Fake NY Times Article Hurts WikiLeaks’ Credibility

    July 31, 2012
    Zach Walton
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Journalism has many rules that its practitioners must abide by. There are the usual rules like don’t plagiarize and always confirm your sources, but there’s one that I think is the most evil sin of them all – making up stories and passing it off as news. WikiLeaks was the center of a controversy this week involving such a scenario.

If you haven’t heard about it yet, there’s a fake New York Times op-ed piece floating around the Internet. It’s reportedly written by Bill Keller, former executive editor for the NY Times, and it comes out in defense of Wikileaks and the NY Times reporters who wrote stories on the leaks. You can read the fake op-ed over at the fake NY Times Web site.

If you checked out the Web site, you can understand why people would have been fooled. It’s one of the most elaborate fake Web sites ever constructed. I consider myself to be pretty good at spotting fakes and I was caught with my proverbial pants down just like everybody else.

In fact, we all thought it was real until Keller himself set the record straight on Twitter:

So who was behind the fake NY Times article? It turns out that Wikileaks themselves were behind it the entire time. Here’s the full rundown of events leading to the fake op-ed from a pastebin post tweeted from the official Wikileaks account.

1. Block New York times campaign starts late March.

2. BlockNYTimes campaign “wrests control” back over http://blocknytimes.org and starts new twitter account @block_nytimes.

3. Sunday morning, Anonymous & another other accounts start to tweet “Bill Keller opinion” article about bank blockade.

4. Bill Keller twitter account with one “I” switched for “l” starts tweeting article, asking NYTimes journalists to reweet.

5. NYTimes tech editor falls for it, re-tweeting to 125k followers. As do many others.

6. A variation on the PayPal blog gives a statement on the Block NYTimes / WikiLeaks issue.

7. Nine hours ago, @journalismfest tweets WikiLeaks, A Post Postscript by @nytkeller.

8. Bill Keller apparently himself fooled(!) in the early morning retweets the “hoax” article tweet from @journalismfest.

9. Bill Keller apparently discovers his error 5 hours later and GOES INTO CAPS MODE.

10. Inexplicably Bill Keller @nytkeller then tweets “I am now a world expert in dressage. Ask me anything.”

11. Bill Keller @nytkeller then deletes the tweet showing he was fooled and later the bizarre “dressage” tweet.

12. WikiLeaks takes credit for NYTimes banking blockade hoax. But who else involved?

Assange:”If the NYTimes cannot act with honnor to defend their ‘sources’ from economic censorship then we’ll just have to do it for them”

Yes. We admit it. WikiLeaks (Assange & co) and our great supporters where behind the successful NYTimes banking blockade hoax on @nytkeller.

What is not a hoax, is that WikiLeaks is under illegal economic censorship by US financial insitutions and NYTimes says nothing. The rats.

I make it no secret that I believe in the mission of Wikileaks, even if I don’t necessarily agree with their methods. I used to be on their side, but now I’m not so sure.

I fancy myself a journalist from time to time, especially after studying under some of the greatest journalists I know at the University of Kentucky. I hold myself up to the ideals that they strive for. Creating fake op-eds and assuming the identity of a journalist as a prank or protest is not what a real journalist does. The folks at WikiLeaks should be ashamed of themselves for their little stunt.

The fight for a more open government and transparency is important, but WikiLeaks is not part of that fight anymore as far as I’m concerned. They have proven that they’re more concerned with petty fame than any kind of real journalistic integrity.

  • Joe

    Umm.. no it NEVER really hurt wikileaks credibility. Instead of renewing my monthly subscription to the New York Times, I donated that money to wikileaks instead.

    If wikileaks was an over exaggerated fake tabloid website, then no one would give a shit about it. But to have the United States government head over heels in embarrassment over leaked documents that would potentially destroy their image, then you must have some faith in that website.

    Let me get this straight, your own Government lies to you (as well as numerous journalists) and wikileaks is the criminal???

    • http://www.webpronews.com/author/zach-walton Zach Walton

      I never once said that Wikileaks is a criminal. I believe in their mission, but I felt that they went too far with this one. I don’t even particularly like Keller, but to impersonate a journalist and post a fake op-ed under his name is against everything journalism stands for. I wouldn’t care as much if they didn’t label themselves as a journalist organization. If they labeled themselves as Anonymous does, a group of Internet warriors or some such, I wouldn’t be as bummed about this.

      • James Lemery

        These days, the media has no standards. Fox News changed everything. After a report by Social Security’s trustees, MSNBC repeatedly ran graphics and the woman anchor (Tameron)? kept saying Social Security will run out of money by such and such a date. By law, this can’t happen. It would take an act of Congress before the program can go broke. This stuff flys right over the heads of today’s so-called journalists. Yet we read and hear that Social Security is running out of money, stoking fears Fox News strives so hard to create.

    • Lrgo

      Maybe YOU are the liar. I don’t see any credibility in Julian “I hate Americans” Assange. Why else is he in trouble in Sweden and trying to flee to Ecuador? Why isn’t he comfortable in his home country? If he feels that he’s doing the “right” thing by helping people who want to destroy this country, I should have the right to post the name and address of every Australian soldier serving overseas. Assange would be teeth-breaking outraged.

