One of the results of the current partisanship and ideological motivation of the mainstream media is that the old journalistic skills of objective research and basing articles on evidence have largely disappeared. In many cases, journalists have just become stenographers faithfully parroting and quoting think tanks and anonymous political or intelligence officials without any checking.
Maybe there are objective reasons for this. The rise of digital media and the wider variety of information sources means the classical mainstream media can no longer afford proper journalism. But there are also the current geopolitical divisions which pressure the mainstream media to disseminate only approved narratives and to actively attempt to discredit the alternative narratives. All without any checking of the claims made in the narrative or used to support the narrative.
But there are some good journalists around. Journalists who do their own research, fact-check claims, use evidence and resist the political and ideological pressure to suppress information. Aaron Maté is a good example. His research and reporting on subjects like the Syrian war, the US “Russiagate” scandal, politically motivated and misleading reports by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and coverup of their exposure, and the long-running conflict in Ukraine have been outstanding.
Aaron Maté. the independent journalist in the above video.
The video above shows how a Guardian reporter attempted to smear Maté by citing an evidence-free report from the US state-funded Institute for Strategic Dialogue and the Syria Campaign claiming he is “the most prolific spreader of disinformation” about Syria. The video includes Maté’s phone call to the Guardian reporter where he asked for evidence to support the claim – and an explanation for why he was not contacted for a comment to be included in the article. The reporter’s refusal to engage in the discussion and the very weak response of the Guardian illustrate how some media outlets are happy to indulge in smearing real journalists doing real investigations work and feel that they can simply report their own biases or opinions as if they are facts.
Readers must approach the media critically and sensibly
I have always urged readers to take a critical approach to the media, to all media (including alternative or independent media), to do their own fact-checking, attempt to find alternative sources and always look for the evidence rather than accept unsubstantiated claims (or claims substantiated by “anonymous sources” – as is the current fashion). I am sad to see how otherwise intelligent media will simply uncritically accept media claims, including media smears like that of the Guardian. Or how they uncritically reject other media reports without any attempt at checking.
Unfortunately, confirmation bias, rather than evidence, seems to determine the approach of most people to the media.
It looks like the report will be released in mid-April. The US Attorney General makes clear there will be redactions – probably no surprise to the sensible person. But I can see the conspiracy theorists beam in on these to keep their collusion narrative alive. However, I can’t see that particular conspiracy theory will get a lot of traction as it is simply turning the outlandish into a complete farce.
Here is the letter which describes what sort of redactions we can expect:
Interestingly the President will not exercise veto power and the report will not be submitted to him for “privilege review.”
I guess it was too much to hope for though. There will be redaction of sections which “the intelligence community identifies as potentially compromising sensitive sources and methods.” Given the role of at least part of the intelligence community in fostering the Russiagate hysteria, I would have thought it was essential to investigate its behaviour.
We have had to put up with this emotional rubbish from corporate media for two and a half years. Evidence-less conclusions presented as fact and huge pressure to adopt the narrative they posh. The video may have selected from US TV sources – but it has been wider than that – stretching to all media forms and to other countries.
As for the plea that I wait for the publication of the full Mueller report – isn’t that disingenuous when those making the plea did not wait? They simply succumbed to pressure to adopt the narrative offered and gave in to group thinking? I can’t help raising the question to those making these pleas – “what will be the deflective argument used when the full report is published?”
No, we have had to put up with this BS for two and half years and corporate media did not wait for evidence during all that time – worse they distorted and misrepresented any evidence to fit it to their own partisan narrative. They used vague references to “anonymous sources” to justify their bias – that must be one of the oldest trick in the propaganda manual.
The few independent journalists who resisted this pressure to conform were vilified. Accused of being supporters of Trump, “Putin’s useful idiots,” etc. They were smeared. Described as conspiracy theorists – by the very media and their stenographers pushing the most ridiculous conspiracy theory of all, the installation of a Manchurian candidate in the White House.
Those independent journalist are feeling vindicated – and they are rubbing it in. I cannot blame them.
Sure, I am always open to new evidence and I am sure the Mueller report will contain a lot of that. But the main message pushed by corporate media over the last two and half years has been destroyed. The report itself says:
“[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
The corporate media and the stenographers it employees should take a long hard look at itself. Some (anly a few) of them have – even acknowledging the practice of justifying claims by reference to anonymous sources should stop. But I am not holding my breath.
