kpfa's fake-news pitch & the ministry of truth

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KPFA's "fake-news" pitch
the Ministry of Truth

by Daniel Borgström
December 2016

Pacifica's radio station in Berkeley, KPFA 94.1 fm, has been airing a pitch to listeners which contains the line: "There's a lot of fake news, propaganda and misinformation emanating from phony media outlets." The reader of this pitch is the station's General Manager, Quincy McCoy, who goes on to assure listeners that KPFA is a news source that can be trusted. This pitch is played several times daily as part of a post-fund drive effort to remind listeners to please fulfil their pledges.

That line about "fake news" and "phony media outlets" is truly a strange thing to hear from KPFA. The "fake news" meme comes from the corporate media which has even offered a list of hundreds of offending websites. On Thanksgiving Day the Washington Post came out with a front page article titled: "
Russian propaganda effort helped spread 'fake news' during election, experts say."

The Post's "experts" were primarily the "
PropOrNotPropOrNot" team, who identified and named two hundred websites that, according to PropOrNot, "reliably echo Russian propaganda." The targeted sites included not only left-wing, but also right-wing and libertarian websites. Writers and editors of these sites are often guests on the various KPFA shows; many are persons who speak at KPFA sponsored speaking events. These websites are, like KPFA, part of the alternative media which offers information that we don't get from the corporate media.

So who are the "expert" investigators of the PropOrNot team, and what are their qualifications? Nobody seems to know anything about them, other than that they're an anonymous group with a name that's quite a tongue twister and a website that apparently cannot be traced to anybody. In effect, it's a website that makes unsubstantiated claims.

Nevertheless, for a few days PropOrNot was echoed by the NYT, CNN, NPR and many other mainstream media outlets. Fortunately, it was soon discredited by investigative journalists writing for the websites it attacked. Among the most devastating take-downs of PropOrNot was one by Glen Greenwald on
the Intercept website.

Nor was
The New Yorker much impressed with PropOrNot. The magazine dismissed it saying, "its methodology is a mess."

So PropOrNot was exposed as a hoax, a glaring example of a real fake news website. However, it was a hoax that served the interests of the
establishment, and many mainstream news outlets have continued the campaign against alleged "fake news." Congress has taken up the issue and written a provision into the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act which will create a "Global Engagement Center" to "recognize, understand, expose, and counter ... propaganda and disinformation".

On December 23rd, President
Obama signed it into law, a Christmas present for the next president -- a MINISTRY OF TRUTH for Donald Trump to play with.

Government intervention in the media goes back a long way. There was the
CIA's Operation Mockingbird which was exposed in the 1970s. Similar projects have continued up to the present, with the cooperation of the corporate media. What's new is that with a "Ministry of Truth" showing the way, this could be the beginning of another Joe McCarthy era.

Nevertheless, KPFA's station manager is still airing that message to KPFA listeners, echoing the establishment's campaign. The full recording reads:

"Fear, anxiety, and confusion grips a lot of folks in today's dark post-election world. There's a lot of fake news, propaganda and misinformation emanating from phony media outlets. If you're searching for truth, unfiltered news, in-depth public affairs programming, you can count on one independent radio station to do what it's been doing for 67 years, staying vigilant as always, 94.1 FM, KPFA"

The manager's message reflects the panic, the confusion, and the uncritical conformity which is rife among many liberals and progressives today. Such feelings are quite understandable. However, lashing out at alternative media outlets plays into the agenda of the neoliberal establishment and also undermines KPFA's credibility. Some of the station's listeners have written to the manager, reminding him that the main source of disinformation is the corporate media, the ones who have promoted that PropOrNot blacklist.

Best to get off of that bandwagon. KPFA should be defending the First Amendment rights of all alternative media outlets.

Daniel is a KPFA listener who lives in Berkeley and writes for websites.
danielfortyone( )

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UPDATED February 5, 2017:

KPFA has been playing the above quoted recording during December, January, and now even in February 2017, despite requests to take it off the air. General Manager Quincy McCoy's response to listeners has been automatic emails announcing that he's out of town. Listeners have also emailed Program Director Laura Prives, who has thus far not responded.

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articles & websites cited above

The WASHINGTON POST article about "fake news" & PropOrNot:
Russian propaganda effort helped spread 'fake news' during election, experts say."
by Craig Timberg
November 24, 2016


Glenn Greenwald response on
The Intercept
"Washington Post Disgracefully Promotes a McCarthyite Blacklist From a New, Hidden, and Very Shady Group"
by Glenn Greenwald
November 26 2016

The Propaganda About Russian Propaganda"
by Adrian Chen
December 1, 2016

Democrats Launch New McCarthyism"
by Norman Solomon
December 8, 2016

Under Cover of Christmas, Obama Establishes Controversial Anti-Propaganda Agency"
by Lauren McCauley
December 26, 2016

Press Release from Senator Portman
December 23, 2016
Portman-Murphy Bill Promotes Coordinated Strategy to Defend America, Allies Against Propaganda and Disinformation from Russia, China & Others

Global Engagement Center
2017 National Defense Authorization Act