A Word About “Fake” News (updates)

December 19, 2016

I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to be trying to pin down the reasons for Hillary Clinton’s campaign loss for a little while, especially given the fact that, at this moment, the Electoral College is all but certain to proclaim Donald J. Trump as our next president, as horrifying as that reality is (and believe me when I tell you that I’d love to be wrong). And yes, I know I personally have already engaged in this exercise in this space, and at a certain point the whole damn thing starts to become repetitive or self-serving, or both.

However, I believe I must add something to the discussion about so-called “fake” news that, as nearly as I can tell, has been missing.

As far as I’m concerned, the concept of “fake” news isn’t new at all. You could argue that the means to propagate it is relatively new (that is, by means of social networking sites, most infamously Facebook). To me, though, “fake” news has propagated like metaphorical weeds all over the manicured green grass of what should be our information landscape ever since the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 (and, not coincidentally at all, the arrival of Fox “News” 20 years ago).

There has definitely been a conservative element in this country from its inception, of course – isolationist, capitalistic, racist, among other faults (not to say that the other side has been perfect on this stuff either…far from it, actually). And they have had their own sympathetic media voices for a long time (such as Westbrook Pegler and Jack O’Brian in the 1950s, who were precursors to William F. Buckley, Irving Kristol, and others). However, they remained relegated to the sidelines by comparison in response to the legitimate news networks and professionals of our corporate media who, long ago, were not saddled with the burden of profitability. I would also argue that conservatives realized just what kind of an impact the media could have on our politics when the work of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein led to Richard Nixon’s resignation in Watergate of course (if conservatives don’t have a sense of resentment over something and a need to attack “the other” in response – and Nixon’s fall gave them that in their estimation – then they truly have nothing).

The ascendancy of their hero Ronald Reagan gave them the excuse for triumphalism in their media and discourse overall (print back in those days), but it wasn’t until the election of Bill Clinton and the advent of communication online at about that time that they found a way to generate a self-sustaining media presence that (as far as I’m concerned) led to the whole “weed” thing I mentioned earlier. They saw that they could generate the requisite outrage aimed chiefly at our 42nd president over the “controversy du jour” and maintain their profitability in their little devil’s bargain (and of course, the financial success of Fox “News” speaks for itself, unfortunately).

To me, that is when the whole “fake” news thing started. And when the Supreme Court installed Clinton’s successor (aided by plenty of “fake” news from Frank Bruni, for one, in favor of the Republican nominee in that election), we found ourselves with a presidential administration that, to no small degree, started to fix its often disastrous policies in no small part on “fake” news (see Miller, Judith and the Iraq War).

Of course, the whole “fake” news industry had to shift gears when President Hopey Changey was elected in 2008 – I mean, they had to be outsiders all over again, so of course that led to all of the birther stuff, Bill Ayers, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, etc. I’ll never forget that useless hack J.D. Mullane’s column about how Obama was supposedly “racist” for saying that white people in this country cling to their guns and their religion in times of crisis, or something (even though that whole dustup almost sunk Obama’s campaign – again, the whole “fake” news business falls apart without a heaping dose of white resentment – I don’t think there was a speck of untruth in that statement).

So along comes 2016, and so what does the “fake” news industry do now? The answer is almost too easy, especially since another Clinton is now the candidate of the Democratic Party for president. And I would argue that this campaign brought us yet another evolution in the fake news industry…that is, not just to support a political party and opponent who is sympathetic to the corporate, conservative cause (with the so-called “values voters” being played for saps yet again), but to go for the whole enchilada, if you will. And by that I mean to roll back all reforms sponsored and initiated by the Democratic Party since the post-Great Depression and World War II era of Franklin D. Roosevelt (if you think I’m wrong, by the way, I give you this in response).

So yeah, the whole “fake” news industry has existed for a little while. And it has existed to the benefit of one political and corporate constituency only as far as I’m concerned.