In the political realm, all sides are guilty of promoting disinformation. It really is a “reader beware” situation in that the intelligent consumer of news should assess information critically and sensibly. Not trusting in news reports simply because they come from “their side.”
So, while I have been critical of “our” mainstream media, in this respect, I must acknowledge there are rare examples where it will allow the truth to break through. Ironically, I see the video above from the New York Times as the exception proving the rule.
The video shows burning of “aid” trucks on the Venezuelan-Columbian border – widely reported by “our” media and politicians as an act of infamy by the Venezuelan side. Readers of alternative media know better having already seen videos showing use of Molotov cocktails by anti-Venezuelan protesters. But now, the New York Times, shows “our” mainstream media and politicians were wrong. And this disinformation, together with its multiplication by prominent USA politicians, had serious consequences. Not only in spreading more anti-Venezuelan propaganda, but in the US imposing even more sanctions on that suffering country.
The Integrity Initiative logo. Don’t be fooled by the words”democracy”: and “disinformation” – they often come out of the mouths of scoundrels these days.
Recent exposure of a shady organisation, the Integrity Initiative, has exposed how media, “think tanks” and politicians are mobilised in campaigns to manipulate public opinion and achieve political objectives. leaked documents show how this is funded by states (in this case the UK) as well as private interests.
“a network of people and organizations from across Europe dedicated to revealing and combating propaganda and disinformation.”
And it describes its purpose as:
“To counter Russian disinformation and malign influence, and associated weapons of “Hybrid warfare”, in Europe and North America by: expanding the knowledge base; harnessing existing expertise, and; establishing a network of networks of experts, opinion formers and policy makers, to educate national audiences in the threat and to help build national capacities to counter it.”
Don’t be fooled by the term “Russian disinformation.” This really means any information the NATO states want to keep hidden or information with a different spin to that preferred by the NATO establishment.
The documents show the mechanism the Integrity Initiative uses to influence public and political opinions. This uses “clusters” of journalists, politicians, the staff of “think tanks” and state bodies like the Ministry of Defence. And no doubt intelligence agents will be in there somewhere.
“Members of Integrity Initiative clusters actively engage with policy-makers, and the wider public in their own countries to show them the damage which can be done to their societies by disinformation.”
The most public part of this “engagement” will be media campaigns.
An example of how these “clusters” work
Leaked documents from this groups give an example of one of their successful campaigns – the reversal of the planned appointment of Pedro Baños as Director of National Security in Spain.
First – this from the Wikipedia entry for Pedro Baños (machine translation from Spanish):
“[He] started working as an analyst at the General Secretariat of the Army Staff in 1999 and in 2001, for three years, he was Head of Counterintelligence and Security of the European Army in Strasbourg . 3 From 2004 to 2010 he served as Professor of Strategy and International Relations at the Higher School of the Armed Forces. From 2010 to 2012 he was assigned to the Strategic Affairs and Security Division of the General Secretariat for Defense Policy, as head of the Geopolitical Analysis Area, and in 2012 he moved to stand-by working later as an analyst and autonomous lecturer.
He has worked at the European Parliament’s headquarters in Brussels as a military adviser and has participated in three missions in Bosnia-Herzegovina ( UNPROFOR , SFOR and EUFOR ).
In 2017 he published the book Así se domina el mundo. Unveiling the keys to world power , a dissemination work on geopolitics, denouncing the “hypocrisy” of international politics in which it considers that “there are no good or bad” and that each country “seeks its interests”. 4
On June 7, 2018 it was announced that it would assume the National Security Directorate of Spain with responsibility for the secrecy of the Government’s communications, the coordination of the National Security, Maritime Security and Cybersecurity councils, as well as the management of migratory crises and energetics 5 6 days later he transpired that finally the President of Government Pedro Sanchez opted by the General Miguel Angel Ballesteros for the position.”
Apparently, the decision reversal arose from a “barren polemic for his media profile and his opinions on international politics.” This polemic accused him of “having sympathy for the Russian President Vladimir Putin.”
See the problem? Because Pedro Baños recognised that in international relations “each country seeks its interests” he gets labeled as a supporter of Vladimir Putin and hence guilty of promoting Russian Disinformation.”
