A fledgling online news publication with a pronounced anti-Bruce Rauner bent began making its presence known last month in my Facebook and Twitter feeds.
It calls itself The Illinois Chronicle.
At first I was going to call it fake news, but that’s not quite right.
The Illinois Chronicle is more like “fakeout news,” a political campaign vehicle masquerading as a legitimate news organization with a clear purpose of undermining Rauner’s re-election.
The Illinois Chronicle so far claims 12,298 likes on Facebook. I am not one of them.
I do not like The Illinois Chronicle. I do not like it all.
That might surprise those familiar with my own dim view of our Republican governor.
Obviously, I don’t mind someone taking issue with Rauner and wanting him defeated.
What bothers me is doing it anonymously using the cloak of the real news media to give it legitimacy in an effort to fool the public.
That’s wrong, and it needs to be stopped.
So far, I have been unable to determine who is behind The Illinois Chronicle, and this column is in part a plea to others to help me uncover the source.
The domain name, theillinoischronicle.com, was registered on May 3 by GoDaddy.com using a proxy entity to hide the real owner.
Its website lists no phone number, no address, no company or individual’s name, no contact at all except for a blind email address to which nobody responds.
All signs point to the Democrats, and that’s certainly my best guess, although I can’t entirely rule out the possibility the attack is coming from Rauner’s right.
Republicans, after all, pioneered the art of faux news organizations in Illinois last year with the launch of a chain of conservative papers from Dan Proft’s Local Government Information Services that produces Rauner-friendly content.
I’m guessing some Democrats justified to themselves the launch of The Illinois Chronicle as needing to fight fire with fire.
I don’t accept that way of thinking from anybody who wants my vote. Fakeout news undermines our democracy every bit as much as fake news.
The sad truth is that news consumers on the political left can be as susceptible to this type of manipulation as the folks on the right who read stories concocted out of whole cloth and believe them to be truthful.
So far, at least, The Illinois Chronicle hasn’t been guilty of that, unless you count the story pushed out as “sponsored content” under the headline, “New Ad Blasts Rauner Record.”
The article was just a vehicle to bring more attention to a digital ad titled: “Bruce Rauner Failing Illinois.”
More typical are legitimate news articles and columns aggregated (borrowed) from mainstream news organization but putting the most negative spin possible on the headline, each presented as Breaking News even if days old. Here’s a sampling:
“Tens of thousands of jobs at risk with Rauner impasse.”
“Rauner causing GOP divide as budget crisis reaches peak.”
“Gov, new Rauner team M-I-A on Lake County state of emergency.”
These are interspersed with links to fluffy lifestyle and sports stories mostly lifted from real news organizations to lend the appearance of a legitimate news site.
They’ve even used a column or two of mine since launching the website and social media pages in mid-May.
The Illinois Chronicle, which has no connection to other legitimate news organizations in the state with Chronicle in their name describes itself online this way:
“Illinois breaking news, sports, entertainment, and lifestyle. From Chicago to Carbondale, Moline to Marion: original digital reporting and the best of the rest.”
I have yet to find a shred of truly original content. The occasional articles that someone has taken the time to rewrite carry no bylines.
The Illinois Chronicle is an imposter. Don’t be fooled.