The Anti-Kremlin Intellectual Sphere
The National Assessment of Russian Activities and Intentions in the Recent US Elections report has already been discussed.
A number of blogs, think-tanks and journals cluster around the ‘Russian propaganda/fake news’ theme. Some are more credible than others. Some examples are:
Reports that reference systemic analysis and face to face interviews with actors ‘on the ground’ are generally most credible. However, caution is needed when assessing articles originating within Western ‘intelligence community’. For example, many blogs reference articles from the Atlantic Council, and Radio Free Europe. The Atlantic Council was established to further US foreign policy objectives in Europe, while Radio Free Europe was established to broadcast Western content into the Soviet Union. Both have well established foreign policy agendas which need to be understood. The late German journalist, Mr Ulfkotte stated at length that the Atlantic Council is a CIA front organisation that recruits journalists to publish articles written by the CIA and to promote untruths. See further US Psychological Operations – Now and Then
Ulfkotte’s book Bought Journalists became a bestseller in Germany but, in a bizarre twist which Ulfkotte says characterizes the disconnect caused by CIA control of the western media, the book cannot be reported on by the German press. Given its history, the CIA is almost certainly deeply involved in Radio Free Europe.
We should end this survey where we began with PropOrNot. The site is well worth reading because it provides an insight into the mentality and world view of the anti-Trump, anti-Russian, anti-Putin, anti-alternative media, globalist establishment in the United States. That is the same world-view evidenced by recent publications by the US Intelligence community into alleged Russian hacking. Indeed, the beliefs, agendas and world-view of PropOrNot and the CIA are so closely aligned it is highly probable that PropOrNot is at least in part a CIA front organisation.
Is PropOrNot credible? No it is not, for the reasons set out below. The following criticisms of PropOrNot can be also made of other blogs dedicated to uncovering ‘fake news’.
It Shows Extreme Prejudice
In effect, PropOrNot relegates as ‘fake’ anything that does not agree with their world view. That automatically discredits them. It is like the Vatican dismissing all Protestant writings as ‘fake’ or the Communist Party dismissing mainstream economic texts as ‘fake’. See further Policy Vignette 1 Irrational Beliefs. Specifically, according to PropOrNot, fake news is any content: ….” aligning with the “Eurasianist” philosophy of Alexander Dugin;” or promoting:
- Conspiracy theories about and protests against U.S. military exercises
- Isolationism and “anti-interventionism” for the US, but not for Russia
- Support for policies like Brexit, and the breakup of the EU and Eurozone
- Opposition to Ukrainian resistance to Russia and Syrian resistance to Assad
- Support for the anti-vax, anti-Zika spraying, anti-GMO, 9/11-”truther”, gold-standard, and other related movements
- “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;”
So according to PropOrNot, if you agree with Russia on something, or don’t like the Federal Reserve, or want to return to the gold standard, or care about the environment, or are critical of American militarism, or doubt the official version of 9/11, or have concerns about vaccines, or are otherwise not within the mainstream, you are ‘Fake News’.
The Thesis is Overstated
The claim that Western liberal democracy presents some kind of threat to ‘Putin and the oligarchs’ shows a surprising ignorance. Putin’s job is to balance the power factions within Russia. That requires that he ‘crack down’ on some Oligarchs and appease others. The Oligarchs themselves enjoy many benefits from the West (including ownership of more than one British newspaper) and have no reason to undermine it. There is significant tension between the Western aligned oligarchs represented by Medvedev and the FSB aligned faction represented by Putin. Nevertheless, Putin has consistently sought rapport, co-operation, and trade with both the US and the EU. The Neocon network has worked tirelessly to prevent co-operation and isolate Russia. PropOrNot appears to be part of this effort.
The Thesis is Overly Conspiratorial
While PropOrNot list ‘conspiracy’ websites as ‘fake news’ they are themselves peddling a conspiracy. As evidence for this conspiracy they provide analysis showing that alternative media sites often share and reference the same story. Sometimes those stories start out in a Russian media outlet. This is seen as proof of Russian influence. In reality though, that’s how the media works. In the mainstream media stories are frequently cited and circulated by and between numerous outlets originating with a single source. The same is true in the alternative media.
PropOrNot provide a sample case study of a popular website ‘ZeroHedge’ showing other sites that reference ZeroHedge all of which are listed as ‘fake news’. Some of these sites contain thoughtful and credible commentary from people with good sources and/or relevant backgrounds, whose predictions are often found to be accurate over time. That is not to say that all content is ‘gospel truth’. However, they provide alternative and useful view points and report factual information that is often not found elsewhere. Measured against objective standards, a great deal of the Wester mainstream media fails dismally. It is always easier to restrict market competition than to improve ones own standards.
Fails to Acknowledge Western Propaganda
PropOrNot allege that Russian security agents plant stories in obscure media outlets or mainstream Russian media so they can be picked up and circulated. That may be true. It is also true that Western intelligence agencies employ the same technique as do corporations with paid ‘advertorials’. It is fairly self-evident that on a range of issues CNN, the Washington Post, and Fox News for example are propaganda outlets for specific interests. PropOrNot seem to assume that proper standards of journalism are applied by these organisations and therefore they can be trusted while alternative media cannot. However, in their reporting on PropOrNot the Washington Post has already shown that journalistic standards did not apply.
Disinterested in Truth
2+2=4. That is true whether the person saying it is a communist, a Russian agent, a ‘bought and paid for’ journalist, a conspiracy theory nutter, or a maths teacher. PropOrNot is unconcerned with whether the Russians might be telling the truth about something, or providing a useful alternative perspective, or whether citizen journalists in the alternative media might also be telling the truth. Their only concern is to expose Russian sources.
There may be value in exposing the source of an article if that source is hidden. It is good to know where news comes from. The problem is in their assertion that Russian sources are always harmful to Western interests. No evidence is provided for this assertion.