Confirmation Bias: the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one's preexisting beliefs or hypotheses
Ever since some English author said the "The pen is mightier than the sword" everyone too timid to pick up the latter has turned to the former as a safer, shorter path to power. Well, today the microphone is mightier than the pen, particularly when it’s amplified by social media, which is weaponizing words to where anyone with a cellphone can amass a following eager to believe, and practice, whatever they preach. Hey, it’s all in the name of the greater good of free speech, right?
In pondering a response to this not-so rhetorical question, allow NBN to offer up some industry character insight it witnessed in 20 years working for the Fourth Estate in the name of the First Amendment: There’s the small-town tabloid owner who inexplicably wrote a very sympathetic front page piece on the parole hearing of a high-volume 1970s pot smuggler who also owned the local supermarket. Then there’s the city desk editor who enjoyed a very cozy relationship with a state senator who in turn enjoyed a very cozy relationship with a local sewer system business under NBN investigation. Lastly, there were the ubiquitous ad sales reps who regularly lobbied beat reporters for favorable coverage for large advertisers—see supermarket owner above.
Such convenient, corner-cutting-ethics is inevitable in any profit-driven industry. In newsrooms it’s even more easily—and in some respects rightly—justified by the greater good of bringing to light much greater corruption by those entrusted with an even shorter path to power: elected officials. The question now is: have these petty professional peccadillos left the news industry open to insurrection by microphone-wielding, social media sycophants acting on behalf of those elected officials and their corporate overlords? In Bad News this issue: Yellow Journalism vs. Words of Mass Destruction in the Age of InfoWars. It’s about a 15-minute read. If you’ve not got the time right now, help yourself to the satirical snippets below.
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The first version of this snippet was a hilarious riff on alt-right “investigative journalist” as she calls herself, Laura Loomer. Then we came across the website Rational Wiki, which does a very thorough job of showing just how irrational Ms. Loomer is. When we came upon the section in the post detailing Ms. Loomer’s public suicide threats after she was banned from Twitter, we decided her story is more one of sadness than satire and all of a sudden NBN is feeling a little Loomerish itself. We here at NBN can only envy Loomer’s 270,000 Twitter followers, and have fantasized more than once what would happen to our post viewership if Rush Limbaugh and/or Fox News uttered our inanities on the air as they did more than once for Ms. Loomer. (Although, we’d hope such publicity would be disparaging and not flattering as they were for Loomer.) The point being, in this age of 24-hour news cycles and viral posts and videos, anyone looking to draw attention to themselves as a quick path to power, can do so now more easily than ever. But it seems to us that kind of sudden fame can be like heroin, where you become ever-desperate for more. So while NBN truly detests Ms. Loomer’s message and how she goes about telling it, the real fault lies with those listening. Liars figure and figures lie today like no other time on the history of news. So, it’s incumbent on those wishing to learn about the world around them to look first at who the teacher is. While Laura Loomer is a satirist’s dream come true, we prefer to lend a kind, if insincere ear, to her rantings and wish her well. Besides, what we first wrote earlier was leading us down some pretty angry avenues, vis-à-vis religion, and that’s for another issue of NBN. And, this rewrite brought us to the wonderful website: Rational Wiki.
Did the Clinton Foundation pay for Chelsea’s wedding? Let’s take another turn at how fake news becomes real news before it sediments into the political sentiments of our nation. This WaPo piece is an excellent example of how remarks from a credible source, “top Bill Clinton aide Doug Band” can be interpreted in innocent or ominous ways. In a Wiki-leaked email to Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, Band warns that Clinton Foundation “resources” were “used for wedding and life” of first daughter Chelsea and that “the practice has to stop.” That immediately becomes Fox News headline: “Clinton aide says Foundation paid for Chelsea’s wedding, WikiLeaks emails show” Fox News is fact enough for the tsunami of conservative news headlines that eventually convinced millions Chelsea Clinton’s lavish wedding was paid for by a charity set up to help out Haiti’s destitute earthquake victims, among others. Don’t get NBN wrong. Anyone who thinks any officials as close to the global power base as the Clintons are completely on the up and up, may be interested in a Brooklyn bridge NBN is offering at a bargain price. So what’s our point? Perhaps the games Telephone or Chinese Whispers illustrates it best. Said another way, who knows what Band meant by “resources?” But we certainly know how, and why, Fox News et al. interpreted it as worst case scenario.
