(italiano / english)
Strategic disinformation – they call it 'fake news'
1) AskPinocchio, il software sponsorizzato dall'Unione Europea (F. Santoianni)
2) Der Spiegel's Claas Relotius' Scandal:
– The Relotius Case. Answers to the Most Important Questions (Der Spiegel)
– Il giornalista di Der Spiegel oltre a falsificare le notizie ha sottratto le donazioni agli "orfani" siriani
– Fraud ‘on grand scale’: Top journalist at reputable German magazine faked his stories for YEARS (RT)
– Game of deception: How a fraudster who faked his stories for years got to be Germany’s top reporter (RT)
– Tanks on Maidan, president’s gold bath & more outrageous Ukraine fakes by disgraced Spiegel reporter (RT)
3) All corrupt on the Western front? Der Spiegel latest to fall from media mountaintops (R. Bridge)
=== 1 ===
AskPinocchio, il software sponsorizzato dall'Unione Europea che spaccia per buone le bufale del mainstream
di Francesco Santoianni
Una volta, lanciai in Rete due miei personalissimi software per imparare le lingue straniere. Il primo si chiamava “Amigos della lingua spagnola”: aggiungeva automaticamente una “s” a tutte le parole; il secondo era “Tovarish della lingua russa”: aggiungeva una “ov”. Insomma, come software non erano un granché, anche se fui tentato di mettere su una Startup per arricchirmi rifilando, una “sola”.
Ben altre prospettive si direbbero abbiano i promotori del “Progetto Fandango”: una partnership, benedetta dall’Unione Europea e che vede, tra gli altri, il coinvolgimento dell’ANSA. Una iniziativa già osannata dai media mainstream) in quanto promette: “…grazie all'intelligenza artificiale, una lotta senza quartiere alle Fake News (…) fornendo agli stakeholder del settore giornalistico degli indici di affidabilità della notizia, basati su una combinazione di elementi che aiutino a rivelarne la verità.”
Si, ma come fa la tecnologia DS4biz, cuore del software, a discernere le notizie “vere” dalle Fake News? Attraverso “algoritmi in grado di riconoscere e identificare le relazioni che sussistono all’interno del testo e del titolo della notizia, nelle frasi e nelle relazioni che si instaurano tra le parole e la loro frequenza.”
Sbalordito di questa magia (che, tra l’altro, fa piazza pulita di tre millenni di considerazioni filosofiche) e confortato da un articolo del Il Sole 24 Ore, ho voluto provare Askpinocchio il software front-end del Progetto Fandango, che discerne le notizie “vere” dalle Fake News semplicemente dal link di un articolo “sospetto” incollato in un modulo. Dunque: per, ben, trenta dei miei articoli su l’Antidiplomatico la risposta è stata sempre la stessa: “Non sono sicuro di questa notizia... Potrebbe trattarsi di una fake news il contenuto della notizia contiene elementi particolarmente bufalosi.” Elementi bufalosi?! Prostrato per l’essere stato smascherato; sperando che, per errore, analogo trattamento fosse stato riservato anche a blasonati giornalisti, ho inserito il link dell’articolo: “Juncker al vertice Nato non era ubriaco: barcollava per un problema di salute”; poi dell’articolo “Sono i russi Alexander Petrov e Ruslan Boshirov i sospettati dell’avvelenamento di Sergei e Yulia Skripal”; poi dell’articolo “Ora gli sgherri di Maduro uccidono indios per l'oro. I raid con gli elicotteri governativi”. Risultato del software anti Fake News? “Credo che la notizia sia vera!”
Che altro dire davanti a questo Prodigio dell’Intelligenza Artificiale? Quasi quasi, vado anche io a chiedere finanziamenti all’Unione Europea per i miei due software.
=== 2 ===
The Relotius Case. Answers to the Most Important Questions
December 19, 2018
In recent years, DER SPIEGEL published just under 60 articles by reporter and editor Claas Relotius. He has now admitted that, in several instances, he either invented stories or distorted facts...