This documents from the Integrity Initiative reveals how this “barren polemic” was carried out:
Funding for the Integrity Initiative campaigns
This outfit claims private funding for the early years but is now funded by the UK government to the tune of over 2 million pounds per year. This is acknowledged by the outfit itself – a bit hard to deny as the leaked documents come largely from their funding applications.
The network revealed by cluster members
The leaked documents contain information for cluster groups in a number of European countries. I will just list one example here – the members of the UK cluster in its subgroups. The cluster is led by Keith Sargent – a member of The Institute for Statecraft according to his email address. (The leaked documents contain email address but I have not included them in the post as I hesitate to show personal information. However, readers can access the leaked document with these addresses here –392195849-UK-Cluster).
Office Core Team
This contains 15 staff and 3 fellows so gives some idea of the financial backing and size of the UK cluster.
I have provided names for members of the other clusters as readers will no doubt recognise some of these people.
UK General – Inner Core – Russia
How many names do you recognise? William Bowder is a very active campaigner for Russian sanctions and promoter of the Magnitsky Act. Anne Applebaum can be relied on for frequent and rather naive anti-Russian media articles and books. Ben Nimmo works for the Atlantic Council in its Digital Forensic Research Lab and is well know for outing real live humans as automatic “Russian Bots.” The Digital Forensic Research Lab is contracted to work with Facebook to censor accounts and “fake news.”
UK General – Inner Core – Military & Defence
Dr David Ryall
Neil Logan Brown
The email addresses show a number of members of the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence in this sub-cluster.
UK General – Outer Core – Russia
Sir Adam Thompson
This list contains several members of parliament and staff of government departments. Baiba Braze’s email address is for the UK embassy in Latvia.
UK General – Outer Core – Military & Defence
Agnes Josa’s email address is for the Government of Catalonia.
These journalists work for The Times, The BBC and the Financial Times.
It is naive to think that the frequent political campaigns we see arise spontaneously. These leaked documents provide one illustration of how such campaigns can be launched and coordinated. How they are facilitated by links between think tanks, military, and state departments, politicians and journalists. It is logical that these networks will also contain intelligence agents.
Although this organisation and similar ones promote themselves as fighting “disinformation” readers would be naive to taker them at their word. They often promote disinformation or fake news themselves, or at least provide a spin on events and news promoting a state and ideologically approved narrative.
The mainstream media is clearly integrated into such networks – which should make readers think twice about the news this media presents. My advice is to always approach the media, all media, critically and intelligently. And to include alternative sources of information in one’s day-to-day reading.
This whole Trump-Acosta issue got me thinking of an old warning: Don’t fight with pigs – you only end up getting dirty and the pig enjoys it anyway.
That certainly seems the case with Trump. He thrives on these conflicts – and truth be told it probably doesn’t harm his rating in any way. His supporters see these fights as him standing up to a biased press and doing a great job.
But, here’s the thing. Ever since the media and Trump got into a childish debate last year over the size of the crowds and TV audience for his inauguration I have thought that both sides were acting badly. The president was being unpresidential and the media unprofessional. The “alternative facts” story was played dishonestly – by both sides.
I think Trump loves such controversies and thinks they bring him support. And he is probably right. But what the hell are the media thinking?
In the end, the media should be reporting the news. Media personalities should stop thinking they are politicians and that it is their role to get into political debates. It isn’t.
Opponents of Trump may enjoy such confrontations but in the end, they just discredit the media.
If the media stuck with reporting the facts and opinions of the politicians they question, readers and viewers could make up their own minds. That is what being an adult is about – we don’t need the media to predigest our news or attack politician’s statements. We are not really interested in the biased opinions of the media personalities. Those media personalities may enjoy their grandstanding and minute of fame but this does not help the reader or viewer. In many cases it just turns them away from the mainstream media.
I can’t help feeling that both sides Trump and the mainstream media are enjoying these fights. But that just means both sides are getting dirty and both sides are failing at their jobs.
No wonder people are looking for alternatives – alternative politicians and alternative media.
