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Fake News Has a Long History in the Middle East—and the Lessons for Americans Are Unmistakably Dire

Author: Steven A. Cook, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies
March 19, 2017


Fake news is all the rage; you can’t escape it. The entire op-ed section of last Tuesday’s Washington Post was dedicated to some aspect of the fake news phenomenon. My initial inclination is to put the paper aside and sigh. The bizarre tales that Rush Limbaugh, the folks at Breitbart News, Newsmax and Fox News have been peddling only reinforce for me what might be called the Middle Easternization of the United States.

Radio host Mark Levin’s claims that former President Barack Obama tapped phone lines in Trump Tower, or Limbaugh’s contention that it was actually CIA operatives –digitally disguising themselves as Russian hackers — who broke into the Democratic National Committee’s servers during the 2016 presidential campaign, read a lot like the kind of nonsense that someone like Adel Sabry would publish. Sabry is the editor of an online publication called Masr Alarabia, whose stock in trade is fake news.

I did not know who Sabry was and had ever seen his publication until a few weeks ago, when I started getting emails about a report I allegedly wrote examining the Egyptian economy on behalf of the Trump administration. Who, me? What? Sabry is hardly unique. Rather, he is part of a global phenomenon in which information is not intended to inform publics but rather leveraged and weaponized for darker purposes.

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