Il giornalista di Der Spiegel oltre a falsificare le notizie ha sottratto le donazioni agli "orfani" siriani
Fonte: Der Spiegel – Notizia del: 24/12/2018
Il giornalista ha incoraggiato i lettori a fare donazioni per due bambini siriani, che sono stati costretti a fuggire in Turchia. Si ritiene che uno dei presunti beneficiari non sia mai esistito.
Claas Relotius, giornalista di Der Spiegel, che ha falsificato molte delle suoi reportage strazianti, ora affronta un'indagine criminale sulle donazioni di denaro per i bambini siriani. La rivista tedesca ha presentato una denuncia penale contro Relotius dopo che si è saputo che il giornalista non solo ha inventato protagonisti e citazioni nei suoi racconti, ma avrebbe anche potuto ingannare i suoi lettori.
"I figli del re"
I lettori hanno informato i media che il giornalista ha usato la sua e-mail privata per organizzare una campagna di raccolta fondi per gli orfani siriani che vivono in Turchia. La storia è stata pubblicata nell'articolo di Relotius del 2016 intitolato "Children of the King".
Tale relazione ha raccontato la storia di Ahmed Alin e suo fratello, che sono stati costretti a fuggire in Turchia dopo che i suoi genitori sono morti nella città siriana di Aleppo. Per sopravvivere, i bambini lavoravano per lunghe ore e vivevano in condizioni terribili. Relotius sosteneva di aver parlato con entrambi i bambini, che vivevano a 300 chilometri di distanza, nelle città turche di Mersin e Gaziantep.
Storia "falsificata e fortemente drammatizzata"
Tuttavia, Der Spiegel ha riferito che il minore apparentemente non è mai esistito. Il fotografo turco Emin Ozmen, che ha accompagnato il giornalista tedesco durante il suo viaggio, ha raccontato di aver visto solo il ragazzo, la cui storia è stata "falsificata e fortemente drammatizzata", riporta la rivista.
Inoltre, si è appreso che i bambini (nel caso ce ne fossero due) non erano orfani, dal momento che la loro madre era viva e lavorava in un negozio di mobili a Gaziantep. Der Spiegel continua la sua indagine sulla storia, ma deve ancora trovare qualcuno che corrisponda alla descrizione della presunta sorella di Ahmed.
Il giornalista ha affermato di essere riuscito a portare i bambini in Germania, dove sono stati adottati da un medico e dalla sua famiglia. Tuttavia, questo "è apparentemente finzione", secondo la rivista. Steffen Klusmann, redattore capo di Der Spiegel, ha affermato che i fondi "probabilmente non hanno mai raggiunto quelli per cui erano destinati".
I media hanno dichiarato di non essere a conoscenza dello schema usato da Relotius, poiché nessun lettore l'aveva segnalato al momento della raccolta fondi. Non è ancora chiaro cosa sia successo alle donazioni ricevute.
Fraud ‘on grand scale’: Top journalist at reputable German magazine faked his stories for YEARS
Published time: 19 Dec, 2018
One of Germany’s most popular papers, Der Spiegel, has found itself at the center of a scandal involving one of its top reporters who was caught fabricating elements of his stories.
Claas Relotius, who worked at Der Spiegel as a freelancer for 6 years until receiving a staff position in 2017, seemed to be a paragon of modern journalism. The 33-year-old has received numerous prestigious journalism awards, both in Germany and abroad.
Just this December he was awarded a prize by the German reporter’s association for his story about the life of a child in Syria. In 2014, Relotius was warmly welcomed by CNN who named him ‘Journalist of the Year.’
However, his seemingly brilliant career has turned out to be a house of cards that is now falling apart, just as it had with Stephen Glass, a former staff writer at the New Republic who authored one of the most spectacular fabrication campaigns in the history of American journalism.
