By Alex Constantine
If there was a Most Offensive Right-Wing Propaganda Award, New Media Alliance would win it hands down. The NMA gave us "Haditha Massacre: Media and Terrorist Hoax?" (http://www.renewamerica.us/columns/zieve/070813), which ranks with Holocaust denial for its duplicity, and this bit of tripe, also by Sher Zieve, a staff writer for the NMA:
Iran Poised to Take Over Iraq
By Sher Zieve, New Media Alliance, Sep 01, 07
"As Democrats prepare their refutations of the yet to be presented General Petraeus report on Iraq, Iran’s President Ahmadinejad is already planning his takeover of that country. In the past, Ahmadinejad has encouraged the American people to place Democrat politicians in power. Tragically, for the 2006 midterm elections, Ahmadinejad’s strategy appears to have worked and he is, again, counting on US Democrat leaders to pull the United States out of Iraq - in opposition to all recent reports from both Democrats and Republicans that the surge is working. This will allow him to seize the country. ... "
Wikipedia on the New Media Alliance
The New Media Alliance (NMA) describes itself as "a foundation of Heritage New Media Partners, Inc. established to promote and defend traditional social, political and economic principles nationally." While the NMA describes itself as a 501(c)(3) non-profit group, Heritage New Media Partners is a public relations firm specialising in online advocacy for conservative groups. On its website Heritage New Media describes NMA as "a conservative issue advocacy and information group established to promote and defend traditional social, political and economic principles nationally."
On its website the NMA states that is "currently funded by contributions made by its parent company, Heritage New Media Partners, Inc. and by the gracious gifting of the Alliance members and sponsors who share this renewed vision for America and wish to support us in the ongoing fight for American freedom."
Who the Alliance members and sponsors are is unspecified.
New Media Alliance Founder Gary Schneider
Gary Schneider is president and founder of TheRealityCheck.org, "a Conservative policy advocacy group" and the public relations company Heritage New Media Partners. He is the Administrator of The Reality Forums.
Schneider is also listed as the co-ordinator for the North Eastern region of Reality Check On Campus, a PR support service for conservative student groups.
A biographical note states that Schneider received his degree in Government and Russian Studies at Norwich University's Military College of Vermont and later worked in New York as a financial researcher for "for various on-line and print publications used by Wall Street investors." The note states that he has subsequently done financial research for Thomson Financial and Reuters.
"His articles have recently appeared in Americas Voices, IntellectualConservative.com, TheRightWing.com, CommonConservative.com, The Patriotist, JerseyGOP.com, American Daily and EnterStageRight," the note states.
NMA's Jim Kouri Denounces "Leftists" for Opposing Illegal NSA Wiretaps
Activist Judge Turning Over Top Secret NSA Files to Leftists
by Jim Kouri, CPP
[Biographical note: Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he's a staff writer for the New Media Alliance (thenma.org). He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. http://www.therealitycheck.org/StaffWriter/jkouri021706.htm]
On Thursday, a federal judge decided that Americans' safety and security takes a back-seat to a left-wing groups' right to view and promulgate top secret National Security Agency documents relating to the terrorism surveillance program. In this case, one of the left-wing groups has direct ties to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who was forced to step down from his perch on the Senate Intelligence Committee in 1987 over allegations he leaked classified information to news reporters.
Just one lawyer wearing black robes has usurped the authority of the Commander-in-Chief to wage war as he believes it should be waged. As a result of this decision, the US Justice Department is ordered to respond within 20 days to requests by a civil liberties group for documents about President George W. Bush's NSA surveillance program.
The ruling is being heralded by the news media as "a victory for the Electronic Privacy Information Center," which sued the Justice Department under the Freedom of Information Act in seeking the release of classified documents. In other words, an unelected lawyer is using the FIOA to divulge the information gathered during a war to a left-wing group of lawyers, college professors and antiwar activists who will make they documents public. By public, I mean releasing classified information to everyone including terrorists, insurgents, international gangsters and other assorted misfits. ...
A Newsvine user busted a powerful stealth campaign with just a few clicks, and a simple question. "Why does Newsvine allow political organizations to seed 'astroturf' content?"
He'd discovered a pattern to the way a story's URL had been suggested to the bloggers at Newsvine. The same user had suggested over 470 URLs, each one pointing only to articles on the exact same site.
And more investigation revealed the site could be tied to a powerful PR firm. "It turns out that it is a member of The New Media Alliance…a foundation established by Heritage New Media Partners, Inc., a public relations company," the user argued.
It turns out the URLs were all coming from Frank Salvato, the managing editor of the very web publication being promoted. According to his biography, Salvato is also a commentator who's appeared on radio and TV, including Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor.
