Blog Posts

Political Facades

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Filed under: Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

Russia: Fake facades on unkempt homes ‘to impress Putin’
BBC News…as found by BBC Monitoring
26 November 2013

A Russian city has wrapped its dilapidated buildings in fake facades ahead of a planned visit by President Vladimir Putin, it’s emerged.


Local authorities in the historic city of Suzdal draped unkempt traditional wooden houses in banners camouflaged to look like well-tended facades, complete with carved window frames and flowerpots in the windows, according to a blog post by a local journalist. The sprucing-up operation earlier in November came ahead of a national conference of local government leaders that Putin was scheduled to attend.

Media websites – such as Moskovsky Komsomolets – were quick to liken the result to fake villages said to have been erected by Catherine the Great’s favourite, Grigory Potemkin, in war-ravaged regions of southern Ukraine in the 18th Century. This was allegedly done in an effort to impress the visiting empress and foreign ambassadors. The window-dressing habit apparently continued in Soviet Russia. Stories abound of regional authorities giving blocks of flats quick licks of paint and stacking fresh goods in usually barren shops ahead of visits by party bigwigs.

In Suzdal’s case, the effort seems to have been in vain. Putin never got around to putting in an appearance after all.

More photos from lgatta-felice.livejournal



Fox News’ Spin Doctors – Keeping the Critics at Bay

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Filed under: Media Literacy, Spin

Fox News Reportedly Used Fake Commenter Accounts To Rebut Critical Blog Posts
by Ben Dimiero
Media Matters
October 20, 2013

New Book Details An Extensive Campaign By The Networks’ PR Staffers


NPR media reporter David Folkenflik writes in his forthcoming book Murdoch’s World that Fox News’ public relations staffers used an elaborate series of dummy accounts to fill the comments sections of critical blog posts with pro-Fox arguments.

In a chapter focusing on how Fox utilized its notoriously ruthless public relations department in the mid-to-late 00’s, Folkenflik reports that Fox’s PR staffers would “post pro-Fox rants” in the comments sections of “negative and even neutral” blog posts written about the network. According to Folkenflik, the staffers used various tactics to cover their tracks, including setting up wireless broadband connections that “could not be traced back” to the network.

A former staffer told Folkenflik that they had personally used “one hundred” fake accounts to plant Fox-friendly commentary: Read the whole article here.

via Huffington Post

Concealed Covert Advertising: The New Content

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Filed under: Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

Media literacy alert! This article about covert advertising does exactly what it talks about. It masquerades as content while advertising products…

When advertising becomes content, who wins - advertisers or publishers, or both?
by Mathew Ingram
March 2, 2013

One of the biggest trends in media at the moment is "sponsored content" or what some call "native advertising." But is it the savior of online media, or just another mirage in the advertising desert?

blankbillboard-200Andrew Sullivan, the former Daily Beast writer who recently launched his own standalone publishing venture, has made it pretty clear that he doesn't like advertising, which is why his site is supported entirely by reader subscriptions. And he also made it clear in a recent series of posts that he doesn't like the growing trend of sites like BuzzFeed using what they call "sponsored content" as a replacement for traditional advertising - something he suggested was ethically questionable for media entities of all kinds.

Like it or not, however, this phenomenon is becoming more and more commonplace - and not just at new-media ventures like BuzzFeed but also at traditional publishers like The Atlantic. Is it the savior of online media, or just another mirage in the advertising desert? This is a question we are going to discussing at length at paidContent Live in New York on April 17, including a panel entitled "The future of native advertising: Blurring ads and content."

If it's useful, does it matter if it's sponsored? (more…)

Andrew Breitbart, Conservative Muckraker, Dies

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Filed under: Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

Update: Erin submits that this obit from Matt Taibbi, published in Rollingstone, gives a more spot-on assessment of the man.

Andrew Breitbart, 1969-2012
by David Frum
The Daily Beast
March 1, 2012

"Of the dead, speak nothing but what is good."

It's an ancient rule and a wise one, but one that does not do justice to the life and career of Andrew Breitbart, dead today aged 43.

It is impossible to speak nothing of a man who traced such a spectacular course through the contemporary media.

But to speak only "good" of Andrew Breitbart would be to miss the story and indeed to misunderstand the man.

Video: Breitbart spews hatred at Occupy Wall Street protestors

Watch more controversial Breitbart video moments here.

Obit continues. (more…)

Sarah Palin’s Paul Revere Revisionism

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Filed under: Spin

Sarah Palin Supporters Attempted To Edit Wikipedia Page On Paul Revere
Huffington Post
June 6, 2011

Last week, Sarah Palin told a local news station in Boston that Paul Revere “warned the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms.” As the news media rushed to point out that Revere was, in fact, warning the American colonists, not the British, Palin’s supporters apparently attempted to update the Wikipedia entry on Revere in order to make the facts conform to Palin’s version of history.

According to the revision history on the Wikipedia page, Palin supports attempted to add the line in italics below:

Revere did not shout the phrase later attributed to him (“The British are coming!”), largely because the mission depended on secrecy and the countryside was filled with British army patrols; also, most colonial residents at the time considered themselves British as they were all legally British subjects.