It was recently revealed that Relotius literally made up details in his stories and even “invented protagonists” – people he had never met in person.
One of his colleagues who was working with Relotius on a story about the situation on the US-Mexican border grew suspicious of some of the details in the journalist’s report. The man then tracked down two alleged sources Relotius quoted extensively in his text, only to find out that none of them ever actually met him.
The subsequent investigation by Der Spiegel into Relotius’ activities also uncovered that he fabricated details in another story including a claim that he had seen a sign in a US town that read: “Mexicans keep out.” When faced with the incriminating evidence, the journalist confessed to faking elements of his texts – not just in one story, but in a number of them.
So far, at least 14 stories out of almost 60 pieces the journalist wrote for Der Spiegel’s print and online editions turned out to contain fake details, the magazine said, adding that that figure might potentially be higher, and warning that other media outlets might also be affected.
Over the years, Relotius worked for about a dozen German news outlets, including the well-known Die Welt, Die Zeit and Financial Times Germany. Notably, the list of his stories that were proven to be at least partially fake included several pieces that had won journalism awards, including stories about Iraqi children kidnapped by Islamic State and prisoners in Guantanamo.
In a lengthy article which serves as both a clarification of the case and an apology, Der Spiegel said it was “shocked” by the discovery and offered an apology to its readers along with all those affected by Relotius’ articles. It also described the situation as "a low point in Der Spiegel's 70-year history."
Relotius, who resigned after the fraud came to light, told Der Spiegel that he regretted his actions and felt “deeply ashamed.” Meanwhile, the magazine’s management has set up a special investigative commission consisting of what it calls “experienced internal and external persons” to look through all of the journalist’s pieces and prepare recommendations to improve “safety mechanisms.”
Game of deception: How a fraudster who faked his stories for years got to be Germany’s top reporter
Published time: 21 Dec, 2018
Germany has been rocked by a scandal involving one of the top reporters writing for the reputable Der Spiegel magazine, who turned out to be a fraudster. What made a fabulst into a star? Let’s look at some of his stories.
Claas Relotius, the ‘brilliant reporter’-turned-fabricator, carved his way to pages of some of the most prestigious German newspapers with curious, sentimental and touching human stories from everyday life. Although, some of these intimate private stories clearly had some political angle.
Syrian ‘Resistance’ hero
The piece that brought him his latest (and probably the last) journalist award delved into a much more high-profile and much more politicized topic – the Syrian crisis. The article centers around the plight of a Syrian teenager living in the city of Deraa, who stood against the Syrian President Bashar Assad, using graffiti as a tool to express himself.
Written in summer 2018, when the city was still at the hands of the militants, the piece calls Deraa the last “resistance” stronghold and the start of the Syrian conflict a “revolution” while the teenager himself is described as “Syria’s liberator” and a “legend” to “thousands.” Now, Der Spiegel has to embarrassingly admit that this story that so vividly depicted the rebels’ selfless fight against their supposed oppressors was mostly fabricated and many details described in the articles were just made up by the author.
Children ‘orphaned’ by Assad
Another report Relotius dedicated to the dire plight of Syrians tells the readers about a heartbreaking story of two Syrian siblings. “They had lost everything – their parents, their house and their country” at the hands of “dictator”Assad and his soldiers, the article says, inconspicuously interweaving the two orphans’ personal story with that of the battle for the Syrian city of Aleppo.
The piece also puts the blame for the tragedy of the Aleppo residents almost entirely on the Assad government and the Syrian Army, missing on the many extremists, who kept the city hostage.
Death threats over joke
Sometimes, the journalist also entertained his readers with the reports from a little bit more exotic corners of Earth. One particularly eyebrow-raising story recounts a haunting experience of a Scotsman, who was mercilessly chased and almost killed by the people of an entire country – Kyrgyzstan – just for a low joke about their food.
