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Opinion: “Fake News” Claims, Debunked

Examining how “fake” the news really is, and the methods by which our news is circulated.

The terms “fake news” and “alternative facts” went uncoined until America’s 2016 presidential election — probably because the words “propaganda” and “lying” already existed. But along with this unprecedented election, unprecedented president and unprecedented assault on democracy come unprecedented opportunities to strain spoken language to the breaking point.

As a candidate, D.J. Trump railed against “the media” with startling regularity, accusing them of unfair coverage or blatant lying. The trouble is, most of what he says about the media and “fake news” is, as we’ve come to expect from him, just more hot air. Fake news is real — but the fact is, Trump is not being targeted by it because he’s president — he’s being conned by it because he’s just another credulous voter.

 

CNN Is “Fake News”?

Trump’s disingenuous (or just plain dumb) assaults on the mechanisms of journalism didn’t stop with the general election. He doubled-, tripled- and quadrupled-down on his baseless accusations as President-Elect by concurrently refusing to answer basic policy questions and referring to CNN as “fake news” for asking them in the first place.

These outbursts were clearly ham-fisted attempts at self-preservation once the conversation about Russia turned decidedly against him — an investigation which has now totally eclipsed any chance he had at a “normal” presidency or maintaining the illusion of legitimacy.

Said Trump: CNN’s reporting on the investigation is something “Nazi Germany would have done.”

Oh?

 

Modern Technology, Modern Lies

Is he right about Nazi Germany?

As usual, Trump has seized upon a kernel of truth and blindly and incorrectly appropriated it for his own ends. He’s right that fake news — in the form of misdirection and misinformation — was used as a tool during World War II, but the truth is it was the allies who used it to disrupt and distract the Germans.

As you can imagine, propaganda and fake news only continued to flourish once modern communication technologies arrived on the scene. The transformation of the so-called “information industry” has been so complete that identifying propaganda is now less a matter of defining the word “fake” and more a matter of defining the word “news.”

Another critically important piece of this puzzle is social media, which has become a hotbed for the dissemination of fake news. Countries like Germany are recognizing that Facebook and similar sites have a moral obligation to remove content that is illegal or in conflict with reality. As social media platforms continue to be the subject of dialogue regarding playing a role in combating fake news, U.S.-based social media companies should monitor Germany and other countries’ trends toward increased regulations governing monitoring and takedown obligations.

Everybody has a right to be vocal — but being vocally dishonest is like shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater that houses seven billion human beings. We can and must do better.

 

Fake News: It’s Everywhere

Nevertheless, fake news is absolutely everywhere.

The New York Times recently hired Bret Stephens to help “provide another perspective” on manmade climate change. He did this in his inaugural column by suggesting that Conservatives would be more likely to discuss climate change if us Liberals were just a little bit more polite about it.

Is snowball-wielding Republican Senator Jim Inhofe holding out for a more “polite” discourse? No reasonable person could think so. He’s either lying, or he’s not interested in learning anything new about how the world works.

The same is true of Trump. None of his behavior thus far suggests there’s any deliberate design to the things he says and does on an average day. He likely watches Fox News constantly in the White House because it doesn’t require anything of him intellectually. He dispenses half-truths and outrageous falsehoods on a regular basis because, like Senator Inhofe, he’s an old dog who can’t learn new tricks.

He flings accusations at “the media” and “the press” because he never really expected to win the presidency with such a long and colorful history of crimes that could have, and should have, landed him in handcuffs. And now he needs a distraction.

He’s fomenting and weaponizing mistrust because he’s a cornered animal. Trump is the fake news.

 

A Tendency Toward Speaking the Truth Is Neither “Partisan” nor “Fake”

Here’s the bottom line: On nearly all of the occasions Trump has lashed out at a mainstream news outlet for being “fake,” it was a direct response to a criticism they leveled at him. Here are just a couple more of the many times Trump has spread accusations of “fake news”:

  • When the news media reported that Trump’s golden boy and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had become a person of interest in the Russia investigation, Trump called the leaks “fake news.”
  • Trump has attempted to discredit the intelligence community, and in particular the FBI, at every turn by referring to the allegations against him as a “witch hunt.”
  • Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer, whose every day on the job looks like his first, regularly berates reporters and accuses them of lying when they ask slightly inconvenient questions he cannot answer without losing his job. He said of Politico’s Tara Palmeri: “She is an idiot with no real sources.”

As you can see, when Trump himself is not muddying the rhetorical waters, he’s getting his lackeys to do it for him. Everything about this administration was, accidentally or deliberately, constructed to lower a kind of haze of confusion atop American politics. And maybe it’s working — because despite the fact that Trump has been in contempt of the Constitution since the moment he was sworn in, he’s still got a job.

 

Weaponizing Mistrust

Trump’s agenda against the press provides tacit permission for something common and all too human: the rejection of points of view that differ from what we’ve already chosen to believe. Both the political Far Left and Far Right have a habit of rejecting or campaigning against voices that report the facts but draw inconvenient conclusions from them.

Translation: When an online news outlet like AlterNet reports that the libertarian daydream of privatization has ended in disaster everywhere it’s been attempted, it’s not because saying such a thing is consistent with their identity as a “liberal news source” — it’s because they recognize their commitment to the truth, and the truth about privatization has been well-documented by a variety of authoritative voices.

Information and blind trust have always been used as weapons, but the ubiquity of information and the speed at which it travels mean they’re more dangerous than ever. And if we can’t willingly fact-check a man like Trump — who has decades of small and huge lies under his belt, most of them well-documented — we might be in more trouble than we realized.


Guest Author
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Kate Harveston is originally from Williamsport, PA and holds a bachelor's degree in English. She enjoys writing about politics and social justice issues. When she isn't writing, she can usually be found curled up reading dystopian fiction or hiking and searching for inspiration. If you like her writing, follow her blog, Only Slightly Biased. You can also email her at kateharveston@gmail.com with questions or writing opportunities.

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180 thoughts on “Opinion: “Fake News” Claims, Debunked

  1. 100% agree. BUT

    Was it not CNN that manufactured stories–it was a big bruhuha a while back Was it not Dan Rather lying that was a big issue? Was Katie Couric’s “film” filled with dissembling? Was the Duke rape scandal fake news? You’re damn right they all were.

    Is the intentional phrasing of stories by reporters to be worse sounding than needed “fake” news? I consider it so. I listened to 2 NPR stories on the same subject, with the same facts in the story, 12 hours apart. Only the headline changed. One was neutral, the second was decidedly anti trump.

    Everything above this sentence is an example of “fake news”. BS stories, opinion stories presented as “hard news”. Shitty/lazy/agenda driving reporting with or without the politics.

    And let’s not have support for your post by citing Germany, and Euroland in general’s anti free speech, alleged “moral” duty to get rid of speech they don’t like. Cite the most oppressive “free” countries in the world as justification? Nice.

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    • This is quite right. We also shouldn’t forget the Gray Lady’s infamously deferential coverage to the administration in the run up to Iraq 2 or the current characterization of the war in Syria.

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      • I wouldn’t classify it as a “hit piece”. The points are valid in such that “fake news”, which has been going on longer than the last pres election cycle, is indeed a real problem, but when you view the “problem” as being with one political side, it’s tends to prevent you from seeing the mote in your side’s eye.

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        • To me, this article seems to be focused on proving that fake news is an issue for only one side. After the last slightly biased piece there seems to be a trend. But hey, this is a left leaning website so it’s par for the course.

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          • I would totally agree that the article, as presented, is standard “we need to fight against fake news”. That was the point of my OP. That “fake news” is not new, and that it’s not just a right problem. Yes, this community is more left than right. Generally, the postings and commentators have more insight, experience, and nuanced opinions than what I can access elsewhere. That’s why I keep coming back to read it and engage in commentary.

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            • I think all reasonable people would agree that, “That “fake news” is not new, and that it’s not just a right problem.” Sadly that doesn’t seem to be the take of the author.

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  2. has ended in disaster everywhere it’s been attempted,

    5 cases is not a statistically significant sample. There are other places where privatisation of some things has worked. There are plenty of places where nationalisation of things has gone wrong. There is also a matter of what it is that is being privatised. Privatisation of telecommunications has worked well in the UK. Privatisation of utilities has also worked well. The key to success in privatisation is not just selling a particular erstwhile government service off to a private company, but also ensuring that companies can regularly compete for customers. For some things, that is not possible. So privatising prisons is a bad idea. Privatising energy provision is a different matter. Privatising some of its legal dispute resolution is something that Singapore is experimenting with and it may or may not work out. Privatising parking need not be a bad thing. About half or maybe more of all parking spaces in the UK are private and the parking meters* work well enough. The problems with privatisation in america (or at least those 5 instances) can just as well be attributed to the corrupt way in which the state handled the privatisation.

