Monday, October 21, 2013

An army of sock puppets

I'm working on a thread on the role of information and misinformation in GOP dysfunction. In the course of that thread, I'll probably be linking to this passage from NPR reporter David Folkenflick's "Murdoch's World":
On the blogs, the fight was particularly fierce. Fox PR staffers were expected to counter not just negative and even neutral blog postings but the anti-Fox comments beneath them. One former staffer recalled using twenty different aliases to post pro-Fox rants. Another had one hundred. Several employees had to acquire a cell phone thumb drive to provide a wireless broadband connection that could not be traced back to a Fox News or News Corp account. Another used an AOL dial-up connection, even in the age of widespread broadband access, on the rationale it would be harder to pinpoint its origins. Old laptops were distributed for these cyber operations. Even blogs with minor followings were reviewed to ensure no claim went unchecked.
One of the many problematic aspects of the increasingly self-serving ethics code of the mainstream press (yes, I'm back on that again) is the "professional courtesy" extended to organizations like News Corp. It's OK to be patronizing (at the NYT, it seems to be a job requirement), but you must always stop short of the five-letter-word for spade.

This "courtesy" is self-serving because:

Murdoch and Ailes like to hit back hard and dirty;

Many friends and former co-workers of mainstream journalists now work for Fox and honest descriptions would make for some very uncomfortable socializing;

The day may come when these journalists find themselves in the Howard Kurtz role, disgraced and largely unemployable anywhere but Fox.

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