Trump’s ‘border hunters’
Notably, Relotious also often wrote about the US but apparently could not stay unbiased here as well. One of his latest pieces, which became a starting point of Spiegel’s investigation against him, used made up details to play to the popular anti-Trump angle in the complicated situation on the US-Mexico border. It tells the readers about a group of self-styled “border hunters” militia.
Its somewhat unlikeable members praise President Donald Trump and viciously hate all illegals seeking to come to the US. One of the supposed group members, who goes in the story by the imposing alias ‘Pain’, says “he wants to kick the devils, who are running into America, out just like Donald Trump.”
This man, however, turned out to be nothing but a phantom born in the fraudster’s inventive mind as the story turned out to be made up as well. Now, Der Spiegel has announced it established a special commission to investigate all Relotius’ works and develop recommendations to help it improve its control mechanisms..
However, it also admitted that “even with the sincerest of intentions, it is impossible to fully rule out” such incidents in the future as their causes lie in “human frailty” and journalists are just as “fallible” as any other people. So what made it so difficult for Der Spiegel and other reputable media outlets to see that Relotius was a fraudster?
Maybe, he just was that good at delivering the German media what they themselves craved for so much. His pieces seem to be a blend of heartbreaking personal stories perfectly fitted into the ‘liberal’ narrative touted by the Western media. An ideal deception.
Kirill Kuznetsov, RT
Tanks on Maidan, president’s gold bath & more outrageous Ukraine fakes by disgraced Spiegel reporter
Published time: 22 Dec, 2018
One wonders just how outrageous ‘fake news’ must be in order to get busted, but Der Spiegel's ex-star reporter Claas Relotius got away with it all while writing for several outlets – maybe because it was about places like Ukraine.
Titled ‘Bribing prohibited’ Relotius’ piece on the new Ukrainian police has all the elements of his trademark style: dramatic narrative, likeable heroes – and entirely made-up ‘facts’.
The ‘report’, published by the Swiss magazine Reportagen in June 2016, tells a tale of two young people – Dimitri and Valeria – who became members of the rebranded police force of post-Maidan Ukraine. Given the recent revelations over his fictional reporting, it's now unclear whether Relotius met the duo in reality, but the story makes for a very compelling read indeed.
It states that each day before going on patrol, Dimitri and Valeria have been coming to the center of Kiev to pray near the “altar” erected in memory of those who died during the 2014 Euromaidan unrest. The two were among the protesters back then, it reveals, describing how they recall burning buildings, the “smell of corpses,”a man “with a child in his arms” shot dead beside an old well – and a ruined wall, where dozens were “slayed by snipers” and “rolled over by tanks.”
Wait, what? Given that the majority of victims in Kiev – both protesters and law enforcement officers – were killed over two days of murky clashes in February 2014, the “smell” of dead bodies appears to be a little of an exaggeration. No “old wells” could immediately be found in central Kiev, and there's nothing to back up the story about a “man with a child” either.
But most glaring of all, no “tanks” were ever deployed to curb the city unrest, so the “ruined wall” part was made up in its entirety. In reality, the police unsuccessfully tried to use light APCs to storm some barricades, but the vehicles were pelted with Molotovs and burnt down.. At least the “burning buildings” part holds some water, as some central Kiev sites, including the Trade Unions Building, were indeed put to the torch.
It's not much of a surprise that the rest of the article is riddled with inconsistencies and false statements. Notably, it claims that the ousted President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, had a mansion where he “lived like a pharaoh, with banisters and baths made of pure gold.” The claim appears to be based on the long-debunked rumor that the protesters who stormed the president's lavish residence discovered a golden toilet.
Incumbent president of the country – Petro Poroshenko – is also described, for some reason, as a “billionaire praline manufacturer from Odessa.” Poroshenko has held several top government posts since the early 2000s, but this fact is not even mentioned in the article. He was indeed born in the Odessa region in the Soviet Union, yet the image of a “successful businessman from Odessa” seems to be quite a stretch.
