Clint Watts’ World: How America’s top Russian disinformation expert pushes disinformation to justify censorship

When I challenged the high tech flim-flam man behind the Hamilton 68 Russian bots tracker, he ducked my questions. Then his fans asked me if I was a Russian asset.

By Ilias Stathatos

“Nothing is as evil as what Russia manages to pull off… We [Americans] just focus on extremists. Everything I have seen is democracy promotion. I haven’t seen the US creating fake personas.”

These were the words of Clint Watts, a self-styled counter-terror expert who has emerged through the passion play of Russiagate and hailed as “the pre-eminent experts on Russian influence operations via social media.” Watts has warned that computational propaganda has placed America on the verge of civil war, and suggested before a Senate panel that censorship of online media might be necessary.

“America’s war with itself has already begun,” Watts proclaimed earlier this year. “We all must act now on the social media battlefield to quell information rebellions that can quickly lead to violent confrontations and easily transform us into the Divided States of America.” 

Watts is currently on a book tour that has seen him earn fawning prime time treatment from Bill Maher while avoiding uncomfortable questions from the public about his work. In fact, Watts has not encountered a single critical question since he released his book, “Messing With the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians and Fake News,” this May.

And he should have, given his record. Watts was the moving force behind the Hamilton 68 Russian bot tracker, which maintains a dashboard claiming to expose Russian influence on everything from the NFL’s anti-police violence protests to the anti-fracking movement to the Parkland shootings.

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Ilias Stathatos is a journalist. He has reported for numerous Greek print and online media, focusing on international news and labour journalism. He was the London correspondent for two national newspapers, an Investigative Journalism fellow at the University of London and is currently based in New York. You can reach him @ilistathatos

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) Is Funded by UK Government

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the pro-opposition monitoring group that is cited in most media reports on the war in Syria, received funding from the British Foreign Office.

By David Edwards / Media Lens

(Editor’s NoteBen Norton: It has long been suspected that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is funded by Western governments. This is the first official confirmation that the leading “monitoring group” — which is run by a pro-opposition activist working from his home in England — has gotten money from the UK government. It is also worth noting that the SOHR’s rival the Syrian Network for Human Rights, which is much less reputable and even more explicitly partisan, has quietly admitted in passing that it is funded by “states.” The SNHR is notorious for whitewashing the crimes of ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other extremist militias in Syria.)

 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) Is Funded by the British Government

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, journalist Peter Hitchens commented last month on the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR):

‘Talking of war, and Syria, many of you may have noticed frequent references in the media to a body called the “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights”, often quoted as if it is an impartial source of information about that complicated conflict, in which the British government clearly takes sides. The “Observatory” says on its website that it is “not associated or linked to any political body.”

‘To which I reply: Is Boris Johnson’s Foreign Office not a political body? Because the FO just confirmed to me that “the UK funded a project worth £194,769.60 to provide the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights with communications equipment and cameras.” That’s quite a lot, isn’t it? I love the precision of that 60p. Your taxes, impartially, at work.’

This figure was confirmed in communication with the Foreign Office by independent political journalist Ian Sinclair. (Email to Media Lens, May 17, 2018)

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David Edwards is a co-editor of the British media watchdog Media Lens. He has articles published in The Independent, The Times, Red Pepper, New Internationalist, Z Magazine, The Ecologist, Resurgence, The Big Issue. He is a ZNet commentator and author of Free To Be Human – Intellectual Self-Defence in an Age of Illusions (Green Books, 1995), published in the United States as Burning All Illusions (South End Press, 1996), and The Compassionate Revolution – Radical Politics and Buddhism (1998, Green Books).

Sulome Anderson Admits Her Supposed Hezbollah Source Is ‘Incredibly Unreliable’

By Ben Norton

Journalist Sulome Anderson, whose reporting on Hezbollah has repeatedly been called into question, has admitted that one of her supposed Hezbollah sources is “incredibly unreliable,” after she was once again exposed for having reported false information.

On May 9, Anderson tweeted two videos that she claimed showed Iran supposedly firing missiles at the illegally Israel-occupied Golan. Numerous Twitter users immediately pointed out that the videos contained no such footage.

Anderson then deleted these tweets, and they were not archived. But an archived Google search shows the cached versions of the tweets:

google sulome anderson video iranian missiles
A Google search showing Sulome Anderson’s deleted tweets with fake video of a supposed Iranian missile attack (screenshot taken on May 9 at 11 pm EST)

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Ben Norton is a journalist and writer. He is a producer and reporter for The Real News, and a contributor to the Grayzone Project and FAIR. Ben co-hosts the Moderate Rebels podcast with Max Blumenthal. His website is BenNorton.com, and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.