December 14, 2016

WE MUST SILENCE SUCH KNOWN OUTLETS FOR RUSSIAN DISINFORMATION AS . . . THE NEW YORK TIMES! Counter-Disinformation Bill Clears Senate.

Amid all the media hysteria over Russian propaganda and its effect on the U.S. presidential election, few have noted the quiet advance of legislation designed to counter such threats. Last week, a counter-propaganda bill sponsored by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) passed the Senate as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. The bill is expected to be signed by President Obama before he leaves office. . . .

The Portman-Murphy bill will be funded to the tune of $160 million over two years: a notable increase from the $20 million demanded in an earlier version. What remains to be seen is how effectively that money will be spent. As Karina Orlova noted in May, raw expenditures are not a reliable indicator of propaganda’s effectiveness, particularly in the Russian case. And it is anxiety over the supposed effectiveness of Kremlin-funded Russian propaganda that appears to have driven the newfound push to pass the bill. . . .

Finally, there is the risk that empowering anti-propaganda efforts will only add to the unreasonable panic over Putin-planted “fake news” that has engulfed public debate since the election. We have argued before that such hysteria is overwrought, and that overreacting will only play into Putin’s hands. This does not mean that the Portman-Murphy bill is misguided, or that the threat is not real. But it is important to remember that an effective counter-disinformation effort should help us see the threat more clearly, not inflate it unnecessarily.

Walter Duranty was unavailable for comment, as he was burning in Hell. The editors of Vogue, however, hope you forget their puff-piece on Bashar Assad and his wife.

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