Free speech and the problems of deplatforming and censorship are in the public mind at the moment. The banning of the conspiracy theorist outlet Infowars by a number of social media networks is just the latest example concerning many people – most of who, like me, do not support Infowars or Alex Jones in any way. Mind you, that does not stop supporters of this censoring claiming that we do – a claim Glen Greenwald described as “utterly obnoxious & disingenuous”
A slippery slope
The Real News video discussion with Max Blumenthal above warns that this censorship is a slippery slope – a slope along which we have already slipped well past Infowars. Blumenthal gives examples where his own media presence has been censored.
Blumenthal also warns that those doing this policing of social media are hardly humanitarians attempting to prevent hate speech. They have deep political and military origins which are driving this activity.
I find very disturbing that Facebook and the Atlantic Council are now cooperating in policing of Facebook content and in directing social media users to “approved” and “official” news sources (see Atlantic Council press release: Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab Partners with Facebook to Combat Disinformation in Democratic Elections). So we will now have a NATO-aligned “think tank” controlling information US voters, and the rest of us, get via social media. An organisation which is also strongly linked to outfits like the terrorist aligned White Helmets in Syria, the nationalist regime in Ukraine and conspiracy theorist “open sources” like Bellingcat.
Hopefully, readers will watch this video and its follow-up. I know some readers will see this as just another conspiracy theory. Apparently, they believe I am prone to such theories and urge me to wear blinkers and restrict my news sources to just the approved “official” sources.
Perhaps, instead of their outright rejection of the video above, they should critically consider the conspiracy theories they adhere to. The “official” conspiracy theories promoted by their “approved,” “official,” mainstream media sources. The conspiracy theories that get the blessing of outfits like The Atlantic Council, the Ukrainian regime and Bellingcat.
The “official” conspiracy theory promoted by the mainstream media
The video below is satirical – but really – how different is its content to the “official” “Russiagate,” conspiracy theory our mainstream media is bombarding us with every day.
Apparently, US society is really utopian – it has no problems. All the conflicts we read about are caused by those pesky Russians and their president, Putin.
Also, the video below from Syriana Analysis raises warnings about the slippery slope organisations like the Atlantic Council, are moving us down. Many people like me rely on multiple sources for information. The mainstream media (which never seems to be censored by these social media or the Atlantic Council) inevitably follows the official narrative on many issues (consider Syria, Russia, etc.). They often give fake news or misrepresent information (see, for example, Blatant misreporting of latest OPCW report on chemical weapons in Syria and The “heart of the Syrian chemical weapons programme” destroyed?). A wise person uses multiple sources, including independent or alternative media, to avoid this sort of control on information.
Hassling alternative and independent media
Syriana Analysis is one of the many sources I often check out for information on Syria. Independent sources like this rely heavily on social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to get out their message and to get financial support for their work.
Its spokesperson describes some of the hassles his organisation faces from social media bans and censorship. Many other independent or alternative media sources describe similar problems.
Some people object to using the word “censorship” to describe this problem. They point out that even big corporations like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have a perfect right to decide how their businesses operate. That the government is not involved.
“A few months ago the Senate Judiciary Committee spoke with top legal and security officials for Facebook, Twitter and Google in a very disturbing way about the need to silence dissenting voices. Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii demanded that the companies adopt a “mission statement” declaring their commitment “to prevent the fomenting of discord.” Former FBI agent and deep state lackey Clint Watts kicked it up even further, saying, “Civil wars don’t start with gunshots, they start with words. America’s war with itself has already begun. We all must act now on the social media battlefield to quell information rebellions that can quickly lead to violent confrontations and easily transform us into the Divided States of America.”
This happened on the Senate floor, right out in the open.”
I don’t think attempts to censor social media and close down independent and alternative media sources are going to succeed, at least permanently. The internet has let the genie out of the bottle. Official mainstream media and the political establishment can no longer control the information available to those who look for it.
Professor Cohen is always good value and we should take these comments of his seriously. After all, there is nothing more serious today than the threat of war between the US and the Russian Federation. Yet we have politicians and the mainstream media preferring to promote this threat. They seem to want to prevent any step towards relaxing international tension and divert attention by waving their dirty domestic laundry on the international scene.
Yes I know, I will probably be attacked (again) for using a clip from Tucker Carlson and Fox. There seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to ignore or reject serious arguments because they appear on a “non-approved,” “non-official,” or alternative media. But be honest – that reaction, and the fact it is a knee-jerk one, simply demonstrates the self-censorship which people have had imposed on them.
