The Orwellian War on Skepticism

Special Report: Official Washington’s rush into an Orwellian future is well underway as political and media bigwigs move to silence Internet voices of independence and dissent, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Under the cover of battling “fake news,” the mainstream U.S. news media and officialdom are taking aim at journalistic skepticism when it is directed at the pronouncements of the U.S. government and its allies.

One might have hoped that the alarm about “fake news” would remind major U.S. news outlets, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, about the value of journalistic skepticism. However, instead, it seems to have done the opposite.

Author George Orwell.

Author George Orwell.

The idea of questioning the claims by the West’s officialdom now brings calumny down upon the heads of those who dare do it. “Truth” is being redefined as whatever the U.S. government, NATO and other Western interests say is true. Disagreement with the West’s “group thinks,” no matter how fact-based the dissent is, becomes “fake news.”

So, we have the case of Washington Post columnist David Ignatius having a starry-eyed interview with Richard Stengel, the State Department’s Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy, the principal arm of U.S. government propaganda.

Entitled “The truth is losing,” the column laments that the official narratives as deigned by the State Department and The Washington Post are losing traction with Americans and the world’s public.

Stengel, a former managing editor at Time magazine, seems to take aim at Russia’s RT network’s slogan, “question more,” as some sinister message seeking to inject cynicism toward the West’s official narratives.

“They’re not trying to say that their version of events is the true one. They’re saying: ‘Everybody’s lying! Nobody’s telling you the truth!’,” Stengel said. “They don’t have a candidate, per se. But they want to undermine faith in democracy, faith in the West.”

No Evidence

Typical of these recent mainstream tirades about this vague Russian menace, Ignatius’s column doesn’t provide any specifics regarding how RT and other Russian media outlets are carrying out this assault on the purity of Western information. It’s enough to just toss around pejorative phrases supporting an Orwellian solution, which is to stamp out or marginalize alternative and independent journalism, not just Russian.

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. (Photo credit: Aude)

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. (Photo credit: Aude)

Ignatius writes: “Stengel poses an urgent question for journalists, technologists and, more broadly, everyone living in free societies or aspiring to do so. How do we protect the essential resource of democracy — the truth — from the toxin of lies that surrounds it? It’s like a virus or food poisoning. It needs to be controlled. But how?

“Stengel argues that the U.S. government should sometimes protect citizens by exposing ‘weaponized information, false information’ that is polluting the ecosystem. But ultimately, the defense of truth must be independent of a government that many people mistrust. ‘There are inherent dangers in having the government be the verifier of last resort,’ he argues.”

By the way, Stengel is not the fount of truth-telling, as he and Ignatius like to pretend. Early in the Ukraine crisis, Stengel delivered a rant against RT that was full of inaccuracies or what you might call “fake news.”

Yet, what Stengel and various mainstream media outlets appear to be arguing for is the creation of a “Ministry of Truth” managed by mainstream U.S. media outlets and enforced by Google, Facebook and other technology platforms.

In other words, once these supposedly responsible outlets decide what the “truth” is, then questioning that narrative will earn you “virtual” expulsion from the marketplace of ideas, possibly eliminated via algorithms of major search engines or marked with a special app to warn readers not to believe what you say, a sort of yellow Star of David for the Internet age.

And then there’s the possibility of more direct (and old-fashioned) government enforcement by launching FBI investigations into media outlets that won’t toe the official line. (All of these “solutions” have been advocated in recent weeks.)

On the other hand, if you do toe the official line that comes from Stengel’s public diplomacy shop, you stand to get rewarded with government financial support. Stengel disclosed in his interview with Ignatius that his office funds “investigative” journalism projects.

“How should citizens who want a fact-based world combat this assault on truth?” Ignatius asks, adding: “Stengel has approved State Department programs that teach investigative reporting and empower truth-tellers.”

Buying Propaganda

After reading Ignatius’s column on Wednesday, I submitted a question to the State Department asking for details on this “journalism” and “truth-telling” funding that is coming from the U.S. government’s top propaganda shop, but I have not received an answer.

The Washington Post building in downtown Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Washington Post)

The Washington Post building in downtown Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Washington Post)

But we do know that the U.S. government has been investing tens of millions of dollars in various media programs to undergird Washington’s desired narratives.

For instance, in May 2015, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) issued a fact sheet summarizing its work financing friendly journalists around the world, including “journalism education, media business development, capacity building for supportive institutions, and strengthening legal-regulatory environments for free media.”

USAID estimated its budget for “media strengthening programs in over 30 countries” at $40 million annually, including aiding “independent media organizations and bloggers in over a dozen countries,” In Ukraine before the 2014 coup ousting elected President Viktor Yanukovych and installing a fiercely anti-Russian and U.S.-backed regime, USAID offered training in “mobile phone and website security,” skills that would have been quite helpful to the coup plotters.

USAID, working with currency speculator George Soros’s Open Society, also has funded the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which engages in “investigative journalism” that usually goes after governments that have fallen into disfavor with the United States and then are singled out for accusations of corruption. The USAID-funded OCCRP collaborates with Bellingcat, an online investigative website founded by blogger Eliot Higgins.

Higgins has spread misinformation on the Internet, including discredited claims implicating the Syrian government in the sarin attack in 2013 and directing an Australian TV news crew to what appeared to be the wrong location for a video of a BUK anti-aircraft battery as it supposedly made its getaway to Russia after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014.