  • http://www.shirtevolution.com Mike


    How does this hurt Wikileaks’ credibility? Honestly? Is anything that’s posted on Wikileaks a lie? They aren’t publishing lies, they’re getting idiot people in the industry to post things without fact checking them first. If anything, this hurts the people who retweeted faulty information without checking their sources.

    You can’t blame a group of people for drawing attention to holes in a system. That’s ridiculous.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/author/zach-walton Zach Walton

      If their willing to create a fake op-ed to further their own means, how far are they willing to go in other avenues? I can’t really trust their next leak. It could be the truth, but it could also be an elaborate hoax just like this. Do you see the problem I have with their credibility?

      • Bill Keller

        Seeing as how they admitted to the hoax within 12 hours of its release makes me believe they have great integrity especially when it comes to hoaxes. This was not published by them on their website. It was a prank to raise awareness of their banking blockade and prosecution. As a journalist you missed the larger point. Take a lesson from Kevin Gosztola and don’t be brainwashed by the corporate media’s spin. http://www.nytexaminer.com/2012/07/why-a-fake-nyt-op-ed-shouldnt-hurt-wikileaks-credibility/

  • Matt

    Zach the people attacking you obviously did not understand the point of your article. They obviously did not read it well either as you said that you “believe in the mission of Wikileaks” and that the piece was about journalistic integrity.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/author/zach-walton Zach Walton

      I can definitely understand their point of view as well. I could appreciate what they did if WikiLeaks didn’t pass themselves off as a journalistic organization. If you’ve ever studied journalism or the history of it, you tend to not take kindly to those who use lies, no matter how well intentioned, and hide behind the wall of journalism when caught.

  • Idealist_AL

    Your point can be simply understood by the old story “The Boy who Cried Wolf”. If a(journalistic) organization knowingly tells a lie – then how can we be sure the next time the put out information??

    And it does not MATTER that other organizations, or governments do.
    When you are trying to do the right thing, as I think Wikileaks is, you cannot use others who do the wrong thing, to justify lowering your standards.

    It almost seems like people attacking you are so angry at the lack of honesty in many media outlets, that they feel the end justifies the means, no matter what.

    Sadly that is exactly how the ‘bad’ guys started down their road as well.

    • http://shirtevolution.com Rob

      This is just ridiculous. You’re contradicting yourself.

      Wikileaks is showing how media that we get legitimate news from cannot do simple fact checking. It IS the “boy who cried wolf” story, but its effect is hurting the NY Times. Not Wikileaks.

      Nobody is “attacking” the writer. He just made a silly argument that a lot of people are poking legitimate holes in. If the NY Times had some kind of quality control in place, this wouldn’t have happened. If Wikileaks exists to show how organizations we believe have integrity actually don’t, why shouldn’t they put their money where their mouth is and show us? Why should their exposing stop at just government? Why not other media sources as well?

  • Herring

    I agree with the other posters. Wikileaks didn’t “publish a lie”, they punked the NYT and other media organizations, using humor to call attention to a situation, and then quickly confirmed that it was all a hoax. Their effort should be viewed as an attempt to IMPROVE the quality of journalistic fact-checking that goes on. In the same way that the Yes Men’s mock press conference got the US Chamber of Commerce to change their stance on global warming, maybe this will make mainstream media organizations look more closely at the information they’re publishing instead of just passing it on. Well done, Wikileaks!

    • Goblin

      It sure wasn’t humor. Maybe the trolls of the internet are ok with liers and lying; yet, most people absolutely do not like to be lied to, “punked”, or whatever else you want to call it.

      The fact this story hasn’t been picked up by ANY mainstream media should tell you something.

  • Lantz

    A lie is a lie. regardless of there reasons telling a lie to get someone to say something you want them to say is wrong, It is still a lie. That would also fall under the entrapment law. I do not know the exact wording but I know it works out to this ” doing something that gets someone to do something they otherwise would not do if they knew someone was watching”

    Does the government lie ? absolutely! Do politicians lie ? oh yeah and they tell some duzies! Does media lie, well now that is a perspective thing. Media tells the story as they understand it at the time they told it. Is that a lie ? maybe but, many times it is not an intentional one. That is not to say that some media does not lie some does but, to assume all media outlets lie is the same as assuming every person in America lies because someone,one being the key word there, once lied to you.

    Two wrongs do NOT make a right and the fact that they had to lie to get someone to say something means they has nothing to go on and were completely counting on someone to step up and correct it.

    Not to mention someone who caught the first bit of the story and missed the rest is now out telling the lie to people. That only serves to muddy the waters.Enough of that happens and the original story being passed will be totally different then the lie they passed off as news.

    To sum it up, it is wrong when the government lies, it is wrong when politicians lie, it is wrong when media lies and it is wrong when wikileaks lies. Period.

  • brian

    ny times sends out a bs story??
    it CAN’T BE!!
    libitards suck

  • The Tick

    There are no proverbs that reference being caught with pants down.

  • http://None Mabbam

    It’s not like there isn’t precedent for things of this sort. The NYT had it’s Jayson Blair Nowadays stories appear to represent the particular agenda of the publication rather than a reporting of the facts. With so many outlets available for our examination it is up to each one of us to determine the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Honesty and integrity in reporting is for this generation of reporters a thing of the past.

  • http://Mabuzi.com Kevin

    Wiki Leaks offers a service our esteemed journalists fail to do. Whistle blowers need protection from the government otherwise we would never know how governments fail us.