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This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations

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Photo by LaNotizia | CC BY 2.0

Photo by LaNotizia | CC BY 2.0

 

Last week CounterPunch and others demanded the Washington Post retract and apologize for their shoddy article by Craig Timberg that smeared some 200 websites as Russian propagandists. Our friends at Truthdig and Naked Capitalism, both named as Putinistas, fired off demand letters. A petition was also sent to Post editor Martin Baron. Needless to say, they felt the heat.

On Wednesday the Post added a note atop their article, essentially trying to put a little breathing room behind their “journalism” and their main source, an obscure anonymous outfit called PropOrNot.

Here’s their note:

“The Washington Post on Nov. 24 published a story on the work of four sets of researchers who have examined what they say are Russian propaganda efforts to undermine American democracy and interests. One of them was PropOrNot, a group that insists on public anonymity, which issued a report identifying more than 200 websites that, in its view, wittingly or unwittingly published or echoed Russian propaganda. A number of those sites have objected to being included on PropOrNot’s list, and some of the sites, as well as others not on the list, have publicly challenged the group’s methodology and conclusions. The Post, which did not name any of the sites, does not itself vouch for the validity of PropOrNot’s findings regarding any individual media outlet, nor did the article purport to do so. Since publication of The Post’s story, PropOrNot has removed some sites from its list.”

Apparently the Post editors were unaware of the drivel Timberg wrote in his hearty embrace of PropOrNot’s “findings”.

“PropOrNot’s monitoring report, which was provided to The Washington Post in advance of its public release, identifies more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season, with combined audiences of at least 15 million Americans. On Facebook, PropOrNot estimates that stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.”

So on the one hand the Post realized PropOrNot is full of shit, but on the other they are still not willing to retract a bogus piece that used a suspect group as a primary source. So much for journalistic integrity. I shouldn’t be surprised, the Post had none to begin with.

In other news, it came to our attention this week that a “design technologist ” by the name of Daniel Sieradski has developed a plugin for Google’s Chrome web browser that alerts readers when they stumble upon CounterPunch.

Here’s what you’ll see with this so-called “BS Detector”.

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-2-14-33-pm

Funny, no such red flag warning sprawls across the pages at the Post with this bullshit plugin. Anyway, I asked Sieradski to remove CounterPunch from his list of websites that are flagged by his little Mccarthyite application. Here was his initial response:

The “source” Sieradski references above was a futile attempt to tarnish CounterPunch as a bastion of right-wing, anti-semitic hate that came to our attention a couple of years ago. The author of the silly piece, Elise Hendrick, claimed to have conducted a statistical analysis of our articles, and came away with the certaintly that we “are helping to promote the agenda of the far right.” Of course, this came as news to us here at CP. We’ve published over 55,000 articles from some 6,000 different authors. Apparently, of these thousands of pieces, we “frequently” publish right-wing hatemongers. Here’s Jeffrey St. Clair’s response to this outlandish accusation:

“You are, naturally, quite free to draw what ever conclusions you like about the political slant of CounterPunch, but your assertions should at least have some tenuous tether to reality, especially when you purport to do a deep ‘statistical’ analysis of stories and authors. We’ve published more than 55,000 articles since 1999. Ralph Nader, alone, has written more than 400 articles for us. Is Ralph left or right? Well, he’s of Lebanese descent, so we can surmise where you would slot Ralph. That’s another 400 articles for your right wingers, I guess. How about Edward Said. Dozens of articles for the pre-eminent intellectual critic of Imperialism. But, yes, Edward was Palestinian and thus by your crafty declinations he was a birth-right right-winger. Kaching! More bonus points for you!! What about Fidel Castro, left or right? We run all of Fidel’s columns, all of Ricardo Alarcon’s, too. Critics of Israel. Shame on them. What about Philip Agee, former CIA spook who spilled the beans? We ran lots of stories by Phil before he died. How about Subcomandante Marcos. We’ve published almost all of his dispatches from the Lacondon. Left or right? Hard call. He is a smoker. Right hand column, I guess. Uri Avnery, Jew, former member of the Knesset, served with Begin in the Irgun. 500 articles by Uri. Hmm. Hard call. Put him in the excluded middle I guess.

What about Kathy Kelly? Catholic Worker, nominated several times for Nobel Prize. We published more than 300 pieces by Kathy and a book. More bait to lure naive leftists into a “trap.” Could be. What about one of the greatest living black novelists, Ishmael Reed? Is he a dupe? How about his daughter, Tennessee. We published her book on how the US education system throws one roadblock after another in front of young black women. That’s an entire book. How about Kevin Alexander Gray, one of the leading black civil rights organizers in the US, led the campaign to vanquish the Confederate Flag in South Carolina for two decades. Dozens of articles by Kevin and two books. But, whoops, he’s a critic of Israel. Does that make him a black white supremacist? I guess they do exist, consider the spectacle of Clarence Thomas. But I don’t think even you could squeeze Kevin into that box–not in his presence anyway. What about our book, Killing Trayvons? Just another con job? Frankly, I don’t care how you align our writers on your bifurcated little list, which has ominous overtones of other little lists kept by your compatriots in the not-so-distant past, but you should at least acknowledge their existence! And stop calling what you’re doing “statistical analysis”. As that infamous right-winger Mark Twain said, there’s lies, damned lies and statistics. But you don’t even HAVE statistics. Just your own hand-picked glob of silly putty. Good luck with your auto-de-fe.”

Sadly, I hold a MA in statistics (Lord knows why) and I can assure readers that Hendrick’s “analysis” isn’t sound enough to hold a bucket of shit, and that’s putting it very mildly. Of course, I pointed this out to our new friend Sieradski, who continued to argue that since we’ve run the likes of Gilad Atzmon and Alison Weir in the past, then by-god, we are an anti-semitic rag.

Readers of CounterPunch are well aware that we don’t take the issue of anti-semitism lightly. The charge is a serious one, but it’s lost its punch over the years as it is so often hurled at critics of Israel that it has little potency, which in turn only emboldens actual anti-semites. (For the record, I’ve been labeled a self-hating Jew and even a Zionist! So I know the terrain.)

When I pointed this out to Sieradski, noting that, of the 55,000+ articles we’ve published, we’ve never once ran anything close to anti-semitic. Anti-Zionist? Yes. Anti-Jew? Absolutely not. But like the Post, Sieradski doesn’t care about facts, that much is clear. To top it off, Sieraski charges that we house a bunch of bigots in our writing stable.

There’s little doubt that what Sieradski is attempting to do is to steer readers away from CounterPunch, based not on the actual content of CounterPunch, but on his ill-informed belief that our writers are Jew-hating bigots. As such, his plugin is an attempt to hurt, not only CounterPunch’s reputation, but our bottom line as well.

Like the Post‘s dubious article claiming we are a Russian propaganda outfit, Sieradski’s plugin is another attempt to paint us into a corner as untrustworthy, or even worse, as proprietors of hate.

We won’t have it. These efforts to thwart independent thought and discourse should never be tolerated. I hope our readers will let Sieradski have an ear full. He deserves it.

JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, co-edited with Jeffrey St. Clair and published by AK Press. He can be reached at joshua@counterpunch.org. You can troll him on Twitter @joshua__frank

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