Fake News and government propagandists

Researching my 1973 book on Albany politics, I pored over early 20th century local newspapers. I was astonished how partisan they were, openly touting candidates, with no division between news and opinion pages. This was typical; many American papers called themselves “The Democrat” or “The Republican.” Some still retain those vestigial names. But the standard journalism model has changed, and for a long time now it’s been universally understood in the news media that opinions go on the editorial page, while news reporting is just that: reporting.

It’s true that most journalists, due to their cultural backgrounds, personally lean liberal. Yet it’s really a lie that their work is skewed by bias (let alone calling it “fake news”). Modern professional journalists are steeped in the ethos of accuracy and neutral objectivity, and generally strive hard to uphold it. Making stuff up is an absolute no-no; correcting errors a must. And if anything, they bend over too far in giving both sides of a story, even when one side is rubbish (for example, lending credence to climate or vaccination science denialism).

I’ve regularly watched PBS’s Washington Week, where reporters discuss the news. It’s striking how their personal opinions are never detectable. Indeed, it’s almost maddening to hear them talk, in bland neutral tones, about Trumpian outrages. And even Jon Stewart, on The Daily Show, making no secret of a liberal stance, was an equal-opportunity satirist, often freely skewering Obama and other Democrats.

But then there’s Fox “News.”

I put it in quotes because Fox is in fact the regime’s fawning cheerleader and propaganda mouthpiece — making a cruel joke of its former slogan, “Fair and Balanced.” Fox is anything but. It’s the real fake news channel, shattering the longstanding paradigm of news media striving for accuracy and objectivity.

And now too Sinclair Broadcast Group. Sinclair owns about 200 local TV stations covering 40% of the country, and aggressively seeks to gobble up more. Like Fox, Sinclair is uncritically all-in for Trump. While it can’t, like Fox, control every word going out over its airwaves, Sinclair can and does put words in broadcasters’ mouths. Recently we saw every Sinclair station (including Albany’s WRGB Channel 6) required to air a script about “fake news.” While the lockstep parroting in these hostage videos was itself ludicrous enough, so was the content: straight out of Trump’s potty mouth, telling viewers not to believe what they hear from supposedly biased mainstream news media, which Sinclair called a threat to democracy. At least Sinclair stopped short of calling them “the enemy of the American people.”

See what’s going on. Trump lauds slimy Fox and Sinclair while demonizing all legitimate news sources. It’s a concerted effort to cripple news media not in the government’s thrall, and replace them with ones that are — with regime propagandists. This is something very new to America, and very chilling. THIS is the threat to democracy.

We saw its apotheosis in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and the Communist world; we see it today in Russia, China, Turkey, Venezuela, and too many more places. Malaysia just passed a law with stiff jail terms for “fake news” — defined as anything the government doesn’t approve (presumably including any reference to Prime Minister Rajak’s billion dollar theft from a state development fund).

Am I being alarmist? Yes, I am very alarmed. I do not want America with a government of lies unaccountable to a free press. Like Russia, Turkey, Venezuela, Malaysia, and other such shit-hole countries.

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One Response to “Fake News and government propagandists”

  1. Greg Says:

    Exactly right, Frank. As of this week, given the ridiculous conspiracy theories coming out of Fox News, I am calling for a Congressional investigation of the network. Surely it must be a violation of their broadcasting license to knowingly make false claims on the public airwaves. They are supposed to be performing a public service, instead they are obstructing justice. The 1st Amendment probably makes it hard to prove a crime in this instance, but at a minimum we need to know the depth of Fox New’s nefarious behavior, and a full investigation is needed to uncover the truth.

    By the way, I don’t believe journalists are mostly “liberal” because of their cultural background. Journalists are trained from the beginning to have an open mind and report the facts as they present themselves, regardless of the source. As a result, the very essence of being a journalist is to not take sides. They are supposed to report the news without a conservative or liberal bias. But when conservatives see a report that they don’t agree with — that reports both sides of an issue — their knee-jerk reaction is to call it liberal. Anything that doesn’t agree with their conservative ideology is deemed to be liberal by conservatives. This point is easily provable. Take any purely objective journalistic report that takes issue with some conservative talking point, and the author of that report will soon be labled as a liberal by conservatives, regardless the author’s true political leanings. Today, they are already using this trick on most “never-Trump” Republicans, calling them RINO’s or closet liberals, or some such nonsense.

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