If The News Media Won’t Resist Publicizing Big Lies, What Hope Is There? [Corrected]

Here are a couple passages from two reviews of audiobooks in the New York Times Review of Books, under the heading, “Two New Audiobooks Inspire Teenagers to Make Real Change.”

“Anderson, a professor of African-American studies at Emory — working with a capable assist from the children’s nonfiction writer Tonya Bolden — elaborates on the premise of her previous book “White Rage.” There she argued that while the fires and protests that characterized cities like Ferguson and Baltimore in 2014 and 2015 were seen as an explosion of black rage, quite the opposite was true. The murders of unarmed citizens and the subsequent acquittals of police officers charged in their deaths were just the latest expressions of a white rage that had terrorized the entire country since Reconstruction, making victims of blacks and poor whites alike.”

“Such a simple but profound shift of perspective — the changing from an ahistoric lens to a historical one — is where “We Are Not Yet Equal” excels. By meticulously tracing a path from the fateful deals white abolitionists cut with the Confederacy during Reconstruction right up to the contemporary efforts to roll back voter protections as a response to Obama’s ascendancy, Anderson paints a dire picture of a country that not only combats equal citizenship for black people, but prioritizes that combat over governmental responsibilities including national security, liberty and democracy.”

“Anderson’s book is a story of obsession, of a country’s obsession with denying rights to a people.”

The reviewer is Carvell Wallace, who, like all of us, has a right to his own opinion, as does Carol Anderson, the professor whose work he favorably reviews. Neither has a right to their own facts, however.  Michael Brown was not “murdered.” Neither was Freddie Gray. Someone can opine that there was a cover-up in either case, or simply state a belief in contravention of all known evidence, but one cannot state, as fact, that these deaths were “murders of unarmed citizens” and that the acquittals, which were legally mandated by the lack of evidence sufficient to support convictions of murder, were “the latest expressions of a white rage.” They were both, in fact, the only possible expressions of the law regarding guilt and innocence of criminal offenses. Both statements are factually false. Similarly, the statement that the United States has  an “obsession with denying rights to a people”—that is, black people, is a Big Lie, a propaganda falsehood so audacious and beyond reality that it warps public perception by being repeated and debated.

These Big Lies and similar ones are being dropped into our cultural background soundtrack constantly and subtly. This was an audiobook review for teens. A responsible news media has an ethical obligation to clearly distinguish between opinion and settled fact. Later in his review, Wallace writes that ““We Are Not Yet Equal” makes clear that this country’s collective history is nothing short of heinous.” OK, he’s convinced: that statement flags itself as an opinion. That is not how I would characterize, for example,  “The murders of unarmed citizens and the subsequent acquittals of police officers charged in their deaths were just the latest expressions of a white rage that had terrorized the entire country since Reconstruction, making victims of blacks and poor whites alike.” A fair statement that clearly indicates that we are discussing a point of view rather than historical fact would be, “The deaths of unarmed blacks in confrontations with police and the subsequent acquittals of the officers charged in their deaths are presented as the latest expressions of a white rage that had terrorized the entire country since Reconstruction, making victims of blacks and poor whites alike.”

By allowing this kind of agitprop activism to worm its way into all corners of its publication, the Times, and certainly not only the Times, is either deliberately or negligently poisoning society, seeding hate and distrust, promoting racial division, and blurring the lines between opinion and fact.

Somebody needs to be priming Big Lie alarms, because this useful fascist tool of disinformation and division has fallen into fashion among our partisan warriors. If the news media not only refuses to point out Big Lies, but chooses to spread them, I don’t know where we are supposed to turn.

CORRECTION: In the original version of the post, the author was identified as Sharif Hamza, don’t ask me how. It’s fixed. My apologizes to Mr. Wallace and Mr. Hamza.

32 thoughts on “If The News Media Won’t Resist Publicizing Big Lies, What Hope Is There? [Corrected]

    • Lovely article, I read it with interest. And completely useless. This is what today’s so-called ‘conservative’ does: outline a complaint gorgeously articulated (I did appreciate the term synopticon which, I gather, was modified from Richard Weaver’s ‘The Great Stereopticon’?) but only suggestive.

