Few things make me happier than when a commenter relieves me of the duty of writing about a topic.
In 2017, after the New York Times published a spectacularly dishonest list of President Trump “lies” since his inauguration, I wrote a post demonstrating just how outrageously the Times was warping the meaning of “lie,” and also applying a biased standard to Trump’s statements. I wrote,
In presenting this unethical project, the Times took unethical advantage of its readers’ confirmation bias. When the “Lie” list was printed, the Times made certain that it would require super-human dedication and extraordinary eyesight to read it, through the devices of listing every item and the Times commentary in horizontal sequence and in half the usual size type-face. (See above) This ensured that almost no readers would make the Herculean effort to read the whole thing , especially since the well-trained Times readers already “knows” that Donald Trump is a liar. In addition, the explosion of tiny words created the visceral response of “Wow! Look at all those lies!” which is exactly the effect the Times editors wanted.
But that isn’t reporting, and it isn’t journalism. The “list” was a page-size, visual, ad hominem attack. The Times wasn’t seeking close scrutiny of its list, nor was it interested in making any rebuttal easy or likely.
We have learned that the Times list was largely assembled from various fact-checker columns. That is a red flag, and explains many of the most embarrassing inclusions on the list. None of the fact-checkers are trustworthy. All of them are biased, Snopes and PolitiFact worst of all, and they consistently register opinions that the writer disagrees with as “false.” Many, many of the items on the Times list are in this category.
The entire exercise was an extension of #16 on the Fake News list, “Dishonest Factchecks. Here was a typical “lie” according to the Times, and its “proof”:
Jan. 21 “A reporter for Time magazine — and I have been on their cover 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine.”
Says the Times, “Trump was on the cover 11 times and Nixon appeared 55 times.”
Trump was making the general point that he had been on TIME’s cover a lot. He guessed that the number was 14 or 15; it was 11. That is what is known as a non-material misrepresentation: it’s meaningless and harmless, and certainly not an intentional deception. (“Heh, heh…I’ll make those poor, gullible fools think I was on TIME”s cover 14 times when it was ONLY ELEVEN!! BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!) Then he said he “thinks” that’s a record. When someone says “I think” it means the speaker is acknowledging that he may be wrong. But Trump is not accorded the usual leeway given to everyone else, including other elected officials.
When a list includes something this clearly contrived, that list has no credibility. I found going through the Times list annoying, then shocking, and finally infuriating. So when the Washington Post pulled the same stunt, I kept putting off giving it the same treatment that I did the Times’ exercise in lies about lying.
Thus I was thrilled to receive this Comment of the Day from stalwart Steve Witherspoon, on the post, The Many Species Of Fake News:
“One of the most prevalent fake news stories is the claim that Trump has lied over 15,000 times since he took office. Recently, over on Quora, there was a discussion about fake news and this topic came up.
This is part of that conversation where I wrote in part…
Carl Cassidy wrote, “And as far as the 15,000 lies, This is a fact, not an opinion. The Washington post has been tracking everything that Trump has been saying and has been fact checking it since he’s come in to office…”
Fact not opinion? Again you’re parroting fake news, propaganda, or lies; whatever you choose to honestly call it because it’s blatantly false.
The Washington Post has not, I repeat NOT, compiled a list of Trump “lies.” That is a propaganda twist of what the Washington Post did. I quote the Washington Post, ”In 1,055 days, President Trump has made 15,413 false or misleading claims” (Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/trump-claims-database/ ).
To prove my earlier point where I wrote ”I’ve looked at the website(s) claiming to track Trump’s lies and over and over again what they are claiming is a lie, false, or misleading is simply opinion.“
I’ll take the very first claim on the page I inked to and talk about it.
President Trump said, “To Impeach a President who has proven through results, including producing perhaps the strongest economy in our country’s history, to have one of the most successful presidencies ever, and most importantly, who has done NOTHING wrong, is sheer Political Madness!”
The Washington Post wrote, “The president can certainly brag about the state of the economy, but he runs into trouble when he makes a play for the history books. By just about any important measure, the economy today is not doing as well as it did under Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson or Bill Clinton — or Ulysses S. Grant.”
What the Washington Post wrote is veritably false; the stock market is a reasonably reliable, or as they say an “important measure” of how the economy is doing and the Washington Post is completely disregarding that even though they wrote that “By just about any important measure“.
FACT: the stock market went above 29,000 and it has never, I repeat NEVER, done that before! In fact the stock market has made one milestone after another since Trump took office and has been on a reasonably steady climb since Trump took office; this is in fact a verifiable indicator that the economy is doing great. Source: Dow Jones – 10 Year Daily Chart Is this an indicator the economy is better than it ever has been, yes, but that is simply an opinion based on the facts chosen to support the opinion. Is this this all because of Trump and his policies? Heck no— the stock market was already increasing before Obama left office (as the chart I linked to shows) but Trump’s policies have had a positive affect on the stock market. Trump is playing the same political game that ALL Presidents and DC politicians play: pick the facts that support your argument and ignore any facts that disprove your argument. Of course when Trump does this (Orange Man Bad!) you and others call it a lie, but when previous Democratic Presidents have done this you ignore it – a typical partisan double standard tactic.
The Washington Post’s argument is nothing but a contradictory partisan opinion that has been debunked, and there are thousands upon thousands of similar claims in their list of over 15,000 that are not lies, not even misrepresentations, but simply differing opinions. It’s anti-Trump propaganda, and if you can’t see it that way then you’re looking through industrial-strength weapons-grade thickened ideological blinders (#Corneilus Gotchberg) at the information.”
“The Washington Post’s “In 1,055 days, President Trump has made 15,413 false or misleading claims” web page is pure unadulterated anti-Trump propaganda put out there to feed the derangement syndrome of fully consumed Trump haters.”
“Of course, when I posted that comment it was immediately reported as violating Quora’s policies and I’ve had to appeal the false label. Many people using Quora consider anything that’s outside their belief to be a lie and an abuse of Quora’s policies, they call truth and facts lies if they disagree and report it as such and Quora in-turn blindly agrees and forces you to appeal. (There was one comment where I literally quoted the same uncivilized words that another commenter used towards me, and they deleted my comment. l quoted the words in a list attributing them to the one who wrote them and the originators comments remain visible and my comment is not visible. Quora got an email about that and they still haven’t fixed it. It’s like being punished for telling a person that’s using the word “nigger” that it’s not appropriate to use the word nigger.
Others on Quora are claiming that the only fake news is coming from the ones yelling “fake news”. It’s absurd how dumbed down our society is right now.
Fake news is a real problem and will be a serious problem during this election cycle.