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Wednesday's Other Story

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Just before the madness at the Capitol broke out Wednesday, news came from London. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who seemed Monday to be the luckiest man alive when a judge denied an American request to extradite him, was now denied bail on the grounds that he might “fail to surrender to court to face” the inevitable US appeal. He goes back to legal purgatory, possibly a worse outcome than extradition, which might be the idea.

We sell politics in American media as a soap opera, and the personalities make for lively copy, but properly following the bouncing ball means watching institutions, not characters. Where are armies, banks, central banks, intelligence services, the press? Whose money is talking on the floor of the House and the Senate? How concentrated is financial and political power? How do public and private institutions coordinate? When they coordinate, what are their collective aims? How transparent are they or aren’t they? How accountable?

Assange became a celebrity at a time when popular interest in these questions was at its zenith in the United States. Eight years of the Bush administration inspired profound concern about the runaway power of the state, especially a new secret state-within-a-state the Bush administration insisted 9/11 gave them the moral mandate to build.
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10 Ways to Call Something Russian Disinformation Without Evidence

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How do you call something “Russian disinformation” when you don’t have evidence it is? Let’s count the ways.

We don’t know a whole lot about how the New York Post story about Hunter Biden got into print. There are some reasons to think the material is genuine (including its cache of graphic photos and some apparent limited confirmation from people on the email chains), but in terms of sourcing, anything is possible. This material could have been hacked by any number of actors, and shopped for millions (as Time has reported), and all sorts of insidious characters - including notorious Russian partisans like Andrei Derkach - could have been behind it.

None of these details are known, however, which hasn’t stopped media companies from saying otherwise. Most major outlets began denouncing the story as foreign propaganda right away and haven’t stopped. A quick list of the creative methods seen lately of saying, “We don’t know, but we know!”:

1) Our spooks say it looks like the work of their spooks.

A group of 50 “former senior intelligence officials” wrote a letter as soon as the Post story came out. Their most-quoted line was that the Post story has “all the classic hallmarks of a Russian information operation.” Note they said information operation, not disinformation operation — humorously, even people with records of lying to congress like James Clapper and John Brennan have been more careful with language than members of the news media.
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The ‘Whistleblower’ Probably Isn’t

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Start with the initial headline, in the story the Washington Post “broke” on September 18th:

TRUMP’S COMMUNICATIONS WITH FOREIGN LEADER ARE PART OF WHISTLEBLOWER COMPLAINT THAT SPURRED STANDOFF BETWEEN SPY CHIEF AND CONGRESS, FORMER OFFICIALS SAY

The unnamed person at the center of this story sure didn’t sound like a whistleblower. Our intelligence community wouldn’t wipe its a** with a real whistleblower.

Americans who’ve blown the whistle over serious offenses by the federal government either spend the rest of their lives overseas, like Edward Snowden, end up in jail, like Chelsea Manning, get arrested and ruined financially, like former NSA official Thomas Drake, have their homes raided by FBI like disabled NSA vet William Binney, or get charged with espionage like ex-CIA exposer-of-torture John Kiriakou. It’s an insult to all of these people, and the suffering they’ve weathered, to frame the ballcarrier in the Beltway’s latest partisan power contest as a whistleblower.

Drake, who was the first to expose the NSA’s secret surveillance program, seems to have fared better than most. He ended up working in an Apple Store, where he ran into Eric Holder, who was shopping for an iPhone.
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Latest Russian Spy Story Looks Like Another Elaborate Media Deception

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When I was 20, I studied at the Leningrad Polytechnical Institute, in the waning days of the Soviet empire. Most of the Russians I met were amusingly free of stress caused by following news. Why would they bother? Bull-factories like Rossiskaya Gazeta and Leningradsaya Pravda were basically collections of dreary government news releases rewritten to sound like news reports.

I saw newspapers in Leningrad shredded into slivers of toilet paper, used in place of curtains in dorm rooms, even stuffed into overcoat linings as insulation. But I can’t recall a Russian person actually reading a Soviet newspaper for the content. That’s how useless its “news” was.

We’re headed to a similar place. The cable networks, along with the New York Times and Washington Post increasingly act like house organs of the government, and in particular the intelligence agencies.

An episode this week involving a tale of a would-be American spy “exfiltrated” from Russia solidifies this impression. Seldom has a news story been more transparently fraudulent.
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The New Blacklist

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Putin loves you; therefore, you love Putin. The enemy re-tweets you, therefore, you're in league with the enemy. We're at war with them, therefore we're at war with you.

One of the first rules of a shunning campaign is that it doesn't have to make sense. It just has to be what everyone's saying. Since most Americans went to high school, we tend to be instinctively familiar with the concept.

The crazy inverse logic of the new national blacklist was on full display after special prosecutor Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian "troll farm" operatives in February. In the wake of this foreign meddling charge, CNN reporter Drew Griffin banged on the door of an elderly female Trump supporter named Florine Goldfarb and accused her of being a Russia-collaborator.

Goldfarb had attended a pro-Trump rally allegedly promoted on Facebook by Russian trolls. There were no Russians at the rally. The group didn't meet to discuss the subjugation of Abkhazia. They were plain, ordinary, Floridian Trump supporters – idiots, maybe, but not traitors.

Not according to CNN.
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