from considerations of making foreign policy.2 Modern realism encompasses views ranging from George Kennan's proposals to combat communism through a patient policy of containment and a low-profile approach to moral issues to Henry Kissinger's opportunistic use of moral language coupled with a belief that moral norms could not govern the conduct of states. Reinforcing the views of the early Cold War realists were the arguments of ideological crusaders who conceived of the struggle with communism as kind of holy war, as well as those of American nationalists who, like General Sherman, believed that "war is hell" and that the merciful thing is in fact to wage it ruthlessly. Members of these several groups supported the need for covert action against communism either because they believed that the exceptional circumstances of the times required it or because they judged that it was simply one of the methods that states used to struggle with each other.3

But it is clear that even the authors of the Doolittle Report were uncomfortable with the "repugnant philosophy" that they deemed necessary. Indeed, although covert political action became an important tool of US policy America never completely abandoned its moral traditions. The threat of international communism, however, became a compelling rationale for covert action, to the extent that many operations needed no more specific justification. Thus the Cold War, and the perceived severity of the Soviet threat, made it possible for policymakers to ignore competing ethical considerations when they endorsed covert actions.

This Cold War rationale began to crumble in the late 1960s with popular opposition to the Vietnam War and the subsequent revelation in Congressional inquiries of abuses by the CIA. The result was that greater attention has been paid to the process of managing covert actions. Until recently, however, despite changes in decisionmaking and oversight mechanisms, the Soviet threat was a dominant consideration in most covert action decisions.

Covert Action and the New World Order

Since the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, the abortive coup in the Soviet Union, and the dissolution of the Soviet empire, the confluence of ideological, nationalist and realist thought that formed a compelling rationale for covert action in the early Cold War period has lost more validity. In a dangerous world, however, presidents probably will not eschew this particular element of foreign policy, even in a "new world order." The Persian Gulf War shows that aggression by hostile states remains a threat to US interests, and other challenges such as terrorism, narcotics trafficking and the potential for proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are likely to motivate the US to consider covert responses. What frame of reference, then, should replace the Cold War philosophy that has shaped covert action policy since the founding of the CIA?

Although the ideological crusade, American nationalism and political realism dominated US thinking about international affairs in the immediate post-World War II era, there are other enduring philosophical traditions. Some emphasize the ends of policy (utilitarianism and Marxism); others are "rule-based" (international law and Kant's rationalism are in this category4).

One of the "rule-based" traditions has received greater attention in recent years. This is the natural law tradition, and in particular its rules regarding the use of force by states, which fall under the rubric of "Just War Theory." Just War Theory was used extensively by the Bush Administration in explaining its decision to go to war, under UN auspices, against Iraq.5 More recently, a symposium of jurists, philosophers, theologians, government officials and military officers affirmed that Just War Theory is useful in deliberations regarding low-intensity conflict.6

Just War Theory

The origins of the Just War Theory can be traced to Saint Augustine in the 4th century A.D., and especially to Saint Thomas Aquinas, who extended and codified it in the 13th century. Just War Theory is in essence a set of guidelines for going to war (the so-called jus ad bellum), and for the conduct of hostilities (jus in bello).7 Though largely associated with Catholic scholars, Just War Theory is not a religious teaching per se, but rather part of a tradition of theological and philosophical thought, dating from Aristotle, that emphasized the importance of ethical processes in decisionmaking.

Aquinas specified three conditions for the decision to go to war: the action must be ordered by proper authority, the cause must be just, and the authority must have a right intention of promoting good or avoiding evil.8 Other authorities subsequently added three further criteria: the action must be a last resort and all peaceful alternatives must have been exhausted, there must be a reasonable probability of success, and the evil and damage which the war entails must be proportionate to the injury it is designed to avert or the injustice which occasions it.9

Once these conditions are met, the belligerent is subject to two further constraints in seeking his military objectives: his actions must be directed against the opponent, not against innocent people; and the means of combat must be proportionate to the just ends envisioned and must be under the control of a competent authority.10

The first of these constraints has been further refined, under the "principle of double effect," to encompass situations in which injury to innocent parties is unavoidable. Aquinas formulated the principle as follows:

There is nothing to hinder one act having two effects, of which one only is the intention of the agent, while the other is beside his intention. But moral acts receive their species from what is intended, not from what is beside the intention, as that is accidental.11

Under this principle, then, a belligerent may, if there is good reason, be justified in permitting incidental evil effects. The conditions governing this, however, are held by most commentators to be exceedingly strict. For example, the action taken must not be evil in itself; the good effect, and not the evil effect, must be intended, and the good effect must not arise out of the evil effect, but both must arise simultaneously from the action taken.12

