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Resistance-Allied Harvard Professor Caught Spreading Fake Russia News

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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Harvard lecturer and self-professed member of the resistance, Yascha Mounk, did not delete a viral Saturday tweet falsely implicating Russian President Vladimir Putin in the deaths of several journalists despite full knowledge of its inaccuracy.

The tweet garnered significant attention, drawing nearly 54,000 re-tweets as of Wednesday and increasing Mounk’s social media exposure.

The tweet’s range drew several clarifications from users pointing out that some of the journalists pictured were killed in war zones outside of Russia and others had died before Putin ascended to power.

The original photo, by Mounk’s admission, comes from a 2014 Russian media report celebrating Remembrance Day Of Journalists Killed in the Line of Duty.

Mounk issued a clarification to his viral tweet, admitting his inaccuracy, saying, “this picture includes lots & lots of Putin critics. But also some journalists who died before he took office.”

Mounk’s clarification received only 185 retweets. He continued his clarifications, admitting, “I should have researched the original picture more thoroughly before posting, and used a more precise description of it.” He, however, defiantly stood by the original post, saying, “the underlying point stands: Dictatorships destroy the freedom of the press we need to keep the powerful accountable. And they kill.”

His decision to issue the clarification without deleting the original viral tweet drew criticism from American Interest Executive Editor Damir Marusic, who charged that the “hackish, breathless tweet does grave disservice to actual situation in Russia by overhyping.”

Marusic continued:

Russian journalists have certainly suffered under Putin’s regime with some deaths ascribed to their political coverage, by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Mounk defended his decision not to delete the tweet in an email to The Daily Caller News Foundation saying “the difference between fake news and an honest error is the willingness–even eagerness–to correct misleading statements. As soon as I realized that I had described the picture inaccurately, I tweeted a clarification. And while there is a reasonable case for deleting the original tweet, this would have amounted to hiding the error; in opting to correct rather than to delete my tweet, I followed standard advice on how to act under these circumstances.”

Mounk referred to two guides from the Columbia Journalism Review and Poynter on whether to delete a tweet or not after discovering one’s error.

Mounk’s decision not to delete the tweet is particularly noteworthy given his professed fear in a December 2016 Slate op-ed that “propaganda and fake news would become so pervasive that politics could no longer be about truth.” He lamented, “In such a world, politics would become altogether divorced from the realm of facts. ”

“We need to recognize that much of the function of everyday falsehoods is to cloak the importance of dangerous lies and obfuscations,” Mounk declared.

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Tags : russia
Saagar Enjeti