Despite his dubious record of accuracy, Higgins has gained mainstream acclaim, in part, because his “findings” always match up with the propaganda theme that the U.S. government and its Western allies are peddling. Higgins is now associated with the Atlantic Council, a pro-NATO think tank which is partially funded by the U.S. State Department.

Beyond funding from the State Department and USAID, tens of millions of dollars more are flowing through the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy, which was started in 1983 under the guiding hand of CIA Director William Casey.

NED became a slush fund to help finance what became known, inside the Reagan administration, as “perception management,” the art of controlling the perceptions of domestic and foreign populations.

The Emergence of StratCom

Last year, as the New Cold War heated up, NATO created the Strategic Communications Command in Latvia to further wage information warfare against Russia and individuals who were contesting the West’s narratives.

NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

As veteran war correspondent Don North reported in 2015 regarding this new StratCom, “the U.S. government has come to view the control and manipulation of information as a ‘soft power’ weapon, merging psychological operations, propaganda and public affairs under the catch phrase ‘strategic communications.’

“This attitude has led to treating psy-ops — manipulative techniques for influencing a target population’s state of mind and surreptitiously shaping people’s perceptions — as just a normal part of U.S. and NATO’s information policy.”

Now, the European Parliament and the U.S. Congress are moving to up the ante, passing new legislation to escalate “information warfare.”

On Wednesday, U.S. congressional negotiators approved $160 million to combat what they deem foreign propaganda and the alleged Russian campaign to spread “fake news.” The measure is part of the National Defense Authorization Act and gives the State Department the power to identify “propaganda” and counter it.

This bipartisan stampede into an Orwellian future for the American people and the world’s population follows a shoddily sourced Washington Post article that relied on a new anonymous group that identified some 200 Internet sites, including some of the most prominent American independent sources of news, as part of a Russian propaganda network.

Typical of this new McCarthyism, the report lacked evidence that any such network actually exists but instead targeted cases where American journalists expressed skepticism about claims from Western officialdom. was included on the list apparently because we have critically analyzed some of the claims and allegations regarding the crises in Syria and Ukraine, rather than simply accept the dominant Western “group thinks.”

Also on the “black list” were such quality journalism sites as Counterpunch, Truth-out, Truthdig, Naked Capitalism and ZeroHedge along with many political sites ranging across the ideological spectrum.

The Fake-News Express

Normally such an unfounded conspiracy theory would be ignored, but – because The Washington Post treated the incredible allegations as credible – the smear has taken on a life of its own, reprised by cable networks and republished by major newspapers.

MSNBC's "Hardball" host Chris Matthews

MSNBC’s “Hardball” host Chris Matthews

But the unpleasant truth is that the mainstream U.S. news media is now engaged in its own fake-news campaign about “fake news.” It’s publishing bogus claims invented by a disreputable and secretive outfit that just recently popped up on the Internet. If that isn’t “fake news,” I don’t know what is.

Yet, despite the Post’s clear violations of normal journalistic practices, surely, no one there will pay a price, anymore than there was accountability for the Post reporting as flat fact that Iraq was hiding WMD in 2002-2003. Fred Hiatt, the editorial-page editor most responsible for that catastrophic “group think,” is still in the same job today.

Two nights ago, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews featured the spurious Washington Post article in a segment that – like similar rehashes –didn’t bother to get responses from the journalists being slandered.

I found that ironic since Matthews repeatedly scolds journalists for their failure to look skeptically at U.S. government claims about Iraq possessing WMD as justification for the disastrous Iraq War. However, now Matthews joins in smearing journalists who have applied skepticism to U.S. and Western propaganda claims about Syria and/or Ukraine.

While the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament begin to take action to shut down or isolate dissident sources of information – all in the name of “democracy” – a potentially greater danger is that mainstream U.S. news outlets are already teaming up with technology companies, such as Google and Facebook, to impose their own determinations about “truth” on the Internet.

Or, as Ignatius puts it in his column reflecting Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy Stengel’s thinking, “The best hope may be the global companies that have created the social-media platforms.

“‘They see this information war as an existential threat,’ says Stengel. … The real challenge for global tech giants is to restore the currency of truth. Perhaps ‘machine learning‘ [presumably a reference to algorithms] can identify falsehoods and expose every argument that uses them. Perhaps someday, a human-machine process will create what Stengel describes as a ‘global ombudsman for information.’”

Ministry of Truth

An organization of some 30 mainstream media companies already exists, including not only The Washington Post and The New York Times but also the Atlantic Council-connected Bellingcat, as the emerging arbiters – or ombudsmen – for truth, something Orwell described less flatteringly as a “Ministry of Truth.”

Big Brother poster illustrating George Orwell's novel about modern propaganda, 1984.

Big Brother poster illustrating George Orwell’s novel about modern propaganda, 1984.

The New York Times has even editorialized in support of Internet censorship, using the hysteria over “fake news” to justify the marginalization or disappearance of dissident news sites.

It now appears that this 1984-ish “MiniTrue” will especially target journalistic skepticism when applied to U.S. government and mainstream media “group thinks.”

Yet, in my four decades-plus in professional journalism, I always understood that skepticism was a universal journalistic principle, one that should be applied in all cases, whether a Republican or a Democrat is in the White House or whether some foreign leader is popular or demonized.

As we have seen in recent years, failure to ask tough questions and to challenge dubious claims from government officials and mainstream media outlets can get lots of people killed, both U.S. soldiers and citizens of countries invaded or destabilized by outsiders.

To show skepticism is not the threat to democracy that Undersecretary Stengel and columnist Ignatius appear to think it is.