Modern political theorists have continued the Just War tradition, and focused primarily on the criterion of just cause. Currently, the majority school of thought appears to favor the view that the only justifiable cause for armed conflict is to repel aggression. Traditionally, however, there were two other acceptable causes: to retake something wrongfully taken and to punish wrongdoing.13 Another area of debate has been whether forcible intervention in another state could be justified in order to reform that state's political system, for example in the case of flagrant human-rights abuses.14

The Theory and Covert Action

But what can an arcane theological and philosophical doctrine that is more than 1,600 years old and which was codified to regulate war during the Middle Ages have to do with covert action following the collapse of communism? At least one former practitioner, William Colby, has argued that "a standard for selection of covert actions that are just can be developed by analogy with the longstanding efforts to differentiate just from unjust wars."15 Perhaps more to the point, former Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) William Webster has noted that in its deliberations the CIA's Covert Action Review Group explores three key questions regarding a proposed covert action: "Is it entirely consistent with our laws? Is it consistent with American values as we understand them? And will it make sense to the American people?"16 With respect to the last two considerations, a reformulation of the Just War criteria in common-sense terms would probably appeal to the American people. It seems fair to conclude that the people would want the government to undertake covert actions only if:

The action is approved by the President, after due deliberation within the Executive Branch and with the full knowledge and concurrence of appropriate members of the Congress.
The intentions and objectives are clearly spelled out, reasonable, and just.
There is a reasonable probability of success.
The methods envisioned are commensurate with the objectives.

Moreover, in conducting covert action, it is reasonable to presume that the American people would approve of methods that minimize physical, economic, or psychological injury to innocent people and that are appropriate to the threat and under firm US control.17

Formulated this way, the Just War guidelines seem to be directly applicable to covert paramilitary operations or other actions involving the use of violence or coercion. Those who advocate or approve such covert actions, however, bear the additional burden of demonstrating why they must be conducted covertly. As ethicist Sissela Bok has pointed out, every state requires a measure of secrecy to defend itself, but when secrecy is invoked citizens lose the ordinary democratic checks on those matters that can affect them most strongly.18 In addition, a special problem of operational control can arise when intermediaries (agents) are employed — because their aims may differ from ours, and because the chain of command may be ambiguous or unreliable.19 Finally, most covert actions will necessarily lack the public legitimacy and legal status under international law of a declared, justifiable war. This makes it incumbent on those advocating such actions to take into account the consequences of possible public misunderstanding and international opprobrium.

The Chile Case

It would appear that a framework similar to the Just War Theory could be useful in evaluating covert actions that result in economic dislocation, distortion of political processes or manipulation of information, because these cause suffering or moral damage, as war causes physical destruction.20 To explore this, consider how the guidelines would have applied to two instances of covert US intervention in Chile, in 1964 and 1970.21

The 1964 Election Operation

As part of its worldwide buildup of covert action capabilities in the early 1950s, the CIA established a capacity to conduct covert propaganda and political influence operations in Chile. In 1961, President Kennedy established a hemispheric policy to promote the growth of democratic institutions, the Alliance for Progress. That same year, the President became convinced that the Chilean Christian Democratic Party shared his belief in democratic social reform and seemed to have the organizational competence to achieve their common goals. It lacked the resources, however, to compete with the extremist parties of the left and right.

During 1961, the CIA established relationships with key political parties in Chile, as well as propaganda and organizational mechanisms. In 1962, the Special Group (the interagency body charged with reviewing covert actions) approved two CIA proposals to provide support to the Christian Democrats. The program was modeled on that conducted in Italy in the late 1940s and 1950s, and it was intended to strengthen center-democratic forces against the leftist challenge from Salvador Allende, who was supported by the Soviet Union and Cuba. When President Johnson succeeded Kennedy, he continued the covert subsidies, with the objective of making Chile a model of democracy, as well as preventing the nationalization by a leftist government of the Chilean components of American multinational corporations.

The Chilean presidential election of 1964 came down to a battle between Allende and Eduardo Frei Montalva, a liberal Christian Democrat. The election was viewed with great alarm in Washington. The New York Times compared it to the Italian election of 1948, when the communists had threatened to take over the country through the ballot box and the US had intervened covertly to support democratic parties. Similarly, in 1964 the Johnson administration intervened in Chile, according to the Church Committee Report, to prevent or minimize the influence of Chilean communists or Marxists in the government that would emerge from the election. Cord Meyer, a former CIA covert action manager, argues that the intervention was for the purpose of preserving the Chilean constitutional order.