    *It is not so much metered parking but pay and display.

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    • The problems… can just as well be attributed to the corrupt way in which the state handled the privatisation.

      There are an awful lot of things that can be attributed to the corrupt way the states handle things.
      If there’s a corrupt way of doing things, the state is likely, not only to find it, but to make it their favorite way of doing things.

      Dereliction of duty among the legal profession is also a *HUGE* issue [EDIT: meaning “a significant contributing and enabling factor”]; specifically, of the judiciary, of the administration of the courts, and of the ethics committees that govern attorney misconduct at the state level.*
      There is a fairly prominent view that for private citizens to assert enforceable rights constitutes an existential threat to the state; that the rights of the several states are forever tenuous and in imminent danger, and were private citizens to be discovered to maintain some manner of enforceable rights, the continuation of the state would be threatened.
      IOW, citizens observe rights in the aggregate rather than individually.**
      ___________________
      * IANAL. However, I will soon be attending an Ivy League law school, so I can sign that under my name, and when people point out a presumptive impossibility of knowing Thing #1 about The Law, I can say something along the lines of, “Were you of sufficient quality to attend an Ivy League law school, you would already know that, in Ivy League law schools, that X is unethical is part of the instruction received.”***
      In a world which revolves on credentialism, everyone has someone higher than them, with the exception of the Chief Justice of the SCOTUS.

      ** Which is why I say the lens of traditional Right/Left dichotomy is insufficient for understanding the SCOTUS, which is, instead, divided into a Statist faction and a Non-Statist faction, with the numbers heavily favoring the Statists.

      *** To my knowledge, smug contempt is integral to practice of law. I’m sure there will be some kind of clinic for it; else, I will have to settle for the CLE credits.

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      • There are no rules against holding your future profession in contempt, and there are plenty of people out there who regularly write about all the mistakes that the Supreme Court has made, going back to Marbury v Madison.

        Dereliction of duty among the legal profession is an interesting turn of phrase, though. What duty? To whom is it owed? What are the obligations under this duty? How many people agree with you about the existence, scope and direction of this duty?

        Most lawyers spend most of their careers representing corporate and individual clients on issues that are defined by state and federal law. The number of lawyers who can truly shape the law — appellate and supreme court justices, a few professors and a tiny number of appellate advocates — is microscopic.

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        • :

          1). Thank you. You have restored my faith in mankind.
          For the time being, anyway.

          2). By “dereliction of duty,” I mean to understand court clerks tampering with public records and usurping judicial authority (Springfield), CSO’s falsifying entries in security records the property of the United States government (C.D. Ill.) (which would see a sailor before a captain’s mast in a heartbeat), ethics committees which see no wrong-doing in falsification of physical evidence, judges who invalidate statutes arbitrarily (and such things as observing a notice requirement in ex parte hearings), personal counsel of a bankruptcy trustee permitted to provide legal services to a bankrupt before that trustee, and, generally, the judicially-perceived imperative of protecting and promoting every form of incompetence, unethical conduct, and acts in excess of lawful authority undertaken by government employees.
          And Judicial fatwa. This is an issue I intend to raise within the WGAE and the ASJA, in hopes of forming some manner of organized response from the profession, as I truly believe this is the single greatest threat facing the industry.
          To illustrate, say, George Lucas & the Mrs. are on the outs (heaven forbid), and dissolution imminent; so, the Mrs. flees to another state to file for an order of protection, then obtains a copy of Star Wars from Amazon prior to service, claiming disallowed contact; and the court finds Mr. Lucas in indirect contempt, as Amazon could only act as the personal agent of Mr. Lucas in supplying copies of his films to the general public.
          What is says to me is an absurd superfluity of funds directed toward women’s groups to combat domestic violence; else, they would be among the first to decry misspending of funds. Instead, they are gleeful that the courts blindly accept any contentious argument stated, without regard to, or perhaps because of, outstanding relations between 501(c)(3) employees acting outside of their scope of service and the person to whom services are rendered.
          This is a matter which threatens the livelihood and property of every screenwriter, every journalist, and every author.

          3). I have less contempt for the profession than contempt of those I see as having contempt of persons on account of pursuit of some other vocation. I hope to work within the system to change it for the better. I hope to work outside of the system toward the same ends as well.

          Again, and with all seriousness, thank you.

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    • Come to think of it, privatizing prisons and allowing “customer” choice sounds like a great idea.

      You’re sentenced to some time in prison. You may select any prison in the state that has vacancies at which to serve your time. You may change prisons upon request, at most once every six months and allowing one month processing time.

      Prisons that don’t get chosen by convicts don’t get any state imprisonment funds, and either go out of business or step up their competitive edge by improving their rehabilitative services and humane treatment…

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      • David Friedman has written at length about this sort of thing. Roughly, it doesn’t work because humans don’t think that way and because institutions are variations on old institutions – there is path dependence.

        With this example, the narrative that prisoners are customers seems unlikely to sell. It lacks scapegoating. Essentially, things like prison rape are defacto standards – “well ,behave then.” The entire concept of penitentiary was a noble experiment that utterly missed the point that isolating people utterly makes them crazy.

        The “revolution” begun with Kahneman/.Tversky is very slowly taking form; we will see if it has influence on institutions going forward. But even in science, “progress comes one funeral at a time.”

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    • It’s also worth pointing out that a lot of those examples are not actually privatisation, they’re outsourcing of a government function. “Private Prisons” do not actually transfer the power to imprison to the private sector – that remains the prerogative of the government. Similarly, its not like prisoners are getting to pick where they are imprisoned. The only customer of privately-administered prison is the government, and like any outsourced activity the client needs to manage their contractor to ensure they get the results they want.

      In the case of prisons in the US it would seem the governments in question either lack the contract management capacity to handle the prison contracts well, or they just don’t care how well the prisons perform. Both of these are reasons why outsourcing prison administration in particular would be a bad idea, but this is an area where the particulars matter a lot, so I would be hesitant to overgeneralise.

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      • “Private Prisons” do not actually transfer the power to imprison to the private sector – that remains the prerogative of the government….
        [O]utsourcing prison administration in particular would be a bad idea…

        There is another side of it, that private prison guards are not entitled to the commonlaw immunities of state employee prison guards, and this is of tremendous benefit.
        Only recently (Mar. 27, 2013), our courts have recognized that forcible rape by law enforcement officers on the clock is disallowed under our laws.
        (pdf)

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  3. If Bret Stephen’s “different perspective” on global climate change is just “yes there is man made global warming but can you be more polite about it?” then you seriously need to talk to actual deniers.

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    • The issue with Bret Stephens is multi-fold:

      1. The New York Times, whether it should or not, whether people want it to or not, has a reputation of being a national newspaper of grave importance along with the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. A few weeks ago Scott Purrit held up a Stephens column with a soft-peddle climate change denial as a “See we don’t have to do anything” and the imprimatur of the Times gives an idea respectability even if it doesn’t deserve it.*

      2. There is a more practical-partisan issue because a majority of the Times readers are center-left or liberal and why are they giving space to a climate change denier from the WSJ or to a social conservative like Ross D. The average Times reader is probably more of a fan of Paul Krugman or Charles Blow.** So this goes to the general anger in the air.

      *I am trying to think of an equivalent Bonkers column in the Straits-Time and a minister from the PAP using that column to justify a certain action.

      **Then there are in-betweeners like David Brooks and Maureen Dowd. I know a lot of Democrats and Liberals who can’t stand Brooks or Dowd. My mother, who hates the GOP just as much as any partisan Democrat, loves Brooks and Dowd. I’m trying to get the dynamic going on here and it always perplexes me.

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      • A person who understands that climate change is happening but declines to acknowledge any imperative to “do something” about, or who disagrees with the general opinions about what to do, is NOT a denier, and you damage your credibility when you treat that opinion as such.

        Seriously, stop that. It is expanding the definition to the point of irrelevancy.

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          • I don’t think it was just left which did this. The right also played a role by denying even correct applications of the term. Movement from the baseline where the term had a generally agreed upon meaning was that lefties expanded the scope while righties contracted it.

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                • Call us when liberals stop demanding the resegregation of a college campus or when they admit that blacks can be racist, because they seem to be in complete denial that racism exists and they’re bathing in it.

                  Likewise, they deny that the climate changes, frequently and greatly, and has been doing so since the end of the last glaciation period, when the changes were dramatic and for coastal liberals who’d invested in fancy sea caves with expensive art on the walls, catastrophic.

