Fake News, Propaganda, the CIA and Astroturfing

(GLARING Hypocrisy) There’s been much written about “fake news” shared on Facebook being a contributing factor in the outcome of the US election. In other words, the overwhelming majority of media outlets that supported Clinton were undermined — or trumped, depending on your perspective — by alternative news sites that, heaven forbid, actually reported on Clinton’s criminality and satanic connections (financial crimes, weapons deals, trail of dead bodies, Podesta email revelations, etc.) rather than focusing on the illegal use of a private email server.

Melissa Zimdars

Melissa Zimdars on Facebook and Twitter

Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communication and media at Merrimack College, Massachusetts, hit the headlines with her recently compiled list of False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical “News” Sources (since Zimdars has now removed the list — to transfer it to a database — this is a copy of the Google doc as it existed on November 16, 2016). Apparently intended as a teaching aid for her students, Zimdars’ list places legitimate outlets alongside those that are entirely lacking integrity. Crucially though, the list encourages folk to stay firmly within the Matrix, while her associated commentary is right out of a state-sanctioned textbook that promotes official narratives and agendas.

Mainstream media have referred to Zimdars’ list as an “educational tool for combatting fake news”, an answer to “keeping fake news out of your news feed”, and “an extremely helpful list of fake and misleading news sites to watch out for”. The list has been shared unquestioningly by many Facebook users, some of whom lament the fact that the list wasn’t in circulation a year ago because, as should be obvious to anyone with a state-programmed mindset, the masses lack inherent discernment and thus need to be steered by experts towards “real journalism”.

In Zimdars’ notes she states:

Many of the websites on this list continue to offer valuable journalism and/or satirical commentary. For example, a website included on this list wrote an overall thoughtful piece about the list, but the headline suggests that every source on this list is fake, which misrepresents the list. Finally, I do not condone plug-ins that automatically block any of the websites listed below. And as a reminder, not all of the sources listed below should be considered fake.

There are two problems with this statement. Firstly, it contradicts the title of her own document which, by word order, places the focus on false and misleading sources with no mention of the list containing any that offer what she deems valuable journalism. The irony of this is that the title of Zimdars’ list is, by her own definition, misleading and clickbait-y. Secondly, Zimdars includes a link to a response piece on the Inquisitr that she describes as thoughtful yet misleading. Yes, the original title of the Inquisitr article focused on the word fake (it now includes the word real), but to highlight that one article while failing to mention any of the mainstream articles that also honed in on the word fake is, again by her own definition, misleading.

News sources that made Zimdars’ first cut include well-known sites such as Breitbart, Occupy Democrats, ZeroHedge, Collective Evolution, Infowars, Lew Rockwell, Natural News and many more. At the time of writing seven sites have been temporarily removed, including Global Research and Private Eye, the online version of the UK’s longstanding satirical magazine.

Included in Zimdars’ tips for analysing news sources she offers the following pointers:

Watch out if known/reputable news sites are not also reporting on the story. Sometimes lack of coverage is the result of corporate media bias and other factors, but there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event.

Sound advice if you want to stay in the Matrix.

Wakey, wakey Zimdars! Being a media professional one would think she’d be aware of frequent media blackouts on inconvenient stories. Or that stories with an agenda, such as the benefits of mass vaccination, are echoed repeatedly by the very same media outlets. Perhaps she’s too young to remember the numerous “credible” sources that parroted the Kuwaiti incubator babies lie that rationalised the Gulf War? Or the now infamous weapons of mass destruction lie that justified war with Iraq? Mainstream media complicity in propagating these lies led directly to hundreds of thousands of deaths and the destruction of an entire country.

… look up the website on Snopes or Wikipedia for more information about the source.

Seriously? It appears Zimdars has the makings of an Oceanian model citizen, always being sure to consult the Ministry of Truth prior to engaging her own mental faculties.

If the story makes you REALLY ANGRY it’s probably a good idea to keep reading about the topic via other sources to make sure the story you read wasn’t purposefully trying to make you angry (with potentially misleading or false information) in order to generate shares and ad revenue.