In considering the 1964 election operations, the Johnson administration used the established mechanism, the interagency Special Group. By 1963, according to Professor Gregory Treverton, the Special Group had developed criteria for evaluating covert action proposals. All expenditures of covert funds for the 1964 operation (some $3 million in all) were approved by the Group. (There is no indication that the Congress approved these expenditures, or was even informed in detail of the operation.) In addition, an interagency committee was set up in Washington to manage the operation, and it was paralleled by a group in the US Embassy in Santiago. Meyer contends that covert intervention on behalf of Christian Democratic candidates had wide support in the administration, and the Church Committee confirms that the covert action was decided upon at the highest levels of government.

During the early 1960s, the US pursued a dual-track policy in Chile, conducting covert action in support of broader, overt objectives. Overtly, the US undertook a variety of development programs, and Chile was chosen to become a showcase of such programs under the Alliance for Progress. Between 1964 and 1969, Chile received well over $1 billion in direct, overt US aid — more per capita than any other country in the hemisphere. Moreover, funding to support the Frei candidacy was funnelled overtly through the Agency for International Development, as well as secretly through the CIA. Frei also received covert aid from a group of American corporations known as the Business Group for Latin America. Thus, the US used a variety of mechanisms to assist Frei. Covert support apparently was justified by the US Government on the grounds that Frei would be discredited if it were known that even more substantial support was flowing from the US.

That the 1964 covert action had a reasonable probability of success is evident from the outcome — Frei won a clear majority (56 percent) of the vote. According to Church Committee records, a CIA post mortem concluded that the covert campaign had a decisive impact. It is not clear from the available records whether a calculation of the likelihood of success was a specific part of the decisionmaking process. According to Treverton, the CIA was required under Special Group procedures to make such an estimate, and it is likely that its view would have been optimistic, because by the mid-1960s the Agency had managed to penetrate all significant elements of the Chilean Government and political parties.

In the 1964 operation, the CIA used virtually its entire arsenal of nonlethal methods:

Funds were passed through intermediaries to the Christian Democrats for their own use.
The CIA provided a consultant to assist the Christian Democrats in running an American-style campaign, which included polling, voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives.
Political action operations, including polls and grassroots organizing, were conducted among slum dwellers, peasants, organized labor, and dissident Socialists.
CIA-controlled assets placed propaganda in major Chilean newspapers and on radio, erected wall posters, passed out political leaflets, and organized demonstrations. According to the Church Committee, some of this propaganda used "scare tactics" to link Allende to Soviet and Cuban atrocities.
Other assets manufactured "black propaganda," material falsely purporting to be from Allende and his supporters, and intended to discredit them.22

Significant constraints were imposed, however. Paramilitary and other lethal methods were not used. The CIA explicitly rejected a proposal from the Chilean Defense Council to carry out a coup if Allende won. The Department of State turned down a similar proposal from a Chilean Air Force officer. Moreover, the Special Group turned down an offer from a group of American businessmen to provide funds for covert disbursement by the CIA. According to the Church Committee, the Group considered this "neither a secure nor an honorable way of doing business."

The 1970 Elections and "Track II"

Under Chilean law, Frei could not serve two consecutive terms as president. As the 1970 elections approached, the US faced a dilemma. The Christian Democrats had drifted to the left, and they were out of step with the Nixon administration's policy views. (The principal architect of those views was Henry Kissinger, who as an academic had been a prominent member of the realist school.) The conservative candidate, Jorge Allessandri, was not particularly attractive to the US, but there was even greater concern about an Allende victory.

The CIA began to warn policymakers early in 1969 that an Allende victory was likely. In March 1970, the 303 Committee (successor to the Special Group) decided that the US would not support any particular candidate. Instead, it authorized the CIA to conduct a "spoiling operation," aimed at discrediting Allende through propaganda. The effort failed when Allende won a slim plurality in the 4 September election. Because no candidate won a clear majority, the election was referred to a joint session of Congress, which in the past had always endorsed the candidate who had received the highest popular vote. The joint session was set for 24 October 1970. Senior US officials maintained that their preoccupation with Allende was defensive, and aimed at allaying fears of a communist victory both abroad and at home. As Nixon noted in a New York Times interview:

There was a great deal of concern expressed in 1964 and again in 1970 by neighboring South American countries that if Mr. Allende were elected president, Chile would quickly become a haven for Communist operatives who could infiltrate and undermine independent governments throughout South America.23

Kissinger noted that what worried the US was Allende's proclaimed hostility and his perceived intention to create "another Cuba." He maintained that nationalization of American-owned property was not the issue, though he did emphasize US interest in adequate compensation.

