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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.

Jenna Abrams Exposes American Media’s Stupidity

“Jenna Abrams had a lot of enemies on Twitter, but she was a very good friend to viral content writers across the world,” begins a Daily Beast exposé on a Twitter user that turned out to be the creation of the Russian-controlled Internet Research Agency. The article is meant to alarm readers about Russian influence in mass media, but in fact just shows how dumb the American media really is.

According to the Daily Beast, Jenna Abrams “at one point boasted nearly 70,000 Twitter followers.” Despite an “audience” amounting to 0.0002 percent of the U.S. population, her tweets ended up being quoted in articles published by a wide variety of news organizations and websites, including USA Today, The Washington Post, HuffPost, The Daily Caller, The Telegraph, CNN, and even the New York Times.

Why? I’ve talked about the tendency of lazy journalists to use Twitter as fodder to churn out articles and drum up fake controversy before. It’s easy to find a handful of tweets and quote them in an article, creating a perception of disagreement or consensus on an issue. The fake Jenna Abrams account gave them exactly what they wanted.

So who’s really to blame for getting trolled by the Russians? For an industry that supposedly prides itself on checking its sources and being the gatekeepers of factual information, they sure didn’t do a good job verifying to whom they were giving a wide platform.

Now media outlets are covering their asses by pretending Jenna Abrams and other fake accounts were “popular” and “influential” during the previous presidential election. A few thousand Twitter followers, many of whom were also probably fake, on a national scale is less than statistically insignificant.

Anyone can create a Twitter account, pretend to be whoever they want and say whatever they want. It’s ridiculous how much the news media cares about what anyone says on Twitter, or any social media for that matter, but that’s why the media’s credibility is at all-time lows.

Media Bias in JFK Doc Dump

I’ve been avoiding politics and enjoying the beautiful autumn weather, but I came across the following articles today and this blog post fell into my lap. This is another illustration of why I’m thoroughly disgusted with the news media, especially since this past election.

There are no perfect people or perfect presidents, and politicians are often the worst people you’ll ever meet. However, there’s no denying the national news media has taken off the gloves when it comes to President Trump, often completely fabricating controversies in order to paint him in a negative light.

Case in point: these “news” articles about the release of thousands of classified documents related to President John F. Kennedy’s assassination held by the National Archives and Records Administration. Look at these headlines:

They make it sound like Trump personally decided to release the files over the objections of national security officials. The Washington Post explicitly says so: “President Trump announced Saturday morning that he planned to release the tens of thousands of never-before-seen documents.”

The implication being that “unpredictable Trump” is once again putting national security at risk.

Completely disingenuous. The Washington Post admits, “The 1992 Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act required that the millions of pages, many of them contained in CIA and FBI documents, be published in 25 years — by Thursday. Over the years, the National Archives has released most of the documents, either in full or partially redacted.”

So not only was the date of their release set 25 years ago (all classified documents have a declassification date), but most of them have already been released. Where’s the story? The Washington Post wants you to believe the documents fuel conspiracy theories. And how would releasing the information, rather than keeping it secret, fuel conspiracy theories?

(“Conspiracy theorists were rejoicing” according to Slate)

It doesn’t really matter. All they care about is using the issue to once again bring up how President Trump has mused over conspiracy theories and associated with conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones.

Here’s a far more accurate headline from the Washington Times: “Trump says he won’t block scheduled release of secret JFK assassination files.” This is actually an informative article explaining what is happening and why, without the toxic spin.

So rather than take the opportunity to educate the public about the documents and their possible impact on what we know about JFK’s assassination, the usual suspects use it as just another opportunity to smear the president. My eyes can’t roll any harder.

The Most Important Article You’ll Ever Read

I’ve mentioned before how I’m disgusted with the news media and social media in general. I used to be a news junkie, listened to talk radio, and collected newspapers and saved articles I thought were interesting. I can barely look at the news anymore. My social media feed is filled with posts from people who should know better, sharing the worst kind of hysterical nonsense.

However–the following article popped up in my feed recently and it is brilliant. Just to preface this, I’ve never read this blog before and I don’t know the author. I have no idea whether there’s an ulterior motive behind it. All I know is that everyone should read this article:

Here are some highlights:

“Your captive attention is worth billions to them in advertising and subscription revenue.”

“To get a story picked up by the News Feed Editor, news producers (and human editors) have changed their strategies to stay relevant and stem losses. To do this, many news organizations have adopted a traffic-at-all-costs mentality, pushing for more engagement at the expense of what we would traditionally call editorial accuracy.”

“For many users, the headline itself becomes the story, even if it doesn’t resemble the original factual event.”

You get the picture. I’ve never read an article so succinctly, accurately, and clearly explain what’s happened to the news over the past decade. You could argue this trend started before social media, but that’s splitting hairs as far as I’m concerned. The important thing is recognizing what’s going on and why, and why you should avoid being taken in by it and not perpetuate it.

Have I fallen victim to the media hysteria? Sure. As the article explains, it’s hard not to because this stuff is deliberately designed to circumvent your reasoning. But that’s all the more reason we should remain vigilant and be more aware of the media we consume.

