Site Smeared as 'Russian Propaganda' Demands Washington Post Retraction

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Site Smeared as 'Russian Propaganda' Demands Washington Post Retraction

"Your identification of Naked Capitalism as a 'fake news site' and as an agent for Russian propaganda designed to undermine American democracy is defamatory"

The allegations reported by Washington Post "have caused and will continue to cause great harm to Naked Capitalism," says letter from attorney. (Photo: Max Borge/flickr/cc)

The progressive finance and economics website Naked Capitalism has demanded a retraction and apology from the Washington Post for its "astonishingly lazy report" smearing independent news outlets as "Russian propaganda."

The Post story, as Common Dreams reported, cited anonymous organization PropOrNot in accusing multiple left-wing outlets of peddling "fake news" during the 2016 election as tools of a Russian "misinformation campaign." Naked Capitalism was among those named in the report, along with sites including Truthout, Black Agenda Report, Consortium News, and Truthdig.

The article drew widespread condemnation for the Post; for media outlets that "uncritically wrote up the Post's most incendiary claims with little or minimal pushback;" and for PropOrNot itself. 

"To PropOrNot, simply exhibiting a pattern of beliefs outside the political mainstream is enough to risk being labelled a Russian propagandist," Adrian Chen wrote at the New Yorker.

"The group...embodies the toxic essence of Joseph McCarthy, but without the courage to attach individual names to the blacklist," said Glenn Greenwald and Ben Norton at The Intercept, who described Naked Capitalism's inclusion on the list as "[o]ne of the most egregious examples" of PropOrNot's "outright defamation."

"That site was named by Time magazine as one of the best 25 Best Financial Blogs in 2011 and by Wired magazine as a crucial site to follow for finance, and [publisher Yves] Smith has been featured as a guest on programs such as PBS's Bill Moyers Show," Greenwald and Norton wrote. "Yet this cowardly group of anonymous smear artists, promoted by the Washington Post, has now placed them on a blacklist of Russian disinformation."

In a letter dated Sunday, Naked Capitalism attorney James Moody gives the Post three days to respond to three listed demands: the immediate removal of the story from the newspaper's website; a "prominent public apology;" and "an equally prominent (i.e. not in the 'Comments' section) opportunity to respond."

"Your identification of Naked Capitalism as a 'fake news site' and as an agent for Russian propaganda designed to undermine American democracy is defamatory per se," reads the letter from Moody.

It continues:

You accuse Naked Capitalism of spreading "Russian-backed phony news to outcompete traditional news organizations for audience." These serious allegations have caused and will continue to cause great harm to Naked Capitalism, including but not limited to damage to policy impact and reputation, diversion of scarce reporting and managerial resources to respond to concerned inquires and debunk this smear, loss of readers, and damage to the site's profitability. Moreover, writers and editors associated with Naked Capitalism face ridicule, emotional distress, loss of reputation, and risk to future career advancement, including for example, difficulty passing background and security checks.

In a less formal show of outrage this week, Naked Capitalism launched the "spoof PropOrNot.org site, which uses the PropOrNot project as an example of sorely deficient propaganda and shows where it went wrong."

The site "came out of a desire to create more balance among the responses to this McCarthyite initiative," Smith wrote in her introduction to the humor site, which bills itself as: "Your Authentic Neighborhood Propaganda Identification Service, Since 2016!"

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