The Truth About “Fake News” and “Useful Idiots”

  • Stockman smeared as Putin’s useful idiot by anonymous “experts”
  • And if you dissent from conventional wisdom, you’re a Putin stooge too
  • How the “respectable” press latched onto “fake news”
  • Insiders to Italians: Vote our way on Sunday or eight banks are going down!
  • A reality check about those Black Friday numbers you hear on the news
  • Small victory in the war on cash: Cash saves Thanksgiving for thousands in Pennsylvania

In the United States of late 2016, it’s come to this: A patriot like our own David Stockman gets smeared as a “useful idiot” of Russian President Vladimir Putin on the front page of The Washington Post.

To be clear, David was not singled out in the Post story. But the story described “a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy.”
The Post’s leading source for the story was a group of anonymous “independent researchers” who assembled a blacklist of 200 websites supposedly disseminating “fake news” and toeing the Russian line.
If you don’t wallow in mainstream media, you might not know “fake news” is a thing now… so here’s a bit of background.
In the run-up to the election, a handful of bogus news stories caught fire on Facebook and other social media. The most widely shared one was typical of the genre — an item claiming Pope Francis had endorsed Donald Trump. They originated with little-known and hard-to-trace websites with disparate names like Ending the Fed or The Political Insider or the Denver Guardian.
In the days since the election, the establishment media have flailed about in search of excuses that would explain away their catastrophic failure to anticipate a Trump victory. Thus, they’ve latched on to “fake news.” (TRUMP WON BECAUSE THOSE RUBES IN PENNSYLTUCKY AND THE WISCONSIN NORTHWOODS BELIEVED THE POPE ENDORSED TRUMP AND HILLARY SOLD WEAPONS TO ISIS!)
Enter the “independent researchers” who are linking “fake news” to any kind of dissent from the establishment consensus… and ultimately, to Putin.
The Post story leans heavily on an anonymous website called PropOrNot — as in “propaganda.” The paper describes the organization only as “a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds.” PropOrNot alleges the Russian disinformation campaign planted or promoted stories on Facebook that were viewed more than 213 million times.
PropOrNot assembled the blacklist that includes David’s Contra Corner site…