Has Zimdars’ progressive education sheltered her from the fact that there’s a plethora of information that’s ripe for sparking righteous anger if folk were to discover its existence? Crucially, discovery that’s free from both external and internal censorship of thought, stemming from the combined effects of a lifetime of mainstream programming and the fear of being labelled a conspiracy theorist, a term conjured by the CIA in order to curb legitimate enquiry into the Kennedy assassination.

After explaining this list is just Step 1, Zimdars then goes on to describe her criteria for trustworthy news sources:

Some people are asking which news sources I trust, and all I can say is that I read/watch/listen very widely, from mainstream, corporate owned sources (The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes) as well as The Atlantic, National Public Radio, and various local and alternative sources with different political perspectives, some of which are included on this list. The problem: Even typically reliable sources, whether mainstream or alternative, corporate or nonprofit, rely on particular media frames to report stories and select stories based on different notions of newsworthiness. The best thing to do in our contemporary media environment is to read/watch/listen widely and often, and to be critical of the sources we share and engage with on social media.

More advice on how to stay in the Matrix, followed by the concession that “even typically reliable news sources … rely on particular media frames to report stories and select stories based on different notions of newsworthiness”. Sounds like an attempt to legitimise the mainstream media lies of omission and commission with newspeak jargon “media frames” and “different notions of newsworthiness”. Oh, but let’s not forget Zimdars stresses we must be critical of all sources. Unfortunately, she gives the sheeple who shared her list enthusiastically far more credit than they deserve, for how can anyone be truly critical if they are the product of a deliberately dumbed down society in which true historical fact and context is either unknown or dismissed, out of hand, as a conspiracy theory.

Enter Brian Feldman, a journalist who, according to his current Twitter bio, is “banking on meme writing being cool and admired in ~17 months”.

Brian FeldmanFeldman has taken his meme-writing aspirations and applied them to the task of developing a Chrome extension that will flag any website on Zimdars’ list. In his own words:

But as we enter a fraught period of American life, it’s important to make sure you (and your friends and relatives) can at least avoid being snookered by hoax, satire, fake, and just plain incompetent news sites. For people who might not be the most media-literate, here’s a handy browser extension I put together this afternoon, based on media studies professor Melissa Zimdars’s list of unreliable or misleading websites. It works like this: If you visit a URL known for producing non-news in news-like packages, you get a pop-up alert warning you. That’s it!

Feldman ends his article with one final piece of underhanded advice:

Install it yourself today, and surreptitiously install it on your relatives’ computers next week at Thanksgiving!

What service to humanity.

Feldman has created a tool that discourages the onerous task of actually thinking for oneself. While Zimdars’ list will undoubtedly be highly influential in playing into conspiracy theorist fears, Feldman’s browser extension is dangerous in its directness of approach. One no longer has to remember which sites are on the list — a task that will become harder as the list expands with the help of all the super-keen volunteers who feel it their duty to educate those who don’t see the world through their lens — when a handy browser extension flags them for you. And, just like advertising, once folk have seen the warning a number of times most will be pretty much sold on the concept.

Fake News Alert extension warning

Fake News Alert extension warning

Historically the act of disseminating fake news has been the purview of the establishment, which very much includes mainstream media outlets. On February 29, 1944 the British Ministry of Information sent the below letter to the higher British clergy and the BBC. The letter was published in the 1958 book, Allied Wartime Diplomacy: A Pattern in Poland by Edward J. Rozek.


I am directed by the Ministry to send you the following circular letter:

It is often the duty of the good citizens and of the pious Christians to turn a blind eye on the peculiarities of those associated with us.

But the time comes when such peculiarities, while still denied in public, must be taken into account when action by us is called for.

We know the methods of rule employed by the Bolshevik dictator in Russia itself from, for example, the writing and speeches of the Prime Minister himself during the last twenty years. We know how the Red Army behaved in Poland in 1920 and in Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Galicia and Bessarabia only recently.

