The Washington Post Responds to Our Letter Demanding a Retraction and Apology for Its Article Defaming Naked Capitalism and Other Sites

In a variant of the classic problem of the shoemaker’s children going unshod, I have been preoccupied communicating with other publishers who were smeared by the Washington Post in an article based almost entirely on the efforts of a brand new group of inept anti-Rooskie propagandists that would normally had been laughed out of the room had the Post not validated them. As a result, I’ve been remiss in not putting up the Post’s response to the letter we sent to them a bit more than a week ago.

Truthdig sent a letter (which they did not release) to the Post shortly before ours. They have published the Post’s response. You can see it there are substantial overlaps between the two letters. Also notice that the deputy general counsel issued both letters, which says the Post is not treating this matter as serious.

Aside from the stress and considerable frustration of having the hard-won reputation of Naked Capitalism and our writers savaged in such a casual and flagrantly inaccurate manner is that combatting this injustice has taken me away from writing when there are many important stories to cover, such commenting on some of Trump’s Cabinet picks, the finally escalating Italian banking crisis, and Trump’s related battles over trade and US-China relations. I hope readers will continue to bear with our efforts to provide you with the analysis and commentary you’ve come to expect while we are forced to take up a fight to preserve a free and open Internet.

We will have more to say on this topic soon. Stay tuned.

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109 comments

    1. sgt_doom

      The Bezos Post (formerly known as WaPo) has little to fear with the power of the CIA behind it.

      We all should be concentrating on demanding a full forensic audit of the CIA (and DIA, NSA, NGA, etc.)!

      Were we to really know where all those wasted billions end up (usually on in a number of employees’ bank accounts) then the occasional $500 million spent on nonexistent Syrian rebel stories (Pentagon, Obama Administration) story would be blown out of the water by the corruption we finally saw!

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The Columbia Journalism Review and the media watchdog FAIR, in articles last week on the Editor’s Note, along with multiple journalists who work for top-tier MSM outlets who have written to me privately, including Pulitzer Prize winners, all disagree with you. I suspect they are far more qualified to opine than you are.

      1. Edward

        I hope NC can get somewhere with this case. This specific case is part of a larger problem with the WP not following sound journalistic practices which causes damage to other people and misinforms its readers.

      2. Romancing The Loan

        They’re willing to go at least through a motion to dismiss but will they blink at actually turning over their emails in discovery?

        Can’t wait to see the complaint! I’m excited for you.

    2. fosforos

      Their headline screamed “Experts.” How is that not a total endorsement of the scum they were “reporting” on?

      1. FluffytheObeseCat

        The text of the article was replete with smooth, regularizing language that gave a casual reader the sense that these were all reasonably well vetted sources. Intermingling the Elliott School with influence-peddling wannabes like Propornot was a lovely touch; I couldn’t help but admire it. The intense over-focus on Propornot (in paragraph after paragraph) through the heart of the article damaged their pose of detached, journalistic ‘rationality’, however.

        The piece was just a tony, skilled hatchet job.

        It may be a good move for Yves to affect the same distancing, supercilious certitude the WaPo uses in its response to her counsel. It is a transparent tactic, but one that seems to work when confronting the in-group mendacity and self-dealing influence-peddling that’s on display here.

        The WaPo is like the subject in that old Leonard Cohen song, Everybody Knows…….

        …..because everybody does know. They’re looking at dire and complete loss of relevance with the rise of the Orange One. Irrespective of whom they sleep with.

    3. Knute Rife

      The response is not on point, as CJR makes abundantly clear, and in fact is so far off that I have to wonder if Mr. McLaughlin has read the story or even knows what a news story is supposed to look like.

  1. Leigh

    I say (with tongue firmly implanted in cheek) you go full Monty Python on this.

    One way to counter absurdity is to out-absurd them.

    Have a “Wapo Week” – during that week; install a hammer and sickle design into the site, everyone must address each other as “Comrade”, post a couple nonsensical headlines in Russian, everyone take on a Russian moniker, have a big picture of a smiling Putin in the banner saying “I Approve These Messages”…

    Sit back and watch their collective heads explode.

    1. JacobiteInTraining

      I agree with this – while provoked anger tends to lead to reactionary thinking in terms such as ‘Fighting fire with fire’ (i.e., the direct assault on a defensive position) this is seldom if ever the best tactic unless one has vast resources in time, money, and troops, to burn – and one cares little about anything other then ones own victory.

      Most, do not have such luxury, surely not the 99%..

      Instead, the indirect approach, the unexpected, the humorous, the old-fashioned, the surprise, the creative…*that* is what the resistance must cultivate to be effective against a monolithic State and its organs of power intent on shoving (eventually, forcefully) you back into your box.

      I think books about Subotai the Valiant, Belasarius, and Sun Tzu, should be required readings for any nascent ‘I Will Not Comply!’ people out there. It is the Indirect Approach that wrong-foots your enemies…use it.

      Well, that and logistics. Always buy lots of logistics on Amazon… ;)

    2. craazyboy

      To cover the downside, like being taken seriously at that point, I would make the sark tags around the webpage visible and in large bold print.

    3. hemeantwell

      Humor’s great, and this farce provides lots of material, but I’d encourage something more substantive. Another approach would be to pull together all of the defamed sites and collaborate on a new site monitoring WaPo and any other worthy MSM targets. I think for many people the election campaign was quite an eyeopener regarding MSM partisanship, and it is clear that the PropOrNot attack reflects an attempt by the MSM to regain lost legitimacy. Establishing an ongoing site that at least collates critical work, along with a bit of integrating overview, would be a way of going on a sustained counteroffensive against these corporate hacks.

      1. Anonymous in Sourtfield

        Great idea and this episode with propornot may cause it to be so.
        Columbia Journalism Review and FAIR already provide close and sometimes scathing criticisms of the Mainstream Media. It was well known early on in the campaign that the WaPost was a very close HRC ally; so close that one could almost say the WaPost was THE official press release site for the campaign. Likewise with the NYT and CNN and Politico. Likewise, it was apparent to close readers of commentary on Facebook and Twitter that the HRC campaign had bots (Correct the Record) funded by a super Pac. The point is

        Keeping abreast of the news is an individual effort at this time-do what you can on your own (I deconstructed the U.S. stance on the Ukraine all on a Saturday afternoon) and publish as widely as you’re able.

