Controlling the Collapse Argument With the Fakery of “Fake News”, Or More Like a Case of Plain Old (Unuseful) Idiocy?

Are certain peak oil and collapse sites being blacklisted from being blacklisted, or might those in charge just be daft to the big picture here?

As you may have read a couple of weeks ago, the Washington Post published an article entitled "Russian Propaganda Effort Helped Spread 'Fake News' During Election, Experts Say", in which it cited a report by a group calling itself PropOrNot. According to the Post,

PropOrNot’s monitoring report... identifies more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season.

In one way or another I'm familiar with about a quarter of the sites listed, perhaps one or two of which I occasionally visit. Two of them have actually published From Filmers to Farmers (FF2F) posts in the past (Truthout and OpEdNews) and a third called an FF2F post hyperbolic (!) while providing a link in its daily list of to-read articles (Naked Capitalism). That aside, what I was interested to see was whether or not there were any blogs or sites in PropOrNot's list that had a history of writing about peak oil and/or the collapse of industrial civilization. After a quick scan I didn't notice anything, but after doing a more thorough look while checking the Alexa rankings of some of PropOrNot's listed sites I did a double-take – "Oil Geopolitics? Say What!?" Scrolling back over to the Js, yup, (Journal of the) New Eastern Outlook was there as well. For those who don't know what I might be getting at, I'll try and explain.

New Eastern Outlook is a site publishing various writers on mostly Eastern issues, is headquartered in Moscow, and has as its leading author F. William Engdahl. Engdahl runs the site Oil Geopolitics, or at least did, as he hasn't posted there since mid-2013 and now regularly posts at another site of his, William Engdahl. But as the Washington Post stated, PropOrNot identified sites that were "peddlers of Russian Propaganda during the election" (emphasis mine), something that Oil Geopolitics hasn't done in over three years, but which William Engdahl has done steadily for the past year, much of whose content would certainly land it in PropOrNot's naughty books. That being so, why the discrepancy? I emailed PropOrNot asking for some clarification regarding this, but as I not very surprisingly didn't get a reply I was left to draw my own conclusions.

For starters, PropOrNot is an anonymous (not Anonymous) group of individuals whom the Washington Post describes as "a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds", and whose identity the kind folks at the Post have agreed to keep secret so that the group can "avoid being targeted by Russia's legions of skilled hackers." Okay.

After a Doomstead Diner article pointed out the idiocy behind PropOrNot's suggestion that Russia be excluded from SWIFT, its author, Palloy, then asked:

[W]hy would a news organisation with such an impeccable reputation for good journalism, choose to pick up this story from an anonymous bunch of idiots with a $10 web-site? Perhaps because they are not a bunch of idiots at all, but a secretive cabal of war-crazed neo-cons, and WaPo have been given the establishment nod of approval to promote them.

Which, if you ask me, makes complete sense, but still doesn't explain the Engdahl discrepancy.

Backtracking a bit, the closest that PropOrNot's list comes to covering the collapse of industrial civilization is The Economic Collapse Blog (TECB), a site that has nothing to do with the collapse of industrial civilization, but rather calls out every little vagary in the news as a sign that disaster is once again just around the corner. (No really, this time it really really is! So quick, like, buy something!) No doubt TECB sells a lot of trinkets thanks to its incessant innuendo, but like the saying goes, "a broken clock is right twice a day", and no doubt TECB will be proclaiming from the top of the rafters "I told you so!" when the inevitable economic downturn once again occurs.

In regards to peak oil, the closest that PropOrNot's list comes in this respect is Oil Geopolitics, and this is where things get even more awry. While pretty much all of the sites on PropOrNot's list are out on the fringes of things, the fringes are by nature where not only the cutting edge can be found but also those out to lunch. Although I didn't so much mind Engdahl's first three books (although with a fair amount of reservations), his fourth book, A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, is where he started to lose the plot in my eyes, culminating in Myths, Lies and Oil Wars, where things really went over the deep end. In case you didn't know, one of Engdahl's stakeouts on the fringes is as a strong proponent of the abiotic theory of oil, the (cornucopian) notion that oil is not an organic substance and instead supposedly originates from deep carbon deposits present since Earth's formation. As the theory goes (which comes courtesy of a bunch of Russian scientists actually), given enough time oil fields refill themselves with black gold.

Perpetually creamy on the inside (photo by Neal Fowler)

With that in mind, and as is stated on the back cover of Myths, Lies and Oil Wars,

As Henry Kissinger said, “If you control the oil you control entire nations.” The converse is also true – If oil cannot be controlled the controlling powers lose their control over other nations and the wars that go with it. This is an entirely different account of the world's most important and most political commodity – oil.

In other words, since oil is such a plentiful resource the powers-that-be have little recourse but to maintain a false sense of scarcity in order that they can maintain control over the masses – masses that would otherwise be able to enjoy lives of abiotic cornucopian bliss.

With TECB and Oil Geopolitics in mind, and while there certainly is a McCarthyite tinge to PropOrNot and its list, one could also see the list as a bit of an exercise in controlling the peak oil / collapse of industrial civilization argument, baiting the anti-establishment types to hone in on these broken clock, out to lunch, not-quite peak oil / collapse of industrial civilization sites, which in effect diverts their attention from more worthwhile ones.

Sure, there's a few worthwhile sites on PropOrNot's list, but even though much of the criteria laid out by PropOrNot for inclusion on its list "are common themes here on Doomstead Diner" (as Palloy put it), and even though John Michael Greer was a bit cheekily "disappointed to find that The Archdruid Report didn't make the cut" – and then expressed in the comments to said post that he was surprised that (Russian-born) Dmitry Orlov's site (Club Orlov) wasn't included either – I wasn't too surprised to notice their exclusion from the list of malcontents (even as mere "useful idiots").

Supposing said (worthwhile) sites have large enough readerships to attract PropOrNot's attention in the first place, to include any of them in the list would have given them legitimacy and drawn attention to them. Might there then be a conspiracy abrew to bring attention to – and thus give quasi-legitimacy to – sites like TECB and Oil Geopolitics while ignoring sites like The Doomstead Diner, The Archdruid Report, Club Orlov, and (ahem) From Filmers to Farmers? Could such sites have been blacklisted from being blacklisted?

Well, I may have entertained such notions in the past, but after the recent U.S. elections I think it was quite clearly shown that this may not be so much of a conspiracy as opposed to idiocy reigning supreme. As just one example, and in case you hadn't heard, in the debate on climate and energy policy Trump's energy advisor did after all state that

It is complicated when you talk about the movement of electricity. You know, neurons go where neurons want to go once they're on the line, right?


Anyway, according to Ben Norton and Glenn Greenwald in The Intercept,

As is so often the case, those who mostly loudly warn of “fake news” from others are themselves the most aggressive disseminators of it.

Quite true. But it should probably also be added that for those concerned about energy and collapse issues, the fake newsers have little to no grasp of the big picture here, never mind having much cognizance of our perch on what is essentially a fake monetary system.

So no, no conspiracy here. More like the blind leading the blind, the fakers leading the fakees, and another case of just plain old (unuseful) idiocy.

The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming – and the Iranians too! (image courtesy of Wayne Vermeire)

A former filmmaker, now jawboning on the collapse of industrial civili­s­a­tion and the renewal of culture. .