Particularly in this case where Professor Cohen is not given any space on the “liberal-approved” mainstream media to present his highly sensible views.
The worst aspect of all this is the diversion of public opinion from what should be the substance of such summits.
What is this media hysteria and bullying, and self-censorship, doing? It is preventing consideration of the real content of this important international summit.
No discussion of real issues
Where is the media discussion on questions (and possible moves towards agreement on these questions) like a return to the Start Nuclear Treaty, the danger presented by stationing anti-ballistic missile systems in Europe, problems created by US withdrawal from the Iran Treaty and the Paris climate change agreements, provision of security for Israel, settlement of the war in Syria, humanitarian aid to the victims of that war, the fight against terrorism, a treaty on cyberwar, etc., etc? Things that really matter and affect the future of this planet and its people.
Why is it that US journalists at the Summit press conference showed absolutely no interest in these substantive issues? They were simply there to fight out their non-acceptance of the 2016 election result.
I think this is disgusting. Instead of attempting to prevent war and to do something substantial to reduce international tension the US establishment is carrying out their dirty domestic partisan warfare in public. We have a media-intelligence agency coalition fighting with a President who (maybe wisely) refuses to take the fight head on. A strong president might be expected to take on an intelligence establishment which has become partisan and is actively constricting his actions. Instead, he appears to mumble and backtrack like a coward.
No sensible person would ever claim to have full confidence in the US intelligence establishment – come on, look at their record.
A media created smokescreen
But meanwhile the real interests of people in the US, and indeed the world, get ignored by a compliant media.
And groups and commenters on social media get sucked in by this circus like easy fools.
Come on, there are real problems in the world – the Trump circus is a diversion imposed on you by the US media-political-intelligence establishment. An establishment which still works, behind the smokescreen they have created, to impose their diktat on the world.
Several things have come together in the last few months – centred around news about the war in Syria, chemical weapons, the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury and the ongoing geopolitical information war:
Government propaganda and claims have become more aggressive – particularly from the UK and USA;
Syria and chemical weapons have become central to the Russophobic arguments of these governments;
The mainstream media has enthusiastically and unquestioningly promoted these claims;
Alternative media, journalists and critics of this propaganda and government policies are being singled out for personal attack, and
Readers and viewers are aggressively being directed away from alternative news sources.
OK, readers here will have picked up on the tone of some of my recent posts so will not be surprised that I think this way. But, let’s be clear, it is not only me.
“In my entire career, spanning more than three decades of professional journalism, I have never seen MSM resolve to such ugly smear campaigns & hit pieces against those questioning mainstream narratives, with a different view point, as I have seen on Syria, recently.
This is a dangerous manoeuvre a witch hunt in fact, aimed not only at character assassination, but at attempting to silence those who think differently or even sway from mainstream & state narrative.
It would have been more productive, to actually question the reason why more & more people are indeed turning to alternative voices for information & news, than to dish out ad hominem smears aimed at intimidating by labelling alternative voices as conspirators or apologists.
The journalists, activists, professors & citizens under attack are presenting an alternative view point. Surely, people are entitled to hear those and are intelligent enough to make their own judgments.
Or is there an assumption, (patronizing, if so), that the tens of thousands of people collectively following these alternative voices are too dumb & unintelligent to reach their own conclusions by sifting through the mass information being dished at them daily from all sides?
Like it or hate it, agree or disagree with them, the bottom line is that the people under attack do present an alternative view point. Least we forget, no one has a monopoly on truth. Are all those currently launching this witch hunt suggesting they do?”
They even provided a browser add-on which would warn you that you were reading material from a website they classified as a “Russian propaganda outlet.” Despite being promoted by some of the mainstream media it was considered a bit of a joke – independent writers and sources who missed out on the classification were somewhat pissed off.
Government propaganda gets childish and journalists become stenographers
Then came the infamous “dashboard’ which the UK and US governments appear to be using as a source of claims for increased activity of “Russian bots.”
“The neoconservative Alliance For Securing Democracy declared that any doubt of the veracity of U.S. propaganda stories discussed on Twitter was part of a “Russian influence campaign”. Their ‘dashboard‘ shows the most prominent hashtags and themes tweeted and retweeted by some 600 hand-selected but undisclosed accounts. (I have reason to believe that @MoonofA is among them.) The dashboard gave rise to an endless line of main-stream stories faking concern over alleged “Russian influence”. The New York Times published several such stories including this recent one:”
“Russia did not respond militarily to the Friday strike, but American officials noted a sharp spike in Russian online activity around the time it was launched.