      2. Wisdom Seeker

        Don’t go fake-Russian; some people might not know the difference.

        Just adding links to the daily Water Cooler to all the takedowns of the WaPo by brethren sites would be sufficient. WaPo’s shoddy “journalism” provides plenty of rope each day with which it hangs itself. Or, to invoke a different metaphor, a consortium of truth-oriented websites can fairly easily run a campaign to demonstrate that the former emperor of journalism has no clothes anymore.

  2. Roger Smith

    Accountability has to be the biggest thing this country is missing. “Huh… oh what? Me? Nah man… must-a been someone else.”

    Take care Yves.

  3. Michael

    “…PropOrNot has removed some websites from its list, and we presume it would respond appropriately to any showing you can make that Naked Capitalism should also be removed.”

    How could they “presume” that unless they’re coordinating closely with PropOrNot?

    1. Roger Smith

      Why should Yves have to request to be removed from an unsubstantiated blacksite list that ‘you’ so irresponsibly hoisted up into the mainstream??? These people!

      Where is PropOrNot’s proof? The burden is on them!

      1. denton

        i’ve heard PropOrNot is a CIA front for propaganda and covered by the NDAA, which permits propaganda both foreign and domestic

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          They’re too inept to have official sponsorship. The folks who are on the anti-Russia beat and do get official money in various forms have recoiled in horror and distanced themselves from PropOrNot.

        2. Ray Phenicie

          More likely the propornot folks are one with the Clinton/Obama camp who can’t face the music that plays about the sorry record displayed as public servants and wannabe Prez. This camp -faction-sect, cabal, junta, – wants to malign outlets, news sites, who were critical of HRC and Prez O. Almost all of the sites listed, at least last time I checked, have that in common. Often the criticism of both Mrs. C and Mr. O by these outlets has been withering (Cheers to NC), search the archives here or at any of the sites on two topics: 1st for HRC -Libya and Honduras, 2nd for Mr. O-just one -criminal prosecution of big banks for working fraud and destroying umpteen kajillion dollars of wealth around the world. You’ll find criticism that has again struck home and so this creative attempt at slime balling sites like NC.

          So I don’t think the Russian motif is a real issue (duh) but rather a foil to make us talk about that instead of the real issue which is -drumroll please-
          the news is supposed to supply facts that would help people make decisions and inform them on important issues.
          WaPost leads the way with propaganda, gets a dirtbag to take up their cause against sites that do serve the purpose of telling the news instead of propaganda and in the shuffle we all forget-the dirtballing fails to serve the purpose of printing ‘the news’ defined by Collins online as:

          1. current events; important or interesting recent happenings
          2. information about such events, as in the mass media
          3. interesting or important information not previously known or realized
          Let’s leave out gossip, buzz, rumor and of course propaganda which the WaPost excels at

      2. djrichard

        Any engagement with PropOrNot would validate their authority. Idea is to not give them any air. WaPo has already given them some air. Make WaPo walk that back.

  4. washunate

    Continued good luck and well wishes.

    The corporate media are at the center of what has gone wrong in the US over the past couple decades. Please do not feel guilty at all for this pushing other stories aside. Evidence-challenged redbaiting specifically, and hagiography for neocon warmongering more generally, is one of the core overarching stories our time.

  5. ambrit

    This reads like a classic non apology apology. The Post repeats the “we don’t have to fact check” defense and proceeds as if that was settled procedure in journalism. The letter proceeds as if the NC complaint was strictly a case of a single website being libeled, when it evidentially is a case of a class of websites being libeled, one member of which is NC. Finally, I may be imagining this, but the tone of the reply letter is smug. Throughout, the Post’s letter never acknowledges the right of NC to even imagine harm has occurred. Boy, and I thought dunning letters were bad.
    Keep fighting. It looks like the only thing that will get the attention of the managers and owner of the Washington Post is the prospect of large damages being awarded to Naked Capitalism.

    1. craazyboy

      Seems to me their position is, in non-legalese, that they are merely in the biz of reporting on news, fake or not. Therefore, if it was unfactual news, the product exiting the Wapo is merely benign news about fake news. However, the “fake” part is unsubstantiated, therefore it could possibly be news about real news. In that case, it would be important investigative reporting. Their readership can figure this out. At least their print version readership. We can be sure of that.

      Understand?

      Also, no one would consider news of news of Russian spies making us vote for Trump over Hillary as some sort of Weird clickbait.

      1. ambrit

        Duh. I dunno boss. Dat WaPo guy sure talks a mean game. Like, he’s like dat guy down on 54th Street wid da Monte Table. Foist ya sees it, den youse don’t. Da Prefessor calls it “Sleight of Hand.” Dat’s always da winnin hand. Dat’s what I sees. Dese WaPo guys got ta have da cops paid off too, just like dat Monte Table guy. Da suckers squeal all they wanna, nobody comes runnin, till it’s too late, of course.
        An, boss, da Russkies made us vote for da Donald? My cousin Leo, he said he voted for da Man cuz he promised better jobs, an gettin rid of all da low pay scabs. If Da Big D does dat, thank youse Russkies!
        Oh, an youse idea for usin da drone to keep watch for da cops while pullin off a “job” was right on Boss! Little Joey, you know him, da kid brother of da Swede, ran da drone, an it woiked great! Science sure is useful!
        Lefty, or as da Perfessor jokes, he explained it to me, Sinister.

  6. linda amick

    Boycott Amazon. I boycotted them long ago due to their slave labor working conditions. Voting with our pocketbook is one of the few options left to citizens.

    1. cocomaan

      I concur. Amazon warehouses are sweatshops and the home delivery madness is definitely exploitative of the shipping unions.

    2. Spring Texan

      I respect your good intent, but don’t think “voting with one’s pocketbook” is at all effective in the absence of a mass boycott or something. It’s more like cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. Better to advocate for better worker protection laws and support labor protests (which I do, sometimes with donations).

      In short, although you may disagree, I don’t think “voting with one’s pocketbook” is really voting.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        I disagree with the cutting off one’s nose to site one’s face interpretation.

