By John Helmer, Moscow
Amazon.com Incorporated makes annual sales of $107 billion, growing at a rate of 30% so far this year. The market capitalization of its shares is currently $366 billion, increasing by 14%. Imagine what would happen to both if the control shareholder and chief executive of the company, Jeffrey Bezos (lead image), ordered Amazon.com to issue a disclaimer with every transaction that Amazon does not vouch for the delivery of goods to their buyers, nor that its goods will work according to Amazon’s advertising.
That no-vouch, no-truth disclaimer was published overnight by one of the advertising and promotion agencies of the Bezos group, the Washington Post (WaPo). Bezos bought the loss-making publication in 2013 for $250 million through an entity he created for the takeover called Nash Holdings LLC. Nash Holdings is Bezos’ s private affair, with only a Delaware registration, a post office box and a telephone number in Seattle to show for itself. Media industry analysts believe WaPo continues to be loss-making, as it was before the Bezos takeover, but the losses are now covered by Amazon income deposited in Nash Holdings; by loss offsets allowed by the Internal Revenue Service; and by Bezos’s plan to make more money selling the devices on which to read WaPo than the newspaper’s cost of production.
Responding to consumer protests that WaPo’s reading material on Russia is defective and false, and that its reporter on Russian propaganda, Craig Timberg, is a fabricator, the newspaper announced last night that it “does not itself vouch for the validity” of what it publishes about Russia, the recent US presidential election, or American democracy. For “validity”, the Washington Post’s editors mean truth. For “does not vouch for”, they mean what Nash Holdings and Bezos are calculating as a put-call option on lying.
Timberg’s report entitled “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say” was published on November 24. His story began with this illustration of President Vladimir Putin being televised.
The subliminal message – Putin small and unrecognizable until he appears on screen – was made explicit in the photo caption: “Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an interview with RT in 2013, said that he wanted to ‘break the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on the global information streams.’” Asked to substantiate his claims about Russian propaganda in the US and the veracity of his reported sources and experts, Timberg has responded: “I’m sorry I can’t comment about stories I’ve written for the Post.”
For more details of Propornot.com, Joel Harding, and other sources Timberg and WaPo have promoted, read this. Proporrnot.com has avoided responding directly to the criticism and will not identify its team, although Harding’s internet files reveal several of the names. Harding has explained his association with the site here.
A retired US intelligence officer comments: “there are thousands of people like this now. Low- level grunts into 007 movies as kids who worked their way into the spook community after military service. Without any other skills they went from contract to contract doing what they know best. 9/11 was the mother lode, but they always need to develop a market for a new evil, which over the past couple of years is Russia. It’s a cash flow expo of endless war. Everybody has been dumping fake news on the scene for decades. This includes the US of A in a major way. They all set it up to make it look like the other country did it.”
One of the 199 publications vouched for by Ryan, Timberg, WaPo and Nash Holdings as Russian propaganda was Counterpunch, a publication of the Cockburn family. It opted to strike a bargain with Propornot: if Counterpunch confessed to being against Russia, Propornot would agree to delist it. According to Josh Frank (right), an editor at Counterpunch: “after a brief email exchange, PropOrNot admitted it was wrong in listing CounterPunch and promptly removed us from their list of Russian pawns. In the initial email to the group I inquired why we were included in their list in the first place and provided them with evidence — a link to an article I wrote which was critical of Russia’s involvement in Syria — that CounterPunch was not in the pocket of Russians, nor were we Putin’s ‘useful idiots’.”
On December 4 Aurora Advisors, owner of the Naked Capitalism website, issued a lawyer’s letter to Frederick Ryan (right), Bezos’s appointee as publisher and editor-in-chief of WaPo. Ryan was a protocol arranger during the Reagan Administration and then chief of staff to the former president until 1995. Naked Capitalism told Ryan: “You did not provide even a single example of ‘fake news’ allegedly distributed or promoted by Naked Capitalism or indeed any of the 200 sites on the PropOrNot blacklist. You provided no discussion or assessment of the credentials or backgrounds of these so-called ‘researchers’ (Clint Watts, Andrew Weisburd, and J.M. Berger and the ‘team’ at PropOrNot), and no discussion or analysis of the methodology, protocol or algorithms such ‘researchers’ may or may not have followed.”
Naked Capitalism is demanding that Timberg’s article “be immediately removed from your website and all web-accessible archives. Fake News contains extremely damaging false allegations constituting defamation. Furthermore, Aurora asks for a prominent public apology for the false and defamatory accusations made in Fake News and for an equally prominent (i.e. not in a “Comments” section) opportunity to respond.” There has been no reply from the newspaper.
Instead, on the evening of December 7, Ryan published this notice online, at the top of Timberg’s unexpurgated original: “Editor’s Note: The Washington Post on Nov. 24 published a story on the work of four sets of researchers who have examined what they say are Russian propaganda efforts to undermine American democracy and interests. One of them was PropOrNot, a group that insists on public anonymity, which issued a report identifying more than 200 websites that, in its view, wittingly or unwittingly published or echoed Russian propaganda. A number of those sites have objected to being included on PropOrNot’s list, and some of the sites, as well as others not on the list, have publicly challenged the group’s methodology and conclusions. The Post, which did not name any of the sites, does not itself vouch for the validity of PropOrNot’s findings regarding any individual media outlet, nor did the article purport to do so. Since publication of The Post’s story, PropOrNot has removed some sites from its list.”
US media market analysts have started warning that Amazon.com’s share price is headed for a fall because it is “expanding into a huge new market and some smart investors think it’s bad news for the stock.” This potentially bad news comes from Business Insider, in which Bezos holds a 3% shareholding, and the Axel Springer media group of Germany, 97%. The forecast decline in Amazon.com stock value has not yet been identified as fake news from Russian sources. The share price trajectory of Amazon.com is downwards.
AMAZON.COM SHARE PRICE FALL SINCE WASHINGTON POST EXPOSE
In his latest annual report to shareholders, registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission last April, Bezos warned of the risks that “Our Expansion into New Products, Services, Technologies, and Geographic Regions Subjects Us to Additional Business, Legal, Financial, and Competitive Risks.” Bezos admitted: “We have limited or no experience in our newer market segments, and our customers may not adopt our new offerings. These offerings may present new and difficult technology challenges, and we may be subject to claims if customers of these offerings experience service disruptions or failures or other quality issues. In addition, profitability, if any, in our newer activities may be lower than in our older activities, and we may not be successful enough in these newer activities to recoup our investments in them. If any of this were to occur, it could damage our reputation, limit our growth, and negatively affect our operating results.”
Bezos was addressing the stock market which is pricing the risks. Technology challenges, service disruptions, failures and other quality issues are also Washington Post risks. The price for these is to be tested shortly in a federal US court in Washington. There the question will be — if Bezos, Ryan and Timberg can’t vouch for telling the truth, what’s the discount for the tablet on which they publish their lies?