Republican Governors Association Sets Up Partisan News Site & Forgets To Tell Anyone As It Pumps Out 'News'
from the that's-not-news dept
I like to assume that everyone is as tired as I am of the term “fake news.” The term, which once seemed to have a fairly coherent meaning, has since been co-opted by pretty much everyone to mean any number of things that mostly amount to “news I don’t like.” That’s incredibly annoying, as is all of the partisan mold that has grown upon this now dead and useless term.
That said, one does struggle to find different terminology to use when referring to a very strange thing the Republican Governors Association did when it set up a site that purported to be a “news site”, but which only served as a GOP governors propaganda outfit, while forgetting to tell anyone who was behind it all.
The Republican Governors Association has quietly launched an online publication that looks like a media outlet and is branded as such on social media. The Free Telegraph blares headlines about the virtues of GOP governors, while framing Democrats negatively. It asks readers to sign up for breaking news alerts. It launched in the summer bearing no acknowledgement that it was a product of an official party committee whose sole purpose is to get more Republicans elected.
Only after The Associated Press inquired about the site last week was a disclosure added to The Free Telegraph’s pages identifying the publication’s partisan source.
It should be noted that this source identification was not some simple omission, but rather a calculated effort to fool people into thinking the site was some objective source of journalism. The evidence for that is rather plain. Over the summer, the site was registered through Domains By Proxy, a service solely useful for its ability to hide the identities of those registering websites. The social media accounts for The Free Telegraph projected the site as everything from an “outside Washington perspective” to putting the site in the “Media/News Company” category on Facebook. The site was, of course, absolutely none of these things, instead being a GOP operation run squarely from inside Washington that was engaged in obvious partisan messaging as opposed to anything resembling news or journalism.
And, just so some of you don’t think we obvious pinko commie Antichrists here at Techdirt are slanting this, Republicans themselves made sure it was known how itchy all of this made them.
“It’s propaganda for sure, even if they have objective standards and all the reporting is 100 percent accurate,” said Republican communications veteran Rick Tyler, whose resume includes Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Democrats, meanwhile, rightly point out that a site like this can serve two purposes, neither of them in the category of honest. The site can fool readers themselves into thinking they are reading objective or even slanted “journalism”, when instead they are drinking from the hose of one of the country’s major parties. Perhaps equally important, however, is how the “news” and “headlines” on the site could be used in future campaigns.
Democrats say Republicans are laying the groundwork with headlines that will appear in future digital and television ads, while also providing individual voters with fodder to distribute across social media.
“They’re just seeding the ground,” said Angelo Carusone, who runs Media Matters, a liberal watchdog group. “They are repackaging their opposition research so it’s there as ‘news,’ and at any moment that publication could become the defining moment of the narrative” in some state’s campaign for governor.
Again, I really want to call all of this something other than “fake news” because of what that term has become, but it’s hard to find an appropriate substitute. What I wonder is how anyone could trust this particular governors association again, given this fairly bald-faced attempt at this offshoot of gaslighting voters.