Whether you like or dislike RT’s broadcasts – or more likely have never seen one – a journalist really can’t question its slogan: “question more.” Questioning is the essence of journalism and, for that matter, democracy.

[In protest of the Post’s smearing of independent journalists, RootsAction has undertaken a petition drive, which can be found here.]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

57 comments for “The Orwellian War on Skepticism

  1. DeadEndSwanSong
    December 4, 2016 at 13:29

    On the other hand, Trump can freely tweet empirically false statements (that he actually won the popular vote because MILLIONS of people illegally voted), and that’s fine.

    Alex Jones can blast to millions of people that climate change is in fact caused by super-secret weapons technology (at least, when he’s not claiming it doesn’t exist at all) and can claim ACTORS were killed at Sandy Hook, not real victims. And Trump goes on to praise him and go on his show. That’s fine. Nothing incredibly messed up there.

    A Trump surrogate recently stated “there is no such things as facts”. When a regime reaches that point of disconnection, the most dire results will transpire.

  2. TellTheTruth-2
    December 4, 2016 at 09:33

    For those who want to understand “who” these neocon/ziocon war mongers really are, even if you’re atheist or agnostic like I used to be and don’t like the Bible, please consider this Biblical explanation.

    If you count the number of the beast, counting stones worn smooth over a very long time, you end up all the way back at Cain, the first murderer and son of Satan and Eve. God’s children, through Adam and Eve’s child Seth (Cain murdered Able), need to be aware Satan’s children intermingle with them and give them a bad name. It’s been that way since the inhabitants of Gibeon tricked the leaders of Israel into making a league with them. (Joshua 9 )

    When they discovered they had been tricked, instead of killing them, they put them as “hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and for the altar of the LORD” and put them right into the Temple of God. Years later, when God Himself walked the earth as Jesus Christ, they (the FAKE Jews) had completely intermingled with the REAL Jews and had completely taken over the Temple of God. Jesus Christ knew who they were and He looked at them and spoke the truth. He then exposed them: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.”

    What’s the point? Ten Tribe Israel was dispersed over the face of the earth and Jesus Christ said, “I come but for the lost sheep of Israel.” When ten of the tribes of Israel went into captivity, Samaritans were put into their land so the people of the ten lost tribes of Israel could not return from Syria. Instead they migrated West into Greece and beyond and they went North, over the Caucasus Mountains. Who were they? They were the REAL Jews, God’s lineage through Seth, and the FAKE Jews, the lineage of Satan through Cain who had mixed in with God’s children.

    To help his disciples understand, Jesus Christ explained the parable of the tares of the field to them starting at Matthew 13:36 and because it is an explanation instead of a parable, anyone, even the spiritually deaf and blind, should be able to understand the truth Jesus Christ showed His disciples.

    In conclusion, be very careful NOT to blame REAL Jews for the evil in the world; but, be very aware Satan’s children (FAKE Jews) mix in with them and, because people don’t know the truth, they blame God’s children, the TRUE Jews, for what Satan’s children do.

    In the end, we know them by their fruit. Do they bring peace and love into the world like God’s children? Or do they give us war, death, and destruction?

    Once that is understood, these words of Jesus Christ make perfect sense.

    Revelation 2:9 … I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

    Revelation 3:9 … Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

    Hopefully that helps someone; but, when I share this truth, some son of Belial is sure to attack me. :-)

    • Abe
      December 4, 2016 at 19:25

      Hasbara smear tactics have intensified online due to Israel’s collusion with the United States in “regime change” projects from the Middle East to Eastern Europe, as well as Israeli military aggression and outright racism.

      Hasbara deception tactics include:

      1) accusing anyone who offers legitimate criticism of Israel or Zionism of being “anti-Semitic”

      2) masquerading as an “anti-Semitic” commenter: deliberately posting “anti-Semitic” comments (like commenter TellTheTruth-2 above) or links to “anti-Semitic” material

      Readers of Consortium News are alert to these deceptive tactics.

      There have been a number of efforts by international and governmental bodies to define “anti-Semitism” formally.

      The U.S. Department of State states that “while there is no universally accepted definition, there is a generally clear understanding of what the term encompasses.” For the purposes of its 2005 Report on Global Anti-Semitism, the term was considered to mean “hatred toward Jews – individually and as a group – that can be attributed to the Jewish religion and/or ethnicity.”

      In 2005, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (now Fundamental Rights Agency), then an agency of the European Union, developed a more detailed working definition, which states: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

      The European agency adds that “such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity,” but that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”

      Criticism of particular Israeli actions or policies – even harsh and strident criticism or advocacy – in and of itself does not constitute “anti-Semitism”.

      Israel’s propagandist Hasbara narrative directly applies to the US/Israel-backed terrorist war against the people of Syria.

      The basics of Hasbara propaganda are easy to identify: simplistic phrases, repeated over and over, designed to engage emotions rather than produce rational arguments, all shaped to fit into a narrative of good (Western-oriented Israel, the Middle East’s only true democracy) versus evil (Arab/Muslim terrorists who seek not only to destroy the Jewish state but kill all Jews).

      To persuade Americans to accept this impoverished account of the conflict, Hasbara propaganda rewrites history, rejects international law and ignores the struggle over land and resources that is at the heart of the conflict.

      Hasbara Propaganda Manual – “Global Language Dictionary”

      Written by Republican pollster and political strategist Frank Luntz, the Hasbara handbook was commissioned by a group called The Israel Project in 2009.