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                • Deniers really come in two flavors – those who deny that the climate is changing in any appreciable way; and those who accept things are changing but deny that industrialization has any part to play in it.

                  People who accept the changes, and/or even accept we have some responsibility for the recent changes, but are not inclined to believe we can significantly mitigate those changes are not deniers.

                  Non-mitigators might be a better term.

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                  • Yeah. We’re talking about two different things, I think. AGW accepters could be policy deniers (because of collective actions, enforcement mechanisms, etc). That’s a fair enough and in my view obvious point. Confusing a policy-efficacy person of AGW denialism is a category mistake. (Or some type of mistake anyway.)

                    My above comment was in response to notme’s claim that liberals destroyed the meaning of racism by over extending it, namely, that conservatives also contributed to that word’s demise by under-extending it to the point where the term didn’t apply to anyone anywhere. (Well, except liberals who are the real racists, of course.)

                    The point was that neither AGW nor racism denialism arise in a vacuum, but rather as a result of willful efforts by conservatives.

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                  • This is definitely true, but I’ve also seen quite a few people play tedious motte/bailey games where they flip between one (or even both) of the denier positions, and the “non-mitigator” position.

                    Still, being precise about such things is for the best.

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                    • I lump those Motte & Bailey types as a flavor of denier since that is where they ultimately retreat.

                      Personally I’m more of a non-mitigator because I see this as an oncoming freight train and we are stalled on the tracks. We can either bail out of the car and run, or get out and push it off the tracks, but stopping that train is a really tall order, it would take all of us working toward that common goal (like, the whole damn world), and shit, we can’t even agree on which sport is actually football.

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        • I think “climate change” needs to be jettisoned anyway. It’s possible for people to claim to “believe in climate change”, yet deny that humans have any role in it. Anthropogenic global warming is perhaps a better term, but a bit of a mouthful for the talking heads on cable news.

          And “AGW non-mitigator” doesn’t have the same ring as “climate change denier”.

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      • Well, practically anything Lee Wei Ling writes is idiotic. The government usually has the good sense not to listen to her. Andy Ho has got some influence and he occasionally writes the really stupid thing. But I don’t know any minister takes Andy that seriously. The straits times opinion section is not so interesting a place that Ministers take their cues from it. In fact, the direction of influence often seems the other way around: straits times opinions often post hoc justify stuff (some times really silly stuff) that a minister may have said. Maybe Jonathan Eyal. There is plenty of stupid in opinion sections everywhere. In fact, the Straits Times wouldnt be worth reading if it didn’t write something that was stupid every now and then.

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  4. As usual this lost me at ‘fire in a crowded theater.’ I feel like it should be mandatory to read actual first amendment case law before writing something like that. You dont even have to get into other questionable OWH opinions to note that the Supreme Court has spent the last century walking away from Schenck.

    Also the reference to Europe is incredibly ironic in context of this article. I’m wondering if people who look at that kind of nonsense as a model ever stop to think that even if America could constitutionally adopt something similar the enforcement apparatus would almost certainly be run by a federal agency. You know, the kind of institutions that currently answer to Donald Trump.

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    • Everybody has a right to be vocal — but being vocally dishonest is like shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater that houses seven billion human beings.

      No, no, no. In fact, on climate change it’s the opposite. The alarmists are shouting “fire!” and the non-alarmists are telling people not to panic over a theatrical effect.

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    • I strongly agree on both your points:

      1) For those who are unaware the speech act that Oliver Wendell Holmes likened to shouting fire in a crowded theatre was protesting against US involvement in World War One.

      2) The trouble with making fake news illegal is that you end up making what the government deems to be fake news illegal. This has some serious conflict of interest problems for the government. Consider that if there was an agency that regulated the media that way in the US, Trump would probably have put Steve Bannon in charge of it.

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  5. Countries like Germany are recognizing that Facebook and similar sites have a moral obligation to remove content that is illegal or in conflict with reality.

    there are no fewer than 3 questions being begged in this sentence.

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  6. So are we going to focus on the actual issues with this article, like the clear conflicts with the American legal and political tradition of free speech, or are we going to pretend for the umpteenth time that BSDI and there’s no difference between the party that elected a racist conspiracy nut President and the party that, you know, didn’t?

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    • Actually, I viewed the article as to be about “fake news”. So let’s unpack that, in all it’s glory. Let’s talk about the sided media putting out “news” for consumption of their own side. Let’s talk about objectiveness in reporting. Let’s talk about neutrality, or lack of it, in reporting. Let’s talk about state propaganda, foreign and domestic. And let’s talk about how we can improve all the above to reduce “fake news” in the context of american society and it’s robust free speech rights.

      Wanna take any or part of that?

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        • OK. Let me get down to the nub. Are you accusing me of “using it as springboard for ridiculous false equivalencies.” If so, fine, we’re done. If not, then why don’t you discuss it with me directly in this thread?

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          • Are you accusing me of “using it as springboard for ridiculous false equivalencies.”

            I am not. Your point in the New York Times and the Iraq War was well-taken.

            Stuff like that is a traditional way in which the press fails. It may hurt at the margins by robbing one of the institutions that could act as a gate-keeper as of the credibility it could use to battle the fakery, but it seems too much like explaining a variable with a constant. I don’t think the failures are the same—a lot of the fake news is deliberately faked by the people spreading it for immediate financial or ideological advantage.

            Mainstream outlets get fooled, and sometimes are far too eager to be fooled, but that’s not the same as trying to fool everybody for a buck.

            [1] Remember the Maine?

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            • Mainstream outlets get fooled, and sometimes are far too eager to be fooled, but that’s not the same as trying to fool everybody for a buck.

              Gee and all this time I thought that the NYT and CBS news were trying to make a buck. I guess they just do the news for the lulz?

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              • Intent isn’t everything, but it also isn’t nothing. The NYT et al. try to make a buck by selling people the news, and try (imperfectly) to get it right.

                Fake news outlets try to make a buck by selling people lies, and often go out of the way to get it wrong because that makes the stories more likely to spread.

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            • I agree to a large extent. And it’s not just to “make a buck” to persuade voters.

              But that’s intent. Regardless of the intent, the outcome, influencing voters/the populace still happens. I’d argue that’s more of a concern than some shady site making money. Perfect example is the Iraq war. Maybe a little less rah rah rah might have slowed the roll to invasion. (Maybe not.) Remember the “nurse” talking about Iraqi’s bayoneting infants during the invasion of Kuwait? Total fake news.

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    • I’m not convinced that Trump is much more racist than the median American, which, yes, is still pretty racist. At some point, thought, folks on the left are going to have to realize that merely saying “BSDI” or “false equivalence” is in no way a fully formed argument. At best, it’s an assumption awaiting evidence.

      Personally, I don’t have any illusions about Republicans being like the Democrats. They’re both terrible in their own special ways. Think of it this way. There are certainly a number of issues where Republicans tend to be objectively wrong and Democrats objectively right. Just like there are issues where Republicans are right and Democrats are wrong and issues where both sides just have a difference in preferences and opinions. It may very well be the case that, with this particular iteration of the GOP, the first category is much bigger than all the rest. But, and this is where I find fault with this article, I see little evidence that median partisan can reliably sort which issues go into which category. Instead, people pick a side based on general mood affiliation and lose most of their curiosity from there.

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      • I’m not convinced that Trump is much more racist than the median American, which, yes, is still pretty racist.

        The median American didn’t say that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, before an elaborate conspiracy arose to fraudulently assert he was born in the US on the off-chance that a biracial kid would be elected to the Presidency four decades in the future. The median Republican didn’t even say that (IIRC birtherism never polled much about 35% among the GOP).

        Trump, on the other hand, not only said this, but did so repeatedly, in very public ways, and was rewarded with the Republican nomination for it.

        This problem is distinctly asymmetric, and while you may well be right about the typical voter’s lack of ability and/or interest to sort things out on their own, the fact that one party’s leadership deliberately makes things worse at every turn does a lot to drive that asymmetry. Indeed, if you’re right, it just means that party leaders have an elevated responsibility not to spread arrant nonsense.

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        • How is it racist to assert that Obama might have been born in Kenya? Chester A Arthur was accused of being born in Canada, and McCain was attacked for being born in the Panama Canal Zone.

          I attacked Ted Cruz constantly and at length because he’s not a natural born American and thus not eligible for the Presidency.

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        • This problem is distinctly asymmetric, and while you may well be right about the typical voter’s lack of ability and/or interest to sort things out on their own…

          My point is that the asymmetry wouldn’t matter if voters were less bad at sorting these things out. I have zero interest in defending the Republican Party. But the fact that the contemporary GOP is terrible doesn’t just magically mean that the Democrats are right about everything.