      This complaint then circulates among the agèd and people repeat the complaint up till the point when the proverbial cow jumps over the proverbial moon. There is an alternative — or a progression from — endless complaining: here.

      • …if you are paid by the word, Alizia, you got a short check on this post. I have come to expect FAR more scrolling when I ignore your latest navel gazing.

        We expect better!

        /snark

  1. Jack, you state “The reviewer is Shariff Hamza, (sic)” but then link to the actual author’s site at carvellwallace.com.

    I think Sharif Hamza (one f) is a photographer who may have contributed to a different article or cover shot of another issue of the impugned Times Magazine where an article by Wallace appeared. I don’t see an association between Hamza and the review of the audiobooks.

  2. This sort of falsification of history is being repeated on every one of over a dozen college campuses I’ve visited, excepting for Hillsdale. The goal is obvious; keep lying no matter what, as there is no institutional integrity willing to stand against it.

    In this environment, a point of view, no matter how incorrect, misguided or delusional, becomes orthodoxy via indoctrination.

    Just try to have an open reasoned discussion on issues like abortion, climate change, foreign policy, economics, immigration, guns or the minimum wage, to name just some.

    The goal is simple. Undo the Constitution and impose punitive social justice measures against all those the victimocracy deems to be the oppressors guilty via these false constructions.

    Don’t think so? Try being Tucker Carlson.

  3. If the news media not only refuses to point out Big Lies, but chooses to spread them, I don’t know where we are supposed to turn.

    There is no place to turn, except… away. Civic-minded people must stop paying attention to the media and imbibing this fiction they are intent on creating out of factual events. We have seen from CNN, CBS et. al. that there are no more opinions — that is, unless something conflicts with their take on it.

    Nothing, it seems, can keep the media from going down this road. It’s obviously bad for the country, but they have decided to pick a side and fight this battle to whatever end.

    The only thing we can do is reject them utterly, refuse to read their malign propaganda, and try to glean the truth elsewhere. It’s shameful that we can’t even trust the media as far as we can throw our houses, but that’s where we are.

  4. I would love nothing more than to ignore the media. However, that’s not possible, because I’m IN the damn media!

    I do my best, and so do a lot of other local reporters. Most of the major journalistic atrocities happen at the national outlets. Still, too much of this crap infiltrates local media, too.

    For instance, when I had occasion to mention the Michael Brown case, I referred to him in my stories as “robbery suspect Michael Brown,” and point out that the officer was acquitted.

    Unfortunately, too many in the media are eager to push the bullshit narrative. A quick example: The AP Stylebook is the print journalist’s Bible. It tells us how things are to be referred to; for instance, whether California should be abbreviated CA or Calif., things like that.

    Well, according to the AP Stylebook, anyone age 18 or over is to be referred to as an adult. So Michael Brown should’ve been described stories as a man.

    But the AP VIOLATED ITS OWN STYLEBOOK by referring to him as a “teen” or “youth,” and just about every other media outlet followed suit.

    This industry has become so utterly disgusting, I’ve thought long and hard about getting into another profession, although I’m a little long in the tooth to voluntarily give up a good job and start over. But I’m staying put. If I’m honest, my decision is based in no small part to the fact that this job pays the bills — but it’s also because I can still make a difference, and report honestly, despite what goes on around me. Luckily, my editors allow me to report the straight dope without filtering things out (although not always).

    I’m certainly not the only reporter who tries to play it straight and honest. I’ve been on a mission lately to point out the difference between local and national media outlets. As I said, the local media absolutely has a lot of bad — but you’ve got a much better bet to get the real story from local outlets.

    A recent example is the Florida recount mess. The Palm Beach Post rightfully made a big deal about the fact that the local election official wasn’t letting the media film the recount, a deviation from normal procedure, and even threatened to have anyone who videoed the proceedings arrested. That was put in the headline and the top few paragraphs — in other words, good journalism.

