Streetwise Professor

November 20, 2014

How Do You Know That Zero Hedge is a Russian Information Operation? Here’s How

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 9:41 pm

I have frequently written that Zero Hedge has the MO of a Soviet agitprop operation, that it reliably peddles Russian propaganda: my first post on this, almost exactly three years ago, noted the parallels between Zero Hedge and Russia Today.

A few days ago ZH ran a post that illustrates perfectly how it spews Russian propaganda that slanders the United States and other enemies of Russia, such as Ukraine: “Ukraine Admits Its Gold Is Gone: “There Is Almost No Gold Left In The Central Bank Vault.”

The lurid post highlights a statement by the head of Ukraine’s Central Bank, to the effect that almost all the gold in Ukraine’s official reserve is gone. It states that this is news, a stunning revelation, which confirms a story that ZH reported a few weeks after the triumph of Maidan: that soon after Yanukovych fled, the gold had been spirited out of the country in the dead of night by airplane. It closes by stating the the disappearance of the gold occurred at the time that US State Department official Victoria Nuland was in Kiev. The implication is obvious. The US stole it:

In any event, now that the disappearance of Ukraine’s gold has been confirmed, perhaps it is time to refresh the “unconfirmed” story that a little after the current Ukraine regime took power the bulk of Ukraine’s gold was taken to the United States.

Wow. Quite a tale.

And one that overlooks crucial details. Most importantly, the Ukrainian CB’s “admission” of that the vaults are empty is not news. At all. A mere few days after Yanukovych fled, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenuk disclosed that the country’s gold reserves had been looted:

Speaking in parliament, Yatsenyuk said that the former government had left the country with $75bn of debts. “Over $20bn of gold reserve were embezzled. They took $37bn of loans that disappeared,” Yatsenyuk said. “Around $70bn was moved to offshore accounts from Ukraine’s financial system in the last three years,” he claimed. [Emphasis added.]

The US dispatched  FBI and Treasury investigators to assist Ukraine in an investigation.

Funny how ZH left out that history, which appeared in virtually every mainstream publication at the time, and made it seem for all the world like the Ukrainian Central Bank’s revelation hit the world like a thunderbolt, nine months after Yanukovych’s flight. That distortion of history makes it plain that the ZH story is not information, but an information operation.

Shortly after Yatsenuk disclosed the theft of the gold, stories started appearing on the web, first on a Russian website, claiming that the gold had been spirited out the country: including on ZH, which quoted the Russian web story. This obviously serves a Russian purpose: it presents a counter-narrative that blames the theft of the gold not on Yanukovych, or the Russians, but on the new Ukrainian government and the United States.

This is the classic Soviet/Russian agitprop MO that I noted 3 years ago. A story appears in an obscure publication, typically outside the US or Europe, where it has been planted by Soviet/Russian intelligence. It is then picked up by another, more widely read publication, in Europe or the West. Maybe it works its way through several additional media sources. It then gets disseminated more widely in the west, sometimes making it to prestige publications like the NYT.

In the era of the web, the information weapon needn’t make it that far. Getting into a widely-read web publication like Zero Hedge which is then linked by numerous other sources and tweeted widely ensures that the lie goes viral.

ZH is an important transmission belt moving the story from Russian propagandists/information warriors to western news consumers. It happens a lot. This is a particularly egregious example, but the transmission belt runs almost daily. ZH is as much a part of Putin’s information warfare as RT. If you follow closely enough, it’s as plain as the nose on your face.

So why does anyone take Zero Hedge seriously? And believe me, many do. Many people who should know better.

And what is the US’s counterstrategy? Marie Harf’s Twitter account. I say again: we are so screwed.


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  1. […] […]

    Pingback by Friday May 1, a key day - Page 2 — May 1, 2015 @ 9:12 am

  2. Well… well… It’s a sad day that less than a year later Zerohedge is proven correct once again and another clueless liberal is proven wrong once again.

    I’m not really surprised.

    Bye bye Mr. Sheeple prof.

    Comment by Cure yourself — July 12, 2015 @ 7:24 pm

  3. ZH is a honeypot owned by the Department of Homeland Security. It’s a multi-agency OSINT effort but it also, at times, gets help from Fox Broadcasting. Most finance related stories come out of FBI financial crimes. But you get all types of .gov agents on there. They have multiple usernames and behind the scenes the more they post comments and post stories, the more it adds to their year end bonus.

    FBI, Homeland, and spooks from CIA too. I could tell you stories about ZH that would really freak you out.

    Comment by Ohme Ohmy — August 26, 2015 @ 1:44 pm

  4. @OhmeOhmy-Catherine? Is that you?

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 26, 2015 @ 5:43 pm

  5. Check the Twitter accounts associated with ZH in this news-aggregate online paper – RT, Sputnik, you name them:

    Comment by Suka — February 29, 2016 @ 3:09 pm

  6. […] to reap rewards” had taken on a different approach, accusing the website of being a “Russian information operation”, supporting pro-Russian interests, which allegedly involved KGB and even Putin ties, simply because […]

    Pingback by The Full Story Behind Bloomberg's Attempt To "Unmask" Zero Hedge | Zero Hedge — April 29, 2016 @ 1:33 pm

  7. […] to reap rewards” had taken on a different approach, accusing the website of being a “Russian information operation”, supporting pro-Russian interests, which allegedly involved KGB and even Putin ties, simply because […]

    Pingback by The Full Story Behind Bloomberg's Attempt To "Unmask" Zero Hedge | ValuBit — June 16, 2016 @ 7:21 am

  8. I stopped taking ZH seriously when I noticed how closely its anti-US, anti-Western lines so frequently followed and mirrored the latest agitprop and contrived fictions from Sputnik and RT. Russia is running a very serious state-controlled propaganda campaign aimed at destabilising the West at every possible level. Key components include its army of paid, full-time bloggers in Russia, whose task is to swamp Western media talkbacks with strident and abusive posts – albeit with poor spelling, grammar ans obvious use of key words like ‘fascist’, ‘imperialist’ etc – the aim being to make ordinary contributors give up trying to compete. That is coupled with various trojan horse operations like ZH and taking over other militant and anarchist blogs, in the way that the hard communist/international socialist entryists have always worked.

