When A Polarized News Media Makes An Informed Public Impossible: A Case Study

Organophosphate brain damage

The question: Is there something seriously wrong with Hillary Clinton’s health?

The answer: Based on news reporting, there is absolutely no way for an objective citizen to know.

The so-called right wing media, especially websites and blogs, have been circulating the theory for some time that Clinton exhibits signs of some form of brain damage, either from a fall or a stroke. (You will recall that she had a serious fall and a concussion a few years ago.) Matt Drudge has focused on Clinton’s periodic coughing fits, which, the theory goes, are in part the side effect from anti-seizure medication.

As well-versed as I am in the almost total lack of objectivity within the mainstream media, particularly where Hillary Clinton is involved, I have apparently been programmed by their automatic disdain for “conservative stories” that I have never given this theory any credibility. Surely, surely, no matter how biased they are, legitimate journalists would feel an obligation to investigate something as important as the health of a Presidential candidate. I assumed—I still assume—that this has been investigated. I assumed—and I’m trying to still assume—that if something was wrong, the news media would feel duty-bound to report it.

My confidence is wavering, however. Since mid-July, video snippets have been widely viewed on the web showing Clinton behaving oddly. Some bloggers, notably Mike Cernovich (who is trying to sell a book) found troubling moments during the recent convention and after it. This moment, for example, from an August 4 rally, where Clinton appeared to freeze…

The Secret Service agent who rushes to her side first says “You’ll be OK,” and then “Keep talking.” Observers have speculated that Hillary’s protectors have been briefed and trained on how to handle  a seizure.

Then there are these episodes…this, from June (the date on the video is wrong, and the assertion about an “epileptic seizure” is unsubstantiated) where Clinton’s head seemed to come unhinged…

…and this one, from the convention…

I have concluded that they either mean something or nothing at all. How does the public determine which?

Donald Trump has obviously been alerted to these right-wing suspicions, saying recently that Clinton’s brain “short-circuits” and that she isn’t “all there.” Trump issuing this, of course, makes it less likely that rational observers will regard it as anything but typical Trump insults and rumor mongering. We certainly can’t take his statements seriously. So who can we trust?

We can’t trust Clinton because…

…we can’t trust Clinton.

…Democratic Presidential candidates of recent vintage have withheld disqualifying personal information until it was exposed by other. Remember John Edwards?

We can’t trust the conservative news media and blogosphere because…

…They are demonstrably biased against Clinton..

…They will interpret any words, actions or events so as to reflect most negatively on her…

…They regard a Clinton Presidency as an existential cataclysm, and feel obligated to prevent it…

…They have lied, or lazily accepted false information as fact, before…

…Significantly, the most professional of the conservative news media, like the Wall Street Journal and Fox News, have been reluctant to touch this matter.

We can’t trust the mainstream news media because…

…The media has a long tradition of covering up politicians’ health problems and keeping knowledge of them away from the public.

…They have decided to side completely with Clinton and against Trump in this election cycle, manufacturing negative stories about the latter while emphasizing the positive regarding Clinton  unless the blatant nature of Clinton’s misrepresentations can’t be whitewashed, as with her e-mail narrative.

…They have established a pattern of burying legitimate news stories or minimizing their importance when they are damaging to Democrats, President Obama or Clinton.

…The DNC e-mail hacks showed the party coordinating news reporting with the media.

…They have refused to aggressively follow-up on suspicious or troubling revelations regarding Democrats and the Obama Administration under circumstances where in the past, the news media has hounded Republicans for months. Example: the Obama ransom payment to Iran.

And then there is Snopes. Out of curiosity only, since the site is no longer to be trusted, I checked to see what, if anything, the now securely left-biased former hoax-identifying website was saying about the issue. They do have a post about it, by one of its new social justice warriors, Dan Evon. It begins with a gag (and lame) headline, “I’m with Seiz-Her.” That’s part of the Snopes MO these days: if it can’t legitimately debunk a story, it signals that the story shouldn’t be taken seriously with headlines like that. Snopes adds nothing to the discussion at all, other than snarky swipes at the conservative media. It also cites the fact that the liberal news media made excuses for Hillary as evidence that there was nothing amiss, as with the bobble-head episode.