A snapshot on Friday night recorded a 2,000 percent increase in citing the hashtag #isupportsyria on Russian troll networks, according to a senior official at the Department of Homeland Security who was not authorized to discuss the issue by name and spoke on condition of anonymity. Additionally, the official said, the known Russian hashtag #SyriaStrikes had a 4,443 percent increase in activity while another, #Damsucs, saw a 2,800 percent jump.”
The use of such “dashboard” data is, of course, disingenuous. The Times attributed the “bot” claims to Tyler Q. Holton. the spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security:
One of the creators of the dashboard, Clint Watts, has since confessed that it is mere bullshit:
“I’m not convinced on this bot thing,” said Watts, the cofounder of a project that is widely cited as the main, if not only, source of information on Russian bots. He also called the narrative “overdone.”
But, worse still – not only do we get governments making such stupid statements, we are now getting journalist reporting them without any questions:
As government spokesperson Holton is supposed to spout propaganda that supports the government’s policies. But propaganda is ineffective when it does not adhere to basic realities. Holton is bad at his job. Baker, the NYT author, did even worse. He repeated the government’s propaganda bullshit without pointing out and explaining that it obviously did not make any sense. He used it to further his own opinionated, false narrative. It took a day for the Times to issue a partial correction of the fact free tale.”
This as a concern – these days the media is simply repeating government propaganda without any of the questioning we should expect from journalists. Some media critics are now describing these “journalists” as “stenographers.”
“Last December the Guardian commissioned a hatchet job against Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett. Beeley and Bartlett extensively reported (vid) from the ground in Syria on the British propaganda racket “White Helmets”. The Guardian piece defended the ‘heros’ of the White Helmets and insinuated that both journalists were Russian paid stooges.”
“In March the self proclaimed whistle-blower and blowhard Sibel Edmonds of Newsbud launched a lunatic broadside smear attack(vid) against Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett. The Corbett Report debunked (vid) the nonsense. (The debunking received 59,000 views. Edmonds public wanking was seen by less than 23,000 people.)”
Recently government and media apologists have used the “fact-checking” site Polygraph.info. (a project of the CIA propaganda outlets Voice of America and Radio Free Europe):
“On April 4 the Polygraph wrote a smear piece about the Twitter account Ian56 (@Ian56789). Its headline: Disinfo News: Doing the Kremlin’s Work: A Fake Twitter Troll Pushes Many Opinions:
“Ben Nimmo, the Senior Fellow for Information Defense at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, studies the exploits of “Ian56” and similar accounts on Twitter. His recent article in the online publication Medium profiles such fake pro-Kremlin accounts and demonstrates how they operate.”
…Nimmo, and several other dimwits quoted in the piece, came to the conclusion that Ian56 is a Kremlin paid troll, not a real person. Next to Ian56 Nimmo ‘identified’ other ‘Russian troll’ accounts:
“Ben Nimmo @benimmo – 10:50 UTC – 24 Mar 2018 One particularly influential retweeter (judging by the number of accounts which then retweeted it) was @ValLisitsa, which posts in English and Russian. Last year, this account joined the troll-factory #StopMorganLie campaign.”
The crude level of these claims is indicated by the fact that @ValLisitsa is the twitter account of Valentina Lisitsa, a famous American-Ukrainian pianist.
“Yes, she sometimes tweets in Russian language to her many fans in Russia and the Ukraine. Is that now a crime? The videos of her performances on Youtube have more than 170 million views. It is absurd to claim that she is a ‘Russian troll’ and to insinuate that she is taking Kremlin money to push ‘Russian troll’ opinions.”
““Ian56,” it seems, is not a real person. He (or she) does seem to be the creation of a flesh and blood Russian, experts say, not a “bot” but a “troll.””
But Ian56@Ian56789 is, in fact, the Twitter account of a very real British Pensioner, Ian Shilling. He was interviewed by Sky News:
I should point out this definition of a bot:
“A Twitter bot is a type of bot software that controls a Twitter account via the Twitter API. The bot software may autonomously perform actions such as tweeting, retweeting, liking, following, unfollowing, or direct messaging other accounts.”