The Intelligence Community, however, held a more nuanced view. According to an assessment by the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence:

Regarding threats to US interests, we conclude that:

The US has no vital national interests in Chile. There would, however, be tangible economic losses.
The world balance of power would not be significantly altered by an Allende government.
An Allende victory would, however, create considerable political and psychological costs:

Hemispheric cohesion would be threatened by the challenge that an Allende government would pose to the OAS, and by the reactions that it would create in other countries. We do not see, however, any likely threat to the peace of the region.
An Allende victory would represent a definite psychological setback to the US and a definite psychological advance for the Marxist idea.24

Kissinger tacitly acknowledged the lack of vital US interests in Chile when he called it "a dagger pointed at the heart of Antarctica.

When Allende won a plurality of the popular vote, the thrust of US covert action shifted to preventing his accession to the presidency. The objective had now become to stop Allende by manipulation of the congressional vote. The committee asked Edward Korry, the US Ambassador in Santiago, for a "coldblooded assessment" of the likelihood of mounting a coup and organizing an effective opposition to Allende. With negative evaluations from both Korry and the CIA, the committee met on 14 September and explored a "Rube Goldberg" gambit, in which Alessandri would be elected by the Congress and then resign, thus allowing Frei to run in a second election. The ploy was turned down.

By this time, Nixon had taken a personal role. He met on 15 September with Donald Kendall, chief executive officer of Pepsi Cola, and Augustine Edwards, an influential Chilean publisher who had supported Frei during the 1964 election. According, to Kissinger, Nixon was incensed by what he heard, and decided that more direct action was necessary. As a result, he called in DCI Richard Helms and ordered a major effort to prevent Allende's accession. The CIA was instructed to play a direct role in organizing a military coup. Further, Helms was directed not to coordinate the CIA's activities with the Departments of State and Defense and not to inform Ambassador Korry. The 40 Committee was not informed, nor was the Congress. This activity became known as "Track II," to distinguish it from the 40 Committee program, "Track I."25

Track II was a carefully guarded secret, but US displeasure with the prospect of an Allende victory was not. According to Kissinger, all agencies were working to prevent the election. The Chilean Government was threatened with economic reprisals, and steps were taken to inform the Chilean armed forces that military aid would be cut off. Separately from the CIA's effort, several large American companies had financed Alessandri's campaign. One company, ITT, offered the CIA $1 million, but Helms turned it down.

When Helms left the Oval Office on 15 September, he had a page of handwritten notes. The first entry read, "less than one in ten chance of success." His pessimistic assessment was echoed by Ambassador Korry. According to his correspondence with the Church Committee, Korry consistently warned the Nixon administration that the Chilean military was, no policy alternative. From Santiago, according to the Church Committee documents, the CIA reported: "Military action is impossible; the military is incapable and unwilling to seize power. We have no capability to motivate or instigate a coup."

This view was shared by the managers of Track II. According to David Phillips, chief of the CIA's Chile Task Force, both he and his immediate supervisor were convinced that Track II was unworkable. The CIA's Deputy Director for Plans, Thomas Karamessines, was adamant that the Agency should not refuse the assignment, but he personally briefed Nixon several times on the progress of the operation, always pessimistically.26

Track I included funding to bribe Chilean congressmen, propaganda and economic activities, and contacts with Frei and elements of the military to foster opposition to Allende. Track II was more direct, stressing active CIA involvement in and support for a coup without Frei's knowledge. The CIA specifically offered encouragement to dissident Chilean military officers who opposed Allende, but who recognized that General Rene Schneider, the Chilean Chief of Staff, would not support a coup. These dissidents developed a plan to kidnap Schneider and take over the government, and this became known to CIA officials. Two unsuccessful kidnap attempts were made, and on the third attempt, on 22 October 1970, General Schneider was shot and subsequently died. Both the Church Committee and the Chilean inquiry concluded that the weapons used were not supplied by the US and that American officials did not desire or encourage Schneider's death. Neither, however, did they prevent it.

Unlike 1964, the 1970 covert operation did not involve extensive public-opinion polling, grass-roots organizing or direct funding of any candidate. Moreover, Helms made it clear that assassination of Allende was not an option. And when a rightwing Chilean fanatic, General Arturo Marshall, offered to help prevent Allende's confirmation, the CIA declined because of his earlier involvement in bombings in Santiago.

