A Fake News Story About Fake News!

The New York Times end-of-year whine about how mean President Trump has been to the news media was headlined (in the print edition), “Trump Attacked News Media Even More in 2019.” That’s an assertion of fact. What does it mean? Well, the first sentence of the story reads, “On Twitter, President Trump deployed the phrase “fake news” 273 times this year — 50 percent more often than he did in 2018.” Is calling a story published by the news media “fake news” an “attack”? What if the story is objectively false or misleading as most—not all, but most—of those in question were?

For example, last week MSNBC aired an Iranian state media claim that the second round of rocket attacks on U.S. military installments in Iraq killed 30 U.S. soldiers, and that “we have just stepped over the precipice.” That’s irresponsible and lousy journalism. MSNBC hadn’t checked the claim, it just rushed it on the air. I don’t want to hear the Clintonian rationalizations that this wasn’t technically fake news, because the report was that the Iranians were saying that the 30 soldiers had been killed. It was a false report; it was misleading; it would upset the families of servicemen in the area (one journalist criticized it as “journo-terrorism”), and there was no excuse for it. If this kind of unprofessional hackery is criticized, by me, for example, is that an attack?

Such a characterization is more fake news. The news media is constantly pushing the dishonest and self serving position that to criticize journalists for their proven ethical breaches and betrayal of their duty to keep the public informed is to attack them, ergo this is an attack on journalism itself, hence it is an attack on Freedom of the Press, therefore it is an attack on democracy itself. Calling the news media on its now near complete transformation into a left-wing propaganda machine is, they surmise, is tarred by this false characterization built on successive unwarranted leaps of logic.

Journalists appear to really believe their own fake news in this case. I hear and read it over and over again: the decline in the public’s trust in news reporting, as reflected in many surveys and polls, is President Trump’s doing, as part of his grand plan to become a dictator. (See Big Lie #3). Their narcissistic delusion that they and their profession are beyond reproach is self-evidently in direct opposition to reality: the reason for the decline of American journalism’s credibility is its own, reckless , escalating dishonest, incompetence, bias and untrustworthiness.

The article is a good example of this itself. The second sentence in the piece says that the President “demanded ‘retribution’ over a ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketch.” Yes, that was self-evidently stupid, but what does a late night comedy show have to do with the news media? Nothing.

The article then moves on to another Big Lie it has repeatedly advocated,  #6: “Trump’s Defiance Of Norms Is A Threat To Democracy.”

The “norm” in this case is, I guess, a President remaining passive and prostrate while most of the journalistic establishment openly allies itself with your adversaries—even foreign adversaries, like Iran— and dedicates its reporting to destroying your ability to govern. The Times writes, “Mr. Trump’s vilification of the news media is a hallmark of his tenure and a jagged break from the norms of his predecessors: Once a global champion of the free press, the presidency has become an inspiration to autocrats and dictators who ape Mr. Trump’s cry of ‘fake news.’”

Calling this a “jagged break from the norms of his predecessors” is another variety of fake news: fake history, in which the news media deliberately or incompetently makes the largely historically ignorant public more ignorant by falsely describing the past. My “favorite” example of this kind of fake news was when Presidential historian Doug Brinkley was put on the air by CNN on election night to salve the despair of Hillary supporters by explaining that America seldom elects the same party to the Presidency three terms in a row. What he said was completely wrong on the facts, not wrong as an opinion, just false. Nobody challenged him; there was no correction.

Examples of this occur constantly: a Washington Post reporter, consciously or unconsciously trying to mitigate Barack Obama’s Benghazi fiasco, wrote that two Americans were killed in the episode (the number was four). During the impeachment coverage, one reporter after another wrote or stated that Nixon was impeached (no, he wasn’t) and that Bill Clinton was impeached for having sex with an intern. (Wrong.) Many false accounts are debunked repeatedly, yet still find themselves creeping into mainstream media stories. For example, I still hear and read accounts claiming that President Trump said that the Neo-Nazis at Charlottesville included”many fine people.” He didn’t say that; in fact, he specifically stated that wasn’t true. (“I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally.” ) He was saying that “many fine people” don’t believe statues of Robert E. Lee should be torn down. But the false characterization persists because the mainstream media pushes yet another Big Lie: #4: “Trump Is A Racist/White Supremacist.”