      Labeled “Not for distribution or publication”, the Hasbara manual is a treasure trove of scripted propaganda canards. For example, page 96 of the manual recommends: “‘Defensive’ and ‘preventative’ are the words that best describe Israeli military action.”

      In 2009, Israel’s foreign ministry organized volunteers to add pro-Israeli commentary on news websites. In July 2009, it was announced that the Israeli Foreign Ministry would conduct “internet warfare” to spread a pro-Israel message on various websites.

      The program has expanded to a real Hasbara troll army that promotes pro-Israel policies in the press and online media.

      US/Israel-backed al-Qaeda terrorists in Syria advance the geopolitical goals of Israel, which include permanent annexation of Syria’s resource-rich Golan Heights area that Israel has occupied since 1967.

      The illusion of a “threat” to Israel guarantees an ever greater cascade of military and economic aid supplied by slavishly pro-Israel politicians in the United States.

      Hasbara propaganda additionally aims at promoting fake news and conspiracy theories to divert attention from an actual and very public conspiracy: the efforts of the Israel lobby to manipulate politics in the United States.

  3. Realist
    December 4, 2016 at 05:15

    Trump better realize that fake news’ helped get him elected.

  4. AriusArmenian
    December 3, 2016 at 16:56

    Doesn’t this feel like the 1950’s all over again?
    It’s like they dredged up a Cold War corpse and brought it back to life.
    Instead of an honest transparent human engagement with the East they want another Cold War to hide behind.
    I am disgusted; this time I am not with this madness in the West.
    They cannot defeat the East. The West will break on the East.

  5. December 3, 2016 at 16:44

    Mainstream UK news story today. People are not fools.The truth will eventually crush determined liars like Ignatius…..and the rest of the establishment-supporting media. We are led by criminals.

  6. Robert Anderson
    December 3, 2016 at 15:05

    “I doubt, therefore I think.
    I think, therefore I am”

    – Descartes

  7. John Doe II
    December 3, 2016 at 12:39

    Post-Truth / Propaganda
    Intelligence / Counter-Intelligence

    or, as Pontus Pilate inferred, “What IS Truth… ?”
    Then again, there are Programmed Deceptions. As in hidden weapons in Iraq which justified a military invasion.

  8. John Doe II
    December 3, 2016 at 12:07

    new word added to Merriam Webster Dictionary; Post-Truth

    Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief:
    ‘in this era of post-truth politics, it’s easy to cherry-pick data and come to whatever conclusion you desire’
    ‘some commentators have observed that we are living in a post-truth age’


    The Post-Truth Era: Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life

    At one time we had truth and lies. Now we have truth, lies, and statements that may not be true but we consider too benign to call false. Euphemisms abound. We’re “economical with the truth,” we “sweeten it,” or tell “the truth improved.” The term deceive gives way to spin. At worst we admit to “misspeaking,” or “exercising poor judgment.” Nor do we want to accuse others of lying. We say they’re in denial. A liar is “ethically challenged,” someone for whom “the truth is temporarily unavailable.”

    This is post-truth. In the post-truth era, borders blur between truth and lies, honesty and dishonesty, fiction and nonfiction. Deceiving others becomes a challenge, a game, and ultimately a habit. Research suggests that the average American tells lies on a daily basis.

  9. Zachary Smith
    December 3, 2016 at 00:59

    House Quietly Passes Bill Targeting “Russian Propaganda” Websites

    On November 30, one week after the Washington Post launched its witch hunt against “Russian propaganda fake news”, with 390 votes for, the House quietly passed “H.R. 6393, Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017”, sponsored by California Republican Devin Nunes (whose third largest donor in 2016 is Google parent Alphabet, Inc), a bill which deals with a number of intelligence-related issues, including Russian propaganda, or what the government calls propaganda, and hints at a potential crackdown on “offenders.”

    This whole “Fake News” affar is looking more and more coordinated, and as being planned well ahead of time.

    At the site is a graphic showing the vote. It’s darned near unanimous! The more I think about it, the attack on the Russian Agent sites appears as just the first of many designed to get the Internet under the thumb and total control of the Elites. What better way of accusing those who don’t toe the Official Line as some kind of Traitors or Russian Agents?

    Why else would both the Dems and the GOP be voting in lockstep? I’d guess they’ve got their marching orders and are following instructions. That’s the way Israel handles matters, and as a matter of fact that craphole of nation could be involved in this. Just imagine, Every News Source Just Like The Washington Post! Or else….


  10. ltr
    December 2, 2016 at 22:25

    What a difficult time we could be entering. I do hope not. I hope for a calm, caring president.

  11. Smitty
    December 2, 2016 at 21:21

    When I hear all of the hypocrites talking about the recent development of fake news I think of the yellow journalism throughout our history.
    The Spanish–American War (April–August 1898) is considered to be both a turning point in the history of propaganda and the beginning of the practice of yellow journalism (Fake News) in the Main Stream Media. It was the first conflict in which military action was precipitated by media involvement. The war grew out of U.S. interest in a fight for revolution between the Spanish military and citizens of their Cuban colony. American newspapers fanned the flames of interest in the war by fabricating atrocities which justified intervention in a number of Spanish colonies worldwide.

  12. Abe
    December 2, 2016 at 18:12

    Uncritical journalist Mathew Ingram is a tech writer at Fortune magazine (published and owned by Time Inc.).

