A Defense Against Fake News- Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.

#StopLying

The news on TV this week has all been very good for Donald Trump, although his job performance has been every bit as lousy as ever. The pattern is clear. Whenever he’s got somebody else to point the finger at, his ratings go up.

The cost of Robert Mueller’s investigation has been thrown up in our faces, as if it were an unnecessary expense, or a service performed just for Democrats. Several of the members of Mueller’s team have been attacked as well, and their motives called into question.

For the record, Robert Mueller left a $3.4 million partner job to serve as the special counsel overseeing the law enforcement investigation into whether the Kremlin and the Trump campaign coordinated to impact the 2016 election, according to documents released on Monday at a request from the Washington Post.

Trump has also been receiving undue credit for the economic bounce that Obama worked eight years to assure us. His moronic provocation of a travel ban finally went through, and so on.

All of this is being slowly made possible by a “post-truth” reality defined by the random slanders of an increasingly demented Trump.

The eminent opinion of Kellyanne Conway notwithstanding, there are no such things as alternative facts. They’re just good old fashioned lies.

But here are a couple of real facts. The new administration has declared war on accurate information. And because of that, every last thing with a shred of decency in American society is either under attack or being twisted to evil ends.

Basically, the truth does not suit Donald Trump’s agenda. So he has resolved upon making a new truth. He’s good at this. It has gotten him through a lifetime.

Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels said that the key to getting people to believe a lie was in repetition, and that the bigger lies were easier to tell then the little ones.

This viewpoint, which denies objectivity and assumes the worst of everyone, is the cornerstone of fascist philosophy. And under Trump, a number of new ideas are being employed as vehicles to carry and spread the new ideas about.

One of these is a project designed to target social media specifically, a mock-TV news report touting the imaginary successes of President Trump. It is being dubbed “Trump TV” on his official campaign Facebook page.

If the Russians have sent in advisers here, they are certainly doing their job.

Earlier this year upon launching the project, the talking head of Kayleigh McEnany made its mouth speak many a falsehood on the August 6 episode of the new administration’s Trump TV project. It looked like a Trump-Pence lawn sign.

“Overall, since the president took office, President Trump has created more than one million new jobs, the unemployment rate is at a 16-year low, and consumer confidence is at a 16-year high”, and so on.

Every bit of it is an exaggeration, a theft of credit from President Obama, or an outright utter lie.

Next to her face, a small screen showed various images of a happy, senile Trump speaking to stadiums packed with adoring fans; underneath the images blared the word “Jobs.”

It all read straight out of 1984.

For now, Trump TV is a small operation, cheaply produced and disseminated through Facebook, but it’s clear it will soon be getting bigger. It’s the spearhead of an effort by media giant Sinclair Broadcasting. It’s troubling in the utmost to watch the new administration both sanction and invent new media mouthpieces through which to spread outright lies. This is not a healthy sign.

Since the end of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, which mandated that equal airtime and coverage be given to the points of view of both major political parties, we have seen partisan organizations like Sinclair worming their way into buying up the whole apparatus. Now a number of them are no longer even American. This state of affairs is a travesty.

Bill Clinton, the most notable target of syndicated conservative talk shows cited the unbalanced nature of conservative talk radio, where “big money” is fueling “right wing talk shows.” This is why we need to bring back the Fairness Doctrine.

It is the opinion of Millennial Democrats that the very first segment of the alt-right’s information pipeline that we have got to sever is the part of it stretching here from Russia.

Former White House correspondent Andrew Feinberg is one of the strongest advocates for this point of view, and he ought to know. He used to work for Sputnik. But these days, he openly admits the site’s content being “foreign propaganda, not news.”

His claim is that organizations like RT and Sputnik hold a pervasive influence on right-wing, pro-Trump, news websites. “Many of the most popular articles about things like WikiLeaks and pizzagate and other conspiracy theories were prominently featured on the Sputnik website,” said Feinberg.

In a recent Politico article Feinberg described parting ways with Sputnik earlier this year. He felt he was being bullied and pressured to pursue fake stories, including the Seth Rich conspiracy theory. He knew that he was being “fed” questions.

A news site which is funded by a hostile foreign government with the express purpose of reporting fake news and brazenly lying to the people of America is an outrage. There’s no other word for it. Any person who doesn’t understand that is one already lost to the opposition.

A journalist sacked by the Kremlin-funded Sputnik news network claimed that right-wing U.S. outlets like Infowars, Breitbart and Gateway Pundit are joined by RT and Sputnik as functioning parts of this right-wing media ecosystem.