          We get good policy by figuring out where one side is right and where the other side is right and fusing those sides into workable policy. That process has essentially broken down. And I honestly don’t care whose fault it is. I care about how to fix it. And so long as people are content to spend all of their time beating up on the worst representations of the other side, this will never get fixed.

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          • My point is that the asymmetry wouldn’t matter if voters were less bad at sorting these things out.

            Yes, we would be in a dramatically better situation if we could replace the electorate instead of the government, but… well, I think we’re kind of stuck with the one we have, at least in the short term.

            So we’re left with fixing the parties. And I’m not saying the Democratic Party is perfect or needs no fixing because it’s actually crap, but… the Republican Party is way, way, way more broken. That isn’t because Democratic voters are smarter, nicer, or even just snappier dressers. It’s that Democratic Party leadership, while it sucks and is disorganized and myopic and generally garbage, at least tries to do its job sometimes.

            Fixing all the identifiable issues with the Dems would only make for mild and unstable improvements in the state of the nation, especially given how much of a structural advantage a major party gets from just being a major party.

            Fixing the Republican Party so it’s merely mostly fucked, the way the Democratic Party is, would lead to much more significant improvements. Then we’d actually be at the point where both parties would be able to participate in a deliberative process aimed at figuring out which is right and which as wrong and get good policy.

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            • …the Republican Party is way, way, way more broken. That isn’t because Democratic voters are smarter, nicer, or even just snappier dressers. It’s that Democratic Party leadership, while it sucks and is disorganized and myopic and generally garbage, at least tries to do its job sometimes.

              Going back to the whole “the GOP is the party of God! Guns! Moats! & Money!” thing… for the most part, simply preventing any “progress” from the “Progressives” is actually fine.

              For Guns! it means preventing the Gun grabbers from doing anything and absolutely preventing any “compromises” which the Progressives would pocket and then scream for “more”. Ditto Money!, compromises always mean “increase taxes just part way” before the Progressive cry of “more” rings out, it never means “shrink the gov”. Moats! is fine with the current law, they just “want it enforced”. God! is mostly waiting for enough members of the Supreme Court to step down so they can replace them.

              I’m not trying to bring up any of these points and I certainly don’t believe in all of them, but in terms of “doing their job”, for the most part the GOP does a decent job where it’s possible.

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              • Going back to the whole “the GOP is the party of God! Guns! Moats! & Money!” thing… for the most part, simply preventing any “progress” from the “Progressives” is actually fine.

                Hell, if they were simply preventing any progress, this would be a fundamentally different argument. We’d be (more or less) well-situated to have the fight over policy that thinks we should be having. I don’t think the GOP is necessarily wrong about everything, any more than the Dems are necessarily right about everything.

                The problem is that the GOP as an institution has gotten extremely bad at screening out leaders who are completely unfit to, well, lead. For the most part voters are what j r says what they are, and having a lot of the senior leaders in a party peddling the most ridiculous nonsense is bad for everyone. I think it’s actually a relatively new thing in the GOP, with Sarah Palin’s nomination as VP being the first real sign of danger.

                Best case scenario is that the GOP loses badly enough over the next four years to straighten itself out, and goes back to fighting back progress without resorting to arrant insanity in order to do so.[1]

                Worst case is that this turns out to be the dominant strategy in American politics and the Democratic leadership also turns completely batshit.

                [1] Arrant insanity and the accompanying panic seems like a pretty poor way to get the government to slow its roll and not do stuff.

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          • We get good policy by figuring out where one side is right and where the other side is right and fusing those sides into workable policy. That process has essentially broken down.

            Yes and no. Yes, we’re not doing much. No, mostly that’s because there’s not much to do. The low hanging “the gov must do this and is good at it” fruit has already been picked. Mostly what’s left is “someone has a need, open your wallet“.

            Or to put it differently, we have a lack of consensus on what to do for most remaining issues. Where we do have consensus (think after 911), the gov acts decently fast and well.

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    • pillsy: So are we going to focus on the actual issues with this article, like the clear conflicts with the American legal and political tradition of free speech

      Fake news goes back to at least 1800 in the American political tradition.

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      • Exactly. We’ve had copious amounts of politically-motivated garbage flowing through the press for ages, and it’s unlikely that the First Amendment was ever conceived as excluding it [1]. Clomping in now the way the Germans are [2] because FB is now spreading lies faster and more efficiently is a really bad plan.

        Not saying that FB doesn’t have a moral responsibility to police its own platform. But turning that moral responsibility into a legal responsibility is the last thing we want to do.

        [1] Then again, they went from zero to Alien and Sedition Act pretty fast, so who knows.

        [2] The Germans being the people who prosecuted someone for insulting that goat-fucker Erdogan.

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    • But “parytyism” is the problem here.

      On one side, it’s “Tump is in cahoots with the Russians”. On the other, it’s “If I’d have done what she did, I’d be in jail.”

      It’s people intentionally damaging their epistemological mechanism in service of … something.

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      • Yet after a year of investigations, the intelligence heads say that Donald Trump was not in cahoots with the Russians. The FBI was even investigating him for that, or anything else.

        Whereas yes, if any of us did what Hillary did we’d be in prison. The Navy convicted a US submariner just for having a picture of his work station on his phone. Hillary had hundreds of classified documents on her computer. Then she destroyed the evidence (which normally gets one sent to prison), lied to investigators (which got Scooter Libby sent to prison), and tampered with evidence by secretly altering the e-mails she did turn over (which gets one sent to prison).

        There wouldn’t have been an investigation, or anything to hack, if she hadn’t been operating far outside the law.

        In contrast, even what Democrats accused Trump of isn’t so much as a misdemeanor. And of course it turns out their accusations are completely baseless, just more unhinged lunacy because Hillary got crushed.

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        • See? You’ve outed yourself :) The point is that people perceive these things differently. The larger question is: why should experience produce radically different results dependent on the experience of perceivers? Nascent neuroscience seems to be developing answers to this.

          But there’s a problem for Presidential appointees to be subject to the same strictures as submariners. For one, submariners are subject to the UCMJ. Civilian employees are also subject to criminal sanction. I do not know if treatment is different between active duty and civilian.

          Can’t the security team simply *tell* her that she’s using policy that’s out of date? It’s a “bug”, right? Fix it; don’t just play “gotcha” with it. And if they can’t tell,. does it matter?

          Leaks of classified info. are a timeless gambit in Washington.

          Surely it’s clear that there is the potential for abuse if cabinet appointees are held to 100% accountability for all security doctrine? If you’ve dealt with security doctrine, it can be a significant brake on productivity.

          We’re not even close to a Soviet level of corruption; we have a pretty happy medium.

          SFAIK, no set of rules-based behavior guides is ever “closed” – there must be judgement expressed.

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  7. because despite the fact that Trump has been in contempt of the Constitution since the moment he was sworn in, he’s still got a job.

    Um, yeah? Because the only way Trump would not be in his current job today would be an even more significant deviation from Constitutional procedures regarding removing Presidents from office.

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    • I don’t see anything in the Constitution or subsequent precedent that suggests that Trump couldn’t have been impeached the second after he was inaugurated.

      There’s also nothing in the Constitution that indicates that, for example, the Senate couldn’t have refused to confirm a single one of his nominees until he effectively and transparently divested himself of his business interests.

      Congress notably failed to exercise any of its wide array of Constitutional powers to make sure Trump complied with the Constitutional requirements of his office. It seems kinda weird to blame that on the Constitution.

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      • But aside from the obvious partisan dynamics, the Congress that is in place on the first day of Trump’s presidency was elected on the same day that Trump was by the same electorate. (or to be precise 100% of the House, 34% of the Senate was elected on the same day)

        You can’t expect a sudden rift when political fortunes have been tightly aligned.

        So the mechanism of impeachment is out until the next election. And the mechanism of the 25th is even more out, because the people deciding Donald’s fate are all hand selected by Donald for the jobs they’re currently in.

        Thus the only ways that Donald would not have his current job right now are extra-constitutional, or natural causes.

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        • You can’t expect a sudden rift when political fortunes have been tightly aligned.

          Right, but that has nothing to do with the Constitutional procedures in place, it’s because Republicans in Congress have chosen to enable the President’s refusal to adhere to the Constitution for grubby political reasons.

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          • My contention that they are heavily incentivized by grubby political reasons is the flaw in Constitutional design.