The blacklist is a hodgepodge of Russian state media (RT, Sputnik), conspiracy message boards (Godlike Productions), neo-Nazi organs (Daily Stormer), progressive sites that criticized Clinton (TruthDig, Counterpunch), along with the Drudge Report, WikiLeaks, the Ron Paul Institute…
As Ben Norton and Glenn Greenwald observed over the weekend at The Intercept, the only thing these sites have in common is that they lie outside the narrow continuum of establishment wisdom that lies between Hillary Clinton on the left and Jeb Bush on the right.
But who’s behind PropOrNot? The Post does not say. Its origins are as murky as Ending the Fed. (Even more: In recent days, Ending the Fed was tracked to a 24-year-old Trump supporter from Romania.) The paper allows PropOrNot to hide behind the cloak of anonymity so it could “avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers.” (YOU HAVE TO TAKE OUR WORD FOR IT THAT THESE PEOPLE ARE TRUSTWORTHY! JUST LIKE OUR ANONYMOUS SOURCES WHO SAID SADDAM HUSSEIN WAS BEST BUDS WITH AL-QAIDA!)
And what methodologies did PropOrNot use to create its blacklist and come up with that 213 million figure? Likewise, the Post does not say. On its website, PropOrNot describes its metrics as “behavioral” and “motivation-agnostic.”
“That is to say,” write Norton and Greenwald, “even if a news source is not technically a Russian propaganda outlet and is not even trying to help the Kremlin, it is still guilty of being a ‘useful idiot’ if it publishes material that might in some way be convenient or helpful for the Russian government.”
David Stockman’s Contra Corner? Check. Here’s a nugget of David’s we shared in The 5 Min. Forecast during the campaign, talking about Russia: “Neither America’s security nor its elections are threatened by a faltering kleptocracy that is just 7% the size of the U.S economy, and which has an annual defense budget of only $40 billion. That’s what Washington spends on ‘national security’ every 20 days!”
So if you’re critical of U.S. foreign policy — and David Stockman certainly is — you’re a useful idiot. If you spoke up during the campaign against Hillary Clinton’s rush toward a new cold war — as David certainly did — you’re a useful idiot. If you repost articles from other sites on the list — David shared many articles from Antiwar and Consortium News — you’re a useful idiot.
Oy. Antiwar and Consortium News both trace their origins to the web’s earliest days in the mid-1990s, when Putin was still deputy first chairman in Saint Petersburg. (THAT’S HOW DIABOLICAL AND FAR-REACHING HIS SCHEME IS! HE WAS LAYING THE GROUNDWORK EVEN THEN!)
But poke around long enough on PropOrNot’s website and you discover financial and economic criteria for inclusion on the blacklist, too — “stoking fears over the national debt, attacking institutions such as the Federal Reserve and attempts to discredit Western financial experts and business leaders.”
Heh… How did Agora Financial and The Daily Reckoning miss out? Heck, our fearless leader Addison Wiggin made a documentary called I.O.U.S.A. eight years ago that was all about “stoking fears over the national debt.”
Also meriting inclusion on the blacklist: “gold standard nuttery and attacks on the U.S. dollar.” C’mon, guys: Addison wrote a book years ago called The Demise of the Dollar. And our own Jim Rickards published The New Case for Gold this past spring! Why don’t we rate?!
Oh well — many other finance-oriented sites do make the blacklist, including the left-leaning Naked Capitalism and the sui generis Zero Hedge.
So it’s not all about Russia. It’s about dissent against the power elite.
We wouldn’t give two whits about PropOrNot’s list except that the establishment is taking it seriously (thus the Post treatment)… and PropOrNot is explicitly calling on the Obama administration and Congress to act.
On its FAQ page, PropOrNot says it is not engaging in McCarthyism. But a couple of paragraphs later, it makes this McCarthyesque accusation: “We strongly suspect that some of the individuals involved have violated the Espionage Act, the Foreign Agent Registration Act and other related laws, but determining that is up to the FBI and the DOJ.”
Hell, at least “Tailgunner Joe” McCarthy had the courage to show his face when talking about his list.
Here in The 5, we fretted during the campaign about how a Clinton administration would tar its critics as Putin stooges. And while a Trump FBI and Justice Department might not go after the sites on PropOrNot’s list… we can easily imagine Russophobes like Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham convening McCarthyite hearings come January. The PropOrNot “independent researchers” could testify with bags over their heads to conceal their identities.
And maybe — just play along with us here — they could hold up a prop to illustrate the dire threat Russian disinformation poses to the public. And that prop would be… a copy of David’s book Trumped! A Nation on the Brink of Ruin… and How to Bring It Back.
Nah… Surely they realize the “Streisand effect” would instantly kick in and the book would fly off the shelves. The last thing the “powers that be” want is for people to read David’s guidebook for how the next four years will likely proceed — including a chilling description of the forces arrayed against Trump.
We’re still making copies available FREE — just spot us $4.95 for shipping and it’s yours. Better yet, you get an exclusive bonus chapter identifying the No. 1 investment to own during the first hundred days of the Trump presidency. Claim your copy at this link — no long-winded presentation to watch.