Describing the old bribery mindset the new police officers have been supposedly battling, Relotius managed to make another, quite outlandish, mistake. The article says that the new police force was in use not only in the capital city of Kiev, but in other major cities, namely “in Kharkiv and Donetsk, in Lviv and in Odessa.”
The problem is, at the time of publication, the eastern city of Donetsk had for two years been under the control of anti-Kiev rebels, who rejected the Euromaidan coup, proclaimed their own republic, and had actual tanks and warplanes sent to crash them into submission – with only limited success.
It doesn't seem probable that the new Ukrainian police force would have been welcome there – a fact that may have eluded the disgraced Der Spiegel reporter. Just as it, sadly, would go over the head of many of his readers, submerged in the MSM reporting on Ukraine – a narrative often fed from the Kiev government's POV – and with little fact-checking.
=== 3 ===
All corrupt on the Western front? Der Spiegel latest to fall from media mountaintops
by Robert Bridge, 21 Dec, 2018
Once again, a reporter has been accused of writing fake stories – over a span of years – reinforcing the suspicion that we are living in a post-truth world where words, to paraphrase Kipling, “are the most powerful drug.”
This week, Der Spiegel, the German news weekly, was forced to admit that one of its former star reporters, the award-winning Claas Relotius, “falsified his articles on a grand scale.”
Indeed, it seems the disgraced journalist was motivated more by fiction writers John le Carre and Tom Clancy than by any media heavyweights, like Andrew Breitbart and Walter Cronkite.
Relotius, who just this month took home Germany’s Reporterpreis (‘Reporter of the Year’) for his enthralling tale of a Syrian teenager, “made up stories and invented protagonists,” Der Spiegel admitted.
There is a temptation to rationalize Relotius’s multiple indiscretions, not to mention the failure of his fastidious employer to unearth them for so long, as an unavoidable part of the dog-eat-dog media jungle. After all, journalists are not robots – at least not yet – and we are all humans prone to poor judgment and mistakes, perhaps even highly unethical ones.
That explanation, however, falls short of explaining the internal forces battering away at the foundation of Western media, an institution built on the shifting sand of lies, disinformation and outright propaganda. And what is readily apparent to those outside of the Western media fortress is certainly even more apparent to those inside.
A good example is Russiagate. This elaborate myth, which has been peddled repeatedly and without an ounce of 100-percent real beef since the US election of 2016, goes like this: A group of Russian hackers, buying a few hundred social media memes for just rubles to the dollar, were able to do what all the Republican campaign strategists, and all the special interests groups, with all of their billions of dollars in their massive war chest, simply could not: keep Democratic voters at home on the couch come Election Day – a tactic now known as “voter suppression operations” – thereby handing the White House to Donald Trump on a silver platter. Or shall we say ‘a Putin platter’?
Don’t believe me? Here’s the opening line of a recent Washington Post article that should be rated ‘R’ for racist: “One difference between Russian and Republican efforts to quash the black vote: The Russians are more sophisticated, insidious and slick,” wailed Joe Davidson, who apparently watched too many Hollywood films where the Russkies play all of the villains. “Unlike the Republican sledgehammers used to suppress votes and thwart electorates’ decisions in various states, the Russians are sneaky, using social media come-ons that ostensibly had little to do with the 2016 vote.”
Meanwhile, Der Spiegel, despite being forced to come clean over the transgressions of Claas Relotius, will most likely never own up to its own factual shortcomings with regards to their dismal reporting on Russia.
For example, in an article published last year entitled ‘Putin’s work, Clinton’s contribution,’ the German weekly lamented that “A superpower intervenes in the election campaign of another superpower: The Russian cyber-attack in the US is a scandal.” Just like their fallen star reporter, Der Spiegel regurgitated fiction masquerading as news.
However, there is no need to limit ourselves to just media-generated Russian fairytales. The Western media has contrived other sensational stories, with its own cast of dubious characters, and with far greater consequences.