    This whole effort is not just political or economic strategy, it is principally a component part of Russian military strategy, adding cyber and propaganda warfare to the kinetic defence arms. As Georgian, Ukranian, Estonian and Latvian web sites have found, they are quickly swamped by Kremlin bloggers when Russia ratchets up the pressure and the direct threats.

    There is nothing casual or harmless about ZH’s constant regurgitation of Putin agitptop, people need to wake up and realise that this is deliberate state-on-state disinformation designed to undermine and destabilise a whole segment of society.

    Comment by Cripes — August 16, 2016 @ 3:12 am

  9. thank you for posting this. I have been checking ZH only for the past few weeks and i had exactly the same impression, so much so that i searched the web for similar views and gladly found your blog. They are insufferable

    Comment by mdanig — October 19, 2016 @ 4:57 pm

  10. […] The fact that Zero Hedge is a “popular libertarian hub” says nothing about concerns over its relationship with Russian […]

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  11. I don’t think Zero Hedge are linked to Russia, although some of the contributors likely have sympathetic views towards Russia. That is not to say all contributors do, as it’s actually made up of many (many of whom you can see who is contributing).

    Overall the site requires critical thinking skills. There is a lot of absolute crap on it. Stuff that genuinely warps you mind and can damage your trading views. It is not something you genuinely trade off. I personally see it as an entertaining outlet (the comments on it are hilarious also), and as a critical thinking exercise. Every now and then you see a genuinely good article also. Although they are the exception, not the rule. Most of the articles with the biggest comment and view counts are the political pieces. This is where they seem to make most of their revenue theses days. However, it’s usually the straight analysis pieces with the low comment / view count that catches my attention.

    Comment by Borat — December 30, 2016 @ 3:14 am

  12. Continuing on from previous comment. Zero Hedge is an unusual site, in the sense that it doesn’t provide good trading / financial views (anyone who seriously trades will NEVER trade based on anything they write. It’s past news. All crap). Hence why it doesn’t serve much purpose as a pure finance website. Hence probably why it’s become heavily political over the years also (I guess it has always been though, but from my opinion it seems to have increased over the past 1.5 or so years. Combine this with all the crap on it, and you have a genuinely low quality site. Like I said, I read it only as a form of entertainment to laugh at some of the dumb articles, and to laugh at the dumb yet hilarious comments. And like I said, every now and then a good article actually does pop up. If you filter through the crap and apply an extremely critical filter (or alternatively you can just view everything being written on it as a form of critique) then you can find some value in the site. It is there, but you have to filter / search for it. The site could really be so much better, but it is what it is. A low quality / crazy site with the occasionally good financial analysis piece. Nothing more.

    Comment by Borat — December 30, 2016 @ 3:24 am

  13. Zerohedge is without a doubt a Russian propaganda operation. Some of the commenters here are paid Russian trolls as well, such as A.R.

    Comment by American — January 3, 2017 @ 5:59 am

  14. It’s so obvious that ZH is Russian propaganda now with all this information about Putin’s cyberwarfare made available to a broader audience. The FSB needs to step their game up, the cowardly “let’s load the internet up with sensationalist bullshit theories to undermine the Western alliance” jig is up.

    Comment by Bubi Deutschmann — March 19, 2017 @ 9:11 am

  15. >My thoughts precisely AR. I am Irish, so not much use to the Kremlin ..

    This was clearly written by russian troll, this wording is very similar to their propaganda they use in russian language.

    Comment by KEK — August 10, 2017 @ 3:25 pm

  16. […] Alt-right blog site Zerohedge, accused by some of being a Russian propaganda outlet, has also been up in arms. […]

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  19. ZH was, from ’08-’10, a great source of insight into financial markets. Flash crashes, re-hypothecation, 2x levered ETFs, CDO^2, CDS – you name it, they covered it and they covered it well.

    Sadly, somewhere along the way the main editor(s) was/were co-opted. I don’t know by whom and honestly, I don’t care. I removed them from my news feed because it became a source of noise rather than signal and a lot of it was just absolute drivel.

    Comment by Anonymouse — July 3, 2018 @ 11:01 am

  20. Goodness almighty, was this post ever prescient. It’s freaky to think about all the foreign IC operations that have thrived under the radar for decades on the internet without the gen pop having any clue, until 2016 brought it into the national consciousness.

    This is one of the great failures of the American three letter agencies, IMO. We all kind of trusted that they’d be policing for this shit. Instead, our minds were being corrupted by bad actors from overseas. And now the whole country is failing. What a sad story.

    Comment by Shawn — September 4, 2018 @ 6:56 pm

  21. […] c’est son nom, est dénoncé comme organe d’ingérence étrangère dès cette époque, le 20 novembre 2014, par l’universitaire Craig Pirrong en des termes lucides et […]

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