- Politics and Social Issues
The Complete Washington Post "Fake News" Website List
Diving into the furor over the new media descriptor "fake news," the Washington Post recently staked its institutional credibility on the work of a state college assistant professor who has built a sweeping list of websites designated as "Russian propaganda outlets."
Writing in the Post last month, Melissa Zimdars, assistant professor of communication and media at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, listed hundreds of websites, by name, which she ascertained were advancing a foreign agenda. The article labeled as "fake news" the speculation sparked by lurid images of children in the electronic communications of an associate of Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, known as "pizzagate."
The dragnet which emerged from the Internet ocean caught a broad array of websites gulping and struggling under the accusation, including Ron Paul's Ron Paul Institute, Truth Out, OpEdNews (disclosure: where this author has published many times,) The Drudge Report, Black Agenda Report, and Wikileaks.
Ironically, The Drudge Report is a "news aggregator," a collection of links to stories from other news sources, which often links back to the Washington Post. Wikileaks is a publisher of sensitive documents from policy makers which are possibly politically embarrassing to high-level public officials. Wikileaks maintains that is has a 100% record of authenticity of the documents it has published. In fact recently, MSNBC was duped into publishing an inauthentic version of a Hillary Clinton speech to Wall Street executives as part of an effort to discredit Wikileaks.
Former Congressman Ron Paul, father of US Senator Rand Paul, wrote at his suspicious website:
"The latest, and potentially most dangerous, threat to the First Amendment is the war on “fake news.” Those leading the war are using a few “viral” Internet hoaxes to justify increased government regulation — and even outright censorship — of Internet news sites. Some popular websites, such as Facebook, are not waiting for the government to force them to crack down on fake news."
Congress has already taken the first steps to crack down on "fake news," with the US Senate this month quietly passing the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act, whose main sponsor, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, writes at his office's website:
“Congress has taken a big step in fighting back against fake news and propaganda from countries like Russia. When the president signs this bill into law, the United States will finally have a dedicated set of tools and resources to confront our adversaries’ widespread efforts to spread false narratives that undermine democratic institutions and compromise America’s foreign policy goals,”
Congressman Paul laments:
"None of those wringing their hands over fake news have expressed any concern over the fake news stories that helped lead to the Iraq War. Those fake news stories led to the destabilizing of the Middle East, the rise of ISIS, and the deaths of millions."
Paul was referring to a small number of hoax websites, which were quickly exposed as hoaxes through the Internet's built-in fact check capacity. The sites published false stories, similar in content to what can routinely be found in publications such as National Enquirer or satire websites like The Onion. Such hoaxes can be easily discerned by false URLs, (website addresses,) which at first glance look authentic. Any story which seems far-fetched to a reader can easily be googled with the word "hoax," which will reveal any controversy over the authenticity of the story.
Paul says that no government agency or commercial interest should be allowed to become the arbiter of truth.
First Amendment defenders are accusing the government of using a cudgel on a problem for which remedies are already are in place, in order to force a wedge in the door leading to government curtailment of free speech, political dissent, and the cover-up of criminal activity on the part of powerful officials. The issue arises as US agencies such as the FBI and the CIA claim that it was the Russian government which obtained the Podesta emails and turned them over to Wikileaks, in order to embarrass Clinton, and thus influence the presidential election.
But the publisher of the Podesta emails, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, has flatly denied that the Russian government or Russian hackers were the source of the emails. After an extended absence from the public eye, Assange told Sean Hannity on Fox News: "Our source is not the Russian government." Assange then expressed dismay that the US news media was engaged in what he called a "distraction attack" which focused attention on the source of the Podesta emails, rather than on their content. Assange told Hannity:
"And so here, in order to prevent a distraction attack against our publications, we’ve had to come out and say ‘no, it’s not a state party. Stop trying to distract in that way and pay attention to the content of the publication.’"
Anonymous sources from US intelligence agencies being quoted in mainstream newspapers and television news programs are also concluding, contrary to the declarations of Assange who published the documents in the first place, that Russian agents are also behind the leaks of emails from the Democratic National Committee.
Reaction across the Internet has largely taken a tone of mockery toward the idea of "fake news." At Ron Paul Forums, another website devoted to discussing the politics of Ron Paul, a commenter "AZJoe" wrote:
"[It] is kind of a let down not to be included in such good company. Maybe we can start a petition to propornot to get RPF included."
And in the political discussion forum of a bodybuilding website a commenter says:
"An embarrassment...all the people who've apparently lost the capacity for critical thinking and objective analysis, making them so incapable of reading news from various sources and identifying facts from opinions...."