The anonymous and self-appointed guardians of democracy declared this week that terms such as “neocon,” “corporatist”, “imperialist” or “establishment” – among others – are “tropes/slurs primarily used by Russian propaganda.” To illustrate this, they tweeted a chart by someone called “Northern Conspirator,” another anonymous Twitter thought-police account.
Reactions to PropOrNot’s claim have been swift and satirical, with outspoken critics of the corporatist imperial warmongering neocon-neoliberal establishment declaring themselves totally convinced.
“PropOrNot ID Service,” as its full name goes, first made headlines in late 2016, as one of the outfits cited by the Washington Post claiming Russian meddling in US politics. The Post described them as “an independent team of concerned American citizens.”
Hiding behind anonymity, the outfit compiled a list of websites and people it declared “Russian” agents. After protests from multiple people who found themselves on the blacklist, the Post had to publish an editor’s note, saying it could not “vouch for the validity of PropOrNot’s findings regarding any individual media outlet.”
Its influence continued, however, with multiple outlets on its blacklist finding themselves banned by Facebook in October 2018 as “Russian propaganda.”
The efforts of anonymous outfits to police speech in the US is problematic, given the recent revelations that another self-appointed guardian of democracy, New Knowledge, actually spearheaded a “false flag” social media operation in 2017 – one of the four such operations identified so far, all on behalf of Democrats in a hotly contested Senate race in Alabama. New Knowledge was later commissioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee to write a report on social media meddling, in which they attributed their own methods and tactics to the Russian government.
In addition to its malice in declaring all criticism of US establishment “Russian propaganda,” PropOrNot is factually wrong: neoconservatism is very much an American thing, as argued by its “godfather” Irving Kristol.
The “historical task and political purpose of neoconservatism would seem to be this: to convert the Republican party, and American conservatism in general, against their respective wills, into a new kind of conservative politics suitable to governing a modern democracy,” Kristol wrote in an essay titled The Neoconservative Persuasion, published in 2003 by the Weekly Standard. That was also the title of Kristol’s collected writings, which came out after his death in 2009.
Kristol’s son Bill now sits on the advisory council of ‘Alliance for Securing Democracy,’ the parent organization of the Hamilton68 dashboard, a brainchild of New Knowledge’s co-founder Jonathon Morgan that purports to track “Russian bots” on Twitter.
The burning question now in everyone’s mind is how such luminaries of neoconservatism – from Irving and Bill Kristol to Norman and John Podhoretz – have managed to be undetected Kremlin agents for so long.