Friday, May 5, 2017

There's certainly 'fake news' out there...

Ever since the U.S. elections the hot topic has been "fake news." As usually in 'Russian fake news.. propaganda... kompromat... (it always sounds 'sexier' if you throw in some foreign words!) was responsible for Hilary Clinton's election loss.' For example, per Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia) Russia was not only responsible for the prolific production of 'fake news' but also managed to "... generate news down to specific areas... were able to (affect) specific areas in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, where you would not have been receiving off of whoever your vendor might have been, ‘Trump versus Clinton’ from the waning days of the election. But instead, ‘Clinton is sick,’ or ‘Clinton is taking money’ from some source..." and trick the Google algorithm so that "... you wouldn't get Fox or ABC, The New York Times; what you get is four out of the first five news stories that popped up were Russian propaganda..." (Note: he did throw an obligatory "reported to me" in there somewhere, but he was rather categorical that all this actually happened...)

The 'fake news' bandwagon then rolled on to star in the upcoming French and German elections. 

Being in the U.S. I certainly saw a ton of (frankly) crap in the run up to the election... Hilary Clinton faints, folks speculate about why, some with outlandish theories... Picture of Hilary Clinton being helped up some stairs? Ditto. Candidate Trump refuses to release his tax returns? Folks speculate about why, some with outlandish theories... Are we seeing a pattern here? However, after the elections everything seemed to get rolled up in the "fake news" meme. I must say I didn't see any more than the usual level of crap (note: at least 20-30 of everything out there on the 'net); but perhaps I wasn't in an area specifically 'targeted!'

So, it was interesting when I ran across this online article by "Die Welt" purporting to unmask a specific example of 'fake news.' So, according to this reporting 'fake news' was being circulated that Emmanuel Macron is gay and that (per Die Welt) this allegation (Macron being a "closeted homosexual") was 'fake news' put out specifically by "... the pro-Russian propaganda website Sputnik on Feb. 4." Strangely enough, although this was a web story it did not include a link to the Sputnik article with the "fake news." Perhaps this was a high-minded attempt not to further propagate 'fake news' (more on that later).

Well, Google is your friend (except, perhaps, when Mark Warner believes it is being subverted by the Russians!) I used Google and immediately found the Sputnik article in question: 'Ex-French Economy Minister Macron Could Be 'US Agent' Lobbying Banks' Interests.' A read of the article doesn't quite bear out the Die Welt allegation. Yes, the article references Macron being gay; however, what it reported was that this ex-minister and sitting member of the French parliament made accusations about Macron being a stalking horse for U.S. financial interests and then went on to insinuate that Macron might be gay. And Sputnik reported that the candidate had denied a rumor about being gay (along with other allegations e.g. misuse of government funds).

So, Sputnik reported (factually) that an ex-minister had made allegations and insinuations about Macron and that Macron had denied a number of allegations... and both included his sexual proclivities. I'm hard pressed to see how this is 'fake news.' On the other hand, the Die Welt's article certainly misconstrued (at best) or lied (at worst) about Sputnik's article! In this particular case I would have to say that of the two articles, the Die Welt article claims the title of  'fake news.' So, very likely Die Welt not linking to the Sputnik article was not some high-minded attempt to prevent the further propagation of 'fake news,' but an attempt to make it harder to see that their article was the one stretching the truth the most!

P.S. It is to be noted that the Macron campaign refused to accredit Sputnik and some other news outlets on the grounds that they were illegitimate and purveyors of 'fake news.' And when Marine Le Pen asked Macron about off-shore accounts, which was followed by some fake documents "proving" the same the Macron campaign again fingered Sputnik... In response the editors of Sputnik wrote the Macron campaign an open letter pointing out that they had reported no stories about this item and  asking  for a dialog. Oh, and apparently "... The provenance of the latest conspiracy theory isn't clear, but there are hints tying the faked documents to far-right circles in California."

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