        There is a definite benefit to me having a local bookstore right down the street. If I don’t shop at Amazon, it keeps my local bookstore in business and I quite like the people who work there and want them to continue to have gainful employment. I and my community have an all around better quality of life as a result IMNSO and I consider a few less bucks in Bezos pocket a win. Enough people do it and that’s one less hack ‘reporter’ he can hire.

        Simply supporting better labor laws sort of implies that it’s OK for one corporate behemoth to get that large in the first place, especially as they’ve done so by flouting tax laws. Time to start supporting the enforcement of antitrust laws as well.

        1. Dave

          Take opposite approach. If you have Amazon prime, enjoy their streaming and then order thousands of little things with free shipping that will more than eat up your $99 a year Prime membership.

          If you don’t, boycott Amazon. Many of the streaming shows can be found on
          thewatchseries.to

          It used to be “watchseries.li” then they changed locations.

          This is a site the has thousands of shows in their entirety with multiple sites linked, meaning you can watch say, episode 12 of X show, on ten different sites. If one doesn’t work try the next one in the lineup.

      2. Portia

        then call it “support” or “participation”. I don’t give a good goddamn to wait for other people join me in making an impact with my dollar. I just don’t support or participate in businesses and institutions I think are harmful. My aim is to keep my end clean, recycle, reuse, preserve and honor the Earth.

      3. hunkerdown

        It’s not voting. It’s exclusion. It’s telling Amazon they aren’t welcome to participate in our value chain.

  7. jake

    I don’t know…. Are the arguments made in this letter utterly without merit? Granting — as the letter doesn’t — that the original article was ridiculous, is bad and/or tendentious journalism (or outright propaganda) now a civil crime?

    If so, the side with the most lawyers will win, because guilt and innocence will become irrelevant. The only thing which will matter is, can the speaker afford litigation if challenged by an offended party?

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      Yves is requesting a retraction and an apology. Bad journalism that causes harm has long been subject to civil action. RIP Gawker.

      Ugh, have long since forsworn Amazon.

    2. washunate

      What is the purpose in asking your question? Are you aware that is the basic argument which supports allowing rich people to run baseless smears against average citizens with impunity?

      The point of legal concepts like libel, slander, defamation, and so forth is to protect smaller voices who could otherwise be steamrolled by those with much larger resources.

      And while talking about the logistical hurdles of accessing courts, what has WaPo and the other major media outlets done to direct attention to the two tiered justice system? Your question presumes a remarkable level of innocence, lack of agency, by the very actors who are supposed to be telling truth to power but actually work in service of it.

      1. jake

        @washunate

        Yeah, I did hear somewhere that money is power…. But thanks for informing me.

        My concern is for the smaller players — sites like NC, which couldn’t function if they were threatened with libel or defamation suits every time they offended a powerful interest.

        It’s typically the powerful who use the courts to tyrannize the weak, not the reverse. Just ask Peter Thiel or Monsanto.

        And without the implied threat of legal action, the demand for “only” an apology and retraction is meaningless,

        1. washunate

          I don’t follow that description of libel, slander, and defamation as offensive, though.

          The issue is not offending a person/organization. The issue is recklessly and/or willfully smearing them with untrue representations.

          This concern for NC treats accurate criticism and false statements as equivalently strong legal positions.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          First, in our ten years of operating, we’ve never had our integrity questioned. This story ran on the front page of the Washington Post and the site it legitimated called for everyone on the list to be investigated by the FBI and Department of Justice for violations of the Espionage Act, among other things.

          This is a McCarthyite witch hunt in the making (a bill was introduced two days before this story ran calling for investigations and sanctions of Russian propagandists), as well as a fundamental attack on freedom of expression on the Internet (there are multiple efforts underway to designate sites as “fake news” sites and have them blocked by Facebook and Google). Even garden variety libel can destroy businesses. This is far more serious than that.

          1. backwardsevolution

            Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act (CDPA) now passed by Congress. Good article on it by Stephen Lendman:

            http://sjlendman.blogspot.ca/2016/12/congress-passes-measure-opposing-speech.html

            Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act (CDPA) quietly passed by Senate on December 8, 2016. Zero Hedge speaks to it here:

            http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-12-10/senate-quietly-passes-countering-disinformation-and-propaganda-act

            Counterpunch speaks to another player, Daniel Sieradski, getting in on the censoring of Counterpunch. A pop-up might appear (on Google Chrome) when you go to Counterpunch: “Warning: This may not be a reliable source.” Why is he doing this? Apparently Counterpunch has said things about Israel. Whoa, imagine having anything derogatory to say about Israel! It just won’t be allowed, I tell you.

            http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/12/09/this-week-at-counterpunch-more-hollow-smears-and-baseless-accusations/

            I think if you found out who was behind Propornot, you just might find who is spoken to above. I think this is more about them than Russia, but Russia is being used to try to shut dissenting voices down.

            And look at Tucker Carlson’s frustrating exchange with Congressman Adam Schiff, with Schiff saying and implying that Carlson is a “Russian lover”. What a back-and-forth! Unbelievable that Schiff, a Harvard-trained lawyer, would actually think like he does. I’m betting he actually doesn’t think this way, but I think many from the oligarchic class are getting worried that they’re losing the natives to sites like your’s, and they want to shut you down.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDtvYHOY_Uc

            A lawsuit might divulge who is behind Propornot. That would be its value.

        3. backwardsevolution

          jake – you are right, that was bad, bad, awful journalism. Intent to hurt? Of course. Prove it? Maybe. These rags are fighting for their very lives; they are kneeling down to shake hands with the National Enquirer. Who believes them anymore? No one. These 200 sites ought to do the same thing as the Washington Post: just keep calling them on their lies and omissions, cite each other’s blogs (i.e. “Paul Craig Roberts pointed out, blah, blah, blah…..”). Hit them back. They’re just toying with you. Toy with them.

          By the way, I’ve twice gone to court representing myself, twice won (and, no, it wasn’t traffic court). It’s not that hard, even against the best, so long as you do your homework. If you know the law, believe strongly you were wronged, and are genuine and truthful, you’re most of the way there.

  8. flora

    I’m starting to think Propornot is a WaPo sock puppet.

    “we didn’t make the claim. we just reported the site that made the claim. owners of said site remain anonymous. targets of site’s claim not notified or contacted before publication for response. when questioned, we point the finger at site and pass the buck to the anonymous site owners.”

    sock puppetry.