    Two days later, the New York Times did a story exploring why Republicans could possibly engage in “conspiracy theories” that there was malfeasance going on in Florida. NEVER DO THEY MENTION THAT THE ELECTIONS OFFICIAL THREATENED TO JAIL REPORTERS IF THEY DARED RECORD WHAT SHOULD BE AN OPEN PROCESS.

    The NYT reporters probably earn 10 times the salaries of their smaller-time brethren at the Palm Beach Post. But those Post reporters ran rings around the Marxist liars at the NYT.

    The whole thing makes me sick.

    • Tippy,

      I appreciate the position your profession puts you in, and think a lot about the ‘inside baseball’ items you post. That someone in your position attempts to tell the truth helps restore my faith in mankind.

      However, I cannot tell where this ‘local media’ you refer to lives and writes. San Antonio’s paper is a liberal rag. Austin is worse, as well as ANY urban paper here in Texas where the vote runs blue. Even a red city, Bryan-College Station, has an obviously slanted paper that tries to color every story with a progressive hue.

      I hope you are keeping a body of work to prove your bona fides when the mobs are stringing up reporters. I won’t venture a guess as to which side the mob will be on, either. Seems to me the progressives marxists have a track record regarding the press! (kidding… sort of. Please be careful!)

      • As I explained, the local media has a long way to go, but they’re still your best bet for unbiased coverage. I gave you a specific example: The Florida recount. I thought the local media did a far better job than the nationals of covering that craziness.

        There are many other examples I could provide. Another one off the top of my head was the national media’s omission of the fact that LeBron James’ “Promise School” was going to be mostly funded by taxpayers. While the national media was busy slobbering over how great a guy LeBron was, the Cleveland Plain Dealer was busy doing their jobs, and actually asked about funding. Come to find out, taxpayers were footing up to 75% of the bill.

        Again, I’m not saying local outlets are anywhere close to perfect, or even acceptable. Just that they’re a sight better than the nationals, and that I personally know many local reporters who do the job right.

        • I’ve found that local TV news is far better at being unbiased and reasonably balanced with their own news coverage and journalism in general, there are exceptions to this when the networks pass down video that the local is “forced” to air. Now local print media like newspapers is an entirely different story; in my area the terribly biased Progressives have completely hijacked print news and it’s basically all skewed Progressive propaganda looking at everything through their industrial-strength weapons-grade thickened ideological blinders (#Cornelius Gotchberg) and tainting the print news with only a few points of light that peek out once in a while. We’re in an over-inflated Progressive bubble around here surrounded by reality.

  5. A ‘free press’ must surely be free to be biased, to spread lies, and free to broadcast. There is plenty of choice in the US with widely varying biases. It has never been easier and cheaper to opine freely, both negatively and positively. It is safest to consider it all biased, and consume a broad mix. It may seem inconvenient that the NY Times has a large readership but that is an unavoidable freedom of a free people chosing what to read. How could it be otherwise? All the places you might turn to are much worse. Your freedom to moan (about the bias of others) is a wonderful feature of the US system, and surely you should enjoy it.

    • Large scale media subsists on much more than readers and viewers making choices. Their funding via advertising by corporations, organizations and institutions is more directly responsible for their existence.

      When one considers the viewership of MSNBC or CNN it hardly warrants the investment support paid by these groups. One is left to expect there is an agenda being financially supported by those other than consumers of the news. You can decide for yourself to what end.

      Further, these large scale media outlets are populated by journalists who carry an eerily, nearly monolithic, point of view. Where did this population come from? See my comments above.

      • Large scale media subsists on much more than readers and viewers making choices. Their funding via advertising by corporations, organizations and institutions is more directly responsible for their existence.

        Right, and so in fact it is these ‘organizations and institutions’ that present the basic stories and frame them in very specific ways. The statement that you have just made is not very different (though what you serve ultimately may be, I am uncertain) from the analysis of people like Noam Chomsky [genuflect yourself!] (ere)

        here is just one short example, there are dozens of others).

        The point is not to align you with Anarcho-Sydicalism (communism) but to point out that your developing view of Media-Systems, which is critical, reveals that you recognize how power-systems gain control of the means by which information is spread and manipulate people. That is, they do not *inform* them in the modern liberal sense of the word.