That revision was deleted with the explanation “content not backed by a reliable sources [sic] (it was sarah palin interview videos).” (more…)

The Lomborg Deception – Debunking the Climate Change Debunker

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

Submitted by Larry Croft:

Book Review: The Lomborg Deception
by Sharon Begley
February 22, 2010

Debunking the claims of the climate-change skeptic.

In naming roustabout, lumberjack, ironworker, and dairy farmer America’s "worst jobs," CareerCast.com omitted one whose awfulness is counterbalanced only by its public-spiritedness: fact-checking Bjà¸rn Lomborg.

The Danish political scientist won fame and fans by arguing that many of the alarms sounded by environmental activists and scientists-that species are going extinct at a dangerous rate, that forests are disappearing, that climate change could be catastrophic-are bogus. A big reason Lomborg was taken seriously is that both of his books, The Skeptical Environmentalist
(in 2001) and Cool It (in 2007), have extensive references, giving a seemingly authoritative source for every one of his controversial assertions. So in a display of altruistic masochism that we should all be grateful for (just as we’re grateful that some people are willing to be dairy farmers), author Howard Friel has checked every single citation in Cool It. The result is Lomborg Deception, which is being published by Yale University Press next month. It reveals that Lomborg’s work is “a mirage,” writes biologist Thomas Lovejoy in the foreword. “[I]t is a house of cards...Friel has used real scholarship to reveal the flimsy nature” of Lomborg’s work. (more…)

Beauty Tips for the Well Dressed Mujahid

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Filed under: Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Al-Qa’ida glossy advises women to cover up and marry a martyr
By Julius Cavendish in Kabul
The Independent
14 March 2011

Not content with launching an English-language magazine that debuted with a feature called “How to make a bomb in the kitchen of your Mom”, al Qa’ida’s media wing has followed up with a magazine for women, mixing beauty tips with lessons in jihad.

The 31-page glossy, Al-Shamikha, which translates loosely as “The Majestic Woman”, features a niqab-clad woman posing with a sub-machine gun on its cover.

Much like Elle or Cosmopolitan, it includes advice on finding the right man (“marrying a mujahideen”), how to achieve a perfect complexion (stay inside with your face covered), and provides tips on first aid and etiquette. (more…)

How Effective is U.S. Army Psy-Ops? Ask the Senators Who Fund Them

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Filed under: Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

Submitted by Peter Markus:

Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators
By Michael Hastings
February 23, 2011

The U.S. Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in “psychological operations” to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war, Rolling Stone has learned – and when an officer tried to stop the operation, he was railroaded by military investigators.

The orders came from the command of Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, a three-star general in charge of training Afghan troops – the linchpin of U.S. strategy in the war. Over a four-month period last year, a military cell devoted to what is known as “information operations” at Camp Eggers in Kabul was repeatedly pressured to target visiting senators and other VIPs who met with Caldwell. When the unit resisted the order, arguing that it violated U.S. laws prohibiting the use of propaganda against American citizens, it was subjected to a campaign of retaliation.

“My job in psy-ops is to play with people's heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave,” says Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, the leader of the IO unit, who received an official reprimand after bucking orders. “I'm prohibited from doing that to our own people. When you ask me to try to use these skills on senators and congressman, you're crossing a line.”

Read the rest of this article here.

Hitchens: Churchill Didn’t Say That

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Filed under: Spin

Churchill Didn’t Say That
by Christopher Hitchens
January 24, 2011

The King’s Speech is riddled with gross falsifications of history.

Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech
The King’s Speech is an extremely well-made film with a seductive human interest plot, very prettily calculated to appeal to the smarter filmgoer and the latent Anglophile. But it perpetrates a gross falsification of history. One of the very few miscast actors-Timothy Spall as a woefully thin pastiche of Winston Churchill-is the exemplar of this bizarre rewriting. He is shown as a consistent friend of the stuttering prince and his loyal princess and as a man generally in favor of a statesmanlike solution to the crisis of the abdication.

In point of fact, Churchill was-for as long as he dared-a consistent friend of conceited, spoiled, Hitler-sympathizing Edward VIII. And he allowed his romantic attachment to this gargoyle to do great damage to the very dearly bought coalition of forces that was evolving to oppose Nazism and appeasement. Churchill probably has no more hagiographic chronicler than William Manchester, but if you look up the relevant pages of The Last Lion, you will find that the historian virtually gives up on his hero for an entire chapter. (more…)

The Great Fed Hoax

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Filed under: Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

What the Federal Reserve is up to, and how we got here, by Xtranormal:

Quantitative Easing Explained

via Huffington Post

Was Helen Thomas the Victim of Spin and Disinformation?

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Filed under: Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

Submitted by Toni Dalton, as seen on Counterpunch.org:

The Ambush of Helen Thomas
by Gary Leupp
June 8, 2010

“Any Better Comments?”