    NC clearly has higher journalistic standards than WaPo.

    1. flora

      adding: the propnot’s site logo is a cartoon-esque sinister newspaper, a print newspaper. They got that part right. ;)

  9. Sammy Maudlin

    I am qualified to comment upon this issue. My advice to you, Yves, is that you should not leave this issue behind you, but cease any further legal action.

    Regardless of whether Mr. Moody is working pro bono, I can tell you from first-hand experience that litigation is a losing game. It will drain you of your time, it will drain you of your emotional energy, and it will cripple your ability to win the war that has been declared against independent journalism, which you are in the vanguard.

    IMHO, Mr. Moody has already gotten great results in that the Washington Post was forced to disavow any endorsement of the “findings” of these yahoos. However, this is a case where there is too much weasel room, and not enough directly-inflicted damage to make the courtroom the battlefield. You will not get the Post to do anything more with legal action. They have too much money and too many lawyers. They will grind you down.

    That does not mean you have lost. As I said, I believe you have already won the legal battle. NOW, relentlessly hammer every piece of fraudulent journalism that the Post puts forward. Combine forces with the other sites unfairly smeared and form a journalistic union dedicated to truth and integrity in reporting. Create your own standards and make them transparent. Shame the Post for not doing likewise.

    You have the high ground, keep it. If you gamble on legal action (and I have read you state the truth on this several times – litigation is a crapshoot) you can only hurt your situation. Keep doing what you do, continue to be the best at it, and you will win in the end.

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      Cannot help but agree though it is always satisfying to root for David against Goliath. If as many have pointed out, this whole “fake news” meme is partly defensive action to preserve turf, then the less distracted NC is from its primary mission the better.

      Doing what you do is by far the best retort to such lazy disgusting journalism.

    2. LA Mike

      One of the worst qualities in humans is that when they see a conflict, they almost always assume that it’s a two-sided conflict and that the truth is in between. But often, one party is the transgressor while the other is the victim. And for a 3rd party to assume, “Let’s see where the truth is between you two,” it can be a great injustice to the victim.

      That said, in a large stalemate like this, the optics for some people might be that there’s some middle ground in this conflict. And from that standpoint, I think Sammy, you’ve got a strong point. Myself, from the beginning, I felt like, “Why even legitimate that site that looks like it was made by a junior high kid?” But then Yves mentioned that they have 7 million followers and I’m clueless about social media metrics and their value in general.

      I can understand Yves being offended and feeling like she needs to stand her ground firmly. It is what it is. But I lean your way, Sammy. Why even highlight this too much when you’re unlikely to pursuade propornot reader morons of anything or get anywhere in court? Just be better than them and win out long term and point out what imbeciles they are.

      1. flora

        I don’t see a middle ground here. NC may win. NC may lose. The fight is worth fighting. This issue bigger than NC or CounterPunch or Truthdig. I’m sorry they have been so targeted. You’re probably too young to remember the horrible social and public distortions caused by the 1st McCarthy witch hunt, which went unchallenged for too long.

    3. Clive

      It is precisely that thinking which keeps government bad actors, TBTF banks and their miscreant media outlets in the positions they (usually) enjoy.

      Yes, litigation is a gamble. Yes, it is potentially an emotional and financial drain. Yes, it’s a one-sided battle because they’ve got the best white shoe firms in town in their pockets (although Yves’ attorney is far from shabby). Yes, the established order usually prevails. Yes, you usually loose, in this situation.

      Until you don’t. Not fighting is acquiescing. This goes right to the very heart of what Naked Capitalism is, what is stands for and the values it espouses on a daily basis. For Yves to just pack up her toys and go home in the face of the Washington Post’s fake news story about fake news would be like the Pope saying that he’s revoking Mystici corporis Christi and allowing anyone to set up as a franchise operation because, really, he’s just not that into it.

      I see this sort of power imbalance played out on a daily basis at my TBTF. Individuals being wronged, setting themselves against the seemingly unshakable might of an institution with all the resources it needs to crush all dissent. Probably the majority of the time, it succeeds. About 20 to 30% of the time, it has to settle and enter a compromise of some sorts. And around 10% of the time, it gets its butt royally whipped.

      Those occasions where it gets whipped are where the little guy (usually, though sometimes we do get the entertaining spectacle of a Godzilla vs. Mothra battle) prevails in court. It is thus court action, or the threat of a real, well presented and skilfully argued case being lodged, which — if not exactly scares the willies off of it — at least gives it pause for thought and makes it seriously consider repeating the transgression.

      I can tell by how you write that you seem to mean well, but for me, your advice is espousing taking the easy route. This isn’t, I don’t believe, a blog for those looking for the quick, cheap, simple victories else we’ll all just give up, sit back down in front the TV and make ourselves a nice cup of tea instead because it is all too much like hard work.

      1. Uahsenaa

        In furtherance of Clive’s point, Yves’s own words from 2010:

        It’s astonishing to see how Americans have been conditioned to think that political action and engagement is futile. I’m old enough to have witnessed the reverse, how activism in the 1960s produced significant advances in civil rights [for] blacks and women, and eventually led the US to exit the Vietnam War.

        I’m reminded of this sense of despair almost daily in the comments section. Whenever possible action steps come up, virtually without fail, quite a few will argue that there is no point in making an effort, that we as individuals are powerless.

        I don’t buy that as a stance, particularly because trained passivity is a great, low cost way to hobble people who have been wronged.

        She also goes out of her way to remind us of Kline’s dictum:

        The nut of the matter is this: you lose, you lose, you lose, you lose, they give up. As someone who has protested, and studied the process, it’s plain that one spends most of one’s time [being] defeated. That’s painful, humiliating, and intimidating. One can’t expect typically, as in a battle, to get a clean shot at a clear win. What you do with protest is just what Hari discusses, you change the context, and that change moves the goalposts on your opponent, grounds out the current in their machine.

        The WaPo expects not to have to fight this battle at all, so the very fact of making them fight it and publicizing the legal battle here continues to embarrass them and be a thorn in their side, even if you lose. It’s Yves’s courageousness that solicits my donation to the cause. I’m not sure what I would think if, all of a sudden, it were dropped.

        EATF – Also, it takes courageous people to embolden others to act sometimes, those who are well meaning but all too aware of the threat to their livelihood that taking action elicits.

