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Washington Post's "Fake News" Guilt

By       Message Robert Parry       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink

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From Consortium News

Lawyer Roy Cohn with Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
Lawyer Roy Cohn with Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
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The mainstream U.S. media's hysteria over "fake news" has reached its logical (or illogical) zenith, a McCarthyistic black-listing of honest journalism that simply shows professional skepticism toward Officialdom, including what's said by U.S. government officials and what's written in The Washington Post and New York Times.

Apparently, to show skepticism now opens you to accusations of disseminating "Russian propaganda" or being a "useful idiot" or some similar ugly smear reminiscent of the old Cold War. Now that we have entered a New Cold War, I suppose it makes sense that we should expect a New McCarthyism.

I would normally ignore such nonsense but it was elevated by The Washington Post, which treated these unnamed "independent researchers" as sophisticated experts who "tracked" the Russian propaganda operation and assembled the black list. After returning from a Thanksgiving trip to Philadelphia on Saturday, I received word that Consortiumnews.com, the 21-year-old investigative news site that has challenged misguided "group thinks" whether from Republicans, Democrats or anyone else over those two-plus decades, was included among some 200 Internet sites spreading what some anonymous Web site, PropOrNot, deems "Russian propaganda."

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And I'm not joking when I say that these neo-McCarthyites go unnamed. The Post's article by Craig Timberg on Thursday described PropOrNot simply as "a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds [who] planned to release its own findings Friday showing the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns."

The Post granted the group and its leadership anonymity to smear journalists who don't march in lockstep with official pronouncements from the State Department or some other impeccable fount of never-to-be-questioned truth. The Post even published a "blind" (or unattributed) quote from the head of this shadowy Web site as follows:

"'The way that this propaganda apparatus supported [Donald] Trump was equivalent to some massive amount of a media buy,' said the executive director of PropOrNot, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being targeted by Russia's legions of skilled hackers."

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The Shoddy Washington Post

As a professional journalist for more than four decades, it is hard for me to comprehend how a supposedly reputable newspaper like The Washington Post would allow some anonymous character to attack the patriotism of American journalists while hiding the person's name behind the ridiculous excuse that he or she might be targeted by hackers.

In 1985, when I was an investigative reporter for The Associated Press and first exposed Oliver North's secret White House operation in support of the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, I got some flak for using North's name because he claimed that he might be targeted by assassins -- even though he was not officially a covert operative. His name and title were listed in the White House directory, for instance.

So, as silly and unfounded as North's worries were -- and The Washington Post then followed me in publishing North's name -- at least North's concerns dealt with his personal safety. But now we have the Post treating an alleged study by supposed "independent researchers" as needing the protection of anonymity to allow the Website's executive director to expound on the group's slanderous assessments without giving his or her name.

In such a case, how is the public supposed to evaluate the smears and whether these researchers are indeed "independent" or are funded by some actual propaganda network, like those financed by the National Endowment for Democracy or USAID or financial speculator George Soros or some military-industrial-complex think tank?

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Indeed, isn't what this Post-promoted Website doing the essence of McCarthyistic "fake news" -- making vague accusations and imposing guilt by association, suggesting that all the Websites on its list are either treasonous or dupes?

Though the Post doesn't seem to care about fairness regarding the 200 or so Websites subjected to this McCarthyism, the smear operation doesn't even present evidence that anyone actually is part of this grand Russian propaganda conspiracy. The PropOrNot site admits that the criteria for its "analysis" is "behavioral," not evidentiary.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at

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