The Enemies List
One of the first examples of the Ministry of Truth Media’s slavish support for authority was revealed in Matt Taibbi’s Twitter files report on the Hamilton 68 hoax.
Hamilton 68 was a tracking list created by the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD). In August 2017 the project was announced with a claim that it had “linked 600 Twitter accounts to Russian influence online.” The Alliance for Securing Democracy claimed some accounts on the Hamilton 68 list were “directly controlled by Russia” and others were “users who on their own initiative reliably repeat and amplify Russian themes.”
But the Twitter Files shows the only offense of many on the list was to express otherwise conventional political opinions at odds with the agenda of the Alliance for Securing Democracy’s advisory board.
One ASD board member was John Podesta, chair of the Hillary Clinton 2016 Presidential campaign, one-time top advisor to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and co-founder of the left-leaning Center for American Progress. “He’s not afraid to use power, and ruthlessly if necessary,” Paul Begala, another Clinton consigliere, once said of Podesta.
The national security state is richly represented on the ASD board by Mike Chertoff, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security for President George W. Bush; Rick Ledgett, a deputy director of the National Security Agency in the Obama Administration; Mike McFaul, a National Security Council official for Obama; former FBI agent and Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI), who chaired the House Intelligence Committee and later became host of a CNN show; and David Kramer, a State Department official from the George W. Bush administration.
Erstwhile Republican turned professional anti-Trumper Bill Kristol is also on the board, along with Nicole Wong, a former cybersecurity advisor to the Obama.
The Alliance for Securing Democracy claimed the purpose of the Hamilton 68 Twitter tracking list was to “help ordinary people, journalists, and other analysts identify Russian messaging themes and detect active disinformation or attack campaigns as soon as they begin.”
According to Twitter Files reports, Yoel Roth, Twitter’s trust and safety chief, told his coworkers the Hamilton 68 list was loaded with “real people” who had been “unilaterally labeled Russian stooges without evidence or recourse.”
In other notes on the subject, Roth wrote the accounts were “neither strongly Russian, nor strongly bots; they’re just generally right-leaning users,” and that there was “no evidence to support the statement that the dashboard is a finger on the pulse of Russian information ops.”
In addition to the accounts of little-know, yet genuine Americans, the list included more famous figures such as right-leaning author David Horowitz; Joe Lauria, the left-leaning editor-in-chief of Consortium News; and a British comedian.
“I think we need to just call this out on the bullshit it is,” wrote Roth, soon after he realized what was happening. “I’m increasingly of the opinion that this dashboard is actively damaging and promotes polarization and distrust through its shoddy methodology,” he said later.
But nothing was done, according to Taibbi, due to what he judged were “concerns about taking on the politically connected Alliance for Securing Democracy.” “It was a scam,” wrote Taibbi. “Instead of tracking how ‘Russia’ influenced American attitudes, Hamilton 68 simply collected a handful of mostly real, mostly American accounts, and described their organic conversations as Russian scheming.”
It was a scam with huge consequences.
“If one goes by volume alone, this oft-cited neoliberal think-tank that spawned hundreds of fraudulent headlines and TV news segments may go down as the single greatest case of media fabulism in American history,” wrote Taibbi. “Virtually every major news organization in America is implicated, including NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times and the Washington Post. Mother Jones alone did at least 14 stories pegged to the group’s ‘research.’ Even fact-checking sites like Politifact and Snopes cited Hamilton 68 as a source.”
The Ministry of Truth Media had been given an enemies list to attack. Like Winston, they enjoyed the work.
Pioneering Political Fact Checking
Taibbi’s report also showed U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), and U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) all bit down hard on the Hamilton 68 hoax when publicly alleging Twitter was being used to amplify Russian disinformation.
As shown in both the Twitter Files and the Columbia Journalism Review from Jeff Gerth, the treatment of Schiff by most of the corporate political press since 2017 has been little short of professional malpractice. Schiff’s name has become a concise descriptor for proving the existence of the Ministry of Truth Media.
The ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence from 2017 through 2018 and then the chair from 2019 through 2022, Schiff used the perch to become one of the prime hucksters promoting the Russia collusion hoax. The Ministry of Truth Media gobbled up everything he fed them and the continues to ask for more.
Schiff used his introductory comments before a March 2017 committee hearing to read into the record conspiracies from the since-discredited Steele dossier. In so doing he became a major reason the collusion hoax came to life. In an MSNBC appearance two days later, according Gerth, Schiff offered “no substantiation” for his claim that there was “more than circumstantial evidence” for the cooked-up conspiracy theory.
After that hoax had unraveled, Schiff tried to silence one of his few media critics. According to the Twitter Files, staffers working for Schiff sent an email to Twitter in November 2020, asking the social media firm to suspend the account of RealClearInvestigations reporter Paul Sperry.
Schiff was the chair of the House Intelligence Committee by this point. In addition to providing some of the earliest reports exposing the flaws in the Russia collusion conspiracy theory, Sperry broke a story exposing the name of a witness Schiff was using in the first impeachment proceeding against President Donald Trump.
Twitter staffers refused Schiff’s November 2020 request. But the journalist’s account was hit with a “permanent” suspension in April 2022. (The suspension was lifted after Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter).
In April 2020 Schiff staffers tried, again without initial success, to get Twitter to suspend a parody account that was making fun of Joe Biden, then the Democratic presidential nominee.
In a Twitter Files report, Matt Taibbi wrote that Schiff’s staff “wrote to Twitter quite often, asking that tweets be taken down.”
In sum, Schiff spent six years flagrantly abusing his position on the House Intelligence Committee and his taxpayer-financed staff to silence his critics. Outside of committing major felonies, it’s hard to imagine a federal lawmaker doing more to earn severe political and media reprimands.
The Ministry of Truth Media rallied as well . . . to protect Schiff.
The First Amendment may begin with “Congress shall make no law.” But the Washington Post decided one congressman could be a law unto himself, even to the point of using his office to silence one of their own. Schiff’s attempt to suppress the Twitter presence of Paul Sperry was exposed in an early January 2023 Twitter Files report. Through the end of February, the Washington Post did not file a critical report on the matter. In a wide field with many awful options, this moment stands out as exceptionally shameful in the short life of the Ministry of Truth Media.
And in place of honest coverage, the newspaper provided multiple reports critical of McCarthy for removing Schiff from the committee and analyzing Schiff’s announcement that he would run for the U.S. Senate. A little bit of democracy was murdered by darkness, and the fingerprints of the Washington Post were on the light switch.
“McCarthy’s specious attacks on Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell,” was the headline of a January 18, 2023, report. It made no mention of Schiff’s effort to smother the work of a journalist or his promotion of the Steele dossier and Russia collusion hoax.
The analysis was written by Glenn Kessler, whose Washington Post title is “The Fact Checker.” Kessler’s online bio claims he has held the post since 2011 and that this makes him “one of the pioneers of political fact-checking.”
Winston Smith was also a fact-checking pioneer.
Orwell wrote that after one disturbing morning, Winston experienced a “more bearable” afternoon because it “consisted in falsifying a series of production reports of two years ago, in such a way as to cast discredit on a prominent member of the Inner Party, who was now under a cloud.”
Orwell wrote that this was the work “Winston was good at.”
In the next installment, the news media’s false narratives have shredded its credibility.