            For one, Constitutional design never accounted for political parties, thinking instead regional and sovereign state size differences would be the only political fault lines. (they weren’t wrong about the latter, they still basically aren’t, but the failure of imagination on political parties is a huge blindspot)

            But without political parties, the fact that Congressional elections are synced with Presidential ones creates an incentive against picking a fight with the President during the 1st two years of their term. (which, empirically, I think is borne out by recent history of Presidents as the first two years are usually the most consequential).

            In the original design, picking the President wasn’t at all small-d democratic, while picking the Congress was the most small-d democratic. But as things have evolved, picking the President is more small-d democratic* than the gerrymandered legislature, where well over half the seats are totally safe, and at least half the rest are rather secure except in a title wave.

            So that portion of the legislature that is most dependent of popular sovereignty is also now most correlated what popular sovereignty the President possesses, instead of being an independent expression of popular sovereignty that checks ‘elite’ excesses.

            Thus the impeachment mechanism is broken. But it’s been that way for a while, probably as far back as Andrew Johnson.

            *with of course, the most recent exception of the donut hole Clinton fell into

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  8. Translation: When an online news outlet like AlterNet reports that the libertarian daydream of privatization has ended in disaster everywhere it’s been attempted, it’s not because saying such a thing is consistent with their identity as a “liberal news source” — it’s because they recognize their commitment to the truth, and the truth about privatization has been well-documented by a variety of authoritative voices.

    I honestly cannot work out if this bit is serious or not. Surely, there are better examples, than Alternet and Salon, of news sources that pair a definite political point of view with a “commitment to the truth.” Or have I missed obvious satire?

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    • I sure as hell would not qualify Salon or AlterNet as “authoritative”. I just asked my wife (you know, the professional librarian, who knows a few things about authoritative sources) about this & she laughed all the way out the door.

      Hell, AlterNet is right up there with Breitbart.

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  9. Translation: When an online news outlet like AlterNet reports that the libertarian daydream of privatization has ended in disaster everywhere it’s been attempted, it’s not because saying such a thing is consistent with their identity as a “liberal news source” — it’s because they recognize their commitment to the truth, and the truth about privatization has been well-documented by a variety of authoritative voices.

    AlterNet has also recently broken its year long radio silence on Venezuela to report the an urgent problem in that nation.

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  10. I feel a little guilty piling on, but…

    Is snowball-wielding Republican Senator Jim Inhofe holding out for a more “polite” discourse? No reasonable person could think so. He’s either lying, or he’s not interested in learning anything new about how the world works.

    Maybe I’m unreasonable, but I’m pretty sure Inhofe’s point wasn’t that climate change is a hoax, but that take the most alarmist climate change scenarios as true on their face. Was he right or wrong? I don’t know. I can’t tell the future. And scientist don’t have the tools to reliably model that far into the future. So, when the news reports that Inhofe’s stunt was doing something that it wasn’t, is that fake news or not?

    Also, there’s stuff like this: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/hotpolitics/interviews/wirth.html, which documents congressional hearings on climate change that happened back in 1988

    What was it in the late ’80s, do you think, that made the issue [of global warming] take off?

    I think a number of things happened in the late 1980s. First of all, there were the [NASA scientist Jim] Hansen hearings [in 1988]. … We had introduced a major piece of legislation. Amazingly enough, it was an 18-part climate change bill…

    Believe it or not, we called the Weather Bureau and found out what historically was the hottest day of the summer. Well, it was June 6 or June 9 or whatever it was, so we scheduled the hearing that day, and bingo: It was the hottest day on record in Washington, or close to it. It was stiflingly hot that summer… What we did it was went in the night before and opened all the windows, I will admit, right? So that the air conditioning wasn?t working inside the room and so when the, when the hearing occurred there was not only bliss, which is television cameras in double figures, but it was really hot. …

    So Hansen’s giving this testimony, you’ve got these television cameras back there heating up the room, and the air conditioning in the room didn’t appear to work. So it was sort of a perfect collection of events that happened that day, with the wonderful Jim Hansen, who was wiping his brow at the witness table and giving this remarkable testimony.

    I am sure that someone will come along and explain to me why what happened back in 1988 was completely different than what Inhofe did and entirely defensible.

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    • Maybe I’m unreasonable, but I’m pretty sure Inhofe’s point wasn’t that climate change is a hoax, but that take the most alarmist climate change scenarios as true on their face.

      Global Climate Change Hoaxes and Me: That Sort of Thing is My Bag, Baby, by Jim Inhofe

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      • When you are the Senator from Devon Energy of course you write things like that. But you also have access to Larry Nichols.

        Larry Nichols is quite knowledgeable. I’m sure he has biases ( we all do, and people with more stake will have more biases ) but if you’ll look up his oral history stuff on the Tulsa University website, he’s not exactly a monster. He takes AGW seriously and says so.

        I’d also note that if inhofe wanted to, he could have spun that as “the agreements are the hoax.” I would not be surprised to find that this is how the text plays out but I’m not gonna read the book. He has an electoral obligation to say “Americans are over-regulated”.

        IOW, he has to say things like that to stay elected. The anthropic principle is a stone b*tch. Hate the game, not the playah.

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  11. I don’t see how you can write an article about Fake News and only once mention Facebook in passing. The phrase was born specifically to refer to the kind of stories that popped up there.

    On another point, does the following statement not say that German media were accurate during the Third Reich?

    “He’s right that fake news — in the form of misdirection and misinformation — was used as a tool during World War II, but the truth is it was the allies who used it to disrupt and distract the Germans.”

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    • And I think if we’re going to talk “fake news” we should draw a pretty bright line between “News stories which are/were wrong” and “News stories literally made up, and not for humorous purposes”.

      Because it was the latter that started appearing out of nowhere — it looked like a real news source, read like a real news source, but was entirely created from whole cloth elsewhere.

      Bias and error isn’t fake news. There’s a real difference.

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      • News:

        “newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent or important events.”

        Bias and error in “news” renders it not news. Not news = fake news. Here’s how I break it down:

        Fake news
        Bias/error “fake news” Intentional “fake news”

        It’s just a different subset than what’s commonly talked about.

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        • I don’t think bias is a good criterion for judging whether something is news. It’s essentially unavoidable in some measure, and I think that excessive attempts at avoiding it sometimes also compromise the value of stories.

          As for error, it’s tricky. Errors innocently made and then corrected when discovered are not, IMO, indicative of fake news.

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          • Errors innocently made I’m ok with. Errors due to lack of doing the job you’re supposed to do, aka Duke rape case, or that other one, which escapes me (the one where the frat boys raped the woman on broken glass and the school did nothing), no. Sorry, that’s fake news, since none of it was true and the truth was there to find.

            Presenting an opinion piece as “just the facts” news? That’s fake news.
            Taking a press release, rewording it and presenting it as “news”. That’s fake news.

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            • The other one was at the University of Virginia, and yeah, it definitely was produced with the same mix of ideological axe-grinding and reckless disregard for the truth that characterizes a whole lot of instantly recognizable “fake news” that dribbles its way through Twitter feeds and FB timelines.

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          • I think the distinction goes a bit deeper. The concept of fake news requires the concept of real news. Real news seems to be defined for lots of people as news which confirms a their priors, in which case fake news includes true, factually correct information.

            Without the concept of truth, the concept of fake news makes no sense. The problem – which I’ll grandiosely call The Crisis of Truth – is that people disagree on what constitutes the truth to such an extent that even bare facts are discounted as “fake news” when they don’t confirm a person’s priors. Which means that the person’s conception of truth simply is their priors, irrespective of evidence.

            Given that, I think the concept of biased news only makes sense as a mix of the two views of truth above: it combines the two concepts of news-as-truth into a mix where some of the news presented is true because it’s factually accurate and some of the news presented is true/fake to the extent it confirms a person’s priors.

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              • Right. Commentary about the news, while newsworthy in the “commenter X said the GOP is right to do Y” sorta way, isn’t getting to first order facts of the world. It’s not necessarily pure spin either, tho. Some commentary is actually grounded in facts and understanding as well and not motivated by a desire to shape a debate for purely partisan reasons.

                I saw this in action last night when conservatives were pushing really hard on the theory that Comey engaged in illegal activity by “leaking” the content of his memos to the press. Everyone agreed that as of right now, given the evidence we have, nothing suggests illegal activity. So the argument was framed around edge cases, like people’s views that traditional norms are that communications with the president in the Oval Office are closely held, and all the other commenters went along for the ride of turning a violation of a traditional norm into a potential violation of the law. That type of exercise typifies everything that’s wrong with the cable news and eye-ball driven media generally.

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          • Errors innocently made and then corrected when discovered

            Except those errors are often corrected quietly, down at the bottom of the article or on the back page, while leaving the errors intact without even so much as a strike-through[1] to denote a correction.

