Who fact-checks the fact-checkers?

5 Aug

Everybody knows Vladimir Putin is a bad guy, easily comparable to Hitler. Likewise Bashar al-Assad, Kim Jong-un, Nicolás Maduro and pretty much all the leading lights in China’s CCP. These are things known, at a conservative estimate, to a couple of billion Westerners; few of whom could give a robust and factually based defence of such knowledge, or of the dense cluster of satellite views they fondly believe they arrived at on their own sweet lonesome – though on matters less vital, some can hold forth till the cows come home on the virtues of critical thinking and need for evidence based opinions.

One thing I’ve learned in my encounters with a liberal intelligentsia of which I myself am or was a member – at least until Syria opened my eyes – is that critical thinking flies out the window, and dearth of evidence ceases to be a problem, in the contexts I speak of. Why? These people are neither fools nor rascals, but they have yet to shed – fully, and without the tired cynicism so often confused with genuine scepticism – two huge illusions. One is that we live in democracies best understood, pace  Churchill, as the worst system of governance except for all the others.

The second is that in forming our assessments of Mr Putin – and those others who just happen to challenge, defy or simply get in the way of the designs of a global order highly favourable to Western rentier  elites – we are faithfully served by media both independent of power and collectively willing and able to hold it to account. Further, that their access to the corridors of (Western) power – including military-intelligence sources and ‘think tanks’ – give those media, and by extension their audiences, a comprehensive, well grounded and reliably objective view of the world.

This site has for years supplied evidence, compiled by me and a host of others, to puncture the first illusion and show that, on the contrary, we are ruled by criminals for whom our ‘democratic will’ counts for almost nothing today and if they have anything to do with it will count for even less tomorrow. It also houses – see Britain Decides! and Monolithic control at the Guardian? – my grounds for saying the second is no less illusory.

(I have in various posts, including those two, touched on matrices of knowledge – in the arts, entertainment, education, faith and myriads of social interactions which make up the warp and weft of daily life – to whose totality social scientists apply the much misunderstood term, ideology. This is a vast and immensely important subject I cannot do justice to in a single post, and is in any case a needless complexity for current purposes. I’m laying down a marker is all.)

I’ve also posted, too briefly alas, on the true nature of the risibly ‘impartial’ think tanks which confer a chimeric respectability on pronouncements by media and politicians that “we” must beef up “our” spending on “defence” in the light of the “new Hitlers” and “international pariahs” stalking the world stage as grave threats to Peace which must be held in check by a Free World led by the USA, of which I wrote last September, in Nuclear subs go down under, that:

  • The US military budget, oscillating between two thirds of a trillion and over a trillion dollars per year, exceeds the arms-spend of the next fourteen nations put together.
  • Unlike China’s and Russia’s defence sectors, America’s military-industrial complex (not my term but Eisenhower’s) is vital to the US economy; a key means of syphoning wealth from America’s many to America’s few. The US ruling class thrives on war not only as an enforcer of imperialism but as one which more than pays for itself. See this piece on the trillions that flowed to corporate death dealers led by Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman; courtesy the ‘War on Terror’. Nor has Big Tech missed out, with Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple and Microsoft firmly aboard the gravy train. All, of course, aided by the Beltway’s fast spinning revolving doors.
  • Only one country has ever used nuclear weapons for real – and its stated reasons for doing so were not the true reasons.
  • The two decades of carnage in the middle east which opened this century are no aberration. The USA has been at war for 225 of its 243 years of existence.

So over the years I’ve covered with varying degrees of thoroughness the truths that (a) we’re ruled by criminals; (b) corporate media are deeply untrustworthy on matters vital to the interests of said criminals (and no; conspiracy, while it can never be ruled out, is not pivotal to this assessment); (c) ideology – diversely and deeply sourced, and interacting in countless ways to create and renew, affirm and reaffirm our unquestioning assumptions of Western superiority – plays a huge role; (d) ‘think tanks’ no less than ‘intelligence sources’ are also deeply untrustworthy due to their slyly arm’s length funding.

What’s missing? That recent arrival, the Fact Checker Site. Its role? To neutralise – in a world wide web once heralded as free of centralised authority but now in the hands of a tiny oligarchy – the potential threat to corporate media controls posed by social media.

Having said next to nothing myself about this Johnny Come Lately, and its importance to ruling classes in the West as a powerful addition to the opinion manufacture toolkit, I was pleased to receive an email yesterday from an old pal and Sheffield Hallam colleague, Peter Jones. It housed a link to a MintPress piece three days ago by Alan MacLeod, who cut his teeth in the Glasgow Media Group and has featured before on this site. Here the context is Ukraine but the realities he points to go wider.

One caveat. While the target of Mr MacLeod’s piece is the dishonesty of Western elites who manipulate our views with such ease, like a good few others – people I  agree with on many things – he alludes here and there to what he sees as Russia’s own grave shortcomings. These asides lack the forensic detail so admirably set out in the rest of the piece. I can live with that, and here confine myself to saying that I do not share the unsubstantiated views implicit in them. Does that make me a Putin devotee? If you say so but in the meantime I consider the jury still out or, to be more precise, that no truly impartial investigation has been carried out. 1 But whether or not you agree on this small point, we can all appreciate the depth of research Alan MacLeod has brought to his assessment.

So let me hand over to the man..

