A Word About “Fake” News (updates)

December 19, 2016

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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.

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More Deep (?) Thoughts On the 2016 Election (updates)

November 12, 2016

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(Which has ultimately led to the behavior shown in this pic, by the way – this ties into a bit of what I got into here.)

I saw this item from Hillary Clinton, and I thought I needed to respond.

Yes, Hillary Clinton is right to say that the despicable actions of FBI Director James Comey contributed to her loss to Donald Trump (ugh) in the presidential election. But I think the following needs to be pointed out also.

I previously decried low-information voters who don’t pay attention to this stuff like they should, and I said they were partly to blame. I stand by that, with some caveats particular to Hillary Clinton that I’ll try to discuss, for what it’s worth. I also said that it’s pointless to engage in a circular firing squad on this stuff, but I’m going to break my own rule on that a bit.

With everything having settled in a bit, here is my number one reason why Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election:

She didn’t close the deal with the voters of this country on how she would manage the economy on their behalf.

The irony of this, to me, is utterly stupefying, because that is pretty much how her husband won election, particularly in 1992. And when it comes to voting psychology in this country, voters ALWAYS vote first and foremost on the economy.

Memorize this and burn it into your collective brains once and for all, Democratsvoters vote first and foremost based on the economy. Every time (I would put a bit of an asterisk on that next to 2004, though, since the Repugs beat 9/11 to death for political purposes and the economy hadn’t tanked yet).

The economy was teed up as THE political issue for Obama in 2008 since it was going all to hell, and the McCain/Palin team kept missing the proverbial boat on that issue over and over, particularly concerning the auto industry. So Obama almost couldn’t help but wrap his campaign around that. And in 2012, he had a record of success with the stimulus to run on (versus Willard Mitt Romney, who the Obama campaign had painted as a thoroughly out-of-touch elitist, which to me was an accurate portrayal). That year, Obama also had the power of incumbency on his side, and it’s hard to overestimate how important that is.

The Clinton team had none of these advantages. And they didn’t campaign as if they realized that. And that created the tiniest bit of an opening for that moron Gary Johnson and that nothing Jill Stein to jump in and claim that mantle instead (even Trump himself, laughably trying to act like he actually gives a damn about workers’ wages and that he actually knows something about creating jobs when he had experienced multiple business bankruptcies; of all of the corporate media stupidity during the campaign, the failure to point that out over and over was probably their biggest blunder).

Returning to the prior presidency of Bill Clinton (and why in God’s name didn’t Hillary remind voters of that era of economic success??), Hillary could have brought back the 1993 Bill Clinton budget that did a lot towards kick-starting a pretty solid era of job and wage growth. More than that, she could have reminded voters that it passed without a single Republican vote, and she could have tied that into a message about electing down-ballot Democrats to Congress!

(For the life of me, I will NEVER understand why Democrats seem to run away from their past record of success, but Hillary and her campaign did that. She did a really good job of portraying Donald Trump as the utterly narcissistic, intellectually lazy sexual predator that we all knew he was, but again, as her supporters, we knew that. She definitely didn’t appear to understand what it took to win over independents, who are the people that, for better or worse, decide our elections…something particularly galling given the fact that she probably had an army of people in her campaign who were supposed to know that in their sleep! Of course, the “Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party” knows better, I firmly believe – I’m sure that theory will be put to the test before too much longer.)

Or how about this – after defeating Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, she could have said “I’m Bernie Now,” and brought EVERYONE from the Sanders campaign on board and thrown out this band of DNC Beltway sycophants who seem to do absolutely NOTHING but lose elections! And she could have run her campaign accordingly (“go to the left,” as Kyle Kulinksi, among others, pointed out).

OK, enough of this exercise. We are where we are. Let’s take some down time for ourselves to try and regain our sanity and our strength. Because we’re going to need it.

Starting next January 21st, it’s probably going to be Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride every day. We just have to hang on for dear life and keep fighting in hope of a better future, eventually.

Update 11/13/16: I respect Joan Walsh a lot, and she’s right in a lot of what she has to say here about how our corporate media favored President Big Orange Cheetoh over HRC (and I suppose it’s just part of the cycle that the Dems have to try to make nice with this monstrosity who is now president – though I definitely would offer this in response).

However, I believe the Clinton team should have foreseen that they would get this kind of treatment from the news networks with initials for names. Was it fair? Of course not. But it was good for ratings, which is all they cared about, and EVER WILL care about.

But when faced with that, the Clinton team should have made THEIR OWN media. There were some very well done videos that they produced, but I couldn’t find anything approximating an “elevator pitch” on the economy. And yes, I looked.

There’s no shortage whatsoever of social media at our disposal – in addition to videos, there’s also Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter of course, other blogs sympathetic to the cause, etc. If you don’t like what the corporate media is doing, you make your own damn media! God knows the wingnuts don’t have any trouble propagating their garbage (always angers me that they have no problem getting out their lousy messages across scores of simpatico blogs and other sites and we have so much of a damn issue with getting out our good ones).

Besides, you generate enough of your own buzz, then the “news” networks WILL BE FORCED TO PAY ATTENTION TO YOU, if for no other reason that they’ll have potentially a ripe new audience for their advertisers.

Also, Walsh is sadly correct about those who purport to be on our side who demonized HRC regardless of what she did, and that was no help either of course (you reading this, Jimmy Dore?).

Update 11/14/16: I know I’m beating this to death and I swore I wouldn’t do that, and I apologize, but here is another observation from last Tuesday’s electoral hellscape, and it is this:

Hillary Clinton spent way, WAAAY too much time beating up on “Donald Drumpf.” The irony is that that fired up the Democratic base, but again, it did absolutely nothing for independents.

Yes, Trump deserved all of that invective and more. But here’s the thing: the person at the top of the ticket is supposed to leave it up to his or her surrogates to do that while the nominee for prez articulates the “vision thing,” as it was once called (I wish I has a nickel for every time I saw Bill Burton go at it with “Maniac Megyn” Kelly when Obama ran in ‘08, but that was his job).

Yes, our corporate media blocked out anything Clinton did on that time and time again. And yes, it was a scummy and lowdown thing to do. But you know what? That would have happened for ANY Democratic presidential nominee.

The media has been pulling this garbage for years. Back when we had Comcast Cable, I can recall an otherwise pretty solid news guy named Arthur Fennell who used to give us campaign updates on Bush and Kerry, and EVERY SINGLE TIME John Kerry gave a speech, Fennell would talk over what Kerry was saying to give his “spin” on what was going on and we never heard Kerry say a word. Now I think Fennell was just following orders, as it were, but it was still a dirty trick.

There are a bunch of solid presidential candidates I can recall who didn’t win because they were lousy campaigners. Is that fair? Of course not, especially considering the consequences. But I believe HRC thought the power of her personal narrative, as it were, would be good enough to win. It wasn’t.

Update 11/15/16: There aren’t too many people out there as far as I’m concerned who I would call studious observers of exactly what kind of electoral devastation took place a week ago, but I would say that Kurt Eichenwald is definitely one of those people, and I think he administers a dose of reality here (I had a feeling the Repugs had some “oppo” stuff on Sanders they would use if they had to, and believe me when I tell you that the stuff Eichenwald tells us is eye-opening…not saying it should have turned the election or how much of it is actually true, but to say it would have been a shot of hate-filled adrenaline to the wingnutosphere is a huge understatement).


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