Once You Can Fake News, You’ve Got It Made (A Walk Down Memory Lane)

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

“It took me a long time to discover that the key thing in acting is honesty. Once you know how to fake that, you’ve got it made.” –Actor in Peyton Place, 1970

So the news is like sincerity (and honesty)? Or not? Interestingly, the epigraph comes from the start of the neoliberal dispensation, but let’s not go down a rathole of meta. Or rather, let’s go down another rathole of meta by quoting defeated Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who seems to have been the (self-infected) Patient Zero for the “fake news” moral panic when she spoke these words (C-SPAN) at the unveiling of Harry Reid’s portrait, December 8, 2016:

[CLINTON:] Let me just mention briefly one threat in particular that should concern all Americans, Democrats, Republicans and independents alike, especially those who serve in our Congress: the epidemic of malicious fake news and false propaganda that flooded social media over the past year. It’s now clear that so-called fake news can have real-world consequences. This isn’t about politics or partisanship. Lives are at risk, lives of ordinary people just trying to go about their days, to do their jobs, contribute to their communities.

IIt’s a danger that must be addressed and addressed quickly. Bipartisan legislation is making its way through Congress to boost the government’s response to foreign propaganda, and Silicon Valley is starting to grapple with the challenge and threat of fake news. It’s imperative that leaders in both the private sector and the public sector step up to protect our democracy and innocent lives.”

(Presumably that “bipartisan” — dread word — legislation was the “Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act,” discussed at NC in detail here.) Parsing this verbiage, we find it unusually sloppy and dishonest, even for Clinton. What, for example, is the distinction between “malicious fake news” and “so-called fake news”? Is sincerely meant (not “malicious”) and/or genuine (not “so-called”) fake news not really fake? And how is it that we start with “false propaganda” and end with “foreign propaganda”? Obviously, whatever “danger” is to be “addressed” can’t be from “fake news” as such, since conceptually there’s no there there. Democrat establishment lapdog Paul Krugman makes Clinton’s agenda more clear:

Still, none of this would work without the complicity of the news media. And I’m not talking about “fake news,” as big a problem as that is becoming; I’m talking about respectable, mainstream news coverage.

So, “fake news” just doesn’t happen in “respectable, mainstream news” outlets (showing Yves was quite right to cite to independent, alternative media, like Naked Capitalism, as being under the blame cannons). But Krugman’s vulgar institutionalism gets us no forrader on “fake news” conceptually, does it? Here’s the best taxonomy of “fake news” that I’ve been able to find. From Matthew E. Kahn’s blog, Environmental and Urban Economics, “The Economics of Fake News”:

There are four cases to consider.

Case #1: Both the supplier and demander know that the story is false. Think of the National Enquirer stories stating that Elvis is on Mars.

Case #2: The supplier knows the story is false but the demander believes the story is true.

Case #3: The supplier believes the story is true and the demander believes the story is true.

Case #4: The supplier believes the story is true and the demander believes the story is false.

“Fake News” has no social consequences in cases #1 or case #4. Case #3 will feature no strategic element. This is just Tiebout sorting[1] in ideological space.

Tellingly, the articles listed at the Snopes “fake news” tag (e.g., “Did a Man Lock His Daughter in a Cage for Overusing a Snapchat Filter?” [FALSE]) fall primarily into Case #1 (that is, no social consequence, since both supplier and demander know the fake news is fake). And the “malicious” “foreign” WikiLeaks, DCLeaks, and Guccifer Democrat email leaks are Case #3: The supplier believes the story is true, and the demander believes the story is true.[2]. Case #4 (the supplier believes the story is true, and the demander believes the story is false) may end up applying to us all, if current trends continue, but again, let’s not go down the rathole.

So the interesting case is Case #2: The supplier knows the story is false but the demander believes the story is true. And the nice thing about Kahn’s taxonomy is that it abstracts away from institutions, so we don’t have to accept Krugman’s silly, and self-serving, notion that “mainstream publications” don’t produce “fake news.” Here’s the definition of “fake” from my Oxford English Dictionary:

fake [adjective & noun(2)] /feɪk/ Orig. slang. l18. [ORIGIN: Rel. to fake verb2.] A. adjective. Spurious, counterfeit, sham. l18. Glasgow Herald Fake whisky..the symptoms following consumption are similar to those of gastric poisoning.

I mean, come on. Nobody ever said that alternative, independent, small distilleries are the only institutions that every produced fake whiskey, right?

Before I dig more deeply into Case #2, I’d like to introduce an additional case:

Case #5: The supplier knows the story is true, but the demander knows nothing about it at all

(This introduces a pleasing element of informational asymmetry into Kahn’s model, enabling it to conform more closely to the real world. The example I have in mind comes from Operative K’s employer, the New York Times. From FAIR:

By any standard, the New York Times‘ story of December 16 was a blockbuster: Reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau revealed that following the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration initiated warrantless wiretaps on hundreds of people within the U.S.–including U.S. citizens–even though a federal law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, expressly forbids the government from doing so. This program was legal only if one accepts the administration’s contention that the executive branch has essentially unlimited powers during “wartime” (even though Congress has not declared war).