Consider the reporting in the Western media prior to the 2003 Iraq War, when most journalists were behaving as cheerleaders for military invasion as opposed to conscientious objectors, or at least objective observers. In fact, two reporters with the New York Times, Michael Gordon and Judith Miller, arguably gave the Bush administration and a hardcore group of neocons inside Washington, which had been pushing for a war against Saddam Hussein for many years, the barest justification it required for military action.
Just six months before the bombs started dropping on Baghdad, Gordon and Miller penned a front-page article in the Times that opened with this stunning claim: “Iraq has stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb, Bush administration officials said today.”
The article in America’s ‘paper of record’ then proceeded to build the case for military action against Iraq by quoting an assortment of anonymous senior administration officials, anonymous Iraqi defectors, and anonymous chemical weapons experts. In fact, much of the story was based on comments provided by one ‘Ahmed al-Shemri,’ a pseudonym for someone purported to have been connected to Hussein’s chemical-weapons program. The authors quoted the mystery man as saying: “All of Iraq is one large storage facility.”
Gordon and Miller also claimed their source had said that “he had been told that Iraq was still storing some 12,500 gallons of anthrax.”Several months later, just weeks before the US invasion of Iraq commenced, US Secretary of State Colin Powell invited the UN General Assembly to imagine what a “teaspoon of dry anthrax”could do if unleashed on the public.
Powell, who later said the testimony would be a permanent “blot” on his record, even shook a tiny faux sample of the deadly biological agent in the Assembly for maximum theatrical effect.
Shortly after the release of the Times piece, top Bush officials appeared on television and alluded to Miller’s story in support of military action. Meanwhile, UN inspectors on the ground in Iraq never found chemical weapons or the materials needed to build atomic weapons. In other words, the $1-trillion-dollar war against Iraq, which led to the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians, was a completely senseless act of aggression against a sovereign state, which the US media helped perpetrate.
Aside from the question of whether readers really put much faith in these fantastic media stories, complete with pseudonymous characters and impossible to prove claims; there remains another question. Does the Western media itself believe its own stories? The answer seems to be no, at least not always.
With regards to the Russiagate story, for example, an investigative journalism outfit, Project Veritas, caught a few Western journalists off-guard about their true feelings in relation to the claims against Russia, and their feelings in general about the state of the media.
“I love the news business, but I’m very cynical about it – and at the same time so are most of my colleagues,” CNN Supervising Producer John Bonifield admitted, unaware he was being secretly filmed.
When pushed to explain why CNN was beating the anti-Russia drum on a daily basis, things became clearer: “Because it’s ratings,”Bonifield said. “Our ratings are incredible right now.”
In the same media sting operation, Van Jones, a prominent CNN political commentator who has pushed the anti-Russia position numerous times on-air, completely changed his tune when caught off-air and off-guard. “The Russia thing is just a big nothing burger,” he remarked.
This brings us back to the story of the fallen Der Spiegel journalist. It seems that a deep cynicism has taken hold in at least some parts of the Western media establishment. Journalists seem increasingly willing to produce extremely tenuous, fact-challenged stories, many of which are barely held together by a rickety composite of anonymous entities.
And why not? If their own media bosses are permitting gross fabrications on a number of major issues, not least of all related to Russia, and further afield in Syria, why should the journalists be forced to play by the rules?
Under such oppressive conditions, where the media appears to be merely the mouthpiece of the government’s position on a number of issues, those working inside this apparatus will eventually come around to the conclusion that truth is not the main priority. The main priority is hoodwinking the public into believing something even when the facts – or lack of them – point to other conclusions.
Thus, it is no surprise when we find Western reporters imitating the greatest fiction writers, because in reality that is what they have already become.
Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. Former Editor-in-Chief of The Moscow News, he is author of the book, 'Midnight in the American Empire,' released in 2013.