Friday, September 16, 2016

The Claim that Guccifer 2.0 Is Part of a Disinformation Campaign Is Itself a Disinformation Campaign

Some folks say there was a time when the primary function of the mainstream media was to inform people.

That sounds pretty crazy in 2016, when the obvious function of the mainstream media is to keep us misinformed.

Consider Thomas Fox-Brewster's article in Forbes concerning Guccifer 2.0 earlier this week. Brewster, a journalist specializing in cybersecurity, couldn't be bothered to maintain the distinction between Guccifer and Guccifer 2.0 beyond the first sentence of his article.

An editorial appeal to journalistic style when it comes to shortening names after their first appearance might make sense under ordinary circumstances, but not in a case in which so many details have become blurry in the public mind.

Do most casual readers of the Forbes article really know the difference between Guccifer (who has recanted his claims of access to the server) and Guccifer 2.0 (who has repeatedly demonstrated his access to internal documentation from the DNC)?

Regrettably, Guccifer and Guccifer 2.0 have morphed into a collective headache in the minds of readers who aren't sure which one (if either) has anything to do with the Clinton email scandal. (The correct answer is Guccifer, who discovered the account when he hacked Sidney Blumenthal's AOL account.)

How many of the news aggregating applications that quote snippets from paragraphs 2-6 of Fox-Brewster's article (without including the first paragraph--as routinely happens with sample excerpts in Google searches) will insert [2.0] for clarification in a sentence such as this one: "By extension this would suggest Guccifer worked for Putin’s regime"?

Poll 100 Forbes readers. How many know the claim doesn't concern a Romanian hacker named Michel Lazar Lehel who is serving time in a Virginia prison? 

And does anyone really think that the way the mainstream media handles the Guccifer 2.0 story is meant to enlighten readers? On the contrary, it seems calculated to make us confused and susceptible to propaganda, as when Fox-Brewster writes:
America’s politicos fear Russia is attempting to disrupt the upcoming election. US intelligence specialists and security companies – most notably CrowdStrike – have blamed Russia for the attacks on the DNC. By extension this would suggest Guccifer worked for Putin’s regime. Guccifer has previously denied any association with the Russian government, whilst the latter has claimed innocence.
The blur cultivated by the stylistic standards to which Fox-Brewster adheres is typical of a mainstream media that wants to keep the public confused about the motives, reliability, and identity of Guccifer 2.0 instead of focused on the content of the material the hacker has revealed.

For instance, in CNN's 7-paragraph report on Guccifer 2.0's latest leak, Daniella Diaz uses her first paragraph to indicate that the authenticity of the material has not been confirmed ("released more DNC documents Tuesday that reportedly reveal more information about the group's finances"--emphasis added), her second to point out that the materials aren't "damaging," her third to acknowledge the resignation of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz as head of the DNC, her fourth (the centerpiece of the article) to warn readers against looking at the leaked materials--since they might include malware, her fifth to quote Donna Brazile's remarks about Donald Trump (an odd choice in an article that doesn't quote one word from its putative subject, Guccifer 2.0), her sixth to point out that Guccifer 2.0's conference remarks were delivered by proxy (an opportune spot to quote some of those remarks if the article is really about Guccifer 2.0 instead of Donna Brazile), and her seventh to repeat the obligatory claim that unnamed people somewhere in the world continue to assert that Guccifer 2.0 is probably a Russian operative (without mentioning that the loudest such people work for CrowdStrike and are therefore on the DNC payroll).

Use of passive constructions and unidentified sources is typical of mainstream media commentary on Guccifer 2.0, as in the latest piece of cyber-alarmism that Cory Bennett churned out for Politico:
Guccifer 2.0 has claimed responsibility for both the DNC and DCCC hacks, although multiple private cybersecurity firms have tied the digital assaults back to a hacking group known as “Fancy Bear,” which is believed to be connected to Russia’s military intelligence service. Researchers believe Guccifer 2.0 is a front for these Moscow-backed hackers.
The last thing a journalist in 2016 would want to do in such a paragraph would be to indicate WHO is doing the relevant believing or which specific researchers were consulted.

But the grand prize for nebulous attribution for the week has to go to the L.A. Times for resorting to meta-reporting instead of assertion concerning purported ties between Russian intelligence and DCLeaks (a website with ties of its own to Guccifer 2.0):
The emails were obtained by the website, which has been reported to have links to Russian intelligence, MSNBC reported.
See how that works? The L.A. Times isn't saying that DCLeaks has ties to Russian intelligence. In fact, it's not even saying that MSNBC says so. It's just saying that once upon a time, MSNBC said somebody else said so.

All of which is a tiresome but effective way of not engaging anything substantive about the leaks at all, which suits corporate journalists and their oligarchic sponsors just fine.

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