All the News the Editors See Fit to Print
Decades ago while in high school I read John Dos Passos’s USA. It was published in the 1930s before television or cable news. But it presaged well the strange mixture of important and ridiculous news we receive today. News today is largely fashioned into narratives by mostly young, unworldly reporters and biased news editors, repeated on TV by well-coiffed, fashionably garbed and cosmetically buffed up news readers, jazzed up by often highly biased photo editors and presented on a plate to passive consumers.
When I read USA, my hometown had -- like most larger cities -- two major newspapers, one liberal, the other conservative, and like most homes we got both and read both so we had a fairer picture of what was happening in the world. The reporters were often grizzled veterans of the world who drank hard, smoked a lot, and believed no one or nothing without evidence.
With the advent of television and the monopolization of print markets it seems to me we lost the ability to forensically analyze the news; we have become passive consumers and got what we deserved -- propaganda, largely megaphoning the increasingly leftward tilt of the Democratic Party and various “nonprofit” organizations who promote scare stories about food, health, and the weather and challenge wars only when a Republican is in office. To be sure, there are some fine people (operating largely online) who take the time to read the accounts with a critical eye. Among the best are James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal, bloggers Don Surber, Glenn Reynolds, Sheryl Attkisson, and Tom Maguire. If you read them daily you may reacquire this lost, but important art.
This week the clash between fake and real news became even more obvious.
Sharyl Attkisson who has sued the Department of Justice and the U.S. Postal Service for matters relating to intrusions on her computer and who is known for her outstanding reportage, took aim this week at the Obama-Clinton suggestion that Clinton lost because of fake news reports. Obama called “fake news” a “dust cloud of nonsense” and Clinton dubbed it “an epidemic”.
My online friend Matt Holtzmann has some questions about this:
So the president lectured the media and the masses on fake news during his press conference today. Does that include the Journo-List? Does it include enlisting the National Endowment for the Arts to engage in a propaganda campaign for Obamacare? Does it include the video that Hillary Clinton broadcast on Pakistani network television blaming an obscure video? Does it include "if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor'? Does it include his visits to the fake news shows? [ed: Like the Daily Show and Colbert]
Attkisson herself also weighed in on the issue:
Wednesday on Newsmax TV’s “The Steve Malzberg Show,” while discussing the 2016 presidential election’s fake new controversy, “Full Measure” host Sharyl Attkisson said fake news is a “propaganda campaign” to censor truth started by politicians like President Barack Obama and Clinton ally the founder of Media Matters Democratic operative David Brock.
Attkisson said, “Before about September 13, if you searched the news you won’t find many or any mentions of fake news. But as soon as there was, in my view, a propaganda campaign to put this on the plate of the American public, the news media and politicians including President Obama went hog wild with the term and it started making headlines every day. It wasn’t a new invention.”
“And yes, fake news exists but the idea that there is this huge campaign behind it to controversialize certain reports and censor, in my view, certain views is a propaganda campaign,” she continued. “And I think when David Brock, Hillary Clinton’s ally from Media Matters, announced that he would be the arbitrator, or help be the arbitrator, of so called fake news, that sort of sealed the deal that the whole thing is a propaganda effort and a political effort, not really an honest effort to seek out facts, but more to determine for other people what truth they should hear.”
Right on cue, Facebook announced it was empaneling a group of outsiders, including Politifact, Snopes, ABC, AP, the Washington Post and Poynter’s IPCN to announce to readers which sites are fake and to jiggle with the news feed to spare the readers from seeing them often.
Obviously, this is intended to shield Facebook from liability for news posted on the site, but it appears ill considered. The far left manipulator George Soros, for example, funds Poynter. AP regularly shades its stories, as my editor friend in upstate New York, Steven Waters, keeps noting, and the Washington Post just admitted this week it had posted a fake list of fake news sites.
As for the news organization fact checkers, James Taranto has regularly exposed them as – well -- fakes, the way he nailed Politifact years ago:
PolitiFact’s 2013 “Lie of the Year” was the central ObamaCare fraud: “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” As this column noted at the time, the site had previously certified the promise as “true” (2008), then equivocated and labeled it “half true” in both 2009 and 2012.
Everyone’s entitled to his own opinion, but “fact checkers” think they’re entitled to call their own opinions facts. As the president perpetrated a fraud on American consumers, journalists have often helped him along. They would never dream of doing the same for an unscrupulous CEO of, say, a beer company.