            Now, if the front page of every paper/news site had a link[2] to recent corrections, so people could see in aggregate how often the sites screw things up…

            [1] Obviously online editions only, paper copies can’t be recalled and edited.

            [2] Not sure what it would be called for a paper or magazine, but I’m envisioning some kind of ad or banner, perhaps below the front page fold or in the TOC showing where the corrections are listed.

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              • I swear it kinda goes back to the discussion the other day about being allowed to fail. I swear news orgs are terrified of admitting error in a story, so while they feel an obligation to issue a correction, they are going to be as obscure about as they can be because they don’t want to look like they can screw it up.

                One of our social ills is not just a fear of failure, it’s how utterly intolerant we have become of it (see also our criminal justice system).

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                • I’m intolerant of self righteous journalists who claim to be professionals and report, bias free, but I catch them reporting “facts” on topics I know to be clearly wrong, and hear them insert their opinion into stories.

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                • That’s another thing I saw play out last night: the reluctance to admit error. In his testimony Comey mentioned that a specific NYT article was mostly false. On follow-up he said something even more extreme, something like it was almost entirely false. Last night the NYT wrote some nonsense defending its reporting as +/- accurate despite Comey’s under-oath testimony and unique position of actually having first-hand knowledge of the facts of the matter.

                  Instead of trying to defend the almost entirely indefensible, the NYT should have directed that energy at tightening up the culture in their news room.

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                  • Comey and the NYT story seems to be a matter of definition — not whether a meeting happened, but whether the foreign party were foreign intelligence agents or not.

                    The FBI is notoriously pretty black and white on that subject, whereas the IC defines “foreign intelligence agent” more broadly.

                    Without details on what Comey feels is untrue, it’s pretty hard to claim the NYT should just back down — especially if their sources are solid.

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                      • If it’s a matter of a difference in definition between the FBI and, for instance, the NSA — what’s it matter if Comey is under oath or not?

                        He would use the FBI definition, the NSA would use their definition, and both Comey would be telling the absolute truth and the NYT would be telling the absolute truth despite it contradicting.

                        (As a note, I suspect the FBI’s view of “foreign intelligence agents” is much narrower because a lot of “foreign intelligence agents” operate under diplomatic covers, which means….as far as the FBI is concerned, they can’t be foreign intelligence agents or else things like “Meeting with the Russian ambassador” would be the same as “meeting with a spy” and that’d be a legal nightmare.

                        The NSA and CIA, of course, don’t really have that worry).

                        Like I said: The response has been this is purely definitional. Neither Comey nor the NYT’s sources disagree on who met and where, only whether or not the “foreign” half of the meeting were intelligence agents or not.

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                        • Well, they both can’t be correct, Morat. Comey knows more about this stuff than you ever will. He simply wouldn’t make an egregious and obvious mistake under oath.

                          Unless you think he’s lying….

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                          • I bolded the important bit. if you can’t grasp how that bit would lead to Comey and the NYT’s sources diverging, leading to fully honest testimony by Comey and fully honest reporting by the NYT (and fully honest sources) I’m afraid I can’t help further.

                            Without asking follow-up questions of Comey, we can’t ask why he doesn’t think those guys are intelligence agents

                            Especially in light of Comey’s next response:
                            (“Did you have at the time that story was published any indication of any contact between Trump people and Russians, intelligence officers, other government officials or close associates of the Russian government?” Cotton pressed.

                            “That’s one I can’t answer sitting here,” Comey said.

                            So yeah, it seems pretty clear that the NYT’s 8 sources think those guys were intelligence agents and the FBI doesn’t — or didn’t, when Comey was in office.)

                            NYT’s response:

                            Mr. Comey did not say exactly what he believed was incorrect about the article, which was based on information from four current and former American officials, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because the information was classified. The original sources could not immediately be reached after Mr. Comey’s remarks, but in the months since the article was published, they have indicated that they believed the account was solid.

                            One possible area of dispute is the description of the Russians involved. Some law enforcement officials took issue with the Times account in the days after it was published, saying that the intelligence was still murky, and that the Russians who were in contact with Mr. Trump’s advisers did not meet the F.B.I.’s black-and-white standard of who can be considered an “intelligence officer.”

                            But several former American intelligence and law enforcement officials have said that other American agencies have a broader definition, especially when it comes to Russia. They said that President Vladimir V. Putin uses an extensive network of government officials and private citizens with deep links to Russian spy services who supplement the intelligence apparatus and report back to the Kremlin. At least some of the contacts, they said, involved Russians who fit into this category.

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                            • Morat,

                              Comey obviously had something in mind when he said the report was mostly inaccurate, Morat. You’re going to have to ask him, and not the NYT, what he’s referring to.

                              IOW: we have conflicting views about certain events without enough information to resolve that disagreement. That’s just a fact. Just the state of play right now. You can spin it into a bunch of different “Comey’s confused” stories, but we don’t know that he is confused.

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                              • You notice when pressed as to whether those meetings occurred, he wouldn’t say in open session.

                                So again, I’m positing that the NYT is not wrong to stand by their story. They have a number of sources behind it, and a reasonable explanation for why Comey would disagree with it without disagreeing with the underlying facts (X met with Y).

                                After all, if you don’t consider them “intelligence agents” then the main thrust of the story is wrong. Yes the meeting occurred, but lots of meetings occur and the story wasn’t “People met” it was “Someone met Russian spies”.

                                But you’re the one with the weird belief that the NYT should immediately retract a well-sourced story (per them, at least) over stuff that’s been further confirmed (since then, there have been LOTS of stories about further meetings between campaign officials and sketchy Russians) by other outlets just because Comey disagreed “under oath”.

                                He didn’t say why he disagreed or even what he disagreed over. Lacking that, the NYT is right to stick to their sources (especially given, as noted, there have been confirmations that such a meeting was not a unique event. Trump associates can’t seem to STOP meeting with guys who have ties to Russian Intelligence).

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                                • I didn’t say retract. I don’t think that would be appropriate given the evidence at this point. You don’t retract a story without specific evidence regarding specific claims. I just find it interesting that you’re defending the NYT as if you had a dog in the fight (which you apparently do) and that the NYT didn’t say “we stand by the contents of our story and blah blah blah” rather than try to refute Comey with evidence Comey already said he thought inaccurate.

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                                  • You stated:

                                    Instead of trying to defend the almost entirely indefensible, the NYT should have directed that energy at tightening up the culture in their news room.

                                    I merely pointed out what the NYT’s defense was, something you strangely forgot to add. And that I, for one, didn’t find it “indefensible” — it actually make a great deal of sense, especially given the next few questions and answers of Comey.

                                    I’m glad you now have decided the NYT isn’t defending the indefensible.

                                    I do love the accusation that I have a dog in the fight. If I do, then so must you! Why are you so biased against the NYT that you couldn’t bring yourself to accurately represent their position?

                                    Do you really think that only someone clearly biased could disagree with you?

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                                    • Morat, in a pretty transparent way you’re demonstrating the point which started this thread: folks not being allowed to make mistakes. According to Comey, the NYT made mistakes in their reporting, yet you (for some reason) won’t concede that they did, let alone that they might have. Which is a strange place for you to be. Not so strange for them to be, of course, since they’re defending they’re reporting.

                                      Why the insistence that the NYT didn’t make mistakes in that article? How would NYT even know? More importantly, how would you know?

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                                      • If that’s what you think’s going on, there’s no real chance of communication in this thread.

                                        Suffice it to say, I find it’s a strange place for you to be where you get so puzzled that someone bothered to challenge your assumption.

                                        You started this by airily claiming the NYT’s defense was, well, indefensible. I pointed out it wasn’t.

                                        Which apparently, in your mind, makes me some sort of strange stooge of the NYT instead of just someone who disagrees with you.

                                        (I do find your comment about “folks not being allowed to make mistakes” hilarious. After all, isn’t it possible the NYT’s defense is correct? And Comey was simply using a narrow definition? And that you are, in this case, wrong? Nah, never happen!)

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                                        • Morat, the discussion started by noting that Comey said, under oath and regarding information which he has personally seen, that the NYT story was almost entirely false, a claim which the NYT attempted to rebut. But they both can’t be correct. Yet oddly, you’re taking the side of the NYT here, that they didn’t make any mistakes in their reporting. Which seems strange to me.

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                                          • But they both can’t be correct.

                                            Yes they can.

                                            The NYT actually walked you through it, as did I, and you have yet to actually address what they said.

                                            Which seems strange to me, as you seem smart enough to work out the basics enough to discuss it.