Indeed, previous Presidents didn’t directly contradict and criticize media accounts because 1) no previous President was besieged by a partisan, hostile press to anything close to this extent 2) before social media, no President had the tools to do so. Since the media apparently has no ethical voices to raise the alarm about the industry’s deterioration and disgrace, who has the sufficiently powerful microphone and the influence to counter the news media’s disinformation campaign? Only the President of the United States. No, I don’t like it; yes, having the President pointing out, occasionally incorrectly, in his ham-handed inflammatory way that journalists are out to destroy him (as they are) is divisive and ugly; yes, I wish there was a better way. There is a better way, of course: for the news media to reverse course, report the news rather than manipulate it, and  stop pursuing a partisan agenda. They just won’t do it.

Would the President stop complaining about fake news if the mainstream media stopped routinely publishing fake news, and defending it (CNN’s fake media watchdog keeps arguing that CNN’s coverage of the Russian collusion inquiry was even-handed)?

I don’t know. Until journalists start practicing ethical journalism, we’ll never know.

__________________________________________

Here’s your twitter link to this post to use on Facebook, since direct links “violate Facebook’s cockamamie community standards…https://twitter.com/CaptCompliance/status/1216005611860586497

14 thoughts on “A Fake News Story About Fake News!

  1. “[W]hat does a late night comedy show have to do with the news media? Nothing.”

    Au contraire, mon frere. SNL is considered the gold standard of informed and enlightened political commentary by the lazy-assed media who get to fill up their Sunday and Monday editions with recaps of what happened on SNL while all the media’s readers were sleeping. SNL is reality. Trump is just a reality TV guy. Come to think of it, he’s a bad reality TV guy, as opposed to the good ones, you know, the Jersey Shore crew, all the housewives, the Kardashians. They’re newsworthy. Trump’s just an annoyance.

    • Actually SNL feeds the frenzy claims made by both sides of the political spectrum, they’ve just fallen over the precipice into full progressive propaganda since 2008 and only offer token comedic criticism towards their own side. It’s part of the reason that I stopped watching them; their sincere lack of genuine humor is another reason but that “could be” a generational thing.

      • I tired of SNL in the late seventies, early eighties and being greeted by “Oh NO! Mr. Bill!” in falsetto while in law school.

  2. God, I can’t believe that I have been assigned by Providence this rôle. Oh well, I will try to fulfill it as best I can!

    For example, last week MSNBC aired an Iranian state media claim that the second round of rocket attacks on U.S. military installments in Iraq killed 30 U.S. soldiers, and that “we have just stepped over the precipice.” That’s irresponsible and lousy journalism. MSNBC hadn’t checked the claim, it just rushed it on the air. I don’t want to hear the Clintonian rationalizations that this wasn’t technically fake news, because the report was that the Iranians were saying that the 30 soldiers had been killed. It was a false report; it was misleading; it would upset the families of servicemen in the area (one journalist criticized it as “journo-terrorism”), and there was no excuse for it. If this kind of unprofessional hackery is criticized, by me, for example, is that an attack?

    Wait. MSNBC may have no credibility and may have committed one of 1000 reprehensible errors. It may, as Americans generally, have zero real concern for the lives of other people on the other side of its Shock & Awe campaigns, and they may all be horrid people who mean no good to no one . . .

    . . . yet it is not inaccurate to attach the opinion or the sentiment that “we have just stepped over the precipice”. The thing is, we do not know yet how any of this will play out and what the results will be. Could ‘we’ at some point actually ‘step over a precipice’? We could. Why? Because the nation generally is in the grip of strains of hysteria. Certainly the ‘progressive left’. But there is a general infection. Do you actually believe that your present leaders are acting ‘responsibly’? Why would you believe that when in so many instances governments and administrations have lied so openly? Isn’t it more *ethical* to start from a place of doubt and suspicion?

    In world history larger conflagrations have resulted from minor, irrelevant and regional events.

    So, is the topic ‘responsible journalism’? What — in Heaven’s name — should responsible journalism consist of at a juncture like this? Also responsible journalism requires a responsible, informed and aware readership. And is it asserted and should I take it as a fast that here, among those who write and offer their opinions, that I am among ‘responsible persons’? Pu-lease. Let me try to make an accurate and fair statement: You are mostly irresponsible American jingoists:

    Jingoism is nationalism in the form of aggressive foreign policy, such as a country’s advocacy for the use of threats or actual force, as opposed to peaceful relations, in efforts to safeguard what it perceives as its national interests. Colloquially, jingoism is excessive bias in judging one’s own country as superior to others—an extreme type of nationalism.

