From Consortium News
A grave danger from the Western mainstream media's current hysteria about "fake news" is that the definition gets broadened from the few made-up stories that are demonstrably false -- often fabricated by kids to get more clicks -- to include reasonable disputes about the facts of a complex controversy.
This danger has grown worse because The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major Western news organizations have merged their outrage over "fake news" with the West's propaganda campaign against Russia by claiming without evidence that the Russian government is somehow putting out false stories to undermine Western democracy.
However, when news organizations actually track down "fake news" outlets, they are usually run by some young entrepreneurs from outside Russia who saw made-up stories as a way to increase revenue by luring in more readers eager for "information" that supports their prejudices.
Yet, a front-page Times article on Tuesday, citing "fake news" as a threat to Europe, contains what arguably is "fake news" itself by claiming that many of the purported 2,500 stories "discredited" by the European Union's East Stratcom operation have "links to Russia" although the Times doesn't identify those links.
The article by Mark Scott and Melissa Eddy then goes on to blur these two separate concepts: "In a year when the French, Germans and Dutch will elect leaders, the European authorities are scrambling to counter a rising tide of fake news and anti-European Union propaganda aimed at destabilizing people's trust in institutions."
But it is this mushing together of "fake news" and what the Times describes as "anti-European Union propaganda" that is so insidious. The first relates to consciously fabricated stories; the second involves criticism of a political institution, the E.U,, which is viewed by many Europeans as elitist, remote and disdainful of the needs, interests and attitudes of average citizens.
Whether you call such criticism "propaganda" or "dissent," it is absurd to blame it all on Russia. When it comes to "destabilizing people's trust in institutions," the E.U. -- especially with its inept handling of the Great Recession and its clumsy response to the Syrian refugee crisis -- is doing a bang-up job on its own without Russian help.
Yet, rather than face up to legitimate concerns of citizens, the E.U. and U.S. governments have found a convenient scapegoat, Russia. To hammer home this point -- to make it the new "groupthink" -- E.U. and U.S. leaders have financed propaganda specialists to disparage political criticism by linking it to Russia.
Even worse, in the United States, the Times and other mainstream publications -- reflecting the views of the political establishment -- have editorialized to get giant technology companies, like Facebook and Google, to marginalize independent news sites that don't accept the prevailing conventional wisdom.
There is an Orwellian quality to these schemes -- a plan for a kind of Ministry of Truth enforced by algorithms to weed out deviant ideas -- but almost no one whose voice is allowed in the mass media gets to make that observation. Even now, there is a chilling uniformity in the endless denunciations of Russia as the root of all evil.
Though the Times' article treats the E.U.'s East Stratcom operatives as 11 beleaguered public servants sticking their fingers in the dike to protect the citizenry from a flood of Russian disinformation, "stratcom" actually is a euphemism for psychological operations, i.e., the strategic use of communications to influence the thinking of a target population.
In this case, the target populations are the European public and -- to an ancillary degree -- the American people who get to absorb the same propaganda from The New York Times. The real goal of stratcom is not to combat a few sleazy entrepreneurs generating consciously false stories for profit but to silence or "discredit" sources of information that question the E.U. and U.S. propaganda.
NATO has its own Stratcom command based in Latvia that also is assigned to swat down information that doesn't conform to Western propaganda narratives. The U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy also pour tens of millions of dollars into media operations with similar goals as do major Western foundations, such as currency speculator George Soros's Open Society. Last December, the U.S. Congress approved and President Obama signed legislation to create an additional $160 million bureaucracy to combat "Russian propaganda."