    4. Romancing The Loan

      Utterly disagree. The point here is not to win money from the Post. The point is to rub their noses in how bad their own journalistic standards are (and incidentally show the public that the paper of Watergate now can’t be trusted) by trying, even if you fail, to prove they published what amounted to an accusation of espionage against their new-media rivals with reckless disregard for whether it was true or not. Let’s see the emails showing how the Post got put in touch with Propornot, and what their “fact-checking” process amounted to. I bet that’ll be a popular news story.

      IMHO, by stopping now they have gotten no results at all. An 8-point non-apology where no one will bother to read it is exactly what the Post wants. The people barely in touch with news will remember only a vague reason why they should not trust the websites their strange daughter who voted for Bernie reads. (Ahem.)

      Litigation is a far more losing game for the Post than it is for NC, who have pro bono counsel (the Post can have as many expensive lawyers as they want – they have to pay them) and can stand up to scrutiny. This is not a frivolous case. It’s worth making sure no one does this again.

    5. washunate

      In addition to what Clive said which is fantastic, this is a fundamental misread of the situation:

      IMHO, Mr. Moody has already gotten great results in that the Washington Post was forced to disavow any endorsement of the “findings” of these yahoos.

      That’s not what has happened, though. What you are suggesting is that there hasn’t actually been any harm inflicted. Which is of course one argument that could be made.

      The thing is, it’s one that WaPo would make.

      Pumping misleading stories to reach a broad audience, then following that up with minor editor’s notes designed to be seen by a much smaller audience, is not some tangential issue. It is part of the fundamental assault on the reality-based world. The unwillingness to retract such a blatantly inaccurate and defamatory piece is remarkable. The WaPo headline writers called them experts and the organization disseminated this story widely across the national (and even global) media system.

      What good does it do to hammer fraudulent reporting when the target of the smearing – educated liberals who don’t have time/energy/expertise to follow these matters closely – view the name brand outlets as the arbiters of truth and the alternative voices as the Russian hacks? You and I may know that the WaPo and their anonymous sources are a bunch of yahoos, but that is not how most educated liberals see things. They think that NYT and WaPo and MSNBC and PBS and NPR are reliable outlets. Many leftist Americans genuinely believe that we’re being propagandized by the Russians rather than our own domestic neocon warmongers.

      What good does it do to let the most blatant of smears go by with essentially no cost or pushback? If NC doesn’t demand a retraction and compensation for damages here, it is hard to imagine any article bad enough to ever reach that threshold. In which case, we have effectively ceded the terrain to every liar in DC.

      1. Sammy Maudlin

        Oh, I dunno if it’s such bad advice. A pretty good lawyer/President/Great Emancipator once said:

        Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser — in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.

        1. Clive

          That’s what Yves has tried to do, if you read the previous posts on this subject, which I would recommend everyone does before going too much out on a limb in offering suggestions, in the original letter to the Washington Post.

          The Washington Post is having none of it.

          So what now? Accept the paper’s assertion that those of us who write for Naked Capitalism just make stuff up, are producing Russian propaganda and willingly contributed to a blog which would do such things?

          Not flippin’ likely.

          1. Sammy Maudlin

            I have read the previous posts on the subject. I do not discourage fighting back. My suggestion has everything to do with the battlefield of choice, not the battle itself.

            Yves, Lambert and Jeri-Lynn’s time is extremely valuable. They have the support of many smart, creative people, including yourself. All of these people’s time and talent is wasted in the courtroom, which is governed by rules of procedure, evidence, and hundreds of years of precedent which can be argued ad infinitum, and usually is at great expense.

            I have full faith in Mr. Moody, as his reputation precedes him. Perhaps he feels differently than me and within facts known and unknown there is a great legal case to be made, and it would be a disservice not to pursue it.

            My advice was in the general. The specific I’ll leave to the experts and the principals involved.

            As you noted above, I do mean well. I believe in independent journalism and the work that is done here. The reason I voiced my concern is simply that I do not want the principals unduly tied up in pursuing legal matters when they may be counterproductive personally and professionally at the end of the day.

            1. H. Alexander Ivey

              “The reason I voiced my concern is simply that I do not want the principals unduly tied up in pursuing legal matters when they may be counterproductive personally and professionally at the end of the day.”

              Your point is that the principals’ duties is to work on producing the site, only. But your point is wrong.

              The principals’ duties is to produce work of a certain standard, and defend that work to that standard. Two actions must be done, not one.

              A hurrah to Clive, washunate, and et.al., for their forthright support!

              1. Sammy Maudlin

                Your point is that the principals’ duties is to work on producing the site, only. But your point is wrong.

                Total misstatement of my comments.

                I state that I support the site, I state that I support them personally. I state that I support defending their standards. I suggest a way to do so. I also suggest that the best way to do so is not necessarily in court because that plays to the other side’s strengths, and away from their own.

                I don’t want the principals to wage a proxy war in court for me or anyone else that feels offended by the acts of the Washington Post. If they choose to do battle there, like any potential litigant, I simply think that it should be only after careful consideration of all facts, potential costs, and alternatives. People should choose their battles carefully when facing a large, well-funded and dangerous enemy.

                If their counsel believes that litigation is the right thing to do, and they agree, that is a totally legitimate course of action to take. However, I stand by my showing concern for the people involved here, rather than blindly cheering the furtherance of potentially personally destructive litigation, as commendable, not condemnable.

                1. backwardsevolution

                  Sammy – I agree with you. Like what you said: “Combine forces with the other sites unfairly smeared and form a journalistic union dedicated to truth and integrity in reporting. Create your own standards and make them transparent. Shame the Post for not doing likewise.”

                  Keep hammering away at the Washington Post, the New York Times and others like them. Expose every lie, half-truth and omission. Go after THEM!

                  You won’t win in court, even if you do. They’ll just accuse you of trying to silence them. They’ll simply claim innocence re Propornot, just passing on what they felt was relevant information. You won’t win anything.

                  Go after them and hammer every untruth. Fellow bloggers would be glad to help you out in that regard. Tie them in knots.

        2. Foppe

          That may have held in pre-corporation times, but now it’s just an indiscriminate prescription to roll over, as it doesn’t apply to them, esp. when they (and/or the state) decide to take on individuals.

