Using Buzzfeed to Launder the Fake News

Money laundering isn’t a new idea. In short, it takes dirty money and puts it through three stages. First stage is placement. Money is introduced into the financial system. The second stage is layering: attempting to conceal the illegal nature of the funds by carrying out various transactions. And then finally integration: the launderer makes “legitimate” purchases with the money they placed and layered.

Laundering the news isn’t much different. Once you’re aware of it, it’s easy to spot.

Step 1. Placement

An unverified or un-sourced story is put out by one or more organizations. Generally a scapegoat organization is used to keep the mainstream names clean. In many cases, small unknown blogs are used. In our example today: Buzzfeed news.

How do they get away with publishing un-sourced stories? They simply obfuscate it with “according to a source close to x,” or “anonymous official says.” If the source isn’t being named, the news is likely fake.

Buzzfeed news: President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project

Sources? “according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.”

The original source may be questioned or even discredited at this point, but this is not important and will not stop the laundering process.

BuzzFeed Reporter Admits He Hasn’t Seen the Evidence He Cited in Trump Tower Report 

This should be a big red flag for anybody paying attention. It’s a big claim that Trump directed his attorney to lie to congress. That Buzzfeed won’t reveal sources is the first flag. That they haven’t even seen evidence of it means that they have failed at completing even the minimum for a journalist: verification of facts.

Step 2. Layering

Reputable mainstream news outlets who need to keep their reputations clean can now cite the original source without themselves having to fact-check or verify the claims.

CNN: BuzzFeed: Sources say Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about proposed Moscow project.

Each article citing the original, flawed, article are able to report on it at face value, presenting it as true without having to cover any details over its veracity. Grey areas of the original article will simply be left out of all future reports, so anybody looking into the news reports will simply now see the source as the original outlet rather than the “anonymous source” which is easily questioned.

Most viewers inform themselves simply on headlines alone. Those reading the entire article are unlikely to follow the trail of news to its original source to judge the veracity of the original content.

Step 3. Integration

At this point, even if outlets begin to silently post retractions and the original source becomes debunked, news outlets quickly move on to the next scoop, leaving a trail of just-so headlines that later get used as assertions in future content. The fake news is now properly laundered.

Was Buzzfeed’s article fake news? Yes, yes it was.

CNN: Mueller’s office disputes BuzzFeed report that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress

You’ll notice that this soft-retraction does not require groups like CNN to correct anything or post corrections to the original article. Instead CNN plays the unbiased observer by simply reporting the news of Mueller’s statement, holding both reports (Buzzfeed’s original article and Mueller’s debunking of the article) as equally relevant (despite being conflicting) news. The original laundered news remains, since it’s technically true that Buzzfeed made the claim, regardless of whether the claim itself is accurate.

Now the Cohen-lie is very recent fake news and it has yet to be seen whether the launder mission was completely successful, however we can look at other examples of stories that have been laundered and successfully integrated into the official narrative.


Unite the Right

Paul Krugman has successfully used laundered editorials to continue a narrative:

This conspiracy theory is, it turns out, a staple of neo-Nazis in Europe. It’s what our own neo-Nazis — whom Trump calls “very fine people” — were talking about in Charlottesville last year, when they chanted, “Jews will not replace us.”

Paul links the “very fine people” quote to a laundered article that does not support his claim. I’ve debunked this here:

Mr. Krugman does a very fine job of misquoting President Trump here, in his continued hack of a job trying to attach multiple false narratives together to lead you, the reader, to believe that it is Trump and Trump supporters spreading hate. One could argue that misquoting somebody in order to mislead the public is an exercise in hate, but I digress.

Paul Krugman is referring to Trump’s statements on the “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville in 2017, in which white supremacists, antifa agitators, and many others gathered to protest either the removal of a statute, or to protest other protesters protesting the removal of a statute.

If Mr. Krugman was being intellectually honest with you, he’d let you in on a secret. President Trump didn’t call neo-Nazis “very fine people.” Far from it. Here’s the transcript from his public statement: (Emphasis added)

Trump: I think there is blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there is blame object both on both sides. I have no doubt about it. You don’t have doubt about it either. If you reported it accurately, you would say that the neo-Nazis started this thing. They showed up in Charlottesville. Excuse me. They didn’t put themselves down as neo-Nazis. You had some very bad people in that group. You also had some very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group — excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down, of to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.

