Fake News

Fake News about Fake News

The news media loves pointing out “fake news” in order to differentiate their alleged “objective” and “fact-based” reporting from the outright hoaxes and propaganda being slung around social media. I came across this article in the Providence Journal, purporting to do just that. The article, however, reveals biases of its own, and shows how the so-called legitimate news media engages in propaganda to push their own political messaging.

The Journal headline reads: “Fake photo of Emma González went viral on the far right, where Parkland teens are villains,” which already is suspect. Are all Parkland teens villains to the far right, or just the ones who exploited a tragedy at their school to push a pro-gun control message? Is Cuban flag wearing, buzzed haircut Emma González representative of all teens in Parkland? Never mind that she intentionally projects an image designed to piss off conservatives.

That’s why I thought the photo of her wearing a Cuban flag was the doctored photo in question, but no, it’s a photo of her tearing up a paper target doctored to look like she’s tearing up the U.S. Constitution. Now I don’t doubt some people actually thought this was a real photo. I’ve seen some of my own friends on social media taken in by obvious hoaxes. But the photo is clearly political satire. I remember when Democrats used to edit President Bush’s face onto images of Adolph Hitler and Nazis. No one in the mainstream news media raised a big stink over that.

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Stop Watching Propaganda

I recently saw this meme imploring “Trump voters” to turn off Fox News and pick up a “real newspaper.” I won’t argue about the biases of Fox. Despite plenty of Trump criticism on that network, everyone knows they advance a center-right perspective. But the idea there are “real newspapers” telling you what’s REALLY going on is laughable.

What is a real news source? The Washington Post? New York Times? CNN? Since President Trump got into office, they’ve lead a 24/7 assault against his administration. CNN has been caught lying about negative information about the president and even had to force the resignations of three “reporters” after they got caught.

Hollywood has joined the crusade by lionizing the Washington Post in a recent film, The Post (2017), which of course according to critics is one of the best films ever made (88% on Rotten Tomatoes). The narrative about “an unprecedented battle between the press and the government” (hmm, sounds familiar…) stars Meryl Streep, who used her Golden Globes speech to attack Trump.

So even though Fox is a favorite target for the left, let’s not pretend the other news outlets are telling you the unvarnished truth either. They are advancing their own agenda aided by allies in other forms of media and entertainment. There is no “real news” anymore–only propaganda. A great deal of critical thinking is required to sift through this partisan battle for the public’s hearts and minds.

As for the meme’s other claim, allow me to let you in on a little secret: every politician in the history of human civilization has lied to their constituents. That’s a truth you can always count on.

Another Dishonest Headline from the Washington Post

Since I’ve disengaged with politics, I didn’t realize how many people were freaking out over the biggest tax overhaul in decades. If the Senate and House bills can be reconciled, it’ll mean the Federal corporate tax rate will lower from 35 to 20 percent. That’s huge, and the U.S. will be much more attractive to businesses.

It’s good for the stock market too. According to the Chicago Tribune, “Many companies plan to bring cash home from abroad and give a lot of that money to investors in the form of higher dividends and stock buybacks (which increase stock prices).”

Others have criticized the overhaul for potentially raising the national deficit and repealing the individual mandate requiring people to buy health insurance or face financial penalties. You’d think it heralds the apocalypse according to celebrities on Twitter.

So the Washington Post couldn’t help itself when President Trump seemed to equivocate on the final tax rate. According to a recent headline, “Hours after Senate GOP passes tax bill, Trump says he’ll consider raising corporate rate.”

There’s only one problem with this headline: Congress holds the purse strings. The President can’t do anything about taxes except sign or veto legislation Congress puts in front of him. This is Civics 101.

But that’s not even what happened. The entire article is based on an offhanded comment to reporters in which President Trump said, “Business tax all the way down from 35 to 20… It could be 22 when it all comes out, but it could also be 20. We’ll see what ultimately comes out.”

The President is clearly saying, “it could be 22 or 20… we’ll see what happens.” Meaning, stop freaking out about a bill that hasn’t even reached my desk yet. We don’t know what the final tax rate in the compromise bill will be. The sky could be cloudy tomorrow, or it could rain. Anything can happen.

The Washington Post interpreted this as, “Trump told reporters that the corporate tax rate in the GOP plan might end up rising to 22 percent from 20 percent,” which “could complicate sensitive negotiations to pass a final bill.” As though the President’s speculation has anything at all to do with what ends up on his desk! Sorry, our government doesn’t work that way.

You probably think this is a minor point, but the word “might” has intentionality behind it. It’s a prediction. Saying it might rain is different from saying it could rain. That turns into “Trump says he’ll consider raising corporate rate.”

Trump has no power to raise the corporate tax rate, nor did he say he’ll consider it. The Washington Post knows this, but decided to mislead its readers anyway.

Anatomy of a Media Hit Piece

lord_of_nazgulI came across this hit piece at the New York Times recently, that uses guilt by association to demonize White House Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon and scare its readership into questioning the Trump administration’s motives and legitimacy. The headline itself begins with dark and ominous tones. “Taboo Italian Thinker Is Enigma to Many, but Not to Bannon.”

Uh oh, who is this obscure Italian, and why is he taboo? And how can an obscure Italian philosopher be an enigma to many, when most Americans have never heard of him?

It begins,

Those trying to divine the roots of Stephen K. Bannon’s dark and at times apocalyptic worldview have repeatedly combed over a speech that Mr. Bannon, President Trump’s ideological guru, made in 2014 to a Vatican conference, where he expounded on Islam, populism and capitalism.

But for all the examination of those remarks, a passing reference by Mr. Bannon to an esoteric Italian philosopher has gone little noticed, except perhaps by scholars and followers of the deeply taboo, Nazi-affiliated thinker, Julius Evola.

The first sentence passes off opinion as fact, and sets the tone for how the reader is supposed to feel about the rest of the article. “Bannon’s dark and at times apocalyptic worldview.” (Cue ominous organ music.) The second paragraph delves deeper. It tells us Bannon made a “passing reference” to Julius Evola, a 20th-Century Italian occultist and fascist intellectual. What was this reference? You’d have to dig to the bottom of the article to find it.

Mr. Bannon suggested in his Vatican remarks that the Fascist movement had come out of Evola’s ideas.

As Mr. Bannon expounded on the intellectual motivations of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, he mentioned “Julius Evola and different writers of the early 20th century who are really the supporters of what’s called the Traditionalist movement, which really eventually metastasized into Italian Fascism.”

As the article points out, Bannon was actually incorrect. Evola used the fascist movement to promote his ideas, not vice versa. The real intellectual architect of Italian fascism was Giovanni Gentile. But so what? Bannon’s crime is having a passing knowledge of obscure philosophers and interwar European history? That’s like saying anyone who has read about terrorism is a proponent of terrorism.

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