Anatomy of a Disinformation Campaign

An example of how lies about the Bidens are spreading on right wing media.

While Democrats continue to wring their hands over the 2020 presidential primary, Donald Trump and his enablers decided a long time ago that the eventual nominee would be Joe Biden. That explains the pressure the president put on Ukraine to announce an investigation into the Bidens, a move that led to his impeachment.

But just as we saw with the attempts to smear Hillary Clinton in 2016, the disinformation campaign about the Bidens will continue unabated in an effort to drive up negative impressions of the former vice president. Nicholas Grosman has documented the origins of one of those campaigns that is underway.

Hunter Biden is currently involved in a paternity suit in Arkansas. The New York Post recently ran an article titled, “Private-eye firm claims Hunter Biden is linked to multiple criminal probes.” Here’s the lead paragraph.

Hunter Biden is the subject of multiple criminal investigations related to “fraud, money laundering and a counterfeiting scheme,” it’s claimed in court documents filed Monday in his Arkansas paternity case.

The documents they are referring to were filed by a Florida-based private-eye firm, D&A Investigations, and were almost immediately dismissed by the judge because they had nothing to do with the paternity case. Nowhere in the documents did D&A name the agencies behind the purported criminal probes of Biden.

Grossman did what the reporters at the New York Post apparently couldn’t be bothered to do: he googled D&A Investigations and found their web site. The home page lists “active investigations.”

D&A opened an independent investigation (Transparency) in August 2016 into Hillary R. Clinton (HRC), Jeffrey Epstein & the Democrat National Committee (DNC) claims of: Russia broke into the DNC

At the time, William J. Clinton (WJC), HRC, John Podesta, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and John Kerry were in collusion with Rogue Officials in the British Isles, Hong Kong, Iran, Russia, the Ukraine, United States, et al, to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.

In other words, the firm is dedicated to spreading conspiracy theories—particularly those that originate as Russian propaganda.

Hunter Biden’s attorney, Brent Langdon, responded to the filings by saying that D&A was engaged in “a scheme by a non-party simply to make scandalous allegations in the pending suit to gain some quick media attention.” As confirmation, the charges were never substantiated and were almost immediately dismissed, and yet they’ve caught fire on right wing media.

Two days after the article in the Post, the story showed up on Fox News under the title, “Hunter Biden is subject of criminal probes, says PI firm hinting at more incriminating details.” Other than repeating what had already been reported and using the opportunity to rehash the claims about Burisma, they added that D&A told them “to expect an additional filing soon, and hinted that more incriminating details concerning Hunter Biden’s business dealings would soon come to light.”

The story was then picked up by OAN and made its way to RealClearPolitics. At this point, the title simply reads: “Court Filing Shows Hunter Biden Earned $156 Million From Ukraine Corruption.” We can assume that social media feeds are now inundated with these false claims.

It is worth noting that this attempt to spread disinformation is so blatant that reputable news organizations are simply ignoring it. But as Grossman writes, “to figure out what to do about disinformation, first we need understand how it works.” This case gives us an example of how that happens. Either news organizations like the New York Post, Fox News, and RealClearPolitics are complicit with a firm like D&A Investigations or they aren’t interested in verifying information when it reinforces their biases. As a result, they spread disinformation and lies.

That is how Trump is able to maintain his 40+ percent support in the polls. Republicans have a propaganda network that keeps them steeped in lies. Back in 2016, mainstream media gave credence to those lies about Hillary Clinton in the name of balance. Beyond offering a mea culpa for their complicity, reporters should do their part to expose the propaganda network for what it is. This story would be a good place to start.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.