We must, therefore, take into account how the Red Army will certainly behave when it overruns Central Europe. Unless precautions are taken, the obviously inevitable horrors which will result will throw an undue strain on public opinion in this country.

We cannot reform the Bolsheviks but we can do our best to save them — and ourselves — from the consequences of their acts. The disclosures of the past quarter of a century will render mere denials unconvincing. The only alternative to denial is to distract public attention from the whole subject.

Experience has shown that the best distraction is atrocity propaganda directed against the enemy. Unfortunately the public is no longer so susceptible as in the days of the “Corpse Factory,” and the “Mutilated Belgian Babies,” and the “Crucified Canadians.”

Your cooperation is therefore earnestly sought to distract public attention from the doings of the Red Army by your wholehearted support of various charges against the Germans and Japanese which have been and will be put into circulation by the Ministry.

Your expression of belief in such may convince others.

I am, Sir, Your obedient servant,


The Ministry can enter into no correspondence of any kind with regard to this communication which should only be disclosed to responsible persons.

In plain English: We are all aware of the heinous crimes committed by the Bolsheviks in Russia and Eastern Europe. They will, of course, repeat these crimes when they reach Central Europe, but it is your duty to cover up these crimes by spreading lies about the Germans and the Japanese. We, the Ministry of Information, will provide the lies.

What? The esteemed BBC were complicit in disseminating atrocity propaganda in 1944? Surely not! Well, they were, and here’s the rub — they and other major media outlets are complicit in pushing any and all propaganda at the behest of the powers that shouldn’t be.

On the other side of the pond, Operation Mockingbird, the well-known CIA program, was started in the 1950s to spread propaganda through media outlets. The program officially ended in 1976 when George H.W. Bush became CIA Director, however, even Wikipedia acknowledges many relationships with journalists continued:

After William Colby left the Agency on January 28th, 1976, and was succeeded by George H.W. Bush, the CIA announced a new policy: “Effective immediately, the CIA will not enter into any paid or contractual relationship with any full‑time or part‑time news correspondent accredited by any U.S. news service, newspaper, periodical, radio or television network or station.” However, more than half of the relationships the CIA had with U.S. journalists continued. The text of the announcement noted that the CIA would continue to “welcome” the voluntary, unpaid cooperation of journalists. Thus, while Operation Mockingbird came to an end, many relationships between the CIA and journalists were allowed to remain intact.

Clearly the program did continue, if not under the name of Operation Mockingbird, as William Casey, CIA Director (1981-1987), stated in 1981:

We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.

Casey’s quote, the subject of much debate, was verified in 2014 by Barbara Honegger.

More recently, Dr. Udo Ulfkotte, former editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, confessed 25 years of presstitution in his book, Journalists for Hire: How the CIA Buys the News.


While the above examples refer to the CIA controlling the message, it would be naive to think that’s the extent of it. Those in the shadows of power work through intelligence agencies in all countries, as the above letter from the British Ministry of Information attests to.

Sharyl Attkisson, an investigative journalist based in Washington, D.C., gave a TEDx talk in February, 2015 in which she clearly explains why we shouldn’t trust the mainstream media, no matter how much something is echoed. She cites examples of corporations and special interest groups being heavily involved in astroturfing and the “debunking” of “myths”.


At best, Zimdars and Feldman lack historical context, other than that which forms the official narrative, and, as a result, they’ve fallen for the very propaganda they’re apparently trying to protect the unsuspecting masses from — that is, trusting in fake news sources the purport to provide “real journalism”. At worst, they’re useful idiots whose work will evolve into a fully developed mind-shrinking database and browser extension that folk will use to remain comfortably numb (and ignorant) within the Matrix.

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Mufidah Kassalias
Mufidah is co-founder and editor of GLARING Hypocrisy. She learned to connect dots at a young age when she mastered the Rubik’s Cube without instruction. In 2010 she unplugged her television and freed herself from brainwashing. As a result, she now sees dots everywhere and connects them in writing.

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