This week, he covered more of the “fact checkers” and reminded us of Politifact’s song and dance on ObamaCare:
To be sure, in 2008 and 2009 the claim was not yet a lie, merely a promise; and in 2012 it was not a demonstrable lie, or at least not as clearly demonstrable as it was when policyholders had in fact started losing their plans. But it is difficult to understand how a categorical promise could be “half” true at any stage. (Maybe ObamaCare should be renamed Schrödinger’s Care.) And a promise is not a factual claim at all, so its truth or falsity is purely a matter of opinion.
Others have noted that PolitiFact has often given different ratings to what were substantively the same statements from different sources, usually with Democrats getting the benefit of the doubt when compared with Republicans.
Take the concession he got from Matt Cooper, Newsweek’s editor, that the commemorative issue of Hillary’s electoral victory, accidentally shipped out before the returns came in, was ridiculous and had never been seen by Newsweek’s editors, and Carlson’s mind-boggling interview with the wacky Newsweek reporter who claimed out of thin air that Trump had once been institutionalized for mental illness.
Iowahawk could not contain himself at the news AP was going to be on the prowl for fake news and tweeted:
“In related news, Anthony Weiner announces he will be working with Ashley Madison to stop online adultery.”
The award for fake news purveyors of the year has to go to the Washington Post and New York Times for peddling the sore loser Democratic fable that the Russians hacked the Clinton and DNC emails, passed them off to Julian Assange who published them in Wikileaks to help Trump. Why the Russians would want to hurt “Reset” Clinton -- who was certain to follow Obama’s ineffectual --policies toward Russia and who, among other things, as Secretary of State in a clear pay-to-play move let them buy up 20% of the U.S. uranium supplies -- is an obvious, unspoken flaw in that argument. But there is much more to discount this story.
In the first place, her email server was insecure; in March of 2015 Don Surber showed how anyone could hack into her system.
The RNC was not so clueless and stopped attempted hacks. So the suggestion that Russia hacked both sides but only slipped to Assange the Democrat’s is poppycock.
In the second place, the Washington Post and NYT accounts claim that all the intelligence agencies and the head of the FBI concur that the Russians did it. These largely unverified and mostly anonymously sourced pieces conflict with earlier stories that the agencies are in disagreement.
Comey and Clapper have not responded to these latest accusations, whose only named source is the CIA’s Director John Brennan, but prior to these accounts Comey had a conversation with president-elect Trump in which he discounted the theory that Russia had provided the information to Wikileaks:
In telephone conversations with Donald Trump, FBI Director James Comey assured the president-elect there was no credible evidence that Russia influenced the outcome of the recent U.S. presidential election by hacking the Democratic National Committee and the e-mails of John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
What’s more, Comey told Trump that James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, agreed with this FBI assessment.
The only member of the U.S. intelligence community who was ready to assert that the Russians sanctioned the hacking was John Brennan, the director of the CIA, according to sources who were briefed on Comey’s conversations with Trump.
“And Brennan takes his marching orders from President Obama,” the sources quoted Comey as saying.
In Comey’s view, the leaks to the New York Times and the Washington Post alleging that the Russians tried -- and perhaps even succeeded -- in tilting the election to Trump were a Democratic Party effort to delegitimize Trump’s victory.
During their phone conversations, Comey informed Trump that the FBI had been alert for the past year to the danger that the Russians would try to cause mischief during the U.S. presidential election.
However, whether the Russians did so remains an open question, Comey said, adding that it was just as likely that the hacking was done by people who had no direct connection to the Russian government.
This account is in accord with those from members of Congress who had interviewed Comey and reported that he disagreed with Brennan, and with the New York Times' own account in October:
Law enforcement officials say that none of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government. And even the hacking into Democratic emails, F.B.I. and intelligence officials now believe, was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.
Hillary Clinton’s supporters, angry over what they regard as a lack of scrutiny of Mr. Trump by law enforcement officials, pushed for these investigations.
The most damaging of the leaks involved the DNC’s work to knock Bernie Sanders out of the running. Isn’t it more likely that someone inside the organization was angry and provided the damaging emails?
Today, news organization, as the Nation notes, “do overtly what the CIA has paid it to do covertly: regurgitate the claims of the spy agency and attack the credibility of those who question it.”
When the Democrats lose a presidential election, they work harder at delegitimizing the winner than they do respecting the democratic process. When Gore lost, it was “selected not elected” and Bush “lied us into war” -- all fake. This time -- as a result of the fecklessness of Clinton-Obama and Kerry – president-elect Trump faces a far more dangerous world than they found. The Chinese just stole an underwater drone of ours in off of the Philippines, Russia is continuing to threaten Europe, the EU is crumbling, and the Democrats’ childish nonsense, fed by the big-time fake newsmakers, is an even greater threat to us all.