        When one considers the viewership of MSNBC or CNN it hardly warrants the investment support paid by these groups. One is left to expect there is an agenda being financially supported by those other than consumers of the news. You can decide for yourself to what end.

        You mean that I can randomly choose what I determine to be *what end* on the basis of my personal whim? Or do you mean that it is my duty as a responsible citizen to arrive at a realistic and fair conclusion about what those *ends* are? And if I can discern those ends, and determine that they are contrary to *my* interests, and in fact have little do do with my interests, I assume that you agree that a responsible citizen must speak up about them?

        Well, to what point am I allowed (by you) to take my critical analysis? Where is the cut-off point?

        It is strange, I must say, to notice how someone who I would read as a conservative begins to develop a critical posture that is not much different from that of critical Leftists of just a few years back.

        Further, these large scale media outlets are populated by journalists who carry an eerily, nearly monolithic, point of view. Where did this population come from? See my comments above.

        Now, it would seem to me, it will fall to you to describe in ultra-clear terms how the present that you describe has been created. You would, in truth, have to begin with the American Civil War. Your critical analysis would have to become very inclusive, very serious, very historical, very responsible. But my impression is that it is not (and I apologize for saying this so directly — to do so is *arrogant* according to you!) You operate, it seems, within a partial-analysis. And you argue for a status quo ante which is, in our present, an impossibility.

        I am not sure where exactly to go with my own criticism of what I understand of your position, but I am I think genuinely interested in understanding it better, to the degree that it is coherent (and I am not sure that it really is, so please pardon me for saying).

    • A ‘free press’ must surely be free to be biased, to spread lies, and free to broadcast.

      I find that such a statement as this opens up into a hundred — maybe even a thousand — different questions that must be asked. On the face, of course, it is true. And according to reason — to common sense? — there must exist a class of person with enough intellectual skill to be capable of recognizing ‘lies’. That would mean people with a certain background in the analysis of rhetoric, wouldn’t it? Trained in logic, in how good arguments are constructed. But there is another dimension here: it is what power one basically serves. There is no other alternative but to take this into consideration. We have to analyze our own *complicity*.

      In an *ideal society* there would be a sufficient number of trained individuals (trained in philosophy and rhetoric et cetera) who would be capable of exposing the lies. The lies might come out, but they would not and could not gain ground because responsible people who dismantle them, and the common man, not so skilled in strict reasoning, would agree. Because he trusts those who have intellectual responsibility.

      The beginning of social cultural and civilizational perversion is through a process where intellectuals are corrupted. Doesn’t it stand to reason? The intellectuals either become themselves corrupted, and/or they allow themselves to become corrupted by the clamoring underclasses who are, often, susceptible to corruption. How does corruption take shape? What is it?

      There is plenty of choice in the US with widely varying biases.

      If one begins from the proposition that in the American Postwar, and yet of course certainly prior to that, that a propaganda-system was installed (with great success and in a climate of tremendous prosperity), but that the *seeds of corruption* were already present and operating, one is pushed in the direction of making a more general incisive historical analysis, because we are now living in the *outcome* of all that was set in motion then.

      There is plenty of ‘choice’, just as there are plenty of food choices. But foods and their preparation are not commensurate on to another. There definitely are differences, and they are *life and death* differences in fact. To have a wide variety of *outlets* as they are called, and of *opinion*, is not philosophically sound because it negates to very notion and possibility of truth and honesty.

      It has never been easier and cheaper to opine freely, both negatively and positively. It is safest to consider it all biased, and consume a broad mix.

      This analogy does not work and it is fallacious. Just because there are thousands of different (bad) foods to be eaten, and simply because one eats them, in no sense means that one will get health. It is tantamount to saying that if you blended all the *fast good* together you’d get good and proper food. No, you’d get ‘more of the same’.

      Therefor, the only alternative is to propose that there is *good food* as distinct from *bad food* and to discern what *good food* is. And then to eat it. (Hello Wednesday Woman, what’s on the menu for today? I have still been thinking of the combination of chicken soup with pumpkin bread and am undecided still!)

