NeoCons Test Drive Newest Weapon to Crush Indie Media, Put MintPress in Their Crosshairs

MINNEAPOLIS —  A recently founded venture claiming to be “a news rating agency” is making its big breakout in 2019 by claiming to be an authority at the forefront in the fight against “fake news.” Newsguard — which describes itself as an organization dedicated to “restoring trust and accountability” and using “journalism to fight false news, misinformation, and disinformation” — has begun targeting independent and alternative media organizations, including MintPress News, with a questionnaire developed to frame its victims as being on the political fringe and lacking professionalism and journalistic integrity in order to rank them as “unreliable” news sites.

Jennie Kamin, a reporter for Newsguard as well as an associate producer at CBS News, contacted me on Monday with a list of eight loaded questions that were crafted to put me on the defensive and undermine MintPress’ credibility from the get-go. Not only that, but the questions also frame MintPress as having a secret agenda aimed at hiding its ownership and funding.

Since Ms. Kamin had begun her work by failing to go to our website to find the obvious answers to her questions, it seemed clear that she was less interested in finding facts than in casting aspersions. As a consequence, it seemed that my answers wouldn’t really matter — except perhaps as they might play into her prejudgments. For example, one of her questions asked about MintPress’ funding, which is actually explained on each page and article on our website. Ironically, the questions regarding our funding came just as MintPress is concluding its semi-annual fundraising campaign to raise $25,000. Another question from Kamin referred to photos on our website not being properly attributed, even though each and every photo on our site is clearly captioned and attributed to its source.




 

Below, we have provided Newsguard’s questions in full (bolded) and my complete responses:

Dear Mnar,

I am doing a site review of MintPressNews.com for NewsGuard, a news rating agency. I have a few questions about the website’s editorial practices and policies. I appreciate your help in meeting my Wednesday deadline. For your reference, our website is www.newsguardtechnologies.com.

How does the website generate revenue?

MintPress News is reader supported journalism. We receive donations through our website, Paypal and Bitcoin. We hold semi-annual fundraising drives as well as bi-annual membership drives to sustain our main operation expenses. You can find our current major fundraising campaign here. In addition, we accrue some revenue from selling advertising. This is made clear on each page of our website. We receive no funding from any government or former government officials, from any member or former member of another media organization, such as the Wall Street Journal, or any organization involved in lobbying for against any particular legislation, unlike NewsGuard.

Would you like to comment regarding BuzzFeed News‘ reporting that Odeh Muhawesh could be involved with the financing, along with the claim that Muhawesh has demonstrated pro-Iran and pro-Assad beliefs?

The BuzzFeed article you are referencing is a clear example of unprofessional journalism that fails to report on the issue at hand and rather create an Islamophobic character assassination of myself and my family to discredit our in-depth reporting on the war in Syria. During this time, our journalists were receiving threats for conducting interviews with average Syrians, doctors and even rebels on the ground in Ghoutha where the 2013 chemical weapons attack took place that nearly led the US in a direct military confrontation with the Syrian government.

These interviews showcased an alternative to the corporate mainstream media’s narrative that it was indeed Assad gassing his own people. Our interviews, in which we make clear that their assertions were “claims”, allege that perhaps the chemical weapons attack could have taken place at the hands of Al-Qaeda terrorists. Because this chemical attack was being used as a push for war and was allegedly the “red line” that Assad had crossed to initiate a US intervention, MintPress’ reporting on these interviews attracted mass media attention. Our coverage about al-Qaeda rebels using chemical weapons was later validated by former UN inspectors, MIT rocket scientists, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh and WikiLeaks diplomatic cables.

Instead of reporting on who could be behind this chemical weapons attack, Buzzfeed unprofessionally targeted myself and my family to discredit our reporting. They created a profile of Mr. Muhawesh based on little more than assumptions and hearsay in an attempt to paint us as Pro-Assad or Pro-Iran. Mr. Muhawesh has never put a cent into MintPress News. He has a very limited role relegated 100% to business advising on dealing with human resources related issues and vendors. In terms of his personal political beliefs, they are completely irrelevant to MintPress News as he is not editorially involved in our work. In fact, all articles produced by MintPress are pitched and chosen by writers not editors which gives them full editorial control over their reporting.

We do not wish to speak on behalf of Mr. Muhawesh regarding his political views; however, he is a registered Republican and does not read our content as he claims it has too much a liberal bent and he has consistently voted for issues that MintPress News has opposed.

