‘Russian Bot': US Dissenting Voices Increasingly Smeared as Kremlin Stooges

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You're a Russian bot, you're a Russian bot, everybody is a Russian bot ... or so they claim.

On Tuesday, writer Caitlin Johnstone took to Twitter to reveal that she has been dubbed a Russian bot because she doesn't like Arizona Senator John McCain.

Johnstone was bequeathed the new label after she took to the social media site to offer a "friendly public service reminder" to promote her latest work on why she'll shed no tears when the ailing Republican dies, because at least that way he'll be "incapable of facilitating the merciless slaughter of any more human beings."

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"Friendly public service reminder that John McCain has devoted his entire political career to slaughtering as many human beings as possible at every opportunity, and the world will be improved when he finally dies," she tweeted.

The 81-year-old politician, who is said to be knocking on death's door as a result of brain cancer, has long pushed for US military interventions in almost any (non-European) country you can stick a pin in, among those being Libya, Mali, Sudan, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

A day after Johnstone fired off her tweet, the Twitter account of the Washington Post-lauded PropOrNot ID Service claimed the writer was spreading lies, which meant she was a "Kremlin tool."

"This is the official Russian state propaganda line," PropOrNot wrote. "This is a completely ridiculous lie, which is to be expected from disgraced Kremlin tool Caitlin Johnstone, should go without saying."

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PropOrNot is a website that reportedly exposes outlets the push what it deems Russian propaganda. In 2016, the Washington Post published a cover story on its website, hailing it as a watchdog without, apparently, having done much work to verify PropOrNot's claims. The organization listed many longstanding and well known independent media websites among the supposed Russian "propaganda" sites it had identified. The Post had to add a disclaimer to the original story, and PropOrNot's list was quietly updated, though it still lists several anti-war websites to be Kremlin shills.

But this isn't anything new, folks. For months now, branding dissenting voices — especially those from the left — as Russian bots has been the go-to tactic of many mainstream pundits.

Also over the last few days, controversy has been dogging Amy Siskind, president of the non-profit women's organization The New Agenda, after she was dragged online for suggesting that neo-Nazis had never rallied in the US prior to US President Donald Trump winning the 2016 presidential election.

"A reminder: we didn't have neo-Nazi rallies until Trump took office — let alone in the light of day in our nation's capital!" she tweeted last Friday, days ahead of the Unite the Rally 2 protest. "Their hate used to be unacceptable and hidden until Trump came along and legitimized them."

​It should be noted that Nazi and neo-Nazi rallies certainly do predate Trump, as do home-grown hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan and others..

Within moments of Siskind's tweet, netizens went after her, suggesting she open a history book or, better yet, enroll in a course.

​And then when two critics decided to pull the receipts out on Siskind, reminding others that she'd supported the likes of Republican former Alaska governor and one-time vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Steve Bannon in the past, the disgruntled former Wall Street executive tried to shut down the argument by playing the Russia card.

Both women were quickly written off by Siskind as Russian bots who were trying to launch a smear campaign, simply because they thought her past public views were relevant to her present statements. She also suggested that her critics be seen as part of an "information warfare" campaign. 

Even when the matter was explained plainly by others, Siskind chose to ignore them and continue crying wolf.

On Wednesday, a day after Siskind launched her own smear campaign against the pair, she released an explanatory post on social media, still doubling down on her Russian boogeyman. And some of Siskind's defenders cited none other than Malcolm Nance, a frequent MSNBC guest billed as a Russia and intelligence expert, who apparently has been warning of "information warfare" efforts ahead of the US midterms. Nance, of course, is also known for outright lying about Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, saying she hosted an RT show, as well as calling journalist Glenn Greenwald an "agent" of Moscow, again with no evidence. 

In April, local Atlanta National Public Radio station WABE ran a smear against Atlanta activist Anoa Changa, suggesting that her credibility should be questioned because of her decision to take her message to Russian-funded media by appearing as a guest on Sputnik Radio.

​The piece faced withering backlash from the moment it aired, and was later highlighted by US media watch group Fair.org as a sleazy smear. 

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