                                            I’ll leave you to your confusion, and refer you to the NYT article I linked if you ever feel like sorting it out.

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              • For months the press has told us that FBI Director Comey was investigating Trump.

                National Review’s review of those stories.

                Salon, January20 : “The FBI is leading an investigation into Donald Trump’s connections with Russia”

                The Atlantic, March 20: It’s official – the FBI is investigating Trump.

                The New York Times, March 20: “F.B.I. Is Investigating Trump’s Russia Ties, Comey Confirms”

                Slate, March 22: “The President Is Under FBI Investigation. Is This Normal?”

                Huffington Post, March 22: “Schumer: Delay Gorsuch while Trump Is Under FBI Investigation.”

                None of it was true. The press just made it all up. It was fake news.

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                • Given the Comey firing and other efforts/evidence of Trump’s desire to ramp down Russia probe I would be very surprised if Trump were not a subject in Mueller’s investigation at this point. And if not now, then soon. Which is why it’s important to keep an eye on Rosenstein’s behavior. Regarding Mueller’s employment status, he’s the decider.

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                  • Yeah. Keep petting that kitten.

                    This just in. After almost a year of investigation, the government has yet to produce any evidence of Russian involvement in the election. They think the Russians may have done some spearfishing, but our own hacking tools leave Russian fingerprints by design. Obama had the NSA monitoring Republicans. I doubt that was the full extent of it.

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        • I think we’re reaching the point with “fake news” that we reached with “racism” a while ago. We can broaden the definition as wide as we want, but once we get everybody to agree on that broadened definition, we can’t switch back and demand the same opprobrium for things that fit the new definition as we had for things that fit the old one.

          If “fake news” includes news that’s biased, fine. That’s the definition we’re working with. But now the term means basically nothing, which is unfortunate, because it used to describe a very real and interesting phenomenon. We’ll have to come up with a new term for that.

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          • Words have meaning. And even the professional reporters/journalists CLAIM to be neutral (they aren’t), so I don’t see why including a known problem with the industry into the category is an error.

            Or are you equating a discussion of “racism” with only talking about white on black racism? Because when I talk about racism, I talk about black on white, white on black, black on asian, asian on black, and all the other permutations.

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            • Words have meaning. And even the professional reporters/journalists CLAIM to be neutral (they aren’t), so I don’t see why including a known problem with the industry into the category is an error.

              That’s my point. It makes all news fake news. Definitions are fine, but if what comes out of them isn’t a useful term for discriminating different things, it’s hard to understand why we have it. I could define the term “premium news” as any news that makes some sort of factual claim about the world, but I don’t think the term would take off since it adds nothing at all.

              Or are you equating a discussion of “racism” with only talking about white on black racism?

              No, I’m talking about how we’ve broadened and broadened the definition of “racism” to include things like minor results from an implicit bias test. That may be a useful thing to do to broaden our discussion of the problem, but it also means that you can’t just label a person “racist” and expect a mob to form with torches and pitchforks to take that person away. The term can either be incredibly broad or it can be impactful. It can’t be both.

              The term “fake news” originally referred to intentionally misleading or flat-out fabricated stories that spread through the Internet mostly via social media and made everybody collectively dumber. That’s a really interesting category that needs some sort of a term. If we want to broaden the term in a way that’s useful to include other deeply problematic issues with mainstream reporting, OK. But you seem to have broadened it to the point where almost no news is not fake news.

              I feel like broadening “fake news” into a synonym for “news” is symptomatic of a growing nihilism toward news that often boils down to, “All news is fake, so I’ll just believe whatever I want without worry about what’s true.” We’ve decided that news quality is boolean and that everything fails the test, so why bother doing the hard work?

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                • You just happened to step into something that has become a hot button for me. It seems like there’s a growing chunk of America whose views on news have become… postmodern?

                  It’s almost like they’re discarding the whole idea that you can use news sources to discern facts about objective reality. Or maybe they’re just rejecting the idea that any source of information is better than any other at describing reality. Or maybe reality doesn’t exist. I’m not totally sure, but it’s terrifying.

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        • Then there IS no real news. No human is unbiased, nor error free.

          So having decided all news is fake, we’ll need to differentiate between “Error or bias” and “just made up”.

          Maybe we can call it “news” and “fake news” with the understanding that all “news” is, of course, subject to bias and error as it’s reported by humans.

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          • If you do that, then you can’t just declare everything “fake news” and choose your sources based on how they make you feel rather than how reliably they reflect reality.

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      • Personally, I blame The Onion (something that of course was born out of the fever dreams of people in Madison, WI).

        Actually, no, I don’t blame The Onion, I blame people, and legitimate media outlets, who regularly got taken in by The Onion as if it was a legit news outlet, rather than the satire site it always was.

        Those people, the ones who are/were too stupid or lazy to figure it out and ran around like panicked fowl, I blame them, since they showed that there was a ready audience for BS.

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      • Yeah. I’d like to see a sophisticated, well-delineated discussion of this topic. I found Trump’s co-opting of the term to be a meaningful critique on the original meaning of the term, not just a bit of jujitsu. The problem is that it resulted in what Troublesome Frog talks about above, that all news is fake if you use a sufficiently broad definition of “fake”.

        There’s no doubt that the preeminence of knowing things was replaced with the preeminence of knowing where to look things up in the past century, and now the most essential skill is knowing what to ignore.

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        • I don’t think that there is any more (or any less) partisan slant in how news is reported than there has ever been. News is being reported by people, and despite replication crises in social science we can still be pretty sure that it’s functionally impossible for people not to have opinions about things.

          The issue is that we’re learning how many of those opinions had been presented as facts; we’re learning that just because something has formal-sounding language, objective and neutral, that doesn’t mean it’s an actual fact.

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          • OK, but – There are statements that represent real facts. A person can have an opinion but still be capable of transmitting facts. And, while he may have an inclination to transmit a certain set of facts that would steer a listener one way rather than a different set of facts that would do the opposite, he doesn’t have to act on that inclination.

            Also, I’m not sure how your comment was addressed to my comment, but it was interesting so I’m not complaining.

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            • Not to mention partisan news outlets are, you know, common. If “biased” was sufficient for fake news, I believe the UK would have very few news agencies at all, for instance.

              Quite a few of their media outlets are quite openly partisan.

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              • There are two possible critiques of media here, and I think it’s worth distinguishing them. One is that biased reporting is common; the other, that unbiased reporting is impossible. I object to the second. It could be the case that England is filled with awful reporters. That wouldn’t contradict the first critique; it’d support it. It may even suggest the validity of the second one. It definitely doesn’t excuse bad reporting there or here.

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                • I don’t believe unbiased reporting is possible.

                  I do believe that framing exists, that interpretation is real, that presentation matters, and that all of these things go into the “opinion writing as reportage” that we’ve got used to seeing in news delivery.

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                    • I don’t know about DD, but I have, and if I don’t feel that I can sufficiently compensate for them, then I am upfront about them.

                      I don’t have a problem with biased news reporting, I have a problem with reporters who aren’t even trying to compensate and refuse to be upfront about it.

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                    • “Have you never, in your whole life, said to yourself, “I need to compensate for my biases”?”

                      Well, yes. Yes I have. But I’m not the one we’re talking about, here.

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                      • As soon as you admit that a person is able to be aware of his biases and attempt to compensate for them, you allow the possibility that a person can under-, over-, or exactly compensate for them. If it’s easier for you to think of it this way, a reporter can’t be unbiased, but can make a report whose bias nets out to zero.

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                        • ” If it’s easier for you to think of it this way, a reporter can’t be unbiased, but can make a report whose bias nets out to zero.”

                          I’m not having trouble thinking of it any way.

                          I guess people aren’t picking up on what I’m actually saying, which is that writers don’t do that but tell us that they do. Sometimes they’re just dishonest. Sometimes they think they have a good reason for it. Sometimes they genuinely don’t know they’re doing it, because they’re just writing the way they’ve always written and nobody’s ever told them any different.

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                        • If it’s easier for you to think of it this way, a reporter can’t be unbiased, but can make a report whose bias nets out to zero.

                          No.

                          Biases, for actual news people, generally tend to be via selection of facts and what is considered important.

                          There is no objective way to figure out what ‘really is important’. That doesn’t even make sense. Who decides a story is important?

                          And even if we only look within stories, let’s say within a story everyone thinks is relevant, and fairly apolitical, like an airplane crashing into a town:

                          There is a finite amount of time, and ways to look at the story. You can approach it from the direction of blame, you can approach it from the direction of the community it crashed into, you can talk about the people on the plane, you can expand outward and look at air traffic safety in general, you can look at government recovery efforts, etc, etc.