The crux of the problem is that we’re not all being given the same information.

Harvard’s Berkman-Klein Center recently produced an analysis of the subject which they entitled Partisanship, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. In it, they made the following observation.

“We find that the structure and composition of media on the right and left are quite different. The leading media on the right and left are rooted in different traditions and journalistic practices. On the conservative side, more attention was paid to pro-Trump, highly partisan media outlets. On the liberal side, by contrast, the center of gravity was made up largely of long-standing media organizations steeped in the traditions and practices of objective journalism.”

Democrats remain interested in things like truth and reason. The opposition has discarded those virtues as impractical, if not actively detrimental, to their various causes.

Although Fox itself does still usually take the time to bother putting a veneer of professional journalism on their stuff, they still know who a large part of their audience is, and they cater to it.

If you watch Fox News these days, you won’t just find the usual conservative twist anymore. Much of their old content has become too truthful for many of their viewers. It’s not hardcore enough anymore. These people want uglier mud to sling at their liberal foes. A website called Liberty Headlines will tell you all about it.

This is why Fox has partnered with a more extreme conservative media. One resolved on developing the concept to its evolutionary apex: sheer, pure propaganda.

It seems painfully obvious in hindsight that twenty years of media consolidation has been bad for our democracy.

The exaggerations and falsehoods emanating from right-wing media outlets such as Breitbart News have infected mainstream discourse.

Though the Berkman- Klein report we mentioned earlier does an excellent job of laying out the challenge posed by Breitbart and its ilk, it is less than clear on how to counter it. One very interesting solution has been employed by our neighbors to the North, in Canada, with a surprisingly effective result.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, or CRTC, is a regulatory media commission like the FCC. It is not large and it does not often have a need to make the news. But back in 2011, a rather small decision by a relatively small government agency in Ottawa made a pretty big splash.

In April, a major player in the Canadian media scene, Quebecoir Media, planned a launch of what they called Sun News, or Sun TV. It was billed as a Canadian analogue to FOX News, by which they meant a broadcast news outlet with a skewed and partisan conservative perspective.

But Sun News hit a major snag, in the form of a CRTC rule on “prohibited programming content” that includes “broadcasting false or misleading news.”

That rule means that in Canada they can ban lying in the media.

If the human race is going to avoid a significant degradation of its own condition, then we have to maintain our objectivity. We can’t be lulled to sleep by Trump-brand fairy tales.

It’s time we stopped letting wingnut billionaires clutter up our airwaves with their nonsense just because they’ve got the money to throw their weight around. Legislation must be passed immediately to make perfidy in the American news an official crime.

Donald Trump says he wants to make America great again, but America never stopped being great. If we wish to keep that intact, the removal of state-sanctioned falsehoods would be a very good start. Bring back the Fairness Doctrine, and make it illegal to call poisonous deceit the news. It’s really pretty simple. Just vote a straight blue ticket next year, and get everyone you know to do the same. It is time we started doing laundry.

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A Case Study in Fake News- Uranium One, The Scandal That Wasn’t.

The Uranium One story is a prime example of fake news.  It is a GOP talking point known to be false. That knowledge, however, is not very important to the Republicans, who have gone to great length to keep America talking about it this week.  The opposition has spent an awful lot of money to kick off the conversation.

The whole thing is a cheap attempt to shift the Russiagate narrative by blaming it all on Hillary Clinton.

As this was being written, the first news came back that Paul Manafort and his sidekick Rick Gates were indicted on money crimes going back to their Ukraine days. A jubilant Trump tweeted out a statement distancing himself from these activities.

But Mueller wasn’t finished. The true bombshell was yet to come.

It turns out that former foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, had admitted lying to the FBI about contacts with foreign officials close to the Russian government who discussed “dirt” relating to emails linked to Clinton. He was quietly arrested on July 27. He’s been fully cooperating with the government ever since. 

This is why we’ve spent the week hearing about the Uranium One deal.

The relation of truth to a given subject is not a considered factor when we’re talking about the Trump administration. This story was manufactured conservative disinformation from beginning to end. It has been threaded back into the national narrative as a political countersuit against Democrats.

It’s just Trump’s old Manhattan real estate strategy in his new role as president. This is the political equivalent of a countersuit. The ghost of Roy Cohn has got to be gnashing its teeth in glee, down there in hell.

Joy Reid recently summed up the Trump strategy by quoting from the presidential debate last summer. “I’m no puppet. You’re a puppet”.

