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    Fake News in Review: Media Systematically Misrepresents Corbyn, Just Like Russia

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    Kit Klarenberg
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    A new study by the London School of Economics has found three-quarters of newspaper stories about Jeremy Corbyn in the first months of his leadership either distorted or failed to represent his actual views on subjects, a study has found.

    The academics analyzed 812 articles in eight national newspapers — The Sun, The Daily Express, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail, the Evening Standard, the Independent, the Daily Mirror and the Guardian — dated September 1 — November 1 2015.

    Their findings were stark — 52 percent of articles about the Labour leader did not include Corbyn's actual views, while in a further 22 per cent they were taken out of context or even distorted.

    Corbyn's views were only present in 15 percent of article — but invariably challenged — and in only 11 percent were they presented without alteration.

    British lawmaker Jeremy Corbyn waves to a member of the audience prior to addressing a meeting during his election campaign for the leadership of the British Labour Party in Ealing, west London, Monday, Aug. 17, 2015
    © AP Photo / Alastair Grant
    British lawmaker Jeremy Corbyn waves to a member of the audience prior to addressing a meeting during his election campaign for the leadership of the British Labour Party in Ealing, west London, Monday, Aug. 17, 2015
    Numerous examples of "deliberate and malicious" distortion were offered in the study, including newspapers such as the Telegraph and Mail in October 2015 resurfacing a statement he made in 2013 regarding the 100th commemoration of World War I.

    The papers claimed Corbyn was unpatriotically denouncing commemorations — but his actual comments were rather different.

    "The government is proposing to spend shedloads of money commemorating the First World War. I'm not sure what there is to commemorate about the First World War other than the mass slaughter of millions of young men and women, mainly men, on the Western Front and all the other places. I think that's an opportunity for us to discuss war and peace and put up an alternative point of view," he said.

    In terms of tone, fewer than 10 per cent of articles were judged by the researchers to be positive, while over half were antagonistic or critical. Around a third had a neutral tone — although 28 per cent of articles were based on anti-Corbyn Labour party sources, while 23 per cent were based on pro-Corbyn sources.

    Corbyn and his supporters have been highly critical of media coverage around the Labour leader, with the embattled leader stating the party was "under attack like it's never been under attack before", and banning journalists from 'doorstepping' him at his home.

    "Our analysis shows Corbyn was thoroughly delegitimised from the moment he became a prominent candidate and even more so after he was elected leader. These results are evidently troublesome from a democratic perspective. Denying such an important political actor a voice or distorting his views and ideas through the exercise of mediated power is highly problematic," study director Dr Bart Cammaertsirector concluded.

    Fake News Everywhere

    While not included in the study, since 2017 claims of Russian ties — if not outright support — for Corbyn have also surfaced widely in the media. For instance, Ben Nimmo, a research fellow at the NATO-backed Atlantic Council and paid associate of the shadowy and controversial Integrity Initiative, has repeatedly claimed without supporting evidence the Kremlin is employing a "twisted cyber campaign" to boost Labour's electoral chances.

    Just as with 2017, Russia has itself been at the center of a number of major fake news stories over the course of the year. For example, following her arrest in July Maria Butina was portrayed throughout the Western media as a Russian spy and potential link between the Kremlin and US President Donald Trump. At the start of December she pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent — and her plea document confirms she tried to make political connections with members of the Republican party and National Rifle Association and NRA at public events and private dinners. However, there's no indication she was an employee of a Russian intelligence agency or had any kind of connection to former or current agency staff, or had ever received state funding for her activities.

    Maria Butina as seen in a 2014 photo shoot for Russia's GQ magazine.
    Maria Butina as seen in a 2014 photo shoot for Russia's GQ magazine.
    Prosecutors have also been forced to acknowledge Butina had a genuine interest in a "graduate school education" in the US, and her relationship with her boyfriend was legitimate. Moreover, prosecutors have also been compelled to withdraw lurid claims Butina was a 'honeypot' who attempted to use sex as a tool of infiltration. The judge in her case took "five minutes" to realise such suggestions were without merit, and has questioned the motives of prosectuors in widely publicizing their paranoid, erroneous suspicions.

    Black Propaganda

    On November 27 The Guardian published perhaps the greatest fake news story of the year. An article written by star reporter, proven plaigiarist and serial-Russophobe Luke Harding claimed Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chair, met with WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on three separate occasions.

    WikiLeaks immediately issued a vehement denial, declaring the story to be completely "fabricated" and noting the paper had given them virtually no time to respond prior to publication. Within hours, the organization had set up a legal fund seeking donations in order to sue The Guardian for libel, and were calling for the resignation of Editor Katherine Viner.

    The paper responded by softening the report's wording significantly, making clear it was based entirely on unverifiable allegations from anonymous sources, rather than anything even approaching actual evidence. 

    Still, the allegations were duly regurgitated uncritically by mainstream news outlets the world over — despite there being no photographic or video documentation supporting the claims, and the notion Manafort repeatedly entered the Embassy without leaving a paper trail of any kind stretching believability to absolute breaking point.

    In less than a day, what Harding and Guardian Editor Viner had almost certainly hoped would be the media scoop of the year was fast shaping up to be the biggest disaster in news reporting since Germany's Stern magazine published 'The Hitler Diaries' in 1983, a fiasco that could severely — and enduringly — damage the reputation of The Guardian and land the paper in significant legal hot water.

    In the month since, the paper has neither retracted the story, nor made any acknowledgement of the serious journalistic shortcomings at its very core — and the threat of legal action remains.

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    Tags:
    western mainstream, mainstream corporate media, mainstream media failure, anti-Russian propaganda, propaganda, Labour Party, Luke Harding, Maria Butina, Jeremy Corbyn, Julian Assange, Russia, United Kingdom
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