Dakota Pipeline Part 5: Jailing journalists and paying sock puppets


Photo of Sacred Stone Camp by Tony Webster, published under Creative Commons license.

As thousands of Native Americans gather in North Dakota to resist the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), local law enforcement has pushed back by arresting journalists covering the protests and the Sacred Stone Camp and by outright lies about the protests and protesters. In addition, misinformation and propaganda is flooding social media, posted through sock puppets and other sources.

Arresting the journalists

Amy Goodman had live video coverage of the September 3 attack on protesters by security guards and their dogs. After the video aired, focusing worldwide attention and denunciation on the pipeline company, the local sheriff issued an arrest warrant for Goodman. According to Vogue Magazine:

“On September 8, local authorities issued a warrant for Goodman’s arrest, alleging that she trespassed on private lands. Goodman claims she was acting as a reporter, exercising the right of freedom of the press. …

“Goodman’s news coverage of the dog and pepper spray attacks went viral in the same way that Reynolds’s video did—and bystanders’ videos of the police killing of Alton Sterling had. And it aroused a similar outcry. The Democracy Now! Video has so far amassed some 13 million views on Facebook alone. It was rebroadcast by CNN, NPR, CBS, and NBC, among others. The New York Times also reported in a front-page story that dogs had allegedly been employed by private guards, but no arrest warrant has been issued for the reporter of that story.”

The mainstream press, writes Jim Naureckas of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, failed to cover this attack on Goodman. Nor did they cover the arrests of two Unicorn Riot journalists videotaping the September 13 arrests of 20 protesters at pipeline construction sites. According to Unicorn Riot, even social media was unavailable, with Facebook blocking their videos that day.


Vogue, not usually known for hard-hitting political reporting, did a much better job of covering the North Dakota threat to the First Amendment, insisting:

“Journalists, when they cannot get out in the streets to cover the sieges of the world, are themselves under siege. The warrant issued for Goodman’s arrest is not a story of an oppressed journalist in another country; it is the story of a journalist oppressed in her own country, and more important, in our own country, in a country built on the very concept of freedom of speech. As Center for Constitutional Rights legal director Baher Azmy said in response to the warrant, ‘This is clearly a violation of the First Amendment . . . an attempt to repress this important political movement by silencing media coverage.’”

Lying about the protest

These blatant attacks on the press, along with outright lies about protest violence, skew public perception both by discouraging coverage and by disseminating falsehoods. Local law enforcement, for example, reported that demonstrators had “pipe bombs.” Nope. The New York Times reported:

“The leaders believed the reports of pipe bombs were a misinterpretation of their calls for demonstrators to get out their wooden chanupa pipes — which have deep spiritual importance — and pass them through the crowd.”

Initial mainstream press reports of the Labor Day weekend protests, where dogs were set on protesters, included patently false statements from North Dakota law enforcement officials, who said that security guards and a dog were injured, and that no protesters were injured.

Sock puppets and disinformation

The DeSmog blog posted a lengthy analysis of industry disinformation flowing through social media, beginning:

“A DeSmog investigation has revealed the possibility that a front group supporting the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) — the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now (MAIN) — may have created fake Twitter profiles, known by some as “sock puppets,” to convey a pro-pipeline message over social media. And MAIN may be employing the PR services of the firm DCI Group, which has connections to the Republican Party, in order to do so.

“DeSmog tracked down at least 16 different questionable Twitter accounts which used the #NoDAPL hashtag employed by protesters, in order to claim that opposition to the pipeline kills jobs, that those protesting the pipeline at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s encampment use violence, and that the pipeline does not pose a risk to water sources or cross over tribal land.”

Steve Horn’s excellent post details the phony photos, phony names, and skillful use of social media to circulate lies and libels. If you are not familiar with this kind of industry/political propagandizing, I recommend reading the entire article. It’s an eye-opener.

In a similar vein, last week a new photo went viral, with a post by “Tyler Eldridge” claiming the media won’t cover the Standing Rock Sioux protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL.) The photo purported to show the huge crowd at Sacred Stone Camp and implied that the mainstream media was failing to cover the protest. Only one problem: the photo was a hoax. As reported by Native News Online, “It is a photo is 47-years-old of Woodstock, the music festival that attracted 400,000 to a farm near Woodstock, New York.”


As Native News Online went on to say, “With the exception of Lawrence O’Donnell and MSNBC and Amy Goodman and Democracy Now!, the media has done a less than stellar job of covering the #NoDAPL movement underway at Standing Rock.”

“Less than stellar” is accurate. Even stronger criticism could apply. The kind of hoax perpetrated in the Woodstock photo post serves to discredit genuine criticism. Phony news stories, including “BREAKING NEWS” reposts about pipeline spills from 2011 and 2013 dilutes and discredits legitimate reporting on pipeline dangers.

Supporting good media

Democracy Now’s nonstop reporting has prodded mainstream media into better coverage. If you’d like to support Democracy Now and Unicorn Riot and the DeSmog blog, here’s more information on all of them, quoting from their websites:

Unicorn Riot is a volunteer-operated decentralized media collective comprised of multimedia artists and journalists. Born from the Internet in 2015, we operate non-hierarchically, independent of corporate and government funding. Our non-profit media organization currently spans across multiple US cities including Boston, Denver, Minneapolis, and New York City.

Unicorn Riot’s purpose is to amplify the voices of people who might otherwise go unheard, and broadcast the stories that might otherwise go untold, as we further understanding of dynamic social struggles. We are committed to producing media that exposes root causes of social conflict and explores sustainable alternatives in today’s globalized world.

Democracy Now!’s War and Peace Report provides our audience with access to people and perspectives rarely heard in the U.S. corporate-sponsored media, including independent and international journalists, ordinary people from around the world who are directly affected by U.S. foreign policy, grassroots leaders and peace activists, artists, academics and independent analysts. In addition, Democracy Now! hosts real debates–debates between people who substantially disagree, such as between the White House or the Pentagon spokespeople on the one hand, and grassroots activists on the other.

The DeSmogBlog Project began in January 2006 and quickly became the world’s number one source for accurate, fact based information regarding global warming misinformation campaigns.

All three of these news outlets are nonprofit organizations — click on their pages and contribute to keep independent journalism going.

By now, everyone who reads this blog has heard about #NoDAPL, the protests in North Dakota over the Dakota Access Pipeline. The issues are either very simple (NO to all pipelines, everywhere, end of story) or quite complex. Yeah – I’ll go with quite complex. So this is part 5 of a series of posts on various issues around #NoDAPL. Here are links to the other posts, updated as I continue the series:


Filed under environment, human rights, media, race

5 responses to “Dakota Pipeline Part 5: Jailing journalists and paying sock puppets

  1. Pingback: Dakota Pipeline Part 4: Protest on the prairie | News Day

  2. Pingback: Dakota Pipeline Part 3: Water protectors and the Emperor’s New Pipeline | News Day

  3. Pingback: Dakota Pipeline Part 2: Betrayal by bulldozer | News Day

  4. Pingback: Dakota Pipeline Part 1: Breaking the rules | News Day

  5. Pingback: St. Paul’s Indigenous Day Parade; The Pope on Climate Change; Horse Ride to Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline; and More |

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