Tuesday, November 29, 2016

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Fake news is now being credited for Trump's victory.  The Washington Post reports that much of it emanated from Russia Today and Sputnik, on-line propaganda arms of the Kremlin, and was furthered along by botnets and paid trolls.  Of course, there is also a veritable rogues' gallery of homegrown reactionaries who love to spread fake stories and conspiracy theories.  Alex Jones is often credited as the source for much of Trump's false claims.  But, is this just another means of deflecting blame, as the major news media outlets often lent credence to many of these false stories by inviting the purveyors of this news smut on their shows?

CNN is the chief culprit, having many of Trump's supporters as panelists on their round table discussions, most infamously Corey Lewandowsky.  Over the years, they have also hosted Orly Taitz, principal leader of the Obama birther movement, and Roger Stone, who likewise will use any venue to spread his ludicrous conspiracy theories.  Of course, the anchors will do their best to discredit these persons, but why the hell invite them on your network in the first place?

At least Jeff Zucker is honest in saying that Trump may not be good for the nation but he's good for CNN. Zucker is the same guy who gave Trump his first high profile television platform in The Apprentice, riding the orange-maned steed to unprecedented television ratings.  It was a conscious decision on his part to give Trump all this free air time and make his surrogates an active part of his programming, regardless if what they said was often blatantly false.  Who cares as long as they boost ratings.

Everyone got in on the Trump ratings bonanza, including John Oliver who began to devote more and more of his time to Drumpf, as he liked to call him.  Trump was everywhere.  You simply couldn't escape him no matter how hard you tried.  So, these poor souls, including myself, set out to refute him or make fun of him, but we were no match for the Trumfinator.  He became the walking, talking embodiment of every false news story being spread through the Internet, daring anyone to fact check him because he knew it didn't matter.  Once the story was out there, there was no taking it back.

The aim was simple -- create as much doubt and confusion as you can leaving persons to rely on their own anecdotal observations rather than anything the mainstream media had to say.  You spread stories of welfare fraud and voter fraud and just about everyone can come up with an example to prove the allegations in their minds.  News pundits who tried to discredit Trump ended up looking like stammering idiots.  They were no match for the power of social media, which became Trump's primary weapon.

One can guffaw at what is said on social media, but any attempt to do battle on facebook or twitter quickly proves a futile effort.  As many times as I have used Snopes or Politifact or FBI or Census Bureau data to rebut some of the more outrageous stories spread by conservative friends, I am trumped by their personal observations or a link to some shady conservative website like Prager U, operated by the notorious Dennis Prager.

There no longer is any baseline in these "info wars."  This is what Alex Jones set out to do.  By creating a world of dark conspiracies that one could never fully disprove, he called all information into question, turning it into a battle of who could make the most outlandish argument and get away with it, simply by repeating it over and over again so that many persons actually think there is some element of truth in it.  He is our modern day Tail-Gunner Joe McCarthy.

He's not alone.  There are many, many more just like him, spreading fake news far and wide.  The Russians just figured out how to tap into all this anxiety and spread it even further, using their propaganda news programs as conduits.  But, none of this would have been allowed to grow to such gargantuan proportions had not the mainstream media lent credence to these bogus stories by allowing persons to air them on their programs.  Anderson Cooper devoted an entire segment to the Sandy Hook conspiracy theories in his attempt at "keeping them honest."  Much like the birther claims, CNN simply couldn't let a story like this go.  They hopped all their sanctimonious high horse to debunk a story that gained more traction the more they talked about it.

The evening news became a commodity, bought and sold with little regard to the truth, peddling its reality show premises rather than offer any kind of hard news, much less serious criticism until the damage is done.  It is like watching a slow-motion train wreck.

Now these former bastions of journalistic integrity are looking for scapegoats, whether it be the Kremlin or Alex Jones or Donald Trump himself, when they only have themselves to blame for helping to perpetuate this surreal world we now live in.  This is why news should not be part of the corporate media.  Mainstream television and print media can no more serve as news watchdogs than facebook, youtube and twitter, especially when they make their news feeds part of social media.  

All you can do is counter it and hope you will get as many likes and shares as the next person.  This is now what drives all media, whether it be Kylie Jenner's scanty selfies or Katy Bolduan's hot legs.

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