    6. Torsten

      I may beg to differ. We fought a similar fracking battle (albeit on a much smaller stage). We knew we would lose the first round in administrative court. Citizens usually lose the first round against the predators. We lost there, but as Romancing the Loan noted, we won the war because of what come out in discovery.

      With the benefit of some helpful leaks, the predators realized they could not cover up documents that should, and did, emerge in discovery. The frackers were so badly embarrassed by their pattern of deception that the all-Republican County Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted an anti-fracking position. The victory was in watching them swallow that bitter pill.

      One must be prepared, because discovery can be costly and difficult, but I’m sure Yves knows this.

    7. Frank Miata

      Wise counsel from this fellow. It is hard to take such smears as an honor. Still, this particular event gives you another opportunity to gather like minded folks to support you and your mission of providing excellent commentary on current events.

    8. Elizabeth Burton

      The Washington Post’s article was not only distributed publicly, it was echoed by most of the major news media and many smaller ones. Yves and NC deserve to have an equally public declaration that the WaPo committed a journalistic error by (a) giving credence to a source that was clearly never vetted and (b) not contacting any of those listed by that source for comment. Good grief, that’s Journalism 101.

      The corporate media have been spreading this kind of propaganda for decades, but until the rise of online news sources run by trained professionals there was nothing to counter their half-truths, misdirection and disinformation. As we enter a time when all journalists with the courage to defy the establishment narrative may be targeted, fighting against that is essential.

      And “relentlessly hammering” WaPo articles is useless if the people who need to read it stay away because they’ve been convinced you’re an unreliable source either in the pay of or the unknowing puppet of a foreign state. At that point, a valuable source of honest journalism becomes just another echo chamber.

    9. kareninca

      “My advice to you, Yves, is that you should not leave this issue behind you, but cease any further legal action.”

      I agree with Sammy. You don’t have the money, Yves – not that sort of money – and there is no way to get money that matches Bezos’. And he doesn’t care about the truth. Your most precious things are your time and your brains. You can spend your time showing the WaPo to be the corrupt sock-puppet rag it is, and Bezos to be what he is, without having to get involved with legal battles which you will not win (or will not win in a way that is worth the effort). The parody site of PropOrNot you put up was a precious addition to the internet. Spending more time on the legal side of this is a terrible waste of your time and talents. If you do continue of course we will all want your case to go well, but if you drop it now you will be acting in self-preservation and will be able to get a lot more important things done. This whole thing reminds me of how various tech companies are destroying established industries by simply ignoring the established laws that they should be following as members of those industries. Bezos/WaPo are ignoring conventional journalistic standards. Your pointing out that they are ignoring legal standards is not going to work, for the same reason that regular businesses are being destroyed; the tech companies can afford infinite lawyer fees. You need to take another route.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I have not asked for advice and Sammy is engaging in concern trolling. In Lambert’s and my ample experience in dealing with comments (now over 800,000 at Naked Capitalism), we’ve never seen it done in good faith.

        1. kareninca

          Well, you know best what you have the stomach for, and what you would count as legal success. Since you are going to go all-in, you have a better shot than almost anyone would at this.

      2. backwardsevolution

        kareninca – these sites either have a case or they don’t. There will be a winner and a loser. If the judge finds that Washington Post was merely relaying information, then there might not be a case. If you lose, you may get stuck with “costs” (their lawyers’ fees). Ouch. Of course, if you could get in and out quickly, without delay, costs would be minimal.

        I find what’s really criminal is what Congress and the Senate are doing, passing the new act: Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act. This is dangerous; the government in collusion with big media. Who gets to decide?

        1. washunate

          Those of us who are not lawyers really shouldn’t pretend to be. “Relaying information” is literally the same thing, in a defamatory context, as saying the information directly. The fact that WaPo is a major media outlet that refuses to rectify the situation adds two additional layers on top of that. The fact that this directly damages the reputation of the business of Yves and NC adds yet another strike against WaPo.

          Who knows what any one judge may do. Let the professionals handle the details. But as a lay observer, it is hard to conceive of a more blatant form of defamation. You are basically suggesting that rule of law does not in practice exist, and more than that, that we should not even care about that non-existence.

  10. Gee

    Politico still spinning the Russia stole the election meme, putting an article out today by Watts and Weisburd. I wont link to it, because I don’t want to discredit this site by connecting it to Russian inspired American propaganda (conspiracy theorists.)

    Its really quite sad that the Democrats will only learn the wrong lessons from this election, doubling down on the denial and finding a way to further discredit themselves. It’s really quite laughable actually, and HRC should, if she had ANY self respect, get out there and say “I lost fair and square because I am a fraud.” Instead, she blames Russia. Like, those darn Russians. Hacking! Who would DO such a thing??? And expose us for what we are??? We are perfect. The anointed! Russia. Those meddlers. Like, sure it had NOTHING to do with anyone in the US spreading all the truth through the internet along with all the lies. Nope. Just the lies, and specifically the Russian propagated ones mattered. Idiots. Not even useful ones.

  11. Andrew Foland

    A corporate empire the size of Bezos’s must, in both its operations and history, have endless creepy-crawlies for enterprising journalists to find and report extensively (and completely truthfully) on.

    Just saying.

  12. Ted

    Impunity. That is what these institutions have become accostomed to. This goes for the actions of the executive branch of the USG and for large corporations and Oligarch owned media outlets. Impunity will continue so long as the public sentiment is: “well, it sure is hard for me to take them to court, so OK, I’ll just move on. Maybe write something about what meanies they are. Do some more yoga or meditation”. Imagine where labor laws would be if workers who organized and struck, often at tremendous personal and familial costs, took that attitude (many did!). People need to learn those lessons again. Organize and fight! You go Yves.

    1. hunkerdown

      Unfortunately, the 536 people that run the place are the only audience Bezos is much concerned about. If nobody else read the WaPoo, mission still accomplished.

  13. root

    They’re asking a lot from the word ‘research’, using it three times in the last sentence of the first page. It is in assuming this as a conclusion that they try to escape accountability. A fatal flaw, I believe.