Evaluating the Two Operations

A Just War theorist reviewing the two covert operation would likely reach two conclusions: first, the 1964 operation was more justifiable than the 1970 activity, which would not have been approved if the officials concerned were natural law advocates rather than realists or ideological crusaders; and, second, both operations would have benefited from a more rigorous application of the jus ad bellum and jus in bello criteria.

US authorities probably would have considered that their covert intervention in the 1964 election was generally consistent with the jus ad bellum. It had clear objectives: preservation of an important democratic force in Chile, and defense against the establishment of another communist stronghold in the Western hemisphere. These were set by President Kennedy, based on his assessment of the commonality of US and Chilean interests. While not strictly speaking a last resort, it was conducted in the context of, and consistently with, an overall overt policy (the Alliance for Progress); was likely to be successful; and the overall effort was limited in scope and generally proportionate to the perceived threat. It was approved in accordance with the established procedures, though in retrospect the process would have been strengthened if the Congress had been consulted.

Some doubts can be raised regarding consistency with the jus in bello. The need for "scare tactics" and "black propaganda" is not obvious. (If indeed Allende's affinities for the USSR and Cuba were on the public record, promulgation of this truthful information should have been adequate.) Such activities inherently carry the possibility of distortion and deception. As Sissela Bok notes, lying and deception carry a "negative weight." They require explanation and justification, while the truth, including presumably the "truth" promulgated through propaganda mechanisms, does not.27 If not clearly justifiable in terms of necessity or to respond to Cuban or Soviet activities, such deceptive actions would not meet the test of proportionality of the jus in bello.

The 1970 Track II operation, in contrast, violated virtually all of the Just War guidelines, though this might not have been of great consequence to those who directed it. Its objective was to prevent Allende's confirmation, but little thought apparently was given to the consequences for the Chilean people or the political system. The normal consultative process was bypassed, and Nixon made the fateful Track II decision in a state of high emotion.28 No expert believed that success was likely. The methods chosen were initially inadequate and subsequently, when support for coup plotting took center stage, the intermediaries could not be controlled. What began as a nonlethal action quickly turned lethal. Despite the fact that injury to innocent parties was a foreseeable outcome of the envisioned coup, no advance provision was made to prevent or minimize it. In light of the intelligence assessment that the US lacked vital interests in Chile, it is hard to rationalize support for a potentially violent military coup as a proportionate response.

In sum, the Chile case shows that Just War Theory can provide a useful framework for evaluating covert political action by asking certain penetrating questions: Is the operation directed at a just cause, properly authorized, necessary and proportionate? Is it likely to succeed, and how will it be controlled? Is it a last resort, a convenience or merely an action taken in frustration? In the case of the 1964 operation, the answers to most of these questions were satisfactory; in 1970, they were not.

Reforms Since the 1970S

In the more than two decades since Track II, significant improvements have been made in controlling covert action. The old doctrine of "plausible denial," which allowed senior officials to disclaim responsibility for their actions, has been replaced by one intended to secure direct presidential accountability. Beginning with the Hughes-Ryan Amendment of 1974, a series of laws has been enacted requiring the president personally to "find" that proposed covert actions are important to the national security, and to report such operations to Congress in a timely manner. (Debate has continued over what constitutes a timely notification.) In the wake of the Iran-Contra scandal, it became obvious that the system of presidential "Findings" needed to be strengthened, and even more stringent procedures were implemented, first by the Executive Branch and then by the Congress.

Under the current system, established by the Reagan administration in 1987 and refined by legislation in 1991, a written Finding must be signed before a covert action operation commences, except that in extreme circumstances an oral Finding may be made and then immediately documented in writing. A Memorandum of Notification (MON), also approved by the president, is required for a significant change in the means of implementation, level of resources, assets, operational conditions, cooperating foreign countries or risks associated with a covert action. Each Finding or MON includes a statement of policy objectives and goals; a description of the actions authorized., resources required, and participating organizations, a statement that indicates whether private individuals or organizations of foreign governments will be involved; and an assessment of risk. Each proposed Finding or MON is reviewed by a senior committee of the National Security Council (NSC), and coordinated with the NSC Legal Adviser and with the Counsel to the President. Copies of Findings and MONs are provided to the Congress at the time of notification, except in rare cases of extreme sensitivity.29

An Approach for the 1990s

These reforms are positive, especially with regard to the criterion of proper authority, because they provide for broader consultation, a legal review, presidential accountability and Congressional involvement in covert action decisions. However, the content of Findings and MONs, as described above, leaves much to be desired from the perspective of Just War Theory. If, as the Chile case suggests, explicit use of Just War guidelines can strengthen the ethical content of covert action, more emphasis should be placed on the substance of discussions, not just the mechanics of the process. Further, the now widely accepted view that Just War Theory can be used to justify and explain resort to armed force strongly suggest that a similar approach would be useful in framing substantive debate on covert political action. In short, the current system addresses the legality, feasibility and political sensitivity of proposed covert actions.30 It does not, however, ensure that they are right, according to a widely accepted. ethical standard.