The idea is that to relieve the pressure on him, Trump will attempt to shift the nation’s attention and anger toward Hillary Clinton.  Accuse your enemy, of that which you are guilty of. The concept is called swiftboating. Its purpose is to scare Democrats into shutting up and going home. To make us tap out due to fear for the safety of our leader. “You leave me alone, and I’ll leave you alone. If not, there will be trouble.”

This is the face of fascism.  Manufactured excuses. Rampant what-aboutism. Legitimate science is either discarded or adapted. It all becomes part of the new authoritarian ideology. It is then gradually dripped into the heads of the people by the likes of Boris Epshteyn and Sebastian Gorka.

This concept is not abstract, or something that only happens elsewhere. Companies like the Sinclair Broadcasting Company, which is said to be in talks with conservative TV show host Bill O’Reilly, will be threading pro- Trump messaging into every aspect of television. Their virulent brand of right-wing commentary and so-called “classic propaganda” may soon reach three-quarters of US households.

Insofar as Democratic involvement is concerned in the U1 deal, there’s nothing controversial at all. It’s an attempt to shift the national narrative back against Trump’s enemies and give his supporters some new and soothing lie to hold on to.

The important issue here is why this ordinary transaction was cooked up into a scandal in the first place; and the troubling implications that it has for the future of American democracy.

As to the details of the controversy surrounding Uranium One, they are not very controversial.

The company is a subsidiary of Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear technology corporation. In 2010, while Hillary Clinton was secretary of State, Rosatom wished to acquire a majority share of Uranium One. In order for it to share in the control of uranium mines in the United States, the sale had to be approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment In the United States (CFIUS).

Because the deal would ultimately place Uranium One in control of 20% of U.S. uranium production capacity, the transaction required federal approval. During the 2016 election campaign, Trump asserted that Clinton “gave 20% of our uranium — gave Russia for a big payment.” This is untrue on every level.

The mining licenses remained with U.S. subsidiaries controlled by U.S. persons. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission reviewed the transaction and gave its approval. All nine members of the CFIUS board voted for it with a clear conscience and say today they’d do the same again.

Uranium One does not hold the proper export license, so none of its uranium can be exported. It can never be taken to Russia and turned into nukes.

All the committee members have told everyone Clinton was not involved in the decision.

This “scandal” consisted of a Canadian company, the Northern Uranium Corporation,  selling a Russian company some stock in uranium.

The nuclear recycling angle, specifically the Koch Industries interest in the valuable uranium that comes out of them, is likely of tantamount importance here. The educated guess of one expert who spoke with Millennial Democrats under the conditions of anonymity is that the Kochs did not want the competition from recycled uranium.

Most likely, this was why they needed a reason to keep recycled uranium politically unpopular. They also needed a reason to keep Hillary Clinton unpopular. It would seem they put two and two together.

These two things have nothing to do with one another, but it proved easy to make it seem otherwise. This is where the slanderous spin on Uranium One came from.

This libel has no basis in any historical record. It comes out of a wingnut book called Clinton Cash. Its production was financed by an organization called the Government Accountability Institute. This is a conservative nonprofit founded by the book’s author, Peter Schweitzer. They teamed up with Breitbart’s Steve Bannon to conduct the research for the book. Billionaire Robert Mercer, the same guy who is still paying the bills for Breitbart News, signed the check on this one, too.

Needless to say, it has been thoroughly dismantled by experts.

The story was ridiculous and crooked back then, but its revival in the national dialogue at this particular time is troubling in the extreme. It means the RNC is willing to drag a private citizen into government affairs, for no reason other than to deflect attention from the truth. You don’t prosecute your political opponents using show trials and Congress in order to attack anything but the fabric of our democracy.

Going forward, the Uranium One slander serves as an excellent case study for the examining and reverse-engineering of Republican propaganda. There will be more of this to come than we can imagine; Russian ads alone reached over 120 million on Facebook this year.

By thinking critically and staying alert, however, we can spot these things as they come. We can dismantle them, dissect them, and lay bare their innards to the light.  In this manner, we will come to see how they work.

Then we hold them up as examples of the disingenuity of our opponents. Our job is to expose lies and bear witness.

There’s still a lot we can do. We still have everything it takes to fight the attempts of Trump and Putin at tyranny. The time-honored power of the vote can still save us. Make a specific plan for voting, and do what you can to get others to do the same. Once we take back the Congress, we can rid ourselves of Trump. In short, #RiseAndOrganize.