“I’m not a Russian spy, where does this all come from?” spurgte Donald Trump. Godt spørgsmål. Matt Taibbi præsenterer Hamilton 68, en tænketank  – eller med Taibbis ord “a computerized “dashboard” designed to be used by reporters and academics to measure “Russian disinformation”” – der dannede grundlaget for mange falske mediehistorier, havde en hånd med i det spil

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.

Metoden bestod i, at Hamilton 68 tænketanken hævdede at have en metode til at gennemskue, hvad der var russisk desinformation på nettet. Alle vidste at ‘russerne’ via bot-farme og forskellige internetagenter havde brugt op til nogle hundrede tusinde dollars til at påvirke de amerikanske vælgere til at svinge præsidentvalget i 2016 i Trumps favør. 

Hvorledes Hamilton kunne gennemskue ret fra vrang forblev en industrihemmelighed, hvilket fik Twitters ganske venstreorienterede redaktør Yoel Roth til at erklære “I think we need to just call this out on the bullshit it is.”. Men det gjorde de fleste medier ikke, som de forlængst havde suspenderet Trumps som almindeligt nyhedsstof, om hvem der gjalt almindelige journalistiske principper

The two founders of Hamilton 68, the blue-and-red team of former counselor to Marco Rubio Jamie Fly and Hillary for America Foreign Policy Advisor Laura Rosenberger, told Politico they couldn’t reveal the names of the accounts because “the Russians will simply shut them down.” Tchya, right. One look at the list reveals the real reason they couldn’t make it public.

This was not faulty science. It was a scam. 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. As Roth put it, “Virtually any conclusion drawn from [the dashboard] will take conversations in conservative circles on Twitter and accuse them of being Russian.”


Even Twitter execs were stunned to read who was listed. The names ranged from well-known media figures like David Horowitz to conservatives like Dennis Michael Lynch and progressives like Consortium editor Joe Lauria. It’s crucial to understand that the list captured not just Trump supporters but a range of political dissidents, including leftists, anarchists and humorists. Wrote policy chief Nick Pickles, upon seeing the name of British satirist @Holbornlolz:

“A wind-up merchant,” he wrote. “I follow him and wouldn’t say he’s pro-Russian… I can’t even remember him tweeting about Russia.”


This was an academic scandal as well, as Harvard, Princeton, Temple, NYU, GWU, and other universities promoted Hamilton 68 as a source. Perhaps most embarrassingly, multiple elected officials promoted the site. Dianne Feinstein, James Lankford, Richard Blumenthal, Adam Schiff, and Mark Warner were among the offenders. Watts, who clearly knew how to play up the melodrama of his role, gave dire warnings to the Senate Intelligence Committee, telling them they should “follow the dead bodies” if they wanted to get to the bottom of the Russian interference problem.

De fleste mediehuse vil tøve med at fortælle deres brugere om Hamilton skandalen, da de så vil indrømme deres egen meddelagtighed i alle de falske historier, de har sat i omløb. Hele ideen om et center for ‘russiske bots’ eller ‘ekspertise i misinformation’ er grundlæggende “bullshit” siger Glenn Greewald og citerer lystigt fra Harpers (hvor Stephen Glass plejede at være gæsteskribent!)