If NBN is going to get down and dirty digging into the detritus of the conservative journalism biz, then let’s really roll in the refuse. So, NBN introduces (proceed with caution here folks): I Love My Freedom, What Finger News, Liberty Unyielding, EAGNews, The Gateway Pundit (recipient of the Breitbart Award for Excellence in Journalism), Flag and Cross, Geller Report…the list goes on forever (see mid-page dropdowns). Who is paying for all this? As we point out in Bad News this issue, you need some deep pockets and Russia certainly is involved directly and indirectly. But they are not alone. Corporate America has woken to the power of the press and confirmation bias. At random, NBN decided to look into the EAGNews, which stands for Education Action Group, to see who is footing the bill for this “news” publication. As a charity, EAGNews pays no taxes and its mission statement, according to tax filings is: “Supporting public education.” Only, if you take a closer look, you’ll see it’s completely opposed to public education. It’s based in Wisconsin and funded by the Koch Bros and appears to have been created, quite successfully, for the purpose of dismantling the state’s teachers union. In 2016 the group paid “salaries and compensation” of $324k from its $330k in contributions, mostly to these folks, two of whom actually have some serious journalism experience. This runs counter to our real-journalists-are-liberal theory, proposed in Bad News this issue, with the notable exception of the publication’s CEO and Founder. He is all over conservative TV along with having his own virulently anti-Democrat website and another agenda driven project called Dummycrats movie (Starring Amos and Andy, see video above.) So, we stand by our story: Real journalists are liberal by nature because that’s how the real world is and their job is presenting the real world. Conversely, conservative news is a business strategy by those with vested interest to weaponize words to further those interests, not inform readers.
Fake News News
If you’re going to take on Fake News and the half-truths it often springs from, you cannot leave out that conservatory of conservative conspiracy theory: “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich.” NBN watched the YouTube version which opens with blood seeping over $100 bills and an ominous voice-over promising to connect the two. It then details numerous carefully choreographed collusions between the Clintons and corrupt country leaders, reminding NBN of that other modern day Camelot: The Bush Family, aka the “Family of Secrets.” One difference being, the Bushes opt for Middle East oligarchs while the Clintons cater to Third World autocrats. Either way, it’s clear, both have very dirty laundry. But as this issue of NBN is not so much about the stories as it is about who is telling them, we took a look into the author’s of both. It turns out Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer is also president of the Government Accountability Institute, which includes, among its officers, conservative mercenaries Steve Bannon and Rebeccah Mercer. The GAI took in $2.5m in 2016, $1.45m of which went to salaries and other compensation, according to the Org’s 2016 IRS Form 990. Does anyone doubt that the sourcing standards and final edits for Schweizer’s book were handled by the same folks who provided the Clinton Cash cash?. So who is the bigger baloney merchant here? The Conservative Charity fueled by hedge-fund billionaires dedicated to the deconstruction of the administrative state, or the charity headed by a former Dem POTUS and his wife/failed Dem POTUS candidate? One thing we can be certain of. This country has a very loose definition of charity. In case you’re wondering, Russ Baker, author of “Family of Secrets,” has no such unsavory charitable ties. His resume is squeaky clean and impressive.
One must tread carefully when criticizing colleagues with vastly more respectable resumes. But then that’s the beauty of being a blogger. So NBN happily attacks Fox News contributor du jour and Operation Iraqi Freedom co-conspirator Judith Miller (see video); The New Republic fabulist Stephen Glass; New York Times ’ Beltway Sniper prevaricator Jason Blair, and Sabrina Rubin Erdely, who single-handedly destroyed 40 years of painstaking reputation-building at Rolling Stone. It’s a long ugly list growing longer every year, as documented by the Journo-trade group Poynter. What, if anything, can be done? Stop reading anonymous sources. Each of these junk-journalists were enabled by an editorial mindset that far -too readily rests a publication’s prestige on the judgment of journalists whose entire careers can be made by the sorts of stories published by the authors above. Not only do these joker journos ruin the reputations of their publications and often innocent story subjects, but as NBN has argued before, the proliferation of anonymous sources in mainstream outlets has given those with less caution behind their content carte blanche to say pretty much whatever they want with little or no verification. Sadly, the horse has left the barn on this one. Media outlets with large followings cannot survive without anonymous sources. They also can’t survive without an audience.
Wiping out anonymous sources brings NBN to the question of which came first: the anonymous source, or a journalism industry hopelessly eroded by same? For the purposes of this snippet about a Zerohedge article on Florida midterm malfeasance, let’s go with the latter. Zerohedge started life a decade ago as an apparently credible financial publication. The transition to Trump acolyte apparently occurred sometime around Trump’s famed escalator ride. But that was after Zerohedge’s financial forecasts helped it earn it half a million followers. Time to milk that credibility in the name of Deconstructing the Administrative State and start pumping pro-POTUS propaganda. The Zerohedge article above is a primer on fake news riding a crest of credibility before precipitating into the country’s collective conservative subconscious, as designed. The entire story is based on tweets by a local GOP political operative armed with a bad hair piece and cell phone footage of an Avis car rental office holding two ballot boxes and a few election signs. This ensemble of evidence is choreographed easily enough as to not require elucidation of an alternative, more suspicious, explanation here. The question is not if the story is true: if it was it would have not died so swift a death. The issue at heart here is: the story’s ability to add another shade or two to the collective colorization of the political discrediting of the opposition party. Death by a million cuts.
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