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After investigating a propaganda campaign by the Pentagon, two American journalists themselves became victims of a propaganda campaign.
Two USA Today journalists who reported on propaganda by the Pentagon have been targeted in a smear campaign, USA Today reported.
At the end of February, USA Today published a story that investigated Pentagon propaganda contractors. According to the investigation, the Pentagon has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. The campaigns are meant to "sell" the wars to locals. USA Today described the campaigns as "the modern equivalent of psychological warfare." The paper also said that the campaigns were poorly-tracked, and charged that Pentagon officials don't make public where the money goes.
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The USA Today then published a follow-up story on Thursday, saying that the reporters who worked on the original story were victims of yet more propaganda. "Fake Twitter and Facebook accounts have been created in their names, along with a Wikipedia entry and dozens of message board postings and blog comments," USA Today said.
The posts attacked the journalists' reporting, and some even accused them of being sponsored by the Taliban.
It's not known who was targeting the reporters, but the timing was suspicious; the website TomVandenBrook.com was created Jan. 7, "just days after Pentagon reporter Tom Vanden Brook first contacted Pentagon contractors involved in the program." And after Ray Locker's byline appeared on a story, a similar site was created through the same company, USA Today found.
The smearing was ”something I’ve never experienced in 30 years,” Locker told the Washington Post.
Pentagon spokesmen denied involvement with the smear campaign. An independent expert said that whoever created the fake accounts appeared to be an expert in the area.
"The person who's behind this, we can give them a lot of credit here and assume they're very sophisticated about reputation attacks," an online reputation expert told USA Today.