Predictable Race a Media Conundrum

I used to love reading the news, now I can’t stand it. The national news media has become an absurd parody of itself. In the latest freakout, the news media convinced millions of people that the special election to fill Georgia’s sixth congressional district was a crucial test for Donald Trump’s presidency. Republicans have held the district since 1979.

In a result that should have shocked no one, Republican Karen Handel, Georgia’s secretary of state, defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff, a 30-year old newcomer who doesn’t even live in the district. What is surprising is how well he did–48%. Unprecedented Democratic spending made this the most expensive House race in history. We were expected to believe this election was a referendum on President Trump and a Democratic victory would be devastating to Trump’s agenda. One “expert” even predicted (hopefully, I assume) rain would keep Handel’s voters away.

Look at this NPR headline:

“Karen Handel Hopes to Win Traditionally GOP House Seat”, as though she’s the underdog! In the wake of Handel’s victory, we’re told Democrats are “despondent” and the electoral loss was a “massive blow.” “When will they [Democrats] win?” CNN, based in Atlanta, Georgia, asked. “Democratic strategists and candidates are pondering what went wrong.”

Who decided this race would be an easy win for Democrats? Why was it even important to begin with? (Even if Ossoff won, Republicans would still have a 43-seat majority in the House)

In the end, voters voted business as usual. Frank Bruni at the New York Times at least gave an honest assessment when he wrote, “Democrats were swimming against the current in Georgia. The House seat that their sights were on had been safely in Republican hands for nearly four decades. Georgia’s Sixth District is purple only if you scrunch your eyes just so. If you un-scrunch them and look at it honestly, it’s red.”

The election was actually really close. In previous elections in that district, Republican candidates have won by a landslide. Ossoff is the first Democratic candidate in that district to win over 40% of the vote since 1974. Why isn’t that a news story? Suddenly there’s “nothing to see here” because events didn’t pan out as hoped.

Read the rest of this entry

White House Spokesman Says Tweets are Official Statements

Well, this is awkward.

A day after arguing the national news media was crazy for treating President Donald Trump’s twitter feed with the same weight as official White House policy or executive orders, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer poured gasoline on the fire by saying: “The president is the president of the United States … they [tweets] are considered official statements of the president of the United States.”

The news media, of course, held a triumph. Not only did this validate CNN Editor-at-Large Chris Cillizza’s argument (et al.), but it fed into their narrative of a disorganized and rudderless White House because the statement was at odds with what other Trump advisors have said.

Now, just because Sean Spicer said they are official statements, doesn’t make them so, but it certainly makes it difficult to argue otherwise. The weight of social media is not something that will be spelled out in black and white, it’ll be determined by the conversation we’re having now.

Personal social media accounts should not carry the same weight as social media accounts officially associated with a job or public office. It’s a dangerous road when we can’t separate the man from his position. This was the problem with those National Park Service employees tweeting against the administration. I have no problem with them doing so on their own time, on their own social media accounts, but not their work accounts.

It is illegal for Federal employees to engage in politics while at work, using government equipment, and in their official capacities. This is a little more ambiguous when it comes to the military, where you can be prosecuted for criticizing the president at any time. But, essentially, the idea is that citizens of the United States have a right to express their political opinions on their own time.

@realDonaldTrump is Donald Trump’s personal Twitter account. @POTUS is the official Twitter account of the President of the United States. Is there a difference? Yes! Or at least, there should be.

Are Trump’s Tweets Official Policies?

According to Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large, not only is there “no difference” between President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed and official policy statements and executive orders, but Trump’s tweets are actually more important than official White House statements. No, this is not satire. An editor at CNN actually made this argument earlier today.

I’ve written before about CNN’s obsession over President Trump’s Twitter feed, but this takes it to a whole new level. I thought the cable TV network was just being lazy by constantly making news out of the president’s social media posts. Now I’m starting to believe they’ve actually lost their minds at the CNN Center in Atlanta. To quote the article:

On “New Day” Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka echoed that sentiment, insisting to host Chris Cuomo that “it’s social media, Chris, it’s social media. You know the difference, right?,” adding: “It’s not policy, it’s not an executive order. It’s social media. Please understand the difference.”

Here’s the thing: There is no difference. And, in fact, Trump’s tweets are actually more important than the more formal statements coming out of his White House because they represent something much closer to what he believes on nearly every issue.

Except there is a difference. One has the force of law, or at least creates policies and rules for federal employees to follow, the other does not.

TIME actually called out President Trump today for signing documents that had no official weight. In a press conference at the Oval Office, the president signed a “a decision memo and letter transmitting legislative principles to Congress” regarding privatization of the Air Traffic Control system. Like a tweet, neither document actually does anything.

But to illustrate their point, CNN actually references a Twitter account that creates counterfeit White House press statements using Trump’s Twitter feed. Thousands of people have already re-Tweeted those documents, and from browsing the comments, it looks like a fair number think they are officially coming from the White House.

If I were president, I wouldn’t use Twitter or any social media. I think it’s a terrible way to communicate with the public, especially for an elected official. But the U.S. president is not a king whose word automatically becomes law. Let’s get real. Tweets and social media posts are not meant to be official proclamations, and should not be taken as such by a legitimate news organization.