Snopes writes:

“The occurrence depicted above was covered by several news outlets in June 2016, with none of them reporting the candidate had experienced a “seizure.” The Hill, for instance, reported that Clinton “exaggeratedly bob(bed) her head” after reporters repeated the question about Warren, while the New York Daily News wrote that Clinton “gave an exaggerated startled response” to the question.  CBS reporter Hannah Chanpong suggested that Clinton movements were simply an exaggerated reaction to her being “startled” when some reporters in her blind spot started suddenly barraging her with questions about her putative vice presidential choice.”

In other words, Snopes regards the liberal-biased media’s applying confirmation bias to conclude there was nothing worth investigating in this episode as indicating that there was nothing worth investigating in this episode!  Snopes ends its post with characteristic innuendo:

“Notably, rumors that Clinton was captured on camera undergoing a seizure didn’t start circulating until well over a month later, when they were presented without any evidence beyond uninformed speculation.”

Point? The older video started circulating when more recent episodes caused some observers to start connecting dots. Some of the speculation I’ve read is informed. Snopes last clause is gibberish: the videos are evidence, not the speculation about them. All we have is speculation, because nobody seems to have been looking for more evidence, pro or con, and trying to get straight answers from Clintons about anything is an exercise in futility.

With all of this, Snopes can’t do more than conclude that the Hillary’s susceptibility to seizures is “unproven.”

Clinton herself sparked the renewed focus on her health with her odd use of “shortcircuited” as the verb to explain why she lied about the e-mails—again—on Fox News last week.  When I wrote about this, it never occurred to me that she literally meant that her brain malfunctioned, and maybe she didn’t, but that’s what she said. Then some people went back to the video.

Clinton having to deal with a physical problem and periodic cognitive disruptions would explain a lot. Why did she seek to minimize the number of debates? Why has she been so reluctant to have press conferences and interviews? Why is she prone to wild facial expressions? Yet there is no basis for either believing something is wrong with her that might affect her ability to function as POTUS, or not believing it, because we do not have any trustworthy news source that is doing its job, or sufficiently objective to do the job of journalism well even if it wanted to.

The inability of our nation’s journalism to be able to function objectively, competently and fairly in a controversy like this with such obvious importance, is at least as important as the controversy itself. There is no accepted “right to know” any more. The news media, on both poles, believes that the public only has the right to know what journalist and editors think its safe for them to know. As a result, we know very little.

34 thoughts on “When A Polarized News Media Makes An Informed Public Impossible: A Case Study

    • As I said in the other post, I think she used it because it’s confusing and doesn’t mean anything. Like Gruber’s “speako”…it’s a dodge. But it is an interesting choice too.

  1. Well she’s never going to release her medical records so this will be a matter of speculation. Still, her propensity to fly into rages is troubling although there was a lot written about this before her accident. If she does get elected I hope that we don’t wind up with a Wilson type presidency with Bill Clinton orchestrating things.

  2. There has to be something more than these videos to arouse some suspicion? I kept scoring, looking for something, but there was nothing. Hillary freezing, not quite sure yet what the commotion is about. Hillary laughing her typical unhinged fake laugh, the exact same way that SNL has been making fun of for decades now. And Hillary, making a “surprised” face at the fireworks and balloons. I could see a case, if these things came out of nowhere, but these expressions/actions are clearly in response to known stimuli, and none them seem out of the ordinary reactions.

    Hillary very well may have some health problems, but no evidence she would supply would be enough to satisfy her detractors. So unless her face starts drooping on one side, she becomes mute, or drops dead, we will be in the dark. If she has brain damage, it doesn’t really seem to affect her functioning all that much. She seemed to do well enough at the debates that no one could tell.

    • “It doesn’t seem to affect her functioning all that much. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. I wouldn’t get on an airplane if someone gave that as their reason to trust the pilot.

      • It wasn’t meant to be a ringing endorsement. Just a simple statement that basically says that if something is wrong with HRC, she is concealing it so well that it is basically indistinguishable from nothing at all being wrong with her.. If those videos are the best evidence people could marshal up, then it’s all just a bunch of nothing.

        Though I wonder how an ethical journalist could possibly hope to find out one way or another, without violating medical privacy or stirring up needless rumors?

  3. Thanks for bringing the topic up. I’m aware your readership is basically anti-Trump, so I thought this was a good assessment of the information that’s available. It’s not definitive, but it puts it out there.