Most of the “Fact-Checking” Organisations Facebook uses in Ukraine are directly funded by Washington

August 2, 2022

Most of the fact-checking organizations Facebook has partnered with to monitor and regulate information about Ukraine are directly funded by the U.S. government, either through the U.S. Embassy or via the notorious National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

In light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, an information war as bitter as the ground fighting has erupted, and Meta (Facebook’s official name) announced it had partnered with nine organizations to help it sort fact from fiction for Ukrainian, Russian and other Eastern European users. These nine organizations are: StopFake, VoxCheck, Fact Check Georgia, Demagog, Myth Detector, Lead Stories, Patikrinta 15min, Re:Baltica and Delfi.

“To reduce the spread of misinformation and provide more reliable information to users, we partner with independent third-party fact-checkers globally,” the Silicon Valley giant wrote, adding, “Facebook’s independent third-party fact-checkers are all certified by the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). The IFCN, a subsidiary of the journalism research organization Poynter Institute, is dedicated to bringing together fact-checkers worldwide.”

The problem with this? At least five of the nine organizations are directly in the pay of the United States government, a major belligerent in the conflict. The Poynter Institute is also funded by the NED. Furthermore, many of the other fact-checking organizations also have deep connections with other NATO powers, including direct funding.

STOPFAKE

Perhaps the most well-known and notorious of the nine groups is StopFake. Established in 2014, StopFake is funded by NATO’s Atlantic Council, by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the British Embassy in Ukraine and the Czech Foreign Ministry. It has also received money from the U.S. via the National Endowment for Democracy, although that fact is far from trumpeted by either party.

One potential reason for this was alluded to in a 2016 article reprinted by StopFake itself. As the article notes, “in the case of StopFake.org when opponents want to insult the project, they immediately invoke National Endowment for Democracy donor support as evidence of U.S. government and CIA involvement.”

In the wake of the Russian invasion, the NED pulled all public records of their Ukraine projects from the internet. Nevertheless, incomplete archived copies of those records confirm a financial relationship between the groups.

StopFake was explicitly set up as a partisan organization. As a glowing report on them from the International Journalists’ Network notes, the majority of StopFake’s fact-checks are on stories from Russian media, and the motivation for its creation was “Russia’s 2014 occupation of Crimea and a campaign to portray Ukraine as a fascist state where anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia and xenophobia thrived.”

While it is indeed incorrect to label Ukraine a fascist state, the country clearly has one of the strongest far-right movements anywhere in Europe. And unfortunately, StopFake itself is far from an apolitical bystander in that rise. Multiple established Western media outlets, including The New York Times, have reported on StopFake’s ties to white power or Nazi groups. When local journalist Ekaterina Sergatskova exposed these links, death threats from far-right figures forced her to flee her home.

Indeed, according to some, one of StopFake’s primary functions appears to be to promote the far-right. A long exposé by Lev Golinkin in The Nation cataloged what it called StopFake’s history of “aggressively whitewashing two Ukrainian neo-Nazi groups with a long track record of violence, including war crimes.”

Surely StopFake’s most famous former host is Nina Jankowicz. Jankowicz was briefly head of President Biden’s newly formed Disinformation Governance Board before public uproar caused her to resign. Dubbed the “Ministry of Truth”, both the board and Jankowicz generated strong opposition. Yet few mentioned the fact that, while at StopFake, Jankowicz herself had, on camera, enthusiastically extolled the virtues of multiple fascist paramilitaries …

Read the full piece (3422 words) on the MintPress site … 2

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  1. It alternatively irks and amuses me when former academic colleagues – folk too world-wearily sophisticated to cite a Guardian or Economist article as evidence; folk, moreover, whose knowledge of social science methods far exceeds my own – suddenly forget the most elementary principles regarding sample size and selective bias as they blithely cite what a few Ukrainian or Russian pals have allegedly told them as evidence that Putin is a monster.
  2. Moments after posting this I see Caitlin Johnstone has based her own post this morning on the Alan MacLeod piece. Those deterred by the length of the latter – which is, I stress, packed with evidence for his claims – might turn instead to what Caitlin has to say.

4 Replies to “Who fact-checks the fact-checkers?

  1. I love it when you tell dirty jokes. The one about our western Free World was a good one. Judging from the posts out of China and other heavily censored countries, who seem to be able to say what they like, must truly envy our “freedoms” and especially our “freedom of speech” being so dominant in our “freedoms” our free press, our free media, our freedom to demonstrate or our freedom to bear witness against our regime’s fraud, war crimes, murderous meddling, malfeasance of any kind……remind me again which planet I am actually living on.

    Enjoy your vacation and have lots of fun!

    🙂
    Susan

  2. Slightly at a tangent to the above, here’s an interesting possibility (in the last paragraphs) about what China might do now re Taiwan. If they do in fact institute some kind of embargo, then that will be the end of US meddling – unless the US actually descends to declaring war – and then it would be publicised to the Third World as being their undisputed fault (as it would be in any case).

    https://vk.com/@580896205-my-thoughts-on-the-pelosi-saga

  3. Despite Marxism being basically a sociological analysis (which I generally agree with, for what that’s worth), I think psychology also has a part to play in analysing why propaganda works. I cite the following as interesting (but very broad, non-scientific) examples of this.

    1) “This disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect, persons of poor and mean condition, … is, … the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments”.
    Adam Smith – The Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759

    2) Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

    3) H.L. Mencken (said approx.): “The average man avoids the truth as he avoids arson, regicide, and piracy on the high seas, and for the same reason: it is dangerous, no good can come of it, and it doesn’t pay.”

    Basically, most peoples senses of morality and ethics are both weak and contra-indicated (in the short term, that is, which is as far as most people can see).

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