    Fortune’s November 25th story about the Washington Post / PropOrNot debacle helped launch the dissemination of fake news about “fake news”

    Ingram noted:

    “A number of the ‘allies’ that PropOrNot lists on its website—including the investigative blogger Eliot Higgins, who runs a research entity called BellingCat that has used crowdsourcing to track Russian government activity in Ukraine—said they have never heard of the group.”

    Ingram posted the same Eliot Higgins tweet to Ben Norton that also appeared the following day in the Intercept’s slothfully written article about WaPo and PropOrNot.

    In addition to widespread mainstream media uncritical coverage of Higgins’ “investigation reports”, several internet media and tech sites like BuzzFeed and Wired have given broad publicity to the Bellingcat “open source” scam.

    BuzzFeed News is a First Draft Coalition “core partner” with PropOrNot-listed “Related Projects” Bellingcat, Stopfake, and the the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab.

    The tangled web of disinformation woven to generate the perception that Higgins is a “journalist” and that Bellingcat is a collection of “independent researchers” relies on legions of uncritical journalists like Ingram who will write what they’re told.

  13. Abe
    December 2, 2016 at 15:39

    For a stellar example of Bellingcat “spouting fake stuff” and handling “lively discussion on their comment section”, check out

    Watch what happened when commenter “Jason” attempted to introduce journalistic skepticism in the Bellingcat blog comments last year. The commenter was banned by Bellingcat after this exchange.

  14. jaycee
    December 2, 2016 at 15:26

    The upside is now that the self-appointed monitors and shapers of official narrative have realized their credibility is shot and no one really listens to them, they are panicking and revealing or confirming evermore their ridiculous worldview. Who cares what David Ignatius or Richard Stengel have to say? They are lightweights. Will Google and Facebook get involved in some internet censorship scheme? Good – let them lose all credibility as well.

  15. backwardsevolution
    December 2, 2016 at 12:45

    Robert Parry – that was an excellent article. Thank you. Facebook, Google, and the media appear now just more arms of the government (or whoever is pulling the strings).

  16. Neil Dale
    December 2, 2016 at 11:26

    I appreciate this approach to skepticism very much – but I feel that it needs to go a step further, to avoid: “the bad guys are all over there” thinking. I have known many Russians over the last twenty years, and the “war of perception” is one of the most distressing views that they give of internal Russian politics. While it is extremely important to show how these tactics are creeping over our own view of the truth, it is naive not to see that it already marks their own approach to the truth.

  17. Winston Smith
    December 2, 2016 at 10:41

    I love how references to Orwell or McCarthy are used to defend the author peddling Russian conspiracy theories like accusing the Ukrainian government of being run by fascists who shot down MH17. The irony of using Orwell to defend a Putin who has full control over his country’s media and labels anything he dislikes as a ‘foreign agent’. Anyone can spout fake stuff and claim they are simply being ‘skeptical’ or going against the grain. That’s how Trump got elected. “I’m not saying Obama is Muslim Kenyan, I’m just being skeptical”. At least the Washington post has lively discussion on their comment section. As usual on this website not a single comment on this article challenges the author. Very Skeptical…

    • John Doe II
      December 2, 2016 at 13:22

      “Russian conspiracy theories”- ??

      Winston Smith, you are SO deceived/brainwashed by the Ministry of Truth.

    • Abe
      December 2, 2016 at 14:05

      I love how references to “Russian conspiracy theories” are used to peddle logical fallacy à la Bellingcat “investigations” and Atlantic Council “reports”.

      Dear Winston, the measure of skepticism isn’t about whether a comment “challenges” an author or whether a discussion is “lively”.

      Skepticism is the process of applying reason and critical thinking to determine validity. It’s the process of finding a supported conclusion, not the justification of a preconceived conclusion.

  18. Steffen Hahnemann
    December 2, 2016 at 03:11

    Tak til Robert Parry for en glimrende gennemgang af et brændende problem:
    Mediernes uigennemsigtige rolle som opinionsdannere er utvivlsomt blevet demokratiets
    alvorligste udfordring

  19. December 2, 2016 at 02:44

    Tom our elites are vicious over grown children who enjoy lying and hoaxing the rest of us. Pain and suffering is what they get off on life and anything that lives are toys they can destroy for their amusement.

  20. Truthster
    December 2, 2016 at 00:43

    What happens to healthy skepticism when it comes to the dire predictions of computer models foretelling climate catastrophe?
    Not denial of warming or the human contribution thereto. The data on these are established though not so quantitatively as we are led to believe
    But skepticism is not permitted about the models which are every bit as sophisticated as those used to predict outcomes of much simpler systems. – like the presidential election of 2016. ;-)
    In both cases skepticism has been airily dismissed by progressives/liberals.
    Has anything been learned?

    • Brad Owen
      December 2, 2016 at 05:13

      This has been learned: people believe what they want to believe. Often a great deal of time and energy have been invested into a particular “Worldview” that people are very loathe to give up, let go of. For the last ten years I’ve entertained the notions; that entities called Sylphs are basically in charge of weather, climate, and shaping the landscape for what new or different Life is to come (I got this idea from Z.S. Livingstone); that the polytheistic shamanism of the previous tens of thousands of years portrayed fairly well the entire complexity of Reality, and that people’s minds have been “captured” by “Imperial Monotheisms”(Christian, Muslim, Judaism) for purposes of Empire, NOT Reality; That Coyote Trickster has played a large role in this election cycle, and that everyone has been “pantsed” by a snickering Coyote (he showed up on the side of the highway one morning on my way to work, staring calmly at me, just as I was musing about Coyote Trickster..thank you Muses); that my Celtic roots have only been covered up, not eradicated, and they still speak to me in meaningful ways. But then again I may be wrong about all of this…but I don’t think so; maybe I should ask the State Dept what is the Truth?