                          There is no such thing a ‘neutral’ viewpoint, there’s no God-given ‘correct’ amount of time on each viewpoint within a story, just like there’s no ‘correct’ amount of time to spend on each story.

                          And you shouldn’t be entirely ‘neutral’. Probably don’t want to give any time to that guy who insists that aliens shot it down.

                          This is not to say I approve of what the news has become.

                          News stories used to basically be covered based on ‘matter of most importance to most people’. (Well, most of the people they thought were watching the news…probably mostly white men, but that’s an entirely different discussion.)

                          And deliberate attempts were made to refrain from partisan positions while presenting facts. Not putting forward both sides, but instead putting forward the facts, end of story. When there was any editorializing it was in comments that were clearly editorial in nature.

                          The 24 hour news cycle changed that by moving on to stories that were not actually important, but talked about as if they were…which let Fox News not only have stories that were not important, but were all approached, as much as possible, from one direction.

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                          • One major issue with news, these days, is the competitive nature of it — and the fact that, well, sensationalism sells.

                            You don’t need to look further than the standard local news teaser: “Are pedophiles driving your kid’s school bus? FIND OUT AT 10:30 PM TONIGHT”.

                            No, they’re probably not. The answer is almost always “Maybe! Under some circumstances! But we couldn’t find any!”. BE AFRAID AND TUNE IN TOMORROW AT 10:30 to see if teachers are feeding your children cyanide in health class!”

                            I think that’s doing some freaking damage. (On a similar tangent, cable news. Jesus. My grandparents decided to stop watching it in favor of the local news, and their fear/paranoia/worry levels dropped drastically. They got all the same news, it just wasn’t a 24/7 drumbeat.)

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  12. In a previous article a couple of weeks ago (coincidentally on a similar topic by the same author), I suggested this in a comment:

    [E]vents occur, and those events are not themselves inherently liberal or conservative or of any particular ideology. They aren’t proprietary to particular partisans. A report of a particular event is accurate or not, the event is meaningful or not. What can fall into a liberal or conservative camp is a decision about whether a story is meaningful or not, and if it is, what dimensions of that story are the font of its importance.

    I stand by that. The amazingly different takes about James Comey’s testimony yesterday (“OMG Comey admitted he’s a leaker and that Trump wasn’t even a suspect! Trump did nothing wrong!” vs. “OMG Comey called Trump a liar and swore under oath that Trump told him to put the kabosh on the Flynn investigation! Trump is literally Nixon!”) is a really good example of that.

    What I see discussed the OP is Team Red intentionally lensing a small bit of ambiguity or imperfection in objective facts which otherwise lend themselves easily to Team Blue’s argument, such that the overall impression becomes misleading and deceptive. For instance, it is true that a certain number of climate change activists use unnecessarily hyperbolic rhetoric. And yes, there was at one time a theory that global industrial activity might trigger a cooler rather than a warmer climate, a theory which did not stand the test of time and scientific analysis. And there are almost certainly imperfections in the prevailing model of anthropic global warming in academic circulation today. None of that means that the theory of anthropic global warming is false, nor does it invalidate the need for decisive action that is effectively impossible without some form of governmental regulation in order to mitigate. But the presentation creates a set of emotional impressions that cast doubt over something that rationally does not deserve to be doubted. That can and often does go beyond “this is a conservative take on the subject” (which not only acceptable but desirable) and crosses into the territory of “deception.”

    TL/DR: truth can be lensed deceptively.

    I also notice that the last time this author published something, there was criticism of her pointing out that Team Blue has cognate behaviors. This time, I don’t see that in her OP and I see criticism aimed at her for not pointing out cognates. At the editorial level, I’m not sure what lesson to draw from this. Sometimes it seems important to point out BSDI and sometimes not. Not sure that there’s any particular rule about it, either. Here, I take her decision to omit even a token BSDI as a suggestion that there’s so much Team Red media product guilty of deceptive factual lensing, and the lensing is so strong, that any similar product from Team Blue isn’t worth discussion. This is enhanced by the tracing of a substantial amount of that lensing back to the President and the President’s immediate circle; deceptive fact-lensing is substantively different when it comes from the White House as opposed to pretty much any other source. If you as a reader and commenter think that the author has really left something important out of her analysis 1) you can offer up your own counter-examples in the comments section, and 2) if you think there’s too much material to include in a comment, write a guest post of your own.

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      • Not gonna do it. I respect an author whose position is “I said what I have to say in the post,” and is content to leave it at that.

        Also not gonna care too much about an accusation of a “hit piece.” Our authors are entitled to have and express their opinions, the same as our commenters.

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        • I understand if she isn’t able or capable of defending her opinions. It just makes them look weaker than they already are. We have two posts and both are anti right screeds. She is more than a little biased, but that is par for the course on this site.

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            • To me writers don’t deserve respect if they are afraid to subject their ideas to any kind of scrutiny and defend them. It’s easy to write something and not take comments, which is what I guess she should have done in the first place.

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              • A recent college graduate has certainly never been subjected to any questioning from the right, nor had to defend a position against a conservative counter-argument. Those things aren’t allowed to happen on campus, even in a simulation.

                So she probably has no idea that regurgitating left-wing group think results in anything more than a pat on the head and “good job!”

                But she’s cute, so I’ll send head pats to her.

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        • I just took it the article as an example of how recently minted journalism majors are being taught, what they’re being taught, and what perspectives they’ll have when they leave campus.

          It’s not particularly edifying, but not unexpected. I would say the problem, regarding bias, is that a blind person can’t see what they can’t see, or perhaps that if a person has never questioned any part of the received narrative, they won’t realize that it’s just a narrative, perhaps one that’s unsupported.

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            • Well, she’s working hard to become an established writer, but my guess is that she doesn’t even realize that left-wing bias represents anything other than stark reality. She likely hasn’t questioned the catechism, or even thought that any reasonable person could question it.

              Conservatives are racist bigot homophobic colonialists.
              We are destroying the climate and countless millions will die.

              etc, etc, all down the line.

              It’s a world view. Not a valid one, but a common one on the left, and one that’s so rigidly enforced and pervasive on campus that a person can graduate without realizing how shaky its foundations are.

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    • ” This time, I don’t see that in her OP and I see criticism aimed at her for not pointing out cognates. At the editorial level, I’m not sure what lesson to draw from this. ”

      Maybe the lesson is that people who haven’t got anything to bring to the table beyond “oh this is just BSDI stuff” should shut the hell up.

      When someone describes how Group X did (thing) and another person replies that Group Y also did (thing), the implied question is “why was (thing) okay when Group Y did it but not when Group X did it”. To the extent that there’s an attempt to absolve Group X for having done (thing) it’s only in a call for the same standards to be applied everywhere, for ethics to not be situational.

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  13. These outbursts were clearly ham-fisted attempts at self-preservation once the conversation about Russia turned decidedly against him — an investigation which has now totally eclipsed any chance he had at a “normal” presidency or maintaining the illusion of legitimacy.

    Eh? Trump is legitimately the President. He won the election, no one serious is claiming Russia hacked the voting booths. Even if Russia was behind HRC’s leaked emails… Trump still won the election based on what US voters did in the ballot box.

    As for him having a “normal” presidency, he’s never wanted one. Everyone, including his supporters, openly admit he’s not a conventional politician.

    When an online news outlet like AlterNet reports that the libertarian daydream of privatization has ended in disaster everywhere it’s been attempted…

    Everywhere? Poland. Much of East Europe. China. Even Russia is arguably much better off than in the old Soviet days where the store shelves were bare.

    Honduras is trying privatization because it’s a failing state. It’s not failing because it’s trying privatization. Nor is it clear that this is even a bad thing to try. Right now the police are horrible and horribly corrupt. Even assuming the critics of the plan are correct on what will happen, it’s Still not clear this is worse than what currently is happening.

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  14. Part of the problem with Fake News is Fake Expectations created by Fake Competence Porn.

    If you watch CSI, or NCIS, or Bones, or JAG or any number of god-awful shows, you’re likely to get a somewhat distorted view of police competence. You read about something going down and the cops did their research and investigated and found the guy, you’re sitting there nodding imagining Leroy Gibbs and Abby Sciuto rather than the team from The Wire or from Dexter.

    Same for computer labs, same for government work, and the same for journalism.

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    • What is interesting is how the fiction crowds out the reality.
      All of the hundreds upon hundreds of falsely convicted exonerated, and yet each instance is a unique occurrence that couldn’t possibly happen here.

      You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward— reversing cause and effect. I call these the ‘wet streets cause rain’ stories. Paper’s full of them.
      “In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”

      —Michael Crichton

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