The Washington Post’s Craig Timberg released a report on Thursday night for its paper on Friday, calling for its readers to dismiss 200 news websites as “fake news”, referring to them as “Russian propaganda”. It was expected that mainstream media would continue its war on alternative news outlets, and use dubious sources in the process, but WaPo’s article reached a new low. Though many MSM outlets jumped on the recent list published by Melissa Zimdars and used it as an actionable “source”, despite its questionable nature, no other news organization followed up on WaPo’s article and their source, even though it was highly shared on social media and was the most trafficked article on WaPo’s website on Friday. Given the speed in which other MSM outlets jumped on the last list of “fake news” websites, the absence of any follow up from the MSM truly demonstrates WaPo’s lackluster journalistic standards.
The high circulation of the article demonstrates how influential WaPo can be, even when its reporting is proven to be highly suspect at best. The credentials of Glenn Greenwald and Ben Norton, the authors, can hardly be questioned, and their website The Intercept (who was not cited by the article’s source) published an article rebutting WaPo’s accusations shortly after they were published. Many of the websites named (ZeroHedge, Liberty Blitzkrieg, and The Ron Paul Institute) published their own rebuttals, but I will be 100% quoting The Intercept in this article, because not only was it not named on the list, thus validating its impartiality, its takedown of the article was so excellent, it deserves to be used as the authority to undermine WaPo here.
WaPo’s article was entirely based off of one source, the website PropOrNot, and a list of “Russian propaganda” website they recently published. The group’s history has been described by The Intercept as follows:
As Fortune’s Matthew Ingram wrote in criticizing the Post article, PropOrNot’s Twitter account “has only existed since August of this year. And an article announcing the launch of the group on its website is dated last month.” WHOIS information for the domain name is not available, as the website uses private registration.
For reference, though I initially posted several articles at Single Dude Travel, dating back to May 23, 2016, the first article published by Free Market Shooter was on August 18, 2016, and the Twitter/Facebook accounts for Free Market Shooter were created on or near that date. Even though this site is a couple months older than PropOrNot, both are relatively new. Thus, it is valid to compare the history of WaPo’s sole source to Free Market Shooter itself.
The Intercept starts by discussing the genesis of PropOrNot, quoting WaPo’s description:
In casting the group behind this website as “experts,” the Post described PropOrNot simply as “a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds.” Not one individual at the organization is named. The executive director is quoted, but only on the condition of anonymity, which the Post said it was providing the group “to avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers.”
In other words, the individuals behind this newly created group are publicly branding journalists and news outlets as tools of Russian propaganda — even calling on the FBI to investigate them for espionage — while cowardly hiding their own identities. The group promoted by the Post thus embodies the toxic essence of Joseph McCarthy, but without the courage to attach individual names to the blacklist. Echoing the Wisconsin senator, the group refers to its lengthy collection of sites spouting Russian propaganda as “The List.”
Similar to ZeroHedge, Free Market Shooter publishes articles using pseudonymous speech (though a guest poster may choose to use their real name if so desired). Though criticism of the MSM is common, and many conclusions are put forward by the content on this website, you will notice that articles are extensively hyperlinked, and sources are provided for all assertations. Thus, the facts presented here can be quickly checked, which not only validates the articles, it gives a reader an avenue to dispute the conclusions, if so desired. By contrast, WaPo’s Timberg did not even bother to link to PropOrNot’s website, merely stating his source and expecting his readers to take him and the source itself at his word.
Meanwhile, when pressed for comment by The Intercept…
The credentials of this supposed group of experts are impossible to verify, as none is provided either by the Post or by the group itself. The Intercept contacted PropOrNot and asked numerous questions about its team, but received only this reply: “We’re getting a lot of requests for comment and can get back to you today =) [smiley face emoticon].” The group added: “We’re over 30 people, organized into teams, and we cannot confirm or deny anyone’s involvement.”
…PropOrNot refused to provide any. I can personally assure you that if you contact Free Market Shooter by any provided avenue (email, Facebook, or Twitter, until I’m banned from there), you should expect a response. To be fair, though my article on why I voted Trump was republished and heavily read on ZeroHedge, nothing published here has garnered the same attention as the recent WaPo article. If it did happen, and an outlet as respected as The Intercept contacted me personally, I would make it a point to address all their concerns immediately.
Shouldn’t you expect the same from Timberg? Guess again.
WHO EXACTLY IS behind PropOrNot, where it gets its funding, and whether or not it is tied to any governments is a complete mystery. The Intercept also sent inquiries to the Post’s Craig Timberg asking these questions, and asking whether he thinks it is fair to label left-wing news sites like Truthout “Russian propaganda outlets.” Timberg replied: “I’m sorry, I can’t comment about stories I’ve written for the Post.”
As is so often the case, journalists — who constantly demand transparency from everyone else — refuse to provide even the most basic levels for themselves. When subjected to scrutiny, they reflexively adopt the language of the most secrecy-happy national security agencies: We do not comment on what we do.
Which really leads quite well into Norton and Greenwald’s conclusion:
So the story spread in a flash, like wildfire. Tens of thousands of people, perhaps hundreds of thousands or even millions, consumed it, believing that it was true because of how many journalists and experts told them it was. Virtually none of the people who told them this spent a minute of time or ounce of energy determining if it was true. It pleased them to believe it was, knowing it advanced their interests, and so they endorsed it. That is the essence of how fake news functions, and it is the ultimate irony that this Post story ended up illustrating and spreading far more fake news than it exposed.
WaPo issued no retractions to its story, and PropOrNot continues to stand by its “list” without providing any source material. Meanwhile, once readers vetted a story here, which coincidentally was critical of the MSM, and found one of the sources to be false, a correction and retraction was immediately issued. No thesis is valid without proper facts, and no matter the biases presented here, Free Market Shooter will never under any circumstance publish conclusions based on false facts.
I find it incredible, though not shocking in the slightest, that this blog, having been in existence for only a few months, has more journalistic integrity than The Washington Post. What I do find shocking is that PropOrNot, the source for WaPo’s article, a blog of similar age to Free Market Shooter and not even linked in the body of the WaPo article, does not even feel it is necessary to respond to the multitude of respectable outlets questioning its very existence. Free Market Shooter’s manifesto is to promote free markets, responsible gun ownership, and free exchange of information, and you can expect all the work put forward on this website to defend that notion at all times.
So, what can be done to hurt WaPo? Well, the obvious is to just not visit their website, and if they do anything newsworthy, read the response elsewhere. WaPo is owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, so another alternative is to purchase goods from other places. Walmart is an option… but they’ve been known to have longstanding ties to the Clinton family, and heavily donated to Hillary in the recent election. Given the globalist appeal of many corporations, it may be increasingly difficult to find a low-priced alternative that you can purchase from, though an effort should be made nonetheless to change purchasing patterns.
Regardless, the no.1 thing that can be done is to share/link/retweet The Intercept and other outlets, including Free Market Shooter, who call out actual “fake news” like the list put forward by WaPo. Together, we can stamp out the problem by demonstrating which websites, publications, and reporters cannot be trusted, and we can do so on the basis of their own merits. Because, in light of their reporting, organizations like WaPo can’t go out of business fast enough.