Is it dirty and lowdown? Of course it is. But for any Democrat to campaign in this day and age without knowing that reality and finding a way to combat it somehow (including staging and broadcasting your own events, finding a way to interact with the key constituencies you need without the help of the usual alphabet soup of media culprits…in short, making your own damn media in response) shows a naivete that, as far as I’m concerned, is staggering.

Yes, “fake” news is one reason why Hillary Clinton lost. But there were many others, including the James Comey stuff and Putin’s hacking, as well as the fact that Trump knew that the election would be won or lost in the primarily white suburbs of this country, mainly in the Rust Belt (of course, Trump typically lied his ass off about protecting Social Security, Medicare and the Affordable Care Law, which those who supported him will learn to their horror I’m sure). And as nearly as I can tell, Trump made the election just close enough for the Comey/Putin stuff to make an impact; my point, though, is that the Clinton campaign should never have let it get that close in the first place (I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard about HRC beating up Trump but not making the case somehow as to why she would have been an infinitely better president).

I wish I could say that “fake” news will go away. However, given its impact in what has just happened, I cannot possibly imagine that that will be the case.

Update 12/20/16: I thought this was a good related post on this subject.

Update 1/13/17: Of course, I could be totally self-serving and point out that I’ve spent literally years trying to debunk fake news at this site and also at the Blogger site.

That is, if I really were self-serving of course (wink).

Update 2/1/17: Uh, yep.

What Joe Pitts Did On His Congressional Recess

January 8, 2009

j_pittsI’m probably the only person outside of the PA 16th U.S. Congressional District who actually cares about what (sadly) returning Repug Rep Joe Pitts did during his time away from voting “No” while taking up space under the dome, but I must confess that curiosity inspired me to find out.

Well, this link to a right-wing site (of course) tells us that Pitts wrote an opinion column for Lancaster County Online (also for a Phoenixville, PA paper) about the supposed liberal quest to revive the Fairness Doctrine, even though (as it has been pointed out many, many times already, including here) no such quest is being or will be considered; indeed, the only “liberal” I ever heard who wanted to see the Fairness Doctrine return was a former Repug senator noted in this post.

Also, Pancake Joe was in full-on umbrage mode over the prospect of the Dems overturning Dubya’s ban on embryonic stem cell research by legislation or executive order from President-Elect Obama, as the New York Times notes here…

“Pro-life members in both caucuses will fight strongly to preserve sanctity of life ethics,” said (Pitts). “If they force it by legislation, those will be the votes the pro-life community will score to educate the voters as to where members stand on these issues.”

Yeah, sure, you let me know how you make out with that, OK Joe?

Meanwhile, in the reality-based community (from the same story)…

Stem cells from human embryos, “are the gold standard,” said Dr. George Q. Daley, a stem cell researcher at Children’s Hospital in Boston and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. Before they can be replaced by cells derived from skin cells, researchers have to know, at a detailed molecular level, how similar the two types of stem cells are, and how different.

“There are still so many unknowns,” Dr. Daley said. “I am going to continue to have my lab use both at the same time.”

And by the way, I was amused when I used that Google thingie to get to Pitts’ congressional home page, and I noticed that he had a link supposedly to a topic page dealing with what he called “Women’s Issues.” Well, I clicked the link, and it took me to an opinion column Pitts wrote in August 2005 called, “Women’s Rights In Iraq And America,” (no idea if this was published anywhere else) in which Pitts claimed that, “In 1896, Republicans were the first major party to favor women’s suffrage.”

I was unable to substantiate that claim anywhere, and Pitts doesn’t cite his source, of course, but what I can tell you from this Wikipedia article is that the battle for women’s suffrage began, more or less, in 1867 after African Americans won that right, and the right of women to vote faced opposition from both parties – the article tells us that, “The defeat of women’s suffrage in New York strengthened the Republicans’ position against women’s suffrage.” The fight ended in the summer of 1920 with the passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which guaranteed women the right to vote; in his column, Pitts conveniently glosses over the fact that it was passed largely due to the efforts of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson.

