Friday, December 21, 2018

The authoritarian war on journalism and dissent - and the fake left web personalities who front it


A great piece by Sulome Anderson on the damage done by the trust fund alt-left personalities Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton, which reminded me to finish off my fact check of the Southern Poverty Law Centre report which Blumenthal threatened legal action over.
I refuse to watch as their targeted campaigns threaten the lives of rescue workers and doctors in Syria, the safety of freelance journalists in Nicaragua and the careers of reporters and academics who dare to investigate their own unsavory associations and ties to Russia.
I don't think I ever blogged about the second issue she mentions in that paragraph, the detention and deportation in October from Daniel Ortega's increasingly authoritarian Nicaragua of young anthropologist and journalist Carl David Goette-Luciak after a co-ordinated smear campaign against him in which Max Blumenthal played a part. Here is the Guardian, for which Goette-Luciak wrote:
Last week the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) denounced what it called a targeted online campaign of smears and threats against Goette-Luciak. He was accused of being a CIA agent and of trying to undermine the government, and had his home address published online. 
The US blogger Max Blumenthal later published [on conspiracy site MintPress] a lengthy, insinuation-infused attack on the journalist that admitted “there is no evidence that Goette-Luciak is an asset of the CIA or any other US agency”. 
In his article, Blumenthal, who conducted an unquestioning interview with Ortega this year and has been criticised for his reporting on the Nicaraguan crisis, painted Goette-Luciak as a “novice reporter” acting as a “publicist” for a Nicaraguan opposition that was set on regime change. 
After publication of this article a lawyer for Blumenthal contacted the Guardian to emphasise there was nothing to suggest his reporting contributed to the deportation of Goette-Luciak.
Blumenthal's hit piece on Goette-Luciak was republished in the UK's hyper-partisan conspiracist clickbait blog TheCanary, which gained some controversy in the UK. My thread on this is below.

Charles Davis, a former Telesur journalist, has written about the case too, including how Norton and Blumenthal's Grayzone Project participated in an orchestrated attack on Goette-Luciak and on Nicaraguan dissidents. One part of this disinformation campaign was the creation of a fake journalist, "Charles Redvers", who somehow managed to get a piece published on openDemocracy.

The online ecoystem that includes Grayzone, MintPress, Russian state outlets such as RT, and Corbynista alt-media like TheCanary (and promoted by an actual Labour MP, Chris Williamson) is not just dangerous for promoting fake news and dodgy geopolitics. It is also actively colluding in smears against investigative journalists, in a dark time for the profession. As Anderson starts her piece with which this post began:
A revenue crisis driven by the Internet, President Trump’s attacks on a free press, widespread mistrust of traditional media — all these factors make a career in this field today extremely challenging. The consequences of this changing environment are strikingly reflected in a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, which found that the number of journalists killed worldwide nearly doubled this year. 
...Reporting as close to the truth as possible and correcting inaccuracies when they occur are hallmarks of real journalism. Knowingly publishing lies to serve a political purpose is not journalism. It’s propaganda, and people who deal in that kind of information are not journalists. When their lies put others in danger, there should be consequences.
Labour activists need to stop promoting TheCanary and RT. The left as a whole need to shun the "alternative" media platforms that promote authoritarian regimes.


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