    For various decades the US has been destabilizing the region to achieve goals and objectives which have not made much sense to me and to many others. What is the purpose of all this? No one seems to know. Do you care? No, you do not care! Please be honest. Honesty is a necessary starting point for arriving at some *ethical* stance (even a pseudo-ethical stance requires some level of honesty).

    If you can offer opinions about what ‘there is no excuse for’ I can do the same. There is no excuse for this open jingoism. It only serves the powerful interests — money, corrupt politics, corporate wealth — and does not in any sense that I can serve people. It does not serve American interests in the short or the long run. Just as ipso facto we know that the last 20 years of war have not served us at all.

    Please begin to tell the truth. Stop lying.

    Well? How’d I do? 🙂

      • Did you even read how Trump used the Swiss embassy to de-escalate the situation? That report will be buried because it violates the incessant anti-American and anti-Trump narratives.

        • You can frame it any way you like. But what I wish to point out is that this is the way that you avoid having to consider the many different ethical & moral ramifications. It is a very simple formula. This is how it works:

          1) You hate Chomsky. (And no one on this blog has ever read him — correct me it I am wrong).
          2) You believe it has been established that his entire analysis is wrong.
          3) Any idea that comes your way which speaks about any concern that Chomsky — or any other analyst — speaks about, you associate with your *hated figure*.
          4) You associate the concern brought up with Chomsky.
          5) You successfully avoid having to do any more analysis! You don’t have to do any ethical or moral thinking.

          I correct the the above in this way:

          1) It is not that Chomsky’s analysis or seeing is wrong, it is that he is either a Communist or a Socialist of some sort or other. His analysis is connected with his larger vision: a world without divisions and hierarchies. Chomsky defines himself (in all sense) as ‘a child of the Enlightenment’.

          2) Chomsky provides a lens for the analysis of power and those systems in which tyrannical hierarchies function. He refers to ‘real democracy’ is which people have a say in how social and economic systems are structured and he contrasts that with ‘pseudo-democracy’ in which it is pretended that people make choices for their selves.

          3) Whether you see it or not, or whether you are completely ignorant about it, the meaning of ‘America’ is tightly bound up with the idea of ‘liberty’ and ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom from tyranny’. Therefore, any conversation that takes place where those things are talked about, is a necessary conversation. I mean, it follows from core American tenets. What amazes me, personally, is that you do not ever have any conversations, of any sort, ever, that involve these topics. You do something like that, very abstractly, when you reminisce about ‘the revolutionary times’ or about ‘the Founders’. But you have no ways nor means to talk about any social context in which people, inspired by these values, try to claim them! Your reminiscences are empty and, I think it fair to say (though I wish to offend no one) you are compromised ethically. The fact of the matter is that you are not here to discuss *ethics*.

          4) Therefore, you are functionally useless as citizens. One cannot listen to you, one certainly cannot believe you. Everything you say is tainted. Why?!? Why is this? How has this come about? It is the most distressing and unwelcome puzzle. A great deal of what concerns me and what I write about it directed to an answer.

          5) My project is so much more difficult than yours. In truth you have no *project*. I discern that *you-plural* have failed your social and intellectual responsibility profoundly. And because you have done this, and because you are the social outcomes of generations of people who have done this, you actually have some responsibility for the present conditions of revolutionary Marxist types who take advantage of all that you omit to consider, simply because you have no relationship with essential Constitutional values! You allow yourselves to become tools of power, and in this sense you are intimately, and I might say spiritually, connected to what we (seem to) mean when we use the term Swamp. I take that to be corruption, basically.

          How that corruption has come about, is a complex question. Why it is that the ‘junkyard dog’ defends his domain is another.

          Now, apparently, I think I can say with some certainty that I have seen through you. This is very disappointing. I don’t know what it means.

          But trust me: I will tell you exactly what I think. 😉

    • BTW what the hell does death to America and death to Israel mean day after day? At some point we ought to believe them and when required, crush them like an uninvited hornet at a picnic.