Some stories omit references to reliable sources for information. An article from January 2019 was titled, “Iran Offers an Alternative to US Occupation In Afghanistan,” quoted Iranian rear admiral and secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, several times throughout the article and did not provide a source for the quotations. Another article from the same month titled, “How War Propaganda in the Film Industry Really Works” claimed the Department of Defense and the Pentagon were seeking involvement in pro-war, Hollywood productions. The article provides no evidence for the assertion. Would you like to comment?

Both articles you reference were not written or produced by MintPress News. If you would have viewed the articles in their entirety, you would have seen that the articles include a disclaimer stating that they were not produced by MintPress News. MintPress News sometimes republishes articles from other websites. We have no editorial control over their content and are not accountable for their claims. If you would like further information about the article you referenced, we suggest contacting the author and publication that produced it, not one of the many websites that republished it.

We include a disclaimer in these articles stating as much along with a link to the source.

Stories published in our Daily Digests section are chosen based on the interest of our readers. They are republished from a number of sources, and are not produced by MintPress News. The views expressed in these articles are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

In November 2016, the website published a story run from American Herald Tribune titled, “Media Blackout As Millions Of Muslims March Against ISIS In Iraq.” Snopes found the article to be false, claiming the story was based on a pilgrimage in Karbala, Iraq that was not a direct protest to the Islamic State. Would you like to comment?

I did create a video response to the critique of this article and Snopes removed its reference to MintPress. In addition, Buzzfeed refused to comment when I reached out to them on their critique. https://www.mintpressnews.com/islam-isis-buzzfeed-what-youre-not-being-told/223426/

However, this article was not written by MintPress News. As with many other smaller news outlets, and indeed, larger ones, MintPress sometimes republishes articles from other websites. We have no editorial control over their content and are not accountable for their claims. We include a disclaimer in these articles stating as much:

Stories published in our Daily Digests section are chosen based on the interest of our readers. They are republished from a number of sources, and are not produced by MintPress News. The views expressed in these articles are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

We also include a link to the original source of the article. If you would like further information about the article you referenced, we suggest contacting the author and publication that produced it, not one of the many websites that republished it.

Some articles do not distinguish between news and opinion. For example, a January 2019 article titled “Amos Oz Remembered: The Sharp Talons of a Zionist ‘Dove,’” referred to the subject of the article, a writer, as Under this disguise, however, “…a Zionist, who for decades whitewashed horrific crimes committed by Israel against the people of Palestine.” Another article from September 2018 titled, “As Twitter Purges Real Iranians, US-Backed MEK Cult Revealed to Run Anti-Iran Troll Farm,” said that Iran is frequently “subject to double standards.” Would you like to comment about distinguishing between news and opinion content?

Articles do indeed distinguish between news and opinion. Much clearer in fact than many other websites. We most often label opinion articles with an “Opinion” label featured directly above the article headline. Had you bothered to scroll to the bottom of the article, you’d have also seen that Opinion pieces also feature the following disclaimer:

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

The website does not disclose its liberal bent. For example, a January 2019 story was titled, “New Senate anti-BDS Bill Unconstitutional and Ineffective at Curbing Boycotts.” Another story from the same month titled, “Elizabeth Warren and the Military Industrial Complex,” characterized Senator Warren’s recent foreign policy platform as “a last-minute propaganda blitzkrieg to paint herself as a dove.” Would you like to comment about making any political leanings transparent to online readers?

MintPress News is non-partisan. Our staff and readers come from an array of political backgrounds from Democrat, Libertarian and progressive. Our journalism brings all political walks of life together by reporting on issues relating to the infringement of our civil liberties and foreign policy that contributes to the exploitation of people and their resources abroad. These are not “liberal” issues but the kind of journalism that our First Amendment was meant to protect as they promote the interest of ‘we the people’ not the oligarchy.

We strongly advocate for an uncensored, unfettered and uncontrolled free marketplace of ideas. Readers are intelligent enough to engage the multitude of information readily available on the internet, and no individual, organization or government entity should have the right to restrict access to information; it is a fundamental and intrinsic aspect of freedom, democracy, and the First Amendment.

The website does not attribute sources for images. Would you like to comment?

MintPress News hosts over 25,000 images on our website and all are in fact attributed to their source. If you look at each page, the feature photos are attributed at the bottom of the article.

As some of your previous questions have shown, you failed to actually look at our web pages and apparently did not even scroll to the bottom of articles. If you had, you would have seen that all photos are attributed. 

The website does not disclose ownership details. Would you like to comment about making this information transparent to online readers?