To come closer to this ideal, it is important that, at each stage in the covert action approval process, difficult questions be asked about the objectives, intentions, methods and management of a proposed operation. It is equally important that they be answered in detail, with rigor, and in writing — even (perhaps especially) when time is of the essence. Covert operators are understandably reluctant to commit sensitive details to paper, but this seems essential if the US is to meet high standards of morality and accountability in an era in which the easy rationalization of fighting communism is no longer available.

A decisionmaking process structured explicitly around Just War guidelines is, in many ways, simply a restatement of Judge Webster's criteria of consistency with law, American values and public mores. In that sense, Just War criteria merely reiterate the obvious, and make explicit the goals that the US has striven toward in its reforms of the covert action process since the mid-1970s. But there is value to building a more systematic framework for substantive debate, constructed from specific questions derived from Just War Theory, even if many of these questions are already considered in the CIA's Covert Action Review Group, the senior NSC groups or the oversight committees. The questions of concern include:

Just cause. Exactly what are the objectives of the operation? Is it defensive — to repel an identifiable threat — or is it intended to redress a wrong, to punish wrongdoing or to reform a foreign country? Who or what are we conducting the operation against? Who are we for? What specific changes in the behavior or policy of the target country, group or individual do we seek?
Just Intention. What will be the likely result in the target country and in other foreign countries? How will we or the international community be better off? How will we know if we have succeeded? What will we do if we win? If we lose?
Proper Authority. Who has reviewed the proposal? Are there dissents? What is the view of intelligence analysts on the problem being considered? Have senior government officials discussed the proposal in detail? Has the Congress been advised of all significant aspects of the covert activity? If notification has been restricted, what is the justification?
Last Resort. What other policies have been tried? Why have they not been effective? What overt policy options are being considered? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Why is covert action necessary? Why must the proposed activity be secret?
Probability of Success. What is the likelihood that the action will succeed? Are there differing views of the probability of success? Is the view of disinterested observers different from that of advocates or opponents? Why? What is the evidence?
Proportionality. What specific methods are being considered? Does the proposal envision the use of lethal force, sabotage, economic disruption or false information? Why are these methods necessary? Are they the same as those being used by the adversary, or are they potentially more damaging or disruptive? If so, what is the justification?
Discrimination and Control. What steps will be taken to safeguard the innocent against death, injury, economic hardship or psychological damage? What will be done to protect political institutions and processes against disproportionate damage? If some damage is inevitable, what steps are being taken to minimize it? What controls does the US exercise over the agents to be employed? What steps will be taken if they disregard our directions? What steps will be taken to protect the agents, and what are our obligations to them? How will the operation be terminated if its objectives are achieved? How will it be terminated if it fails?

Each of these questions should be investigated at some step of the initial approval process, though some clearly exceed the competence of the CIA. Perhaps the NSC Staff and the Congressional oversight committees are the most appropriate bodies to probe these issues. Not all may be answerable at the outset, though this fact alone should signal caution. In addition, they should be posed again whenever there is a significant change in objectives, methods or circumstances. The current management process calls for an annual review of all covert actions by the NSC, as well as periodic examinations by the oversight committees. These questions can guide such reviews as well.

The Casuistry of Covert Action

Rigorous examination of the questions enumerated above would emulate the technique of moral reasoning recommended by the natural law tradition. This method, known as casuistry, is acknowledged by scholars to be complex and difficult, especially in cases involving politics and international affairs.31 Moreover, in the hands of advocates, Just War criteria can deteriorate into mere rationalizations of intended actions. Just War Theory, then, can be exceedingly useful as an organizing principle, but in itself does not necessarily provide clear answers.32 How can the inherent uncertainty of this casuistry, and its potential misuse, be minimized?

William Colby has suggested that our process of moral reasoning concentrate primarily on the criteria of just cause and proportionality.33 These fundamental points do indeed appear to be the keys to an effective process of policy formulation. With respect to just cause, a recent report by a panel of distinguished scholars has recommended that covert action should be undertaken only in support of a publicly articulated policy.34 Such an approach would ensure that the objectives of the policy could be debated publicly, even though some of the exact methods to be employed might be known only to a small group of elected and appointed officials. Open, public debate would go a long way toward determining whether a proposed course of action could be construed as a just cause. The need for such debate is so fundamental to the casuistry of covert action that, if it cannot be conducted, this in itself would seem to be grounds for rejection of any suggested operation.