      • Well, what it *means* is that you get your news from your TeeVee set, and all of the news that you receive is framed for your viewing. You are ‘fed’ hot news which further incites the heat that you cultivate inside you which can burn brightly when you feel *indignation*. You are being played, of course, but the pain you’d have to confront in recognizing the degree that you have been played, which you participate in because of your American jingoist attitude (of no benefit to you on any level), is sufficiently great to keep you from undertaking any sort of independent analysis.

        Your attitude is what I find most revealing. It is reduced to “Bomb them!” There is nothing else there. You know nothing about anything — none of the history — and yet the most salient feature is that you give your assent to what amounts to extermination. Now, if someone steps back from this and asks “What is going on here?” — a question that you are incapable of forming and much less in answering — at that point a ‘responsible analysis’ might begin. It would mean that you — the individual — would have to devote time and thought to a fuller and better understanding. You refuse to do this. I assume that if you won’t do it here it is likely evidence that you refuse to do it anywhere.

        What shall we call this marvelous and highly irresponsible attitude of yours? If it is not an *attitude*, what is it? A stance? A modus operandi for life? I think it must be understood to have come into being as a result of The Dumbing Down of America. Quite honestly you cannot think because you will not think. But the dumbing down is also related to a spiritual collapse in a collapsing society. This is a moral collapse. This is very difficult and confusing ground, I admit this. The thing about it is that none of it is amenable to ‘scientific analysis’. How could this dumbing down and a moral collapse be quantified? You see, the analysis that I am presenting to you depends, entirely, on a defined value-set. And this is why you and cannot now and will likely never be able to see eye to eye. God only knows what your *value-set* is. But I can tell you what comes out of it. It is more or less exactly as I say: you are played by powers far superior to you who determine, quite literally, how you perceive the world. By their own declared definitions you are a small cog that can be manipulated to support them. While they do things which you never understood to start with, do not understand now, and will never understand.

        Because you have set your will not to understand!

        I have a certain sympathy for you and *you* because I recognize that it is very very difficult to sort through the ethical and moral issues of our day. I think that we are in a crisis of identity and a crisis of meaning. Certainly America is in a profound crisis and no one knows how to sort it out.

        By and large, as I say, *you-plural* stare at the flickering telescreen inside Plato’s Cave in your overheated imagination. Chained to look superficially, you seem incapacitated to turn your head even slightly to the side where you might notice *the projectors*.

        Shall we get our news from a) Amy Goodman of Democracy Now b) MSNBC c) Fox News d) The NYTs e) Al Jazeera Media Network or f) The Jerusalem Post? Who will we rely on to look into things, and bring out of the chaos of power conflicts and events an Interpretation that *seems right* and *satisfies us*?

        You are going to have to pose & answer the question that you ask. You do know, I hope, that I could clearly and comprehensively answer it, but I won’t do the work that you must do for you.

  3. Before Trump, the left used to talk about fake news quite a bit. I still remember the bumper stickers saying how most of the media is in the hands of a few elite corporations. Fake news then was a leftist taking point and articles and campaigns discussed this media bias/propaganda/mind control as something serious and to be wary of.

    But Trump!

    If our President says anything about anything it’s automatically wrong. It doesn’t matter if what he points out was a progressive concern two days, two years, or two decades ago. For 11 years there was hardly any anti-war left and Trump was critiqued for being too isolationist. Now suddenly he’s a war monger and we need to get out of the Middle East. He could say tomorrow we all need to abort babies for climate change and suddenly the left would become pro-baby and climate “deniers.” And our dear news organizations would be right there to give the headline “Trump Hates Babies but Loves the Earth. Here’s 10 Reasons Why He’s Wrong.”

    I rarely hear from journalists, public officials or anyone else about how to discern news stories and why. Even most critics of media neglect to address this in a way that in and of itself isn’t a means to produce more confusion. I think I understand the underlying reasons for this, however it can still be frustrating to watch so many just go along, left or right, with whatever the false story or narrative is. Maybe it was and will always be this way.

    Trump isn’t “attacking” the media. The media has been attacking itself with bankrupt loyalties for many decades. The only thing new is that a President is repeatedly calling it out and we have even more screens to be lied to (and lie to ourselves) with.

    • He could say tomorrow we all need to abort babies for climate change and suddenly the left would become pro-baby and climate “deniers.” And our dear news organizations would be right there to give the headline “Trump Hates Babies but Loves the Earth. Here’s 10 Reasons Why He’s Wrong.”

      Perfectamundo. The Babylon Bee will be getting you your employment contract shortly.

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