I am the sole founder and owner of MintPress News, as MintPress is a registered LLC. There have never been any co-owners in MintPress News.  This information is public and has never been concealed.

In addition, MintPress is reader-supported journalism. We receive donations through our website, Paypal and Bitcoin. We hold semi-annual fundraising drives as well as semi-annual membership drives to sustain our main operation expenses. You can find our current major fundraising campaign here.

Thank you.

This tactic of framing questions to put the interviewee on the defensive is commonly used as the springboard to launch an attack on certain individuals or organizations based on character or lack of evidence rather than fairly hearing them out. It was clear this was no ordinary fact-gathering interview. This is further supported by the fact that some of the allegations for which Kamin sought comment were clearly untrue, such as her claim that there are no photo attributions even though all photos used on MintPress are clearly attributed on the site.

As it was obvious the questions were poised to frame MintPress as a fringe “fake news” organization that has a hidden agenda and is concealing information about its ownership and agenda. Yet, upon a quick review of its background, it soon became clear that Newsguard’s commitment to being a fair watchdog of legitimate journalism was highly suspect. Indeed, upon further investigation, Newsguard was found to be funded by, advised by and partnered with some of the nation’s most influential billionaires, neoconservative think tanks, war profiteers and tech giants.

Perhaps it is also ironic that this organization claiming to be independent chose the reporter who contacted me, Jennie Kamin, to conduct the page’s review of MintPress. Kamin is an associate producer for CBS News and was formerly a delegate for Hillary Clinton at the 2008 Texas State Democratic Convention. Notably, MintPress has long been critical of Hillary Clinton, her political corruption, and her support for regime change abroad and perpetual war.

Furthermore, one of the two co-founders of Newsguard — Louis Gordon Crovitz — is tied to Wall Street, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and the upper echelons of the corporate media. As such, Crovitz is the last person one would expect to find promoting any legitimate effort to “restore trust and accountability” in journalism.

So what is a former Wall Street executive, and a member of neoconservative think tanks that draft war policies with war hawks like John Bolton and Paul Wolfowitz, doing in founding a purported journalism organization that is “restoring trust and accountability?

Based on our findings released in an exclusive report, it is clear that Newsguard’s agenda is to do the exact opposite of what they publicly claim and to instead control the free flow of information that poses a threat to the war establishment and the corporations that fund them. Indeed, as MintPressnew report on Newsguard shows, its advisory board boasts several several characters directly or indirectly threatened by Mint Press‘ watchdog journalism, including a former CIA and NSA director and a former director of Homeland Security and its lead investor is one of the most powerful and controversial advertising and PR agencies that regularly works for the government of Saudi Arabia and powerful corporations like Bayer/Monsanto. Are we supposed to believe that a group being advised by former intelligence agency directors and funded by such powerful monied interests is really interested in “restoring trust and accountability” in journalism?

Apart from this clear cynical agenda and conflict of interest, the timing of Newsguard’s targeting of independent journalism couldn’t be more telling as independent media is facing a new wave of censorship by tech giants like Facebook and Google who have partnered up with the very neoconservative think tanks Crovitz is part of to suppressive alternative voices. It is thus unsurprising that Newsguard — as MintPress uncovered — recently announced plans to team up with Silicon Valley giants and social media sites to make their rankings a compulsory component of internet use throughout the entire country that is already targeting public libraries, schools, universities and all future Microsoft products.

Perhaps Kamin, Crovitz and other Newsguard employees would like to comment on their own glaring credibility problems and conflicts of interest?

Top Photo | A demonstrator marches with his mouth covered and carries a placard that reads: “Censorship” during a protest against Spanish Citizens Security Law in Madrid, Spain. Photo | AP

Mnar Muhawesh is the founder, CEO, and editor in chief of MintPress News, and is also a regular speaker on responsible journalism, sexism, neoconservativism within the media and journalism start-ups. She started her career as an independent multimedia journalist covering Midwest and national politics while focusing on civil liberties and social justice issues posting her reporting and exclusive interviews on her blog MintPress, which she later turned MintPress into the global news source it is today. In 2009, Muhawesh also became the first American woman to wear the hijab to anchor/report the news in American media. Muhawesh is also a wife and mother of a rascal four-year-old boy, juggling her duties as a CEO and motherly tasks successfully as supermom. Contact Mnar at mnar@mintpressnews.com. Follow Mnar on Twitter at @mnarmuh

Source Article from https://www.mintpressnews.com/newsguard-neocons-test-drive-newest-weapon-to-crush-indie/253684/

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