  14. Salty

    This paragraph:
    “You criticize the Post for not contacting Naked Capitalism for comment before publication. We certainly would have done so if the Article had mentioned or specifically discussed Naked Capitalism (for instance, as an example of PropOrNot’s allegations). But it did not. The implication of your logic is that the Post was obligated to contact all 200 sites identified in PropOrNot’s work – or, put generally, that the press must seek comment from every entity mentioned in a negative way in any document to which it even refers in its coverage. That would obviously be an unworkable approach, and it has never been the customary practice.”

    To me, that’s flat-out hilarious. Seeking comment from 200 sites? Okay, maybe that’s a bit much. Maybe find the biggest 20 and see what they think, or send out some emails and see who bites. Do a little research.

    If all 200 respond, you’ve got yourself a big article. Maybe a series of articles. You’d be working for a month or two doing interviews, gathering research, digging up stuff on the guys who run these sites and the claims made against them.

    But that’d be called journalism; that would obviously be an unworkable approach, and it has never been the customary practice.

    1. scraping_by

      Actually, with modern technology, that’s not such an outlandish idea. One email with 200 addresses in the cc: line is trivial. Cut and paste the replies into one page and done.

      Doing background research on the replies would be optional. WaPo could repeat the defense they’re using on our esteemed hostess, that they’re only the conduit and have no responsibility for evaluating other people’s statements. Attribute and you’re immune. Meh.

    2. a different chris

      >that the press must seek comment from every entity mentioned in a negative way in any document to which it even refers in its coverage.

      Wow… I am so naive. I naturally assumed that when you said something bad about somebody in print, even once-removed (that is, even if they didn’t directly publish PropOrNot;s list) you simply are expected, per what I perceived as “journalistic standards”, to have made a substantial effort to contact that entity.

      I guess that’s because I’ve noticed anytime they say something bad about somebody there is always at a very minimum something like “Corporation X did not return our phone calls” noted in the story. What I didn’t notice is my sentence if correct if you change it to “something bad about somebody big“.

  15. Harold

    If their defense is that it was a news story, then why was the identity of the authors of Pro Porn ot shrouded in mystery?

  16. Sluggeaux

    All of the major “news” outlets are filled today with Russo-phobic headlines, as the neo-libs fall all over themselves to find the next “s/he’s a Muslim” meme. The National Security State is alive and well, and its supplicants feed on this sort of paranoia. The interplay between outlets like the Post and people like PorN is a substantial cause of how our economy has been weakened and resources drained from our infrastructure and quality of life by the Deep State. I believe that Mr. Moody’s strategy is a solid one, and that it will be fascinating to watch how it plays-out.

    Thank you for the apologia, Yves. Many of us depend on the reporting here at Naked Capitalism to unpack the complexities of the globalized economy. Please keep up the outstanding work!

  17. Jerry Denim

    It’s an important battle line you’ve drawn Yves and I commend your efforts. If unscrupulous billionaire propaganda rags like the WaPo can smear their blogging betters with impunity then what will happen to important alternative reportage like your own? Make the bastards pay. It’s the only way they’ll learn.

  18. DeadlyClear

    Looks like they threw the blame on several others who also need to be served with letters from your legal counsel. It is unfortunate but the fight is necessary. As for the dying newspaper, karma is looking them squarely in the eye.

  19. Knot Galt

    What are the duties and responsibilities of a newspaper? Earlier this year, due to earlier debacles with WaPo, any trust or credibility the paper had came into serious question. Furthermore, what is the function of WaPo in today’s society? Is the FOX News/National Enquirer-like media the model to emulate? In the least, when you look at the response to your letter and you look at their mission statement you can see that the two are incongruent.

    Obviously, the methodologies and management of the paper have changed. So much so, that the current editors have thrown away any legacy and prior histories the paper has acquired over decades of decent reporting. IMO, the existing business practices and laws undermine the integrity of what a newspaper should be and what we as a society have relied on to make proper, objective, informed decisions. Thus, the WaPo has become the standard bearer of “Journalisms Fall”. Clearly, Bezos makes for terrible oversight and this fact is not lost on many; thus their tribulations with getting enough revenue to meet profit expectations.

    I hope this instance of shoddy and defamatory reporting becomes the straw that breaks the camels back and leads to wholesale changes in our news media and information gathering.

    NC, Thank you for your efforts. I feel addressing these issues are very important in that your efforts will keep us out of war and will be a valuable contribution to how our laws are changed for the better.

  20. Doxology

    The comment logs are going to be handy when the litigation starts. Astroturf bots like the oddly bossy David Lareh and concern troll Jake, champion of press freedom, will lead you to defamation central. It might be Ukey CIA cutouts. It might be fake reporters suborned by CIA at WaPo. It might be Clinton dead-enders. Or all of the above. When CIA needs deniability they let a thousand flowers bloom and they don’t mind if some idiots go down in flames, as long as they can deny involvement. Propornot is clearly the soft target but WaPo has the deep pockets, the better for your full restitution, and there’s sure to be more under the rock. The veteran anons of Project PM might help, if one tugs their heartstrings. We’ll know soon.

  21. nohomehere

    Naked Communism is collapsing and anything or one (Yves) that expose’s the true nature of their comradery is suspect and thus a target! The Freedom of expression is not a which list as neither are any of the other human rights we so abundantly , (at least for now), enjoy!

  22. rich

    What’s the difference between the Washington Post and the CIA’s internal house newsletter? Not a lot I suspect.

    Jeff Bezos has a lot to lose if the establishment were to have any reason to look into his businesses, so his primary focus is upon not giving them one!

  23. Susan Helf

    The bullshit published by the Washington Post, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, is yet another reason to boycott Amazon. WaPo, Amazon and Bezos have way too much power and influence. There are many alternatives to Amazon, including local businesses and online booksellers like Powell’s Books. Don’t feed the beast!

  24. Elizabeth

    The response letter from WaPo seemed weasily to me, and its “apology” was certainly not. That rag needs to get a public black eye from printing such a smear. I know it’s not about money (which is what litigation is usually about) – it’s about NC and Yves’ reputation for which she has worked so hard to attain. This reminds me of someone making a statement in a court of law, and then the judge rules it inadmissible. It’s hard to “unring” that bell and forget what was said. Anyway, I do hope you succeed in giving the rag a black eye, but please take care of your health and sanity. We need you.

