Editors and reporters at The Washington Post really stepped in it when they ran with a bogus story accusing more than 200 web sites of acting on behalf of Russia to push propaganda via “fake” news reports, in a bid to help Donald J. Trump win the presidency.
As Natural News founder, Mike Adams the Health Ranger, reported after the piece appeared last month, the Post may have just committed the journalistic equivalent of suicide after publishing a “shoddy hit piece, sourced from a secretive and shady group of shadowy people who refuse to identify themselves, with the intention of blacklisting news sites that disagree with the kind of state-run propaganda printed by WashPost.”
How bad was the tinfoil hat conspiratorial piece? So bad that The Intercept, co-founded by The Guardian’s veteran reporter Glenn Greenwald—who co-broke the Edward Snowden story with the Post—lambasted WaPo for running with it after several other news agencies passed it up. In fact, Greenwald co-wrote a piece for The Intercept heavily criticizing the Post for its blatantly conspiratorial (and incorrect) report.
Heap of legal trouble
The Post cited a never-before-heard-of “organization” of “professionals” and “experts” in national security, defense, the media, academia and other places who claimed that some 200 news and information sites online (Natural News was included on that list) were hand-fed election propaganda about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton by the Kremlin, for the purpose of ensuring her defeat and ensuring a Trump victory.
To report that we, along with hundreds of other legitimate news organizations, are just media organs for Russian spy agencies is beyond the pale absurd. But the Post went with it anyway, and now it’s in a heap of trouble.
One of the sites that made the “list” of the shadowy group calling itself “PropOrNot” (Propaganda or not, we assume) was Naked Capitalism, a site which bills itself as one that offers “fearless commentary on finance, economics, politics and power.”
Now, because her site has been libeled, founder Yves Smith is threatening to sue the Post if it does not print a serious retraction (and for the record, we are demanding/threatening the same thing). In a post on her site, Smith demanded the apology and retraction or she plans to file a defamation lawsuit and seek monetary damages.
In her site post, Smith writes that her attorney, Jim Moody, is a seasoned litigator who has won cases he has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. In addition, he is considerably experienced in First Amendment and defamation actions, including past cases Westmoreland v CBS and serving as counsel to Linda Tripp.
When did the Post stop verifying strong accusations before publishing them?
She noted that the Post was “taken for a ride by inept propagandists” when it decided to report that the Russians were using hundreds of U.S. news sites to spread anti-Clinton propaganda (the list contained right-leaning and left-leaning sites). Many other news organizations and reporters were approached but all decided that the “anonymous” nature of the request to turn PropOrNot’s “findings” into a major political news story was bogus.
All except the Post, that is. Call it institutional bias against any and all things and politicians Republican and conservative that led the Post to conclude the unnamed “experts” who supposedly formed PropOrNot actually existed, but the Post’s managing editors fell for this hook, line and sinker.
And now the paper is in a tenuous legal position.
But it didn’t have to be. As Smith pointed out, there were some pretty obvious, flagrant fabrications if anyone at the paper had actually bothered to check out and attempt to verify. Which led her to ask, rhetorically, “If the site is flagrantly false with respect to things that can be checked, why pray tell did The Washington Post and fellow useful idiots in the mainstream media validate and amplify its message?”
Strong claims normally demand equally strong proof, and yet the paper did nothing but give a megaphone to people who fabricated things with abandon. It’s no wonder members of the shady group “hide as much as they can about what they are up to; more transparency would expose their work to be a tissue of lies.”