      It may seem inconvenient that the NY Times has a large readership but that is an unavoidable freedom of a free people choosing what to read. How could it be otherwise?

      But there is the problem. If the *NYTs* as it is now manifesting itself, as it shifts and morphs into a kind of Maoist Journal on the cutting edge of People’s Revolution, and if it is taken to the logical ends of what it stands for, it will provoke another and opposing pole that will be forced to eventually destroy it. I am speaking from historical example. When 2 (or 3) opposed poles develop in a given civilization at one point or another the opposition proceeds into more overt political expression: war essentially.

      It is impossible to predict the future, and in fact I am not trying to be alarmist for its own sake. But just realistic.

      All the places you might turn to are much worse. Your freedom to moan (about the bias of others) is a wonderful feature of the US system, and surely you should enjoy it.

      This is true, as long as there still exists a unifying structure. But that unifying structure has been undermined and we now witness how social cohesion breaks down. One must understand what is happening in the US through a meta-political lens. If I am not right in saying this, please tell me how I should view things?

    • Andrew Wakeling wrote, “A ‘free press’ must surely be free to be biased, to spread lies, and free to broadcast.”

      I don’t think anyone is arguing against that basic freedom.

      There used to be standards of ethical conduct for journalists and journalism, those standards are essentially a thing of the past and the whole journalism thing is corrupted with blatant partisanship. There will always be bias, we cannot prevent that, but it’s terribly unethical and immoral to base what should be considered unbiased news on blatantly biased partisanship, unsupported journalism, unsupported propaganda, and outright lies.

    • A ‘free press’ must surely be free to be biased, to spread lies, and free to broadcast.

      Absolutely. Just a spouses have a right to cheat on their loved ones, and just there is a constitutional right to lie, be a bigot, or use racial slurs.

      Nonetheless, these are all abuses of rights, and not why the rights exist.

  6. I don’t understand why the Black Lives Matters focuses in on the cases that don’t make their point. They should be using Philando Castle as a rallying cry, not Freddie Gray.

    I also don’t get what is wrong with most white people. How can we have shootings like Daniel Shaver and think there is nothing wrong? We’ve got a police training issue where an unreasonable level of fear pervades contact with the public and a criminal justice problem where officers are given the king’s pass because too many people view police officers as the good guys no matter what. The BLM crowd is unethical in its conduct in trying to make their point. We’ve got the other side who’s unethically blind and want to ignore that the problem exists.

  7. Similarly, the statement that the United States has an “obsession with denying rights to a people”—that is, black people, is a Big Lie, a propaganda falsehood so audacious and beyond reality that it warps public perception by being repeated and debated

    If that statement were true, the `14th Amendment would not have enshrined equal protection into the Constitution.

    It would have enshrined racial apartheid and segregation into the Constitution.

  8. When outcome education has nearly eliminated critical thinking and created brainwashed hive-minded drones it’s easy to see how the repetition of propaganda lies can make a “fact” seem more true, regardless of whether it is or not. “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth.” Joseph Goebbels

    It is absolutely clear that the political left has been waging a propaganda war for quite some time and it has reached a pinnacle of absolute absurdity since the Presidential election of 2016.

    The political left doesn’t give a damn if they lie as long as their followers believe it and there’s a possibility to suck others into the fold with repetition, peer pressure, and intimidation.

  9. “By meticulously tracing a path from the fateful deals white abolitionists cut with the Confederacy during Reconstruction right up to the contemporary efforts to roll back voter protections as a response to Obama’s ascendancy, Anderson paints a dire picture of a country that not only combats equal citizenship for black people, but prioritizes that combat over governmental responsibilities including national security, liberty and democracy.”

    This is basically conspiracy theory or (in the political realm) disinformation. You take a few data points – some true, some twisted, some made up – and ignore data points that aren’t consistent. Take the specific points and generalize them to attach to a whole culture, and then just assume causation to apply to the whole sweep of history. Our Left lapped up Soviet disinformation from 80 years ago, and now they vomit out a homegrown variety with themselves as the vanguard.

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