  4. These are seizures? I’m not a trained medical professional, but to my eyes: 1) the pause during the first one was because she was awaiting instructions about a possible danger in connection with protesters; 2) the second one is her honestly being surprised and then doing deliberate double-takes (she’s the worst actress ever); and 3) the goofy face with Bill is just that — goofy.

    • For what it’s worth, I consulted with two friends, one in the medical field, the other a clinical psychologist. They both said it could be significant, or nothing, but worth checking on.

      I know my double takes, and that head-shaking thing was no double take. THAT was weird.

    • Possibly a petit mal seizure? I’m no medical professional, but I have seen more than one. That “1000 yard stare” sure looked like petit mal to me.

      • Good catch, James. It goes along with the post. Drudge made it appear that this photo was recent, and also left out the context. Again, the mainstream media hides stories, which encourages the right o hype, or assume what the left buries is more significant than it is.

      • Good catch, James. It goes along with the post. Drudge made it appear that this photo was recent, and also left out the context. Again, the mainstream media hides stories, which encourages the right o hype, or assume what the left buries is more significant than it is.

        • Drudge has been disappointing of late. I know most don’t think of Drudge as the most ethical but, as long as I’ve been visiting his page (since late 90’s), he hypes what he thinks are legitimate news stories regardless of his personal biases. He’s right-of-center, to be sure, but he won’t spike a story out of ideological loyalty. From Twitter, I knew hours ago that the Hillary picture was from February – yet the same pics and headlines remain on the page as I type this. There’s no way in hell that he doesn’t know this. He used to be reliable but a lot of his recent editorial decisions have called that into question. I can’t count the number times I’ve seen a sensational headline, hovered over it only to see…oh…Infowars/Alex Jones. No need to click those links. I still have Drudge as my homepage but – at least for me – his brand is damaged.

          All that said, I suspect there is something to the issue of Hillary’s health, but Drudge is no longer reliable on the subject.

    • Backtracking those comments to the Althouse blog post…

      The American Psychiatric Association issues a warning: No psychoanalyzing Donald Trump.

      Talking about the warning from the American Psychiatric Association, Althouse says; “The “timing certainly seems to fit” — if anything — a desire to protect Hillary from attacks. The analysis of Trump’s mental health has been going on for a while.”

      That’s a very, interesting observation and very relevant point. Since Trump’s mental state attacks have been ongoing (and well earned) for quite some time now and since they waited until this particular point in time (when Hillary’s mental state is attacked) to issue their warning, the timing certainly does appear to coincide with questions of Hillary’s mental state making the warning a pretty clear effort to protect Hillary from such attacks. With this kind of warning, the tables will likely be turned on any professional that issues such mental health statements about Hillary and they will deflect away from the statements and attack the professional messenger using the American Psychiatric Association warning as their tool of choice.

      The perceived mental state of the Presidential candidates is a very crucial point in this election; the perceived mental state of Trump is likely one of the main reasons, if not the primary reason(s), there are “never Trump” people out there. Do I think Trump has a narcissist personality disorder, yes, it’s easy to spot it; do I think there is something wrong with Hillary, yes, she does seem to be quite deceitful, my guess would be something like antisocial personality disorder.

      As for the media and their collective contribution to an informed public; this election is all about propaganda and the media is a willing TOOL of the political extremes. The more extreme the media can polarized things in the media the more attention the media gets and therefore more dollars in their coffer. These days playing nice in the media is viewed as pandering, extreme bull shit and layers of propaganda sell.

      • Trump walks into a psychiatrist’s office wearing nothing but Saran Wrap.
        The psychiatrist looks at him and says, “I can clearly see your nuts.”

  5. Everything else aside, man, those videos of HRC are CREEPY. What kind of president would Tim Kaine make? Does he have a foundation?

  6. The look in her eyes is just strange in all of these clips. The one on stage, it looks like she wants to speak and can’t. In the clip with Bill, she looks really odd, unfocused.

    I had read things here and there, but this is the first footage I’ve seen. Anyone can get rattled, forget what they were going to say, misspeak; the look in her eyes in all three clips is what is worrying me.

  7. No this is stupid, this is like the visual version of that Howard Dead scream microphone glitch thing. When you’re in front of cameras 24/7 of course you will be awkward or make weird faces on response to things behind the camera. All those conservatives posting their conspiracy pictures and youtube videos mocking her health are disgraceful jerks.

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