“Fake news” has been all over the Interwebz lately. Fake news websites deliberately publish hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation. They twist and manipulate headlines and use social media to drive web traffic to their sites.
Most of my conservative friends immediately point to the mainstream media (CNN, NBC, CBS, the Washington Post, and the New York Times) as an example of “fake news,” while venting their outrageary at their favorite clickbait garbage (see: Zerohedge, Conservative Treehouse, Breitbart, and others) being named to the list. There’s no doubt the mainstream media leans left. I mean, really – Donna Brazile feeding the Clinton campaign debate questions? Democrats significantly outnumbering Republicans in newsrooms? That’s nothing new.
But there’s a difference between obvious manipulation of reporting, fake news, and slanted editorializing and coverage.
It makes a difference in the larger scheme of things to point out those differences, because right now, what I’m seeing is everyone jacking off to their own confirmation biases, based on some pretty spurious “reporting.” And it’s coming from both sides. Liberals immediately point out that they don’t trust Fox News or the Washington Times, while conservatives spit on the New York Times and other mainstream media, while worshiping the likes of Breitbart as gospel. Libertarians won’t trust any corporate media outlet, and prefer anything “reported” by Zerohedge, the Kremlin’s propaganda arm RT, and the conspiritards at InfoWars, if you can even call it that.
Outright manipulation is what media outlets like Zerohedge and Breitbart engage in on a regular basis, with misleading headlines meant to foment outrage, and legitimate news stories spun into utter excrement. I wouldn’t call them clickbait, but the manipulation is so clear and so intentional and transparent, that one has to wonder how stupid these outlets think their audience is.
Unfortunately, given the number of people I know who share these stories with froth-flecked zeal without doing further research, I may already have an answer to that question.
Biased reporting is generally true and verifiable, but manipulates and shapes public opinion by the information it omits, or how it shapes the story.
Clickbait is just that. Stupid, completely worthless, many times old news, marked by a lack of due diligence, research, or background.
For example, Zerohedge report recently hysterically and conspiratorially claimed “Obama Quietly Signs The “Countering Disinformation And Propaganda Act” Into Law.”
Oh noez! EVERYBODY PANIC! OBAMA IS GOING TO TOSS THE FIRST AMENDMENT OUT THE WINDOW!!
Not quite, boys and girls. What Zerohedge intentionally left out of the title of its panic-fomenting piece and the name of the legislation itself was the word “Foreign.” It sounds much better to imply that your evil government will control communications, doesn’t it? Just eliminate one little world, and your story becomes much more odious than it actually is.
Also, if you look at the Act itself, it’s a lot less nefarious than the Big-Brother-Truth-Ministry-Control-Your-Freedom agency this ass monkey Tyler Durden, writing for Zerohedge, makes it sound. It was part of the National Defense Authorization Act, and is appropriate in a national defense context.
Information warfare is a real thing. Russia has been buying media outlets abroad to help shape a pro-Russia message, even as it threatens the stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of its neighbors. Foreign propaganda, outright false reporting (see: little green men or the downing of MH-17) is a problem that could threaten national security, especially when barely informed conspiritards take to the streets and demand foreign policy action about issues they barely comprehend based on little more than outrage and a refusal to research and analyze information. It makes all the sense in the world to have a panel to evaluate its effects and come up with messaging to counter outright lies, and that’s really what this legislation does. It doesn’t threaten free press in the United States. Hell, it doesn’t even threaten foreign press! It simply creates (sigh) yet another bureaucracy, which will analyze information and come up with appropriate strategies to counter adversarial propaganda efforts.
(a) Establishment.—Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall establish a Center for Information Analysis and Response (in this section referred to as the “Center”). The purposes of the Center are—
(1) to coordinate the sharing among government agencies of information on foreign government information warfare efforts, including information provided by recipients of information access fund grants awarded using funds made available under subsection (e) and from other sources, subject to the appropriate classification guidelines;
(2) to establish a process for integrating information on foreign propaganda and disinformation efforts into national strategy; and
(3) to develop, plan, and synchronize interagency activities to expose and counter foreign information operations directed against United States national security interests and advance narratives that support United States allies and interests.
(1) Integrating interagency efforts to track and evaluate counterfactual narratives abroad that threaten the national security interests of the United States and United States allies, subject to appropriate regulations governing the dissemination of classified information and programs.
(2) Analyzing relevant information from United States Government agencies, allied nations, think-tanks, academic institutions, civil society groups, and other nongovernmental organizations.
(3) Developing and disseminating thematic narratives and analysis to counter propaganda and disinformation directed at United States allies and partners in order to safeguard United States allies and interests.
(4) Identifying current and emerging trends in foreign propaganda and disinformation, including the use of print, broadcast, online and social media, support for third-party outlets such as think tanks, political parties, and nongovernmental organizations, in order to coordinate and shape the development of tactics, techniques, and procedures to expose and refute foreign misinformation and disinformation and proactively promote fact-based narratives and policies to audiences outside the United States.
(5) Facilitating the use of a wide range of information-related technologies and techniques to counter foreign disinformation by sharing expertise among agencies, seeking expertise from external sources, and implementing best practices.