    • Art Gibert
      December 5, 2016 at 03:49

      I was skeptical of the predictions of a Clinton victory due to an understanding that many people could vote for someone else but would not say so in public, while I am not skeptical of computer models predicting worsening global warming because I understand (apparently unlike a majority of Americans) the ecological concept of a positive feedback loop in which change accelerates as it continues because it builds upon itself. I do not think skepticism is bad as long as it is consistent with scientific laws and knowledge, but when people are not aware of these their skepticism is less than useless, it is obstructive to the process of dealing with the problem. As of course is intended by those who instigate said skepticism for their own motives. An analysis of the truth or fiction can be made in several ways- some more “scientific” than others. One can “follow the money” to see who espouses a certain position for what likely reason, one can become knowledgable of the actual science of the matter, one can review data that may prove that the models’ predictions are reasonable and coming true, etc. None of these methods are equivalent to or as subjective and suspect as political polling.

  21. Tristan
    December 2, 2016 at 00:37

    I’m sorry I must quote something here, hopefully in some context, “You know I hate, detest, and can’t bear a lie, not because I am straighter than the rest of us, but simply because it appals me. There is a taint of death, a flavour of mortality in lies – which is exactly what I hate and detest in the world – what I want to forget.” From The Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad.

  22. Tristan
    December 2, 2016 at 00:15

    Thank you again for an informative and thought provoking piece Mr. Parry. By all indices we are now indeed finding that if what were once nations are left to the control of advertising and marketing people in the service of endless profits, all whom are ensconced in a system which rewards the greedy and the sycophants, would result in nothing less than horror so presciently written about by Orwell and that which the U.S. and the U.K. are now actually achieving in the present. It is in our faces. People have posited “How did the Germans let it happen, why didn’t they do anything to stop Hitler and the fascists?”

    We are now in that same “historical moment” were humanity is in a dire place, and the leaders are seeking something which is in plain sight. That fact requires that the truth or even skepticism of the “MiniTru” be attacked relentlessly, lest the Volk become disturbed and glance away from the Big Screen TV/Internet multiplex of Truth. This is evident in your piece here Mr. Parry. The concern is that people might have a chance to inform themselves in an intelligent manner. Thinking often can lead to critical thoughts.

    Time for some doubleunthink don’t you think, or perhaps not… that depends on what the goal is. I don’t feel well.

  23. Taras77
    December 1, 2016 at 22:21

    Provided is a link for an award ceremony for Marty Baron, Exec Editor of WaPo. He seems to be the responsible person for the atk on alt news sites and publishing/endorsing the list. He formally was at the Boston Globe where he received praise for taking on the Catholic Church in a sex abuse scandal and coverup. Of course, he now is embedded in the Bezos regime, which obviously has a different agenda. I recommend the read of his transcript in accepting the award-either it is a masterful exercise in cynicism or he actually believes what he is peddling, in which case he is strikingly cast as a useful idiot.

  24. ltr
    December 1, 2016 at 22:18

    I find this truly frightening. This viciousness of the Washington Post “blatantly fake” article and the way in which others repeated it is shocking. These folks really want a return to McCarthyism.

  25. Andrew Nichols
    December 1, 2016 at 21:03

    On Wednesday, U.S. congressional negotiators approved $160 million to combat what they deem foreign propaganda and the alleged Russian campaign to spread “fake news.” The measure is part of the National Defense Authorization Act and gives the State Department the power to identify “propaganda” and counter it.

    Do you think we can nominate the White caps for an investigation into fake news?

  26. December 1, 2016 at 19:56

    Thanks for your critical analysis in the face of government-sponsored “group think” intimidation. That’s why I donate to Consortium News and Counterpunch. Trump’s neo-con/alt-right appointees can only mean we’re in for more government repression and control of social media. Keep up the good work.

    • Ol' Hippy
      December 1, 2016 at 23:29

      I also support consortiunmnews and counterpunch because being ‘independent’ and funded by donations keeps the nonsense of corporate money out of “real” news. Propaganda is rampant these days and one must be very careful reading publications parroting the government line without a critical eye toward the truth.

    • Steven Hobbs
      December 3, 2016 at 01:31

      As much as I appreciate excellent articles on both sites. I no longer support groups that deny 9/11 was crime perpetrated by the deep state. It saddens and confuses me how people who claim to be “progressive”, or even “radical”, and clearly have the intelligence (adequate to decipher Newton’s Third Law as it pertains to Bldg.7) are in such denial they can’t see the forest for the trees. I’d rather attribute their denial to stupidity or cowardice rather than ignorance, because they are not the latter. Or perhaps, like many, they just don’t care.

      • doray
        December 14, 2016 at 23:10

        ” I no longer support groups that deny 9/11 was crime perpetrated by the deep state.” Good call, Steven Hobbs. That’s one of my major litmus tests as well.

  27. Abe
    December 1, 2016 at 18:20

    With the help of uncritical journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ben Norton, the Intercept’s November 26th story about the Washington Post / ProporNot debacle ended up disseminating far more “fake news” than it exposed.

    Greenwald and Norton noted:

    “PropOrNot listed numerous organizations on its website as ‘allied’ with it, yet many of these claimed ‘allies’ told The Intercept, and complained on social media, they have nothing to do with the group and had never even heard of it before the Post published its story.”