Assessments of proportionality are not susceptible to the same kind of open scrutiny, because they involve specific descriptions of secret methods. Nevertheless, it is important to ensure that proposed activities meet strict tests of consistency with American values and mores. Just War Theory does not offer specific guidance for such choices, despite its stress on necessity and minimal damage to innocent parties. Loch Johnson, a longtime commentator on intelligence activities, has suggested that, in addition to having a sound ethical framework, decisions on covert action must take into account other factors, such as the type of target regime and the severity and imminence of the threat that is to be countered.35 These would seem to be useful guides to evaluating proportionality, to which could be added the types of actions, overt or covert, being undertaken by the target regime against US interests.

Johnson has also tried to rank-order various types of covert operations into a 38-rung "ladder of escalation," and he introduces a useful concept of "thresholds" that involve different degrees of risk and interference in foreign countries.36 Following Johnson's concept, proposed covert activities could be arrayed for debate under thresholds of increasing ethical concern as follows:

Limited Concern. Benign provision of truthful information or support to existing political forces; intervention to keep election processes honest.
Significant Concern. Manipulative use of information; rigging of elections or other distortion of political processes; creating new opposition forces or increasing the strength of existing ones out of proportion to their indigenous support.
Serious Concern. Deceptive use of information, nonlethal sabotage and economic disruption.
Grave Concern. Use of lethal force; forcible changes in government.

Such actions are often taken in combination, rather than step by step in a scenario of escalation. Moreover, the amount or degree of covert support provided will vary in significance and moral weight depending on the nature of the foreign countries involved. And, as noted above, it is necessary to justify the actions proposed and the need to carry them out secretly. But clarity about what is being done, and whether or not it is proportional to the threat and proposed objectives, is a key element in sound policymaking.


Such an application of the Just War framework would not end controversy regarding covert action, nor would it guarantee that inappropriate or unethical actions will not be taken in the future. Debate over just cause and proportionality are likely to be particularly difficult — especially when, as was the case in US policy in Central America, there is no political consensus — but these are precisely the elements that most require informed scrutiny. Those who oppose covert action in all forms will not be reassured by a process based on the Just War framework; realists or crusaders will see it as unnecessary and unduly restrictive; Executive Branch officials and members of Congress may perceive that they already probe these questions in one way or another; and bureaucrats will regard it as just another "paper exercise." The claim for a conscious application of Just War guidelines is a modest one: it will help to make more rigorous Judge Webster's common-sense criteria, and to improve the quality of decisions regarding one of the most controversial aspects of US national security policy.

More generally, in light of recurring problems in the use of covert action as an instrument of policy, and the fact that it is likely to remain in the arsenal of states for the foreseeable future, greater rigor and structure in debates over specific proposals are essential. Reforming the process along the lines suggested would signal that the US is concerned — even in secret activities — with issues of right and wrong and not merely with power. It would promote openness and accountability, and underscore that we firmly reject the "repugnant philosophy" of the Doolittle Report.



1. "Report of the Special Study Group (Doolittle Committee) on the Covert Activities of the Central Intelligence Agency, 30 September 1954 (excerpts)" in William M. Leary, ed., The Central Intelligence Agency, History and Documents; (The University of Alabama Press; 1984); p. 144.

2. Jack Donnelly, "Twentieth-Century Realism", in Nardin and Mapel, eds., Traditions of International Ethics; (Cambridge University Press, 1992); p. 93.

3. The author is indebted to Rev. John P. Langan for this typology of Cold War political thought. Letter to the author, 28 May 1992.

4. A penetrating assessment of covert action from the perspective of international law can be found in W. Michael Riesman and James E. Baker, Regulating Covert Action (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1992).

5. See James Turner Johnson and George Weigel, Just War and the Gulf War (Washington, Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1991).

6. Symposium on Moral and Legal Constraints on Low-Intensity Conflict, sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict; US Naval War College; Newport, Rhode Island; 9-10 April 1992.

7. National Conference of Catholic Bishops, The Challenge of Peace (Washington, US Catholic Conference, 1983), pp. 25-29.

8. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Joseph Rickaby, S.J., trans. (London, Burns and Gates, 1892), Question XL, Article 1.

9. National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Op. Cit., pp. 29-32.

10. Aquinas, Q. XLI, Art. 1.

11. Aquinas, Q. XLIV, Art. VII.\

12. Paul Ramsey, War and the Christian Conscience (Duke University Press, 1969), pp. 47-8.

13. The classic modern work on Just War Theory is Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars (New York, Basic Books, 1977).