To those who worked on behalf of Bruce Slater last year but came up short, take heart that, one day, Pitts will be gone by one legal means or another. To those who actually support Pitts, may you continue to comfort yourself in your invincible ignorance with the false belief that you will never be betrayed by a partisan political hack masquerading as a high priest of moral rectitude.

The Losers Plot Their Vengeance

December 11, 2008

more_needles_and_pinsI guess maybe I should actually thank Richard Viguerie of conservativehq dot com for keeping me apprised in the latest in sheer wingnuttery, as he did with a recent correspondence.

There are three topics in particular that I want to note from Viguerie’s latest screed, and they are as follows.

First, that paragon of journalistic integrity Tony Blankley (in a column in the Moonie Times where he apparently pulled his “sources” from a bodily orifice), tells us here that…

…it is a political fact of the highest significance that the Democratic Party leaders – and perhaps the politically shrewd president-elect himself – want to legally kill conservative talk radio by reinstituting the deceptively misnamed “Fairness Doctrine” (or perhaps the equally lethal to conservative talk-radio doctrine of localism).

OK people, let’s get this straight for the record right now, OK?

As noted here, President-Elect Obama has no intention at all of trying to revive the Fairness Doctrine, because he considers the debate to be more or less a distraction from trying to address our myriad other problems, OK?

Just for emphasis on behalf of the wingnuts, I’ll repeat this using fewer and smaller words: Barack… Obama… is… not… going… to… bring… back… the… Fairness… Doctrine.

Next, Viguerie links to someone named Robert Stacy McCain, who purports to offer the following sage advice here…

Failure is a foregone conclusion for the Democrats’ economic agenda, and Republicans seeking a coherent conservative response can boil their message down to three words: It won’t work.

Infrastructure “investments”? It won’t work. Pump-priming “stimulus” payments? It won’t work. More taxpayer-funded bailouts? It won’t work. Go through the familiar liberal litany of economic prescriptions that Democrats are now suggesting, pick any proposal, and the message is the same: It won’t work.

Yep, Repugs, that whole “sitting there with your eyes closed and hands over your ears while shaking your head” approach worked so beautifully for you over those last two election cycles, didn’t it (and it looks like the Senate Repugs are all set to pick up where they left off with this on the automaker loan, as noted here – and by the way, let’s not lose sight of the fact that we’re talking about money that had already been proposed for the “Big Three” that they were due to get for retooling, only now they’ll be forced to use it to stay afloat if they can).

Update: If I were The Rude Pundit (which I most definitely am not; I would never dare to claim his mantle), I would have suggested that Dubya and co. tie Elaine Chao to a chair and threaten to visit unspeakable things upon her person to make Mitchy-poo play nice on the automaker bailout; sadly, it appears to be too late for such a tactic anyway.

Indeed, the “strategy” of denial has worked so well, in fact, that the Republican Party is, for the most part, now a regional, fraternal organization of middle aged white guys preoccupied with not letting gays marry, enforcing carry permits for all of our cities, studying all of the varied nuances of the NASCAR/Winston Cup driver points standings, and wondering when Lee Greenwood is going to re-re-release “God Bless The U.S.A.”

Also, please note above that I said “for the most part” about the Repugs, since Viguerie also proclaims the fact that (as noted here), Repug Anh “Joseph” Cao won election to the U.S. House from Louisiana’s 2nd District. If that seat sounds a bit familiar, it is because the person who held it previously and was defeated by Cao was Dem William ($90K Worth Of Bribes Stashed In The Freezer) Jefferson (wow, what a “triumph” for The Party of Dubya to knock off such an “entrenched” political figure).

So what exactly are Cao’s qualifications? Well, as we learn from the Moonie Times…

“The only thing I am certain of is that I am anti-abortion,” Mr. Cao said.

Of course (and kos has more here).

And finally, I should note that Viguerie tells us here that “Mike” Duncan is “running to keep (his) job” as head of the Republican National Committee (who, in keeping with his party in general, has a bit of a problem with the facts, as noted here).

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