George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down — excuse me. Are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him. Good. Are we going to take down his statue. He was a major slave owner. Are we going to take down his statue? It is fine. You are changing history and culture.

You had people and i’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists. They should be condemned totally. You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. The press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats. You had a lot of bad people in the other group too.

In fact, the Unite the Right event is a great example of laundered information that is regularly used to fit the narrative. Many articles have published that Unite the Right was a white supremacist rally, leading to the wikipedia entry as officially listing it as a white supremacist rally. (You can find the list of articles at the bottom of the wiki article). Despite the fact that the rally itself was not originally billed as such, and a majority of those attending were there to protest the removal of a statue, not push for white supremacy.

This memory-holing of the rally is a combined effort to completely re-contextualize the rally to make President Trump’s remarks look even more extreme when referencing it. Why would Trump say anybody at a white supremacist rally are “fine people?” President Trump lays out the original context in his full transcript:

You had people and i’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists. They should be condemned totally. You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. The press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats. You had a lot of bad people in the other group too.

Many people were there to protest a statue. Now it’s simply known as a white supremacist rally. This laundered fact has been used countless times to discredit anything tied to it.

Slate: Trump’s Rhetoric Is Raising the Risk of Right-Wing Terrorism

“Typically, after a terrorist attack, a president’s job is to inspire confidence in law enforcement, reassure a shaken America, and help bring the country together in the face of tragedy. Trump, however, has often done the opposite. After a white nationalist and neo-Nazi “Unite the Right” rally and subsequent killing of a counterprotester in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, he argued there were “very fine people” on both sides.”

Once again, a source that does not support the argument. But now it is so well laundered, that it is generally accepted that 1. Unite the right was a white supremacist rally, and 2. That trump thinks nazis are very fine people.

The Trump Dossier

Buzzfeed is no stranger to being the patsy in the news laundering business. The Trump Dossier was put together by a former British MI6 operative Christopher Steele, “initially funded by anti-Trump Republicans, and later by Democrats.”

Its origins alone should raise some red flags for those paying attention. Buzzfeed released the dossier in its entirety, despite the editor’s disclaimer that there is “serious reason to doubt the allegations.”

The dossier itself has been revealed to be most likely a fake, debunked by Alexander Mercouris and Glenn Greenwald.

This does not matter, as once again, this was simply the placing stage of the fake-news laundering cycle.

Other outlets immediately picked up on the dossier, making suggestions of the terrible implications if something like this were true:

The significance of these allegations is that, if true, the president-elect of the United States would be vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians.

I understand the CIA believes it is credible that the Kremlin has such kompromat – or compromising material – on the next US commander in chief. At the same time a joint taskforce, which includes the CIA and the FBI, has been investigating allegations that the Russians may have sent money to Mr Trump’s organisation or his election campaign.

Claims about a Russian blackmail tape were made in one of a series of reports written by a former British intelligence agent, understood to be Christopher Steele.

This is a great example of analyzing the claims without analyzing the veracity of the claims. In essence, news outlets can now operate under the assumption that the sale has already been made.

It’s worth noting that the idea that the president would be “vulnerable to blackmail” is ludicrous given the fact that the dossier has already been published.

The Dossier has since been used countless times as a matter of fact, as it is layered and integrated into the official narrative.

CNN Revisiting the Trump-Russia dossier: What’s right, wrong and still unclear?

The Guardian: What we know – and what’s true – about the Trump-Russia dossier 

Business Insider: Trump’s allies have a dubious new talking point about the Steele dossier and the Russia meeting

Fusion GPS hired Christopher Steele — a former British spy who founded his own opposition research firm in London — to collect information about Trump’s ties to Russia from the high-level government sources he had developed during his years working for MI6 in Moscow. The memos Steele wrote between June and November 2016 citing Kremlin officials were sent back to Fusion and compiled into a dossier that was published in full by Buzzfeed in January.

How a Sensational, Unverified Dossier Became a Crisis for Donald Trump

The consequences have been incalculable and will play out long past Inauguration Day. Word of the summary, which was also given to President Obama and congressional leaders, leaked to CNN Tuesday, and the rest of the media followed with sensational reports. (emphasis added)

The source is now fully placed and layered. There is no question of veracity, instead news outlets now only give the allegations credibility.

The dossier is laundered news.