To the markets today… where the major U.S. stock indexes are in the red, with small caps the biggest drag.
That’s a modest reversal of last week’s action. At last check, the Dow was down less than a quarter-percent, but the Russell 2000 was down more than three-quarters of a percent.
Gold is clambering back from last Wednesday’s big smackdown — up $6 as we write, to $1,189. That’s despite a bit of strength in the greenback, with the dollar index up a tad at 101.4.
Crude is up nearly 3%, to $47.38. Evidently, the on-again-off-again rumors of an OPEC production cut are on again. We should know something for sure when OPEC meets in Vienna on Wednesday.
Maybe it’s a case of elite-media “psyops”… but the Financial Times is going big with a story threatening the failure of up to eight Italian banks if Italians don’t vote “the right way” on constitutional reforms next Sunday.
We told you about this referendum last week: Prime Minister Matteo Renzi says he’ll resign if voters reject the reforms. “This could lead to a period of political chaos, with implications for the EU and the euro,” said Jim Rickards.
We’ve also told you how several Italian banks are in trouble. Now the two phenomena are melding, and the salmon-colored rag cites “officials and senior bankers” saying as many as eight banks could go down if the vote is “no” and Renzi quits. “The situation is being closely watched by financiers and policymakers across Europe and beyond, who worry that a mass failure of Italian banks could trigger panic across the eurozone banking system.”
The article didn’t say “Deutsche Bank” — Germany’s giant dead bank walking — but the implication was clear.
Jim Rickards continues to track this developing situation. We’ll hear more from him as the week goes on…
Unlike the mainstream, we have no idea whether Black Friday was a bust for brick-and-mortar retailers.
But that’s the official line: Traffic was up, but sales totals were down, thanks to deep discounts.
The official line comes courtesy of the National Retail Federation’s annual Black Friday report, issued yesterday. Years ago, an old friend of The 5, money manager and Bloomberg blogger Barry Ritholtz, disabused us of the notion this report has any credibility at all.
This year’s report was suspiciously precise in its figures: “Average spending per person over Thanksgiving weekend totaled $289.19, down slightly from $299.60 last year.”
You know how they arrived at those numbers? They conducted a survey asking consumers how much they planned to spend and how much they spent last year. (As if anyone remembers.)
Good grief. We’ll get a better read on Black Friday when the Commerce Department releases its November retail sales report in another 2½ weeks…
Here’s one holiday-shopping certainty: Traffic was so heavy at Pennsylvania’s state-owned liquor stores last Wednesday, its credit card system shut down.
The Keystone State has loosened its controls over booze sales in recent years, but not much: Wine and spirits are sold only in stores owned by the state government. Last Wednesday, in a pre-Thanksgiving rush, the credit card system became overwhelmed around 3:00 p.m. The Liquor Control Board needed an hour to reset the machines.
Note to the elites waging the war on cash: During that hour, the liquor stores still accepted cash payments. Do you really want to run the risk of social upheaval if people can’t buy their holiday booze when they want it?
“Trump’s transition team is clearly ahead of schedule,” writes a reader trying out his standup comedy routine in The 5’s inbox.
“The president-elect has yet to be sworn in, but he is already considering pardoning his first turkey (Hillary).”
The 5: Did you really expect otherwise?
Trump even used the same language Obama was using eight years ago: “My inclination,” Trump told The New York Times, “would be for whatever power I have on the matter, is to say, ‘Let’s go forward.’”
Days before taking office in 2009, Obama said “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards” when asked if he wanted to go after Bush administration officials for torture and domestic eavesdropping. Ultimately, he leaned on the Justice Department to lay off.
It’s professional courtesy among thieves and liars…
Best regards,
Dave Gonigam
The 5 Min. Forecast
P.S. “Donald Trump is getting some extremely bad advice from his economics team,” David Stockman writes today at his subscriber-only Contra Corner site.
“The path of protectionism and mega fiscal stimulus they are recommending will not help Flyover America, where left-behind citizens in their tens of millions voted to impeach the Wall Street/Washington ruling elites on Nov. 8.”
We spoke earlier in today’s episode of “forces arrayed against Trump.” Those forces are now becoming clearer. And David anticipated those forces in his book Trumped! A Nation on the Brink of Ruin… and How to Bring It Back.
It was published only weeks before the election, before the outcome was known. It’s even more urgent now. Order your copy today for only $4.95 (the cost of shipping) and you’ll get a free trial of David’s Contra Corner site — you know, the one that anonymous cowards are dissing in The Washington Post as “Russian propaganda.” Here’s where to go.

Dave Gonigam

Dave Gonigam

Dave Gonigam has been managing editor of The 5 Min. Forecast since September 2010. Before joining the research and writing team at Agora Financial in 2007, he worked for 20 years as an Emmy award-winning television news producer.

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