    Greenwald and Norton then saw fit to publish verbatim the Twitter remarks from Eliot Higgins of Bellingcat and James Miller of the InterpreterMag.

    Displaying a shocking lack of skepticism, Greenwald and Norton did not bother to conduct even the most basic investigation of PropOrNot’s purported “Allies” Bellingcat and InterpreterMag.

    The Intercept entirely bypassed the reality that Bellingcat is allied with the Washington Post and directly affiliated with numerous organizations listed by PropOrNot, including Stopfake, and the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab.

    In addition, self-acclaimed “expert on verifying citizen journalism” Miller has frequently promoted self-acclaimed “citizen investigative journalist” Higgins. The Intercept allows Miller to do what he does best: simply chime in to “confirm” Higgins’ claims.

    After giving a platform for Bellingcat and InterpreterMag, posting direct links to the Twitter remarks of Higgins and Miller, the Intercept simply accepts these alibis at face value.

    Greenwald and Norton then noted that PropOrNot had updated its site:

    “after multiple groups listed as ‘allies’ objected, the group quietly changed the title of its ‘allied’ list to ‘Related Projects.’ When The Intercept asked PropOrNot about this clear inconsistency via email, the group responded concisely: ‘We have no institutional affiliations with any organization.'”

    If Greenwald and Norton had used the opportunity to visit the Bellingcat site, it would have become instantly apparent that Higgins’ group of so-called “independent researchers” precisely matches the Intercept’s description of ProporNot.

    Indeed, Higgins’ group “far more resembles amateur peddlers of primitive, shallow propagandistic clichés than serious, substantive analysis and expertise; that it has a blatant, demonstrable bias in promoting NATO’s narrative about the world; and that it is engaging in extremely dubious McCarthyite tactics about a wide range of critics and dissenters”.

    Interestingly, on November 25, the day before the Intercept article appeared, Higgins Tweeted: “So it’s clear, @ bellingcat in no way endorses the work or methodology of @ propornot, and have found their behaviour unprofessional”.

    What is clear about the Intercept article is that Bellingcat is positioned as a “professional” organization in comparison to PropOrNot.

    The deeper layer of deception underlying the Washington Post episode is that PropOrNot functions as a conspicuous straw man.

    Repudiation of PropOrNot can be leveraged to project the appearance that Bellingcat and “Related Projects” are “professional” organizations of true “independent researchers” by comparison.

    This disinformation strategy is reinforced by the fact that Bellingcat is allied with the Washington Post and New York Times, the two principal mainstream media organs for “regime change” propaganda, via the First Draft Coalition “partner network”.

    In a triumph of Orwellian Newspeak, this Google-sponsored Propaganda 3.0 coalition declares that member organizations will “work together to tackle common issues, including ways to streamline the verification process”.

    The Washington Post / PropOrNot episode is no accident of journalistic malfeasance. (WaPo had no need to embellish its track record.)

    The PropOrNot hoopla is a highly streamlined Propaganda 3.0 process designed to elevate the “professional” status of Bellingcat.

    By disgracefully promoting Higgins and Bellingcat, Greenwald and Norton have verifiably served as “useful idiots”. Or worse.

    • Bill Bodden
      December 1, 2016 at 20:19

      By disgracefully promoting Higgins and Bellingcat, Greenwald and Norton have verifiably served as “useful idiots”. Or worse.

      The Intercept article merely posts two tweets from Elliot Higgins that are little more than claims of innocence and fall very short of promoting Higgins. Other than that there is no other reference to Higgins in the long article written by Greenwald and Higgins.

      • Abe
        December 1, 2016 at 23:52

        Thanks for acknowledging, however inadvertently, that the Intercept article was “written by Greenwald and Higgins”.

        Greenwald and Norton posted four tweets linking to Eliot Higgins’ Twitter account: two from Higgins, plus hyperlinks to Higgins’ account in the tweets from Greenwald and Miller.

        The Intercept article merely posts three tweets by the “unprofessional” PropOrNot ID Service.

        Yes, Bill, the Intercept went out of its way to let Higgins “write” the article.

        Now is the time for real professional journalists to do the damn work and launch a serious, in-depth investigation of Bellingcat and allied organizations listed as PropOrNot “Related Projects”.

        It won’t be that difficult, but it will require more effort than Greenwald and Norton were willing to expend on November 26th.

        • Bill Bodden
          December 2, 2016 at 01:57

          Now is the time for real professional journalists

          Such as?

  28. Joe Lauria
    December 1, 2016 at 18:11

    Stinging. It is completely Orwellian. The last people who should have anything to do with directly funding any aspect of journalism is the State Department.

    • Linda Jones
      December 1, 2016 at 19:19

      Is it just me, or is “Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy” a pretty Orwellian title?

  29. Bill Bodden
    December 1, 2016 at 18:10

    Perhaps after Glenn Greenwald shot down David Gregory over what journalism was supposed to be other media hacks decided it would be safer to not engage in a debate with someone not sharing their views – a mistake Anderson Cooper made in trying to get the better of Elizabeth Warren last night. (I know, Elizabeth Warren sold out to Hillary Clinton, but that doesn’t mean everything she says since is and will be wrong. As the old saying goes, don’t let an absence of perfection be the enemy of the good.)

    • Joe Tedesky
      December 2, 2016 at 02:02

      Back in 2012-13 Warren was getting a lot of press calling for her to run in 2016. That all ended when Hillary decided to throw her hat into the ring. I’m hoping that somehow, someway, the Democrate’s will return to be the party of FDR. At this moment though, Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Protection Program is getting threatened, or at least that’s what the MSM is reporting.

