Post-Fact Politics: Reviewing the History of Fake News and Propaganda

Much has been made of the Washington Post’s recent “investigation,” published in late November by reporter Craig Timberg, that implicates countless U.S. media outlets in disseminating Russian government propaganda.  The Post’s attack on leftist alternative media included outlets such as Truthdig, Black Agenda Report, and CounterPunch, as well as conservative outlets like Drudge Report. The story, as CounterPunch readers may know, draws on “research” from several organizations, including one called “PropOrNot,” an anonymous group of “computer scientists, statisticians, national security professionals, journalists, and political activists, dedicated to identifying propaganda – particularly Russian propaganda targeting a U.S. audience.”  The group claims to have identified hundreds of websites that “qualify as Russian propaganda outlets,” reaching millions of Americans.

There are numerous legitimate criticisms of PropOrNot’s claims put forward by skeptics, as seen in recent reports by The Intercept and CounterPunch, among others. The Intercept’s piece focused on the lack of transparency of PropOrNot, considering the refusal of its members to be identified by name or present concrete evidence that various media are in secret collusion with the Ruskies. CounterPunch’s Joshua Frank spotlighted the amateurish, bush-league nature of PropOrNot, after pointing out to the group’s representative CounterPunch’s history of criticizing Russia, upon…

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