Salvato disputes any publicity arrangement with the PR firm. "The fact is that I, alone, made an honest mistake in not thoroughly reading the 'Code of Conduct' at Newsvine before using the venue," Salvato told us. "[O]n a regular basis we rarely received more than a twenty-seven count in traffic from the Newsvine venue…testimony to the notion that we certainly weren't doing it for the traffic."
After making his discovery, the Newsvine user blew the whistle, writing an article for Newsvine. His exposé quickly reached the front page of Newsvine.com and became one of the site's most-active stories, receiving over 75 votes. ("Excellent catch," wrote one user. "We definitely cannot allow Newsvine to be used as an advertising base for websites, regardless of their positions…")
Within 90 minutes, his article received a response from Calvin Tang, the site's co-founder and chief operating officer. "Thank you for notifying us of this blatant disregard for the Code of Honor, rule #3," he wrote in the article's comments, reporting that the user has been off the main site and "back into the Greenhouse, pending his acceptance of our request to him that he abide by Newsvine's rules."
Ironically, the user discovering the shenanigans had the user name "Partisan Hack." But he's deadly serious about the site's user community. "If we are to have real citizens' journalism, we need to have some confidence that content being seeded and written in Newsvine has some level of independence and it not being put here at the behest of organizations or causes who want to use Newsvine as 'astroturf' — content that is meant to appear to be coming from the grass roots that is in fact sponsored for political or commercial goals."
Answering coments, Partisan Hack acknowledged a role for groups challenging the conventional wisdom "If they can challenge it openly - not through proxy agents masquerading as individuals," and "in ways that does not leverage their economic power to the disadvantage of a community's citizens."
It's not the first time this has happened. Earlier this month another user discovered a Monsanto publicist on the site promoting a blog lobbying for genetically modified food. ""These groups are free to promote any view they choose but what does it say about their ethics that plants are mixed among users to promote a business agenda? What does it say about the Monsanto strategy that free sites like ours and Yahoo! Answers have professional spin masters supplying corporate PR as opposed to paying to advertise?"
But there's another obvious take-away message. Any community site has an ad hoc legion of watchdogs on patrol — the site's own network of dedicated users. Newsvine reports over 1,000,000 users a month, and was recently acquired by MSNBC. ("[I]t's telling that this is the first acquisition of MSNBC.com's 11-year history," the Motley Fool reported.)
Any stealth publicity effort will face resistance from a site's passionate user base, at least judging by the fate of Salvato's original article. It's been replaced by a single 9-word sentence.
"This article has been removed by the Newsvine community."
The New Media Alliance - A Fascist Propaganda Clearinghouse
It is a Section 501(c)(3) organization, a non-profit organization. As stated in The New Media Alliance Web site they manage efforts to provide exposure for sponsored political views:
"Through the managed efforts of our writers and media partners we promote awareness and educate all Americans to the impact of government, educational and traditional media policies and agendas, that have become increasingly repressive and partisan. Our mission is, therefore, to help sustain America’s most basic and cherished freedoms by aggressively empowering conservative thought and perspective."
In other words, the PR from this organization is designed to seed "spin" into the news cycle. How does this relate to The New Media Journal? The New Media Alliance site provides additional information:
"Through our parent company, Heritage New Media Partners, Inc., the NMA is actively engaged with various conservative organizations, think tanks and activist groups which seek talented writers and researchers to perform research or to become involved in media campaigns by writing articles, commentary or news pieces.
The NMA's pool of participating writers are eligible to receive writing or research assignments for such work and will be provided with grant money to do so.
"If you are a writer and would like to be included in the NMA writers pool to receive such assignments, please let us know and you will be contacted for follow-up information."
It appears as if writers working for The New Media Alliance receive "grants" that enable them to write materials for channels such as The New Media Journal - sponsored content, or PR. The New Media Journal does not pay these people directly, so it will have the appearance of "citizen journalism". Instead, it's likely with this network of alliances that "grant" money for these authors is funneled to them indirectly via The New Media Alliance. This enables The New Media Journal to claim that it is only providing an outlet for its contributors, as stated in their site:
"Opinions expressed by contributing writers are expressly their own and may or may not represent the opinions of The New Media Journal, its editorial staff or its publisher. Reprint inquiries should be directed to the author of the article."
It's bad enough that Newsvine is apparently being used regularly as an advertising vehicle for sponsored PR content, but worse yet that it's being done apparently to further political purposes. If we are to have real citizens' journalism, we need to have some confidence that content being seeded and written in Newsvine has some level of independence and it not being put here at the behest of organizations or causes who want to use Newsvine as "astroturf" - content that is meant to appear to be coming from the grass roots that is in fact sponsored for political or commercial goals. ...
I am concerned that there are any number of "astroturf" fronts on Newsvine, but this is the first time that I have seen what appears to be an "astroturf" publishing organization using Newsvine as a publicity outlet on such a broad scale.