      Right now this country needs unity. It would be good to have honest and true progressives inside the mix, and if for no other reason to bend the compromise to a positive position, which benefits the ones who need it the most….like ending invasions, and getting career jobs back into the American way of life.

      Now that the wicked witch is dead (or temporarily down) maybe the Winkie Guards and the Winged Monkeys will now be able to celebrate, and hope for a better day.

  30. Anne
    December 1, 2016 at 17:53

    Well – I think many of us have known for decades (since the assisinations of JFK, RFK and MLK, jr.) that the truth is out there if one searches and researches. And sometimes the truth stays out there and we make do with our doubts – cynical or not. While grateful for this particular news outlet – it is certainly not the arbiter of truth any more than any one point of view or collection of facts can express the truth. Human beings have always shared the lemming factor. No amount of truth telling will make us any different. I’m just glad there are folks trying. Thanks for the good work and good words.

  31. December 1, 2016 at 17:46

    I was concerned this was just going to be a rehash of the Glenn Greenwald piece on The Intercept detailing aspects of this same story. That concern proved unwarranted however, as you touched on quite a few separate points I found extremely interesting. Nice work and thanks, Robert Parry

  32. rosemerry
    December 1, 2016 at 17:44

    “How do we protect the essential resource of democracy — the truth — from the toxin of lies that surrounds it? ”

    This is a strange definition of what is important to democracy, while I thought freedom of speech and thought would be high on the list, and whose definition of “truth” do we accept? Think of all the religious sects among “Christians” in the USA- each thinks his or hers is the truth.
    It is a bit like Obama claiming his job is “security for all” as if that were possible, instead of freedom, which cannot possibly allow complete security for everyone all the time.

    The Ignatius article is loaded with statements which are not true, which he or Stengel wants to enforce.

    • Jeff Davis
      December 3, 2016 at 15:06

      “How do we protect the essential resource of democracy — the truth — from the toxin of lies that surrounds it? ”


      “How do we protect the essential resource of our privilege — out control of “the truth” (wink, wink) — from the toxin of real truth that surrounds it? ”

      There, fixed that.

  33. Pablo Diablo
    December 1, 2016 at 17:37

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”— Joseph Goebbels

    • B. Zero
      December 3, 2016 at 15:32

      What good fortune for those in power that people do not think ! -Adolph Hitler

  34. Tom Welsh
    December 1, 2016 at 17:04

    “…failure to ask tough questions and to challenge dubious claims from government officials and mainstream media outlets can get lots of people killed, both U.S. soldiers and citizens of countries invaded or destabilized by outsiders”.

    Thousands or even millions of times as many of the latter as of the former – a ratio that should never be allowed to remain hidden. Nowadays it’s a scandal and a big news story if even a single US soldier is killed or wounded. But hundreds or thousands of Asians or Africans can be killed, sometimes in the most ghastly ways, and the story hardly even gets a couple of lines on an inside page. Why is that?

    • Vlad the Skewerer
      December 2, 2016 at 15:24

      I would say Tom decades of a popular culture that has demeaned human life in general, non American life in particular, years of social engineering. We wont be able to feign ignorance like Germans did 70 some years ago either, we know all about our war machine and celebrate our militarism at sporting events. Shock and awe and drones, oh how we love our shock and awe and drones (if it saves the precious life of just one American soldier…)

  35. Tom Welsh
    December 1, 2016 at 17:00

    ‘Perhaps “machine learning” [presumably a reference to algorithms] can identify falsehoods and expose every argument that uses them’.

    Or perhaps “machine learning” can identify inconvenient truths and pillory them as falsehoods. It all depends who programs the machines, doesn’t it? “Garbage in, garbage out”.

    • AriusArmenian
      December 3, 2016 at 17:00

      That the MSM that is run by Wall Street and its intelligence agency jackals think that algorithms can identify fake news shows their ignorance and stupidity which is based on them being unconscious of what they themselves are.

  36. Tom Welsh
    December 1, 2016 at 16:57

    “…mainstream U.S. news outlets are already teaming up with technology companies, such as Google and Facebook, to impose their own determinations about “truth” on the Internet”.

    Social media companies, with their business models based on teasing out private customer data and selling it wholesale to the highest bidder, are the very opposite of what the Web is meant to be. Instead, the Web is intended to empower individuals and small groups, allowing them to exchange information and opinions all across the world.

    In the terms introduced by Eric Raymond in his famous discussion of open source software, Google and Facebook are “cathedrals” – monolithic, hierarchical, dogmatic – compared to the original Web ideal of the “bazaar” – a bustling, variegated, colourful and wholly unregulated free-for-all. What is more, they are parasites on the free structure of the Web, which was designed to let individuals communicate freely worldwide – not to make huge profits for wily entrepreneurs while they relax sipping their lattes (or champagne).

  37. Tom Welsh
    December 1, 2016 at 16:50

    “I found that ironic since Matthews repeatedly scolds journalists for their failure to look skeptically at U.S. government claims about Iraq possessing WMD as justification for the disastrous Iraq War. However, now Matthews joins in smearing journalists who have applied skepticism to U.S. and Western propaganda claims about Syria and/or Ukraine”.

    Skepticism yesterday and skepticism tomorrow, but never skepticism today – with apologies to Lewis Carroll.

  38. Abe
    December 1, 2016 at 16:43

Comments are closed.