When the anarcho-punk band Crass pranked UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, it made global headlines and fooled the US State Department. They were probably blown away by the success of their pointed antics. But they'd also piqued the interest of the KGB, who sought to recruit the group.
The first victim of the era of fake news was the meaning of the word "satire;" the word is now a euphemism for fake news, as websites that publish fake news frequently claim to be "satire." But there are some important differences between satire and fake news; for one, satire is funny. If you can't find the joke, then it's not satire.
A case in point would be the oft-debunked story that the punk rock revolution was a plot by the KGB to destabilise the West. Not only is the story vaguely believable..., but where's the joke? The KGB's stateside equivalents, the CIA, are known to have attempted to influence the cultures of their foes. However, the story originated from the fake news website World News Daily Report, and the "source" is an ex-KGB agent who does not exist.
The myth is persistent across the Internet, which is why it has to be debunked so often. What annoys be about it is that there's a much better story about Western punk rock and the KGB, and it's one hundred percent true.
Crass and the international intrigue
In 1983 a Dutch news agency received the leak of the century, a taped conversation between UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and US President Ronald Reagan, in which they agreed that Europe would be the target of a nuclear conflict. The tape was, of course, a hoax, spliced together from public statements the two had made. The US State Department concluded that the tape was a piece of Soviet propaganda, but it was actually the work of a bunch of punks with a rabid cult following, who lived in a shared flat in Epping
The "Thatchergate Tape" can be found on their compilation Best Before 1984.
In 2019 drummer Penny Rimbaud told Uncut: “We wanted to do anything we could to undermine Thatcher... Suddenly we were being courted by people from all sorts of unpleasant organisations who wanted to know what else we had to offer, the KGB particularly...To be honest, we were s**t-scared. It wasn’t a joke any more.”
The band was invited to a meeting with a "Russian literary magazine;" suspecting that to be a front for the KGB, they invited a CBS camera crew to the meeting, then pulled an Irish goodbye after availing themselves of the free vodka on offer, leaving the American journalists and suspected Russian spooks to sort themselves out.
But then there were those other "unpleasant organisations " Crass was also contacted by the West German terrorist organisation the Baader–Meinhof Gang and were informed that the IRA had their backs. It's worth mentioning here that the IRA was supported by the KGB.
Fake news usually comes with an agenda, but I cannot fathom what agenda the World News Daily Report's article is (It was published in 2015, a bit late to be defaming what was no longer a youth movement.) But if they wanted us to believe that the Soviets attempted to influence Western youth culture through punk rock, they ignored a perfectly true story illustrating that message, in favour of a lie.
When the truth is this much stranger than fiction, the fiction is redundant.