(6) Identifying gaps in United States capabilities in areas relevant to the Center’s mission and recommending necessary enhancements or changes.
(7) Identifying the countries and populations most susceptible to foreign government propaganda and disinformation.
(8) Administering and expending funds made available pursuant to subsection (e).
(9) Coordinating with allied and partner nations, particularly those frequently targeted by foreign disinformation operations, and international organizations and entities such as the NATO Center of Excellence on Strategic Communications, the European Endowment for Democracy, and the European External Action Service Task Force on Strategic Communications, in order to amplify the Center’s efforts and avoid duplication.
And while, I’m not a fan of additional bureaucracy, Russian propaganda, is a real issue – especially when it comes to our allies – as the Russians buy up foreign media outlets, establish hubs in major countries, while restricting foreign ownership of media outlets at home.
Unfortunately, those who believe this crap simply grab the story and help propagate it, rather than doing research to see what it’s really about. Another conspiritard grabs it, then another, and another, and another. Before you know it, the manipulated story goes viral, and people are citing it as the gospel truth.
Another recent example is a story in the Washington Examiner – a snoozer of a website aimed at ignorant conservatives that in late December claimed that national newsrooms were “sanitizing” the Ivanka Trump harassment story, after the daughter of the President-elect was harassed by an unhinged, hysterical passenger on a JetBlue flight.
What’s really remarkable here is that even though media’s coverage of the incident has centered almost entirely on Lasner’s say-so, many headlines have omitted any sort of allusion to his own use of the word “harass.”
A little research would have revealed the Examiner bullshitting its readers by pointing to these outlets’ Twitter feeds as proof of some kind of censorship conspiracy. But each story very specifically mentions the harassment of Ivanka as the reason why the unhinged individual was removed, and the Examiner’s own headline manipulates facts.
If you actually CLICK on the stories linked in these Twitter feeds, as I did, here is what you will find.
Reuters: Lasner tweeted earlier that his husband was chasing the couple down in the terminal “to harass them.”
Yahoo: “Ivanka and Jared at JFK T5, flying commercial,” Matthew Lasner, a professor at Hunter College, tweeted. “My husband chasing them down to harass them.”
AJC: “My husband (is) chasing them down to harass them,” Lasner wrote in one of the since-deleted tweets.
Washington Post: In since deleted tweets, Lasner, who specializes in urban housing policy, wrote that he and his husband were “kicked off the plane” after his husband “expressed displeasure in a calm tone.” In a previous tweet Lasner wrote that the couple had spotted Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner and that his husband “was chasing them down to harass them.”
CNN in story highlights: Someone allegedly harassed Trump’s eldest daughter and her husband onboard a flight
CNN in a full version of the story: Another now-deleted tweet posted to Lasner’s account at 8:29 a.m. ET said, “Ivanka and Jared at JFK TF, flying commercial. My husband chasing them down to harass them. #banalityofevil”
The Washington Examiner was obviously relying on its readers indolence and unwillingness to do their own research, but merely read the stories cited in hopes of fomenting misplaced outrage at this particular case of media bias.
And then there’s
Breitbart Trumpbart, which ranks right alongside Salon, MotherJones, and Occupy Democrats Social Regressive Retards on the scale of utter douchebaggery, and that has provided today’s Internet stupid! Not satisfied with merely biased reporting, these shitslurping fuck goblins went a step further to disseminate an absolute lie of a headline that was not only factually inaccurate, but so quite obviously meant to foment unhinged batshittery among its readers, that one glance ought to tell you to run, not walk to your nearest research facility – virtual or brick!
Warner Todd Huston, who wrote this particularly opprobrious turd, apparently didn’t even bother to do research on what the medal is, and if he did, he chose to leave out the facts, choosing instead to highlight the unhinged Twitter rage by hysterical ignorami and try to pass it off as journalism.
It isn’t. It’s simply batshit crap. Trust me, there’s plenty of issues on which the current POTUS can be criticized, without manufacturing outrage that’s so stupid, it feeds into the left’s confirmation bias about conservative media. Like that’s needed!
The Distinguished Public Service Medal is not given by the President. It’s given by the Secretary of Defense. There’s no basis to assess that Obama somehow ordered Ash Carter to give him a medal, other than the right’s deranged hatred of the current POTUS. A little bit of research would have also revealed that two Presidents in recent times have received the Distinguished Public Service Medal: George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, both awarded toward the end of their presidencies. Is Trumpbart really going to claim that Bush and Clinton both ordered their respective SECDEFs to award them medals? Or does that dubious honor only apply to Democrats? Apparently the rights’ disdainboner only gets turgid for Democrats – to such a degree, that publishing obviously misleading information is not frowned upon.
If we are going to criticize the mainstream media for obviously biased reporting, shouldn’t we at least make a nominal effort to look in the mirror first?
Otherwise, all we’re doing is giving the left ammunition in showing that conservative media is exactly what they claim it is.
Cue screeches of “BUT CNN, NYT, WAPO, ETC. ARE FAKE NEWS!” in 3… 2… 1…