More bomb than bombshell: Social media mock WaPo’s Alice Donovan story as dud
Alice Donovan, or someone writing under that name, published five stories on the left-wing website Counterpunch along with a handful of other less-known websites, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. The Post cited “internal bureau reports” to call Donovan a “pseudonymous foot soldier in an army of Kremlin-led trolls seeking to undermine America’s democratic institutions.”
Russian disinformation threat went uncontested by U.S. as it metastasized https://t.co/tyHPle8TjL— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) December 26, 2017
The Daily Beast re-published the story under an even more sensational headline: “Kremlin troll wrote for far-left US sites.”
Those Hillary-hating hot takes you read on leftie sites during the election? Some of 'em were written in Moscow. https://t.co/nNFNjGRPbt— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) December 25, 2017
While the Post and Beast claimed the curious case of Alice Donovan is part of a Russian disinformation campaign, many social media users were not convinced.
Twitter user @historyinflicks pointed out that Donovan’s Twitter account had a grand total of 40 Twitter followers. That number currently stands at 69, as she has gained more followers since the WaPo story went public.
Please tell me more about how someone with 40 twitter followers managed to derail a billion-dollar presidential campaign https://t.co/EPe1pY5oqg— maple cocaine (@historyinflicks) December 26, 2017
Alternet journalist Ben Norton called the article a “McCarthyite cudgel” aimed at critics of the Democratic party.
If you still don't recognize that Russiagate has become a McCarthyite cudgel to attack leftists who refuse to genuflect to the neoliberal Democratic Party and who criticize murderous US foreign policy, wake up. It can't get any more blatant at this point.https://t.co/L2NeuKLYmt— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) December 26, 2017
Viewpoint magazine’s Shuja Haider poked fun at the allegation that Donovan is linked to Russia.
Getting disturbing reports that not only were anti-Hillary tweets written in Moscow but so were the stories of Anton Chekhov and portions of the novels of Leo Tolstoy— Shuja Haider (@shujaxhaider) December 26, 2017
The Daily Beast’s headline prompted a heavy backlash, too.
So? If the information is correct, why does it matter where it was written? Xenophobes.— 2018 Year of the Guillotine☭ ☭ ☭ ☭ ☭ ☭ ☭ ☭ ☭ ☭ (@punksandwitch) December 25, 2017
She only had 48 followers. There was no influence there.— Lumpy's Perhaps NOT Shitlib Acc 🍩unt Tou 🥀nament (@lumpylouise) December 25, 2017
lmao daily beast published a whole story about someone w significantly less influence than *me*— Mike O'Hara 🌽🌹 (@mediumvillain) December 25, 2017
For its part, Counterpunch could not find clear evidence that confirmed or refuted Donovan’s existence.
“Since we couldn’t seem to prove that Donovan existed in the physical world, we flipped the matter on its head. Could we prove that Alice Donovan wasn’t real? Could we prove that she was a fiction? Could we, in essence, prove a negative? That answer came more quickly: No.”
Prominent Russiagater Eric Garland echoed the Posts’s claims, saying Donovan was an example of the “Kremlin’s tactic of pushing propaganda through *paid freelance journalists*”
According to Counterpunch, however, Donovan was never paid. Of the five articles she wrote, “none of these submissions were commissioned and she wasn’t compensated for any of the stories.”
The New Republic editor Jeet Heer said that even if Donovan were paid, it would be a poor strategy.