14. Charles R. Beitz, "Recent International Thought", Ethics and International Affairs, 1989, Vol. 3, p. 190.

15. William E. Colby, "Public Policy, Secret Action," Ethics and International Affairs, 1989, Vol. 3, p. 63.

16. Address to the Eighth Circuit Judicial Conference, 12 July 1991.

17. There is some empirical research that suggests a correlation between these classic Just War criteria and American attitudes regarding war and peace. See Donald Secrest, Gregory G. Brunk and Howard Tamashiro, "Moral Justification for Resort to War With Nicaragua: The Attitudes of Three American Elite Groups," Western Political Quarterly, September 1991, pp. 541-559.

18. Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation (New York, Pantheon Books, 1982), p. 191.

19. Charles R. Beitz, "Covert Intervention as a Moral Problem." Ethics and International Affairs, 1989, Vol. 3, pp. 49-50.

20. Langan notes that Just War Theory has both material and formal aspects, and that the formal aspects, such as just intention and proportionality, are applicable to a broad range of situations where one has to do harm to another, including punishment, surgery and — by extension — political or economic intervention. (Langan, Op. Cit.)

21. The following discussion is drawn primarily from documents of the Church Commitee, which investigated CIA covert actions in the mid-1970s, as well as memoirs of some of the participants and other government officials and commentators. (These include William Colby, Henry Kissinger, Cord Meyer, David Atlee Phillips and Arthur Schlesinger.) A summary of the Church Committee's findings, and recommendations for reform, can be found in Gregory Treverton, Covert Action: The Limits of Intervention in the Postwar World (New York, Basic Books, 1987). A case study based on Treverton's research has been published by the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs; an abridged version appeared in Studies In Intelligence, Winter 1992.

22. United States Senate, Staff Report of the Select Committee to Study Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities: Covert Actions in Chile, 1963-73. (Washington, US Government Printing Office, 1975) pp. 15-17.

23. 12 March 1976.

24. Assessment dated 7 September 1970, declassified and quoted in the Church Committee report.

25. The US decision process is described in detail in the Church Committee Report, Alleged Assassination Attempts Involving Foreign Leaders, as well as in Kissinger's memoirs and John Ranelagh, The Agency: The Rise and Decline of the CIA (New York, Simon and Schuster, 1986), pp. 514-520.

26.David Atlee Philips, The Night Watch (New York, Ballantine Books, 1977), pp. 283-287.

27.Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life (New York, Random House, 1978), p. 30.

28.Another tenet of the natural law tradition, the notion of prudentia or prudence in statecraft, cautions against such hasty and passionate decisions. See Alberto R. Coll, "Normative Prudence as a Tradition of Statecraft," Ethics and International Affairs, 1991, Vol. 5, pp. 36-7.

29.National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 286, partially declassified on 15 December 1987; Intelligence Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 1991, Title VI.

30."Political sensitivity" can sometimes become a euphemism for morally questionable activities. This semantic twist means that such activities are then discussed as though they were merely political rather than ethical issues.

31.Joseph Boyle, "Natural Law and International Ethics," in Nardin and Mapel, Op. Cit., p. 115.

32.The author is indebted to Joel Rosenthal of the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs for this point. (Letter to the author dated 12 May 1992)

33. Colby, Op. Cit. Colby concentrates on the selfdefense aspect of just cause.

34. Report of the Twentieth Century Fund Task Force on Covert Action and American Democracy (New York, Twentieth Century Press, 1992) p. 8.

35. Loch K. Johnson, "On Drawing a Bright Line for Covert Operations," American Journal of International Law, Vol. 86, No. 2, April 1992. pp. 296-7.

36. Ibid. p. 286. Johnson's analysis is complicated by his mixing of traditional intelligence collection activities with covert actions, and his attempt to rank-order both categories hierarchically. At the lowest level of escalation ladder, Johnson enumerates routine, passive activities to collect information. Above his first threshold of risk and interference he lists the placement of truthful, benign information in the foreign press and low-level funding of friendly political groups. His second threshold involves the placement of "contentious information" in the media, large-scale funding of foreign groups, economic disruption without loss of life, limited supplies of arms, small-scale hostage-rescue attempts, and disinformation. Above his highest threshold are large-scale and potentially violent acts, including major secret wars, assassination plots, and hostage taking. Johnson argues that actions in this category should never be undertaken by the US. He also includes in this list of proscribed actions the supply of sophisticated weapons. This, however, would appear to be an option that might be considered in response to specific, serious threats.


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