Ok, now that Lizard is back among the walking dead (er, gainfully employed) I guess I’ll have to end my self-imposed sabbatical from posting. So first off, what has been sticking in my craw is the drumbeat of propaganda and fake news that is sweeping the nation, Europe and the ‘nets — and all the hoopla and fallout accompanying it.
Today’s revelation is that Facebook is rolling out a new system of flagging and disputing shared articles. I’ve seen some people I know well who are sharing articles that are horribly slanted, and are just downright propaganda. Yes, I’m talking about articles from WaPo, the NY Times, Fox and MSNBC and The Atlantic (among many others), but that’s nothing new.
What the story is here, is that Facebook is going to rely on a system being developed and maintained by the International Fact Checker Network (IFCN). The IFCN is hosted by Poynter Institute for Media Studies. At last we can rest assured that our news is being curated by an independent, professional source, right…??? Think again.
Poynter is the home of the IFCN, the principles by which many “fact” checking outfits like Snopes and PolitiFact adhere. It appears that the official word on facts is coalescing around Facebook’s use of Poynter’s system. So it makes sense to take a cursory look at Poynter.
So let’s see who is funding Poynter’s IFCN. Here is a list of funders provided on their website:
Poynter’s IFCN has received funding from:
- the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation
- the Duke Reporters’ Lab
- the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
- the National Endowment for Democracy
- the Omidyar Network
- the Open Society Foundations and
- the Park Foundation
And let’s break that list down with some names:
Arthur Blank Family Foundation: Billionaire Arthur Blank (Forbes #214 richest worldwide) is the co-founder of Home Depot, owns a couple of Atlanta pro sports teams, and sits on the Board of Cox Enterprise (home of many major media/radio sources and Cox Communications). Anybody who has paid attention to Blank’s politics and policies with Home Depot or Cox know him for the right-wing opportunist he is.
The Duke Reporter’s Lab is a Stanford initiative to track and develop fact-checking sites world wide. Of course, the DRL is as subject to journalistic interpretation as any other source so… why would we let them bring us a list of fact checkers to trust? This is a stalking horse.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: Need I say more about the Gates’ and their Foundation? Oligarchy at its best here in the form of the world’s richest person.
Google: the world’s largest search index and purveyor of new technologies always geared to padding the bottom line. Google has the ability to swing the news however it wants, to achieve whatever political or business prospects it needs with a simple shift in algorithms, or blacklist. Hardly an independent purveyor of facts, it has indexes full of crap buried in mountains of garbage, coated in sprinkles of questionable matter. Not to mention that its founder and current executive chair of Alphabet, Inc. Eric Schmidt is listed by Forbes as the 100th richest person in the world.
National Endowment for Democracy: the public propaganda arm of the CIA. Need I say more? If you think this is a good thing, then you are part of the problem, not the solution.
The Omidyar Network: owned by eBay founder Peter Omidyar. In 2009 Omidyar donated $2 million to WikiMedia, which resulted in a pro-quid-pro for his deputy Matt Halpin to get a seat on their board. Yes, pay-to-play is alive and well at Omidyar, one can assume it is here too. eBay also owned PayPal from 2002-2014 until Omidyar spun it off to be a publicly traded business. Omidyar also owns a slew of other businesses, including First Look Media (the home of Glenn Greenwald’s The Intercept). Omidyar’s billions in wealth have him listed #43 on the Forbes list of the wealthy. Oh, did I mention that The Intercept has escaped any mention on the current list of prop sites? Greenwald must be so proud!
Open Society Foundations: This is the home of Chairman George Soros (Forbes #19). Again, need I say more about his left-wing profile? Soros as much as anybody will translate any advantage he has — politically, economically, journalistically — into personal gain. He’d even trade a country’s sovereignty (i.e. Ukraine) to profit personally.
The Park Foundation: the late Roy Park was the founder of Park Communications (media conglomerate) and the creator of the Duncan-Hines brand, and early major shareholder in Proctor & Gamble when it acquired Duncan Hines. The Foundation continues to support scholarships and media communications. Park is probably the only quasi-independent funding source of the IFCN, probably listed to give it a bit of credibility.
Well, there you have it. The list of oligarchs, philanthropists, transnational corporations, media conglomerates, government propaganda ministers, and individual power sharks that Facebook has entrusted to fund and provide for the filtering of your news.
Think about that the next time you go to share or read an article on Facebook and wonder why and how this source is available, or why it is in dispute, or why an article you try to post won’t show.
I’m encouraging people to read critically. If you don’t have critical reading skills, acquire and use them. Lack of critical reading skills is probably the largest problem in the world today. Don’t let any one source tell you what, or what not to read. Read widely and compare views. Learn about the people who are writing, and whom they write for. Read history, and read it from different angles. Be skeptical and learn how to debate. Critique what you read, and talk/correspond with a variety of people, particularly with those who have different perceptions and views than you. Don’t fall victim to confirmation bias, and don’t get lost in your own fishbowl or thought bubbles.
And don’t get caught up in, or perpetuate and escalate the propaganda surrounding politics that inevitably lead to war — speak out about what you see and read! We are seeing a repeat of the drumbeat from 2002, including a barrage of propaganda intended to inflame people about Russia, much as we did about Iraq. And this drumbeat is louder and fiercer than before, and is being led by the same mainstream media sources that falsely lead us into the Iraq war. Democrats are as susceptible to this barrage as are republicans, and are actively using propaganda to prepare us to wage war on Russia in a cover-up, and as a consequence of, Hillary Clinton’s self-imposed loss to Donald Trump.