Yet these interviewers ask a flesh and blood person if he is a bot! Also, they had the hypocrisy to suggest he may not be carefully checking out the veracity of the stories he retweets – a question they never put to the government spokespersons and media journalists who make these unverified and stupid claims all the time.
Academics in the frame
“On April 14 Murdoch’s London Times took personal aim at the members of a group of British academics who assembled to scientifically investigate dubious claims against Syria. Their first investigation report though, was about the Skripal incident in Salisbury. The London Times also targeted Bartlett and Beeley. The piece was leading on page one with the headline: “Apologists for Assad working in universities”. A page two splash and an editorial complemented the full fledged attack on the livelihood of the scientists.
“Russia used trolls and bots to unleash disinformation on to social media in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning, according to fresh Whitehall analysis. Government sources said experts had uncovered an increase of up to 4,000% in the spread of propaganda from Russia-based accounts since the attack,– many of which were identifiable as automated bots.
But civil servants identified a sharp increase in the flow of fake news after the Salisbury poisoning, which continued in the runup to the airstrikes on Syria.
One bot, @Ian56789, was sending 100 posts a day during a 12-day period from 7 April, and reached 23 million users, before the account was suspended. It focused on claims that the chemical weapons attack on Douma had been falsified, using the hashtag #falseflag. Another, @Partisangirl, reached 61 million users with 2,300 posts over the same 12-day period.”
The Guardian journalist who authored this story responded to criticism of her article with the tweet:
“As I make very clear in the story, that’s the analysis of British government cyber experts – with whom you are quite welcome to disagree.”
I think that sums up the complete abandonment of their job by many mainstream media and why the term “stenographer” to describe them is so justified.
The Sky News interview of one of these “Russian Bots” Ian Shilling is shown above. He also published a written response:
“I have been campaigning against the Neocons and the Neocon Wars since January 2002, when I first realised Dick Cheney and the PNAC crowd were going to use 9/11 as the pretext to launch a disastrous invasion of Iraq. This has nothing to do with Russia.It has EVERYTHING to do with the massive lies constantly told by the UK & US governments about their illegal Wars of Aggression. “
The other “Russian bot” in the Guardian story, Maram Susli (@Partisangirl) posted her own video debunking the Guardian:
Partisangirl also showed that the government analysts and the Guardian couldn’t even get their figures right – again illustrating how journalists simply do not do any checking:
The UK govt claimed they identified me as a #Russianbot cause I made "2300 tweets in 12 days." My analytics show only 980 tweets in 28 days. Their statistics weren't even numerical correct. This is the "British intelligence" we are supposed to believe about #Salisbury & #Syria. pic.twitter.com/wB1DydxrUY
Ian Shilling (@Ian56789) posted a similar tweet illustrating how the figures given for his tweets were also highly inflated.
The take-home message
The Moon of Alabama article started with this quote about the Spanish civil war from George Orwell:
“Early in life I have noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. I saw great battles reported where there had been no fighting, and complete silence where hundreds of men had been killed. I saw troops who had fought bravely denounced as cowards and traitors, and others who had never seen a shot fired hailed as the heroes of imaginary victories; and I saw newspapers in London retailing these lies and eager intellectuals building emotional superstructures over events that had never happened. I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what happened but of what ought to have happened according to various ‘party lines’.
George Orwell, Looking back on the Spanish War, Chapter 4″
So it is fitting that Moon of Alabama finished this excellent article with the comments:
“The governments and media would like to handle the war on Syria like they handled the war in Spain. They want reports without “any relation to the facts”. The media want to “retail the lies” and eager propagandists want to “build emotional superstructures over events that never happened.”
The new communication networks allow everyone to follow the war on Syria as diligently as George Orwell followed the war in Spain in which he took part. We no longer have to travel to see the differences of what really happens and what gets reported in the main stream press. We can debunk false government claims with freely available knowledge.
The governments, media and their stenographers would love to go back to the old times when they were not plagued by reports and tweets from Eva, Vanessa, Ian, Maram and Sarah or by blogposts like this one. The vicious campaign against any dissenting report or opinion is a sorry attempt to go back in time and to again gain the monopoly on ‘truth’.