The Times story would be an outstanding example of how the First Amendment works to protect liberty–were it not for the ninth paragraph:

The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted.

The reasoning is absurd on its face. As Times executive editor Bill Keller noted in a statement released on December 16 explaining his decision to publish the story, “The fact that the government eavesdrops on those suspected of terrorist connections is well-known.” But this was as obvious a year ago as it is today. As for the government’s spying being “jeopardized,” placing illegal and unconstitutional programs in jeopardy is the whole point of the First Amendment (Extra! Update, 12/05).

But Keller’s statement revealed that the Times does not see itself as competent to watch out for illegal government activity. In explaining the delay, Keller stated that the administration had “assured senior editors of the Times that a variety of legal checks had been imposed that satisfied everyone involved that the program raised no legal questions.” Keller went on to say that “it is not our place to pass judgment on the legal or civil liberties questions involved in such a program, but it became clear those questions loomed larger within the government than we had previously understood.”

In other words, Keller believes it is the Times‘ “place” to accept officials’ own evaluation of the legality of their behavior.

What FAIR delicately omits to mention is that the Times had and then spiked the story before election 2004, and therefore suppressing it until Bush was safely elected might well have affected the (very close) Presidential race, which everybody is so concerned that fake news does, right?

Now, is Case #5 — suppressed news — really news? I would argue that is it is. The replaced pages in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia were surely part of that Encyclopedia, and in less well-regulated polities than our own, censored news is simply printed as blank columns:

Back to Case #2, which I’d argue should be refined, again through the introduction of information asymmetry. On the supplier side, we need to introduce the possiblity of delusion as opposed to malevolence, and on the demander side, “Cassandras” (a minority) as opposed to believers (the great majority)[3]. The case study I have in mind is Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in the case of the Iraq War.

I remember the WMD case of fake news — news that is “spurious, counterfeit, sham” as the OED has it — well, because it happened in my very first year of blogging, in 2003. (Cue the “I’m so old, I remember ______” snowclone jokes.) The justifications for Saddam’s WMDs came thick and fast: The aluminum tubes, the white powders, the yellowcake uranium, the mobile biological laboratories, the drones, the atropine, the “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” As soon as one story was debunked — which foul-mouthed bloggers of the left using open sources could do quite easily, within hours — another story would pop up. Only later did we learn that it didn’t just feel like playing whack-a-mole; it was playing whack-a-mole; The Bush White House was planting stories in the press (through a process, for those who came in late, very similar to what the Clinton campaign used, as shown in the Wikileaks Podesta email dump).

The long-forgotten Sam Gardiner, Colonel, USAF (Retired)[4], interviewed by Kevin Zeese in Counterpunch, describes the supplier side:

[GARDINER:]As the war unfolded, I became increasingly uneasy about what was being reported out of the White House, Pentagon and Central Command. I was hearing things that just did not make sense with what I knew and what my intuition was telling me. I began tracking some of the stories. It was just a matter of going over what we were told and connecting that with the truth as it emerged later.

There is absolutely no question that the White House and the Pentagon participated in an effort to market the military option. The truth did not make any difference to that campaign. To call it fixing is to miss the more profound point. It was a campaign to influence. It involved creating false stories; it involved exaggerating; it involved manipulating the numbers of stories that were released; it involved a major campaign to attack those who disagreed with the military option. It included all the techniques those who ran the marketing effort had learned in political campaigns.

We [know] the WMD story fairly well. We know the story of the uranium from Niger. We know about the aluminum tubes that were not for uranium enrichment. We know the biological labs Powell showed to the UN did not exist.

[ZEESE:] Is the media being fooled by the Administration or is it complicit in this effort to misinform the public?

[GARDINER:]The media have been fooled. They have been lazy. They have lost sight of the historic calling of journalism. Journalists have been replaced on television by cheerleaders.

[ZEESE:] How much did this campaign of misinformation cost?

[GARDINER:] Tough question, Kevin. I don’t think it possible to get a total handle on the effort. I have read one estimate that put the marketing at $200 million. That cost is trivial, however, to the collateral damage that has been done to democracy.

And on the demand side, some may actually have believed their own bullshit. Former White House insider Richard Clarke, interviewed in 2004:

[GUARDIAN]: Do you believe the administration believed the intelligence on Iraqi WMD?

[CLARKE]: We all believed Saddam had WMD.

And Bush Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice in 2007:

[RICE:] We all believed the intelligence was strong. It wasn’t just a problem with intelligence in the United States, it was an intelligence problem worldwide. Services across the world thought that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”

So, give Rice and Clarke the benefit of the doubt, and put them in the delusional bucket on the supplier side, as opposed to the malevolent bucket. That said, those in the malevolent bucket were the drivers supporting policy, as we knew (in 2005) from The Downing Street Memo. Quoting it:



From: Matthew Rycroft

Date: 23 July 2002

S 195 /02

….C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

Gardiner’s estimate of $200 million would buy rather a lot of “fixed” facts, eh? Even at Beltway rates.

* * *

So that’s my walk on memory lane on fake news. The utter effrontery of Clinton, and her lapdog, yammering about fake news from Macedonian teenagers on social media, after fake news from the mainstream