When you're the Washington Post and you've lost the left, you've lost it all.

So it's been delicious to read about the crash and burn of this WaPo story of Nov. 23 whose apparent aim was to cash in journalistically on the supposed "fake news" epidemic on the Internet that every MSM reporter in the known world has been pushing for the past month as the main meme reason for Hillary Clinton's defeat on Nov. 8: 

The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.

Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of websites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.

Highlighted in WaPo reporter Craig Timberg's story was an outfit calling itself PropOrNot, about which Timberg asserted:

Another group, called PropOrNot, a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds, planned to release its own findings Friday showing the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns…..

The researchers used Internet analytics tools to trace the origins of particular tweets and mapped the connections among social-media accounts that consistently delivered synchronized messages. Identifying website codes sometimes revealed common ownership. In other cases, exact phrases or sentences were echoed by sites and social-media accounts in rapid succession, signaling membership in connected networks controlled by a single entity.

PropOrNot’s monitoring report, which was provided to The Washington Post in advance of its public release, identifies more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season, with combined audiences of at least 15 million Americans. On Facebook, PropOrNot estimates that stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.

Some players in this online echo chamber were knowingly part of the propaganda campaign, the researchers concluded, while others were “useful idiots” — a term born of the Cold War to describe people or institutions that unknowingly assisted Soviet Union propaganda efforts.

But one of the big problems with Timberg's story was, um, that no one–except maybe Timberg himself–has any idea who those supposedly "nonpartisan" but extremely scholarly researchers at PropOrNot are or were. The PropOrNot website doesn't provide a clue, and neither does the group's much-touted report asserting that such news items as Clinton's health problems during the campaign were manufactured out of thin air by the pro-Trump Russkies for dissemination to the 200 useful idiots in the online media. The one thing that can be said with certainty about PropOrNot is that the mysterious people behind it sure had a jones for the curvaceous Clinton.

Then there was the problem of the "The List," as PropOrNot calls it. The 200 supposed propaganda-spreaders on the list included such obvious Russian-government organs as Sputnik News–but also Julian Assange's Wikileaks, mainstream conservative news outlets such as the Drudge Report and widely read Wall Street-focused sites such as Zero Hedge and Naked Capitalism that confine their focus strictly to business and financial analysis, and, in the case, of Naked Capitalism, from a perspective that is not exactly gung-ho right wing.

So it wasn't long before even the most ardent liberals in the rest of the media started trashing the WaPo and its collecive judgment in running the story. At the Intercept Glenn Greenwald wrote:

[T]he article is rife with obviously reckless and unproven allegations, and fundamentally shaped by shoddy, slothful journalistic tactics. It was not surprising to learn that, as BuzzFeed’s Sheera Frenkel noted, “a lot of reporters passed on this story.”

The Hill's Patrick Maines wrote:

Could it be because the Post’s editors are so flummoxed by the Trump phenomenon they are reduced to promoting even the most crackpot groups and individuals whose self-aggrandizing mission is to undo, or undermine the legitimacy of, Trump’s election?

Alternet's Max Blumenthal viewed the PropOrNot campaign as ultimately designed to put the 200 offenders out of business:

PropOrNot’s malicious agenda is clearly spelled out on its website. While denying McCarthyite intentions, the group is openly attempting to compel “formal investigations by the U.S. government, because the kind of folks who make propaganda for brutal authoritarian oligarchies are often involved in a wide range of bad business.” The group also seeks to brand major progressive politics sites (and a number of prominent right-wing opinion outlets) as “‘gray’ fake-media propaganda outlets” influenced or directly operated by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). It can then compel Facebook and Google to ban them, denying them the ad revenue they rely on to survive.

The good news is that, according to the Daily Caller, at least one of the sites, Naked Capitalism, has hired a top libel lawyer to demand a retraction from the Washington Post and suggest that a defamation lawsuit might be forthcoming if said retraction doesn't appear:

“You did not provide even a single example of ‘fake news’ allegedly distributed or promoted by Naked Capitalism or indeed any of the 200 sites on the PropOrNot blacklist,” James A. Moody writes. “You provided no discussion or assessment of the credentials or backgrounds of these so-called ‘researchers’…and no discussion or analysis of the methodology, protocol or algorithms such ‘researchers’ may or may not have followed.”

Mmm, I'm loving it. It's nice when left and right can get together on something, especially when that something is fake fake news at the Washington Post.