  25. Gaylord

    Don’t know if anybody could prove it, but if Russian Gov is helping to uncover and bring truth to our corrupt political system, I for one welcome it. When information is freely available, I can judge for myself what is true or fabricated. Increasingly, I find western corporate media sources are captured and controlled by elites, and thus are not trustworthy. NC is a beacon in a dark landscape.

    1. backwardsevolution

      Jess – “…sue the fuckers.” For what? Crappy journalism? I hate what the Washington Post has done, but think like a judge, think about the law. Crappy journalism is what they’ll argue. You will be left with a faint apology, gee, we didn’t realize, blah, blah. They’ll say they felt they had a right to pass on Propornot’s findings. They’ll claim innocence. Watch them. They’re just baiting you.

      Yes, what’s happening is completely wrong, but your victory, if any, will be shallow. The best thing to do is go after THEM. Cite every untruth and omission they make. Provide facts where they do not. Tie THEM up. Get out in front of them and make them chase YOU, follow your lead.

      1. washunate

        I sympathize with your instinct, but they’re not arguing this article was crappy journalism. They’re arguing journalism allows big media corporations to engage in defamation (passing on pornorpot’s findings is irrelevant to defamation – saying somebody else said it is not a defense against misleading representations, especially since the sourcing is anonymous and WaPo determined them to be experts!)

        If WaPo acknowledged this was crappy journalism, they would have retracted the story rather than promoting it. Retraction is the very easy, readily accessible remedy for crappy journalism. The unwillingness to retract is the key insight into the motives of the senior management of the paper. The only way to ‘go after them’ is to sue (for things like a court ordered retraction, public apology, compensatory damages, and increasingly possible punitive damages). WaPo has demonstrated it is completely unwilling to voluntarily correct the situation. The threat of legal action, of asserting the right to not be harmed, is precisely what getting out in front of them looks like.

  26. Ian Shears

    Thank you Mr McLaughlin. Your insights are revealing of the kind of publishing operation run by WaPo. I will take on-board your very important statement.
    Regards

  27. Downunderer

    Not being as qualified or as eloquent as many commenters here, the best I can do is hit the donation button again, so I just did. Sorry I’m also not as wealthy as some, or it would be much larger.

    Thank you for what you have done in the past, and now for standing up to power.

    It is time to exercise our rights as citizens or see even more of them lost, as so many already have been, simply by acquiescing to their gradual, quiet, stealthy removal. Always for a good cause, of course, like “protect the children” “national security” “beware the demon du jour”, and “protect your freedom by giving it up to us”.

  28. Frank Poole

    I, for one, would like to thank the Washington Post for directing me to many interesting and informative websites for which I was hetero unaware. One of which is this distinct website. I was already a frequent visitor of a few sites listed as propaganda sites. I was rather amused that someone thoughtfully put together a list of sites for me, under the roughcut cardboard sign, “Books to be Burned”, written in pretty crayola.

  29. Grebo

    The WaPo hit piece was clearly not merely careless-but-honest-effort reporting. It was part of a co-ordinated propaganda salvo against independent truth-telling media. The ground is being prepared for more serious measures. Everyone is thinking McCarthyism. I am thinking COINTELPRO.
    A broad spread of FOIA requests to the CIA and FBI regarding this matter might be entertaining, in addition to what might be discovered directly from WaPo.

    As a five-star armchair general I suggest a three-fold strategy:
    1) Attack
    2) Attack
    3) Attack

    But watch out for the briar patch.

  30. reslez

    I’m honestly shocked at the scale of the “fake news” and “Russian spies” meme. It has spread way further than I imagined it would and it gets pushed relentlessly on twitter, cable news, print media and everywhere else. We now have sitting Congressmen going on Fox News accusing white bread journalists (Tucker Carlson) of working for Vladimir Putin… repeatedly… with a straight face. It reminds me of the hysteria after 9/11 except there the nation actually was attacked — whereas today we only have accusations without evidence, and it all seems to be happening because a terrible candidate narrowly lost an election and needs a face-saving excuse. (And I suspect TPTB are getting pretty tired of how frequently democracy has been going contrary to their wishes lately.) It’s outrageous, irresponsible, reprehensible, and needs to be stopped.

    Someone needs to fight back against these jerks. They need to learn they can’t spread their defamatory, baseless, hysterical garbage without consequences. A big attention-drawing fight might demonstrate how serious these accusations are and snap people out of it. Now, I’m not saying Yves or NC need to be the ones to do this. There are costs. But someone has to fight back.

    1. ambrit

      As one of the commentariat’s curmudgeons, I’ll take your “someone has to fight back” and observe that the “usual suspects” seem H— bent on fomenting civil discord. What might surprise ‘them’ is the strength and virulence of that discord. Every day now, as you observed, new revelations of an almost self destructive level of “playing with fire” on the part of the Powers That Be emerges.
      The evidence shows that the Power Centres have become completely disconnected from objective reality. Of danger to one and all is the fact that Reality has a nasty habit of reasserting itself, often beating the s— out of anyone in it’s way. (I give agency to Reality understanding that the word represents a congeries of individuals and groups dancing a gavotte through Space and Time.)
      Gavotte by Luly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ig-rMdCzUNs

  31. Scott

    Bezos owns the Washington Post, last I knew. In my latest struggle which was disabling, I had to remember who had power over those hurting me, and hurt them, or make clear I would.
    I won, but all wins in life are temporary.
    People with power only respect those who can hurt them.
    The game is to die with a good name for your people.
    I consider Naked Capitalism my people.
    Hey, I have models too, and in fact my model is serious.
    You must make Bezos take responsibility, and then drone mechanics must unionize.
    The only thing to do now is for labor to unite, and cut off fuel for jets that they know are flying against their interest.
    Jets and rockets are the manufacturing base of the real economy of building things that get us through the bottleneck.
    Economics is one thing and finance is another.
    Financial terrorism is terrorism and there are things to do in the mental landscape that mean Television and movie crews get work.
    I had a card, but IATSE 491 was a stepsister to 52 & one & 600.
    Weird who does not think or lead.
    Not me, but me, as the apocalyptic riot is near to the table, and the French have a Tri motor Falcon 50 that will go fast with 7, I appeal over and over for support.
    I will stop the FIRE, or G3 my mother & wife gave me, and try again to lug a book around if Bezos goes to sit at the fascist Trump, Benito’s feet again.
    Wrote Alice to say so.

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