White House journalist Helen Thomas, covering a Jewish American Heritage Month celebration at the White House May 27, is accosted on the sidewalk by someone who asks: "Any comments about Israel? We're asking everybody today—any comments about Israel?"

Smiling in grandmotherly fashion—-the way an 89 year-old woman might do when suddenly approached by an 17 year old boy who seems sincerely interested in her thoughts—she replies: "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine."

"Oooh..." responds the questioner. "Any better comments?" (A voice in the background: "Helen is fun!")

"Hah hah hah," laughs Helen. " Remember these people are occupied, and it's their land, not German, and not Poland."

"So where should they go? What should they do?"

"They could go home. Poland. Germany."

"Where's home? You're saying Jews should go back to Poland and Germany?"

"And America and everywhere else."

A week later this video of the impromptu interview appears on "RabbiLIVE.com," website of Rabbi David Nesenoff. (Who by the way is this "live rabbi"? Who is this rabbi character who's terminated the career of a Washington press icon? How many journalists are even asking?) (more…)

Empire of Illusion

Filed under: Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

From editor Joey Skaggs: I recommend this piece from The January/February 2010 issue of Tikkun written by Christopher Hedges about the cultural phenomenon of celebrity-ism. Parts are excerpted from his 2009 book, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

Celebrity Culture and the Obama Brand, by Christopher Hedges


Barack Obama is a brand. And the Obama brand is designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, armies of corporate lobbyists grease the palms of our elected officials, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia, and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East. Brand Obama is about being happy consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like our president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products spun out from the manipulative world of corporate advertising, this product is duping us into doing and supporting a lot of things that are not in our interest.

What, for all our faith and hope, has the Obama brand given us?

Read the rest of this article here.

Philip Morris Eagerly Funds Life Skills Training Program Proven to Fail

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Filed under: Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

University of Colorado at Boulder Falls Prey to Philip Morris’ Strategic Philanthropy
Submitted by Anne Landman
Center or Media and Democracy / PRWatch.org
December 4, 2009

Cigpack-200The University of Colorado at Boulder has accepted a $12.1 million grant from cigarette maker Philip Morris (PM) to put on “Life Skills Training” (LST) programs in middle schools, nominally aimed at reducing students’ use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.

Notwithstanding that a federal court in 2006 found Philip Morris guilty of engaging in 50 years of public fraud and racketeering, a peer-reviewed study of tobacco industry documents conducted by the University of California San Francisco’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education looked at why tobacco companies so robustly promote Life Skills Training. They found that since 1999, PM and Brown & Williamson have both worked to disseminate Life Skills Training programs into schools across the country. Why? As part of their effort, the two companies hired a public relations firm to evaluate the program. The evaluation showed that LST was not effective at reducing smoking, after either the first or second year of implementing the program. Despite this, the tobacco companies have continued to eagerly award grants to implement the program. (more…)

How to Unmask Shadowy Grassroots Groups

Filed under: Co-option (If You Can't Beat 'Em...), Hype, Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

Editor’s Note: The manipulative, deceitful and very effective tactics I have used over the past 40+ years as an artist, activist and culture jammer to shed light on institutional, corporate and media efforts to mislead the general public have now been fully co-opted by the organizations victimized by them. It’s interesting to see the pendulum swing. Kudos to Ann Landman for this insightful and very useful article aimed at unmasking corporate and political tricksterism that blatantly utilizes disinformation to sway public opinion. One hopes the general public becomes more aware and is willing to fight against this insidious hype, hypocrisy, propaganda, and disinformation. JS

Attack of the Living Front Groups: PR Watch Offers Help to Unmask Corporate Tricksters
by Anne Landman
PRWatch.org / Center for Media and Democracy
August 28, 2009

zombies2-200Fake “grassroots” groups have started springing up like toadstools after a rain, and this time they’re coming at us from every angle: they’re on TV, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube: “Americans for Prosperity,” “FACES of Coal, “The “Coalition to Protect Patients’ Rights,” “Americans Against Food Taxes,” the “60 Plus Association,” “Citizens for Better Medicare,” “Patients First” … It’s making our heads spin! Issues affecting some of the country’s biggest industries, like health insurance reform, a proposal to tax sodas and sugary drinks, and the FDA’s possible reconsideration of the plastic additive Bisphenol A, have boosted corporate astroturfing up to a dizzying pace. With all these corporate fronts coming out of the woodwork, how can citizens tell true grassroots organizations from corporate fronts operated by highly-paid PR and lobbying firms? Here are some tips to help readers spot this kind of big-business hanky-panky.

What is a “front group,” really? (more…)

When Advertising Bites

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Filed under: Hype, Spin

‘Nightmarish’ Ad Created for WWF Shows Planes Converging on NYC
September 2, 2009

New York — It’s enough to make New Yorkers who lived through the Sept. 11th terror attacks sick.


A print ad (above) purportedly for the World Wildlife Fund in Brazil featuring dozens of airplanes converging on lower Manhattan with the line “The 2004 Tsunami killed 100 times more people than 9/11.” The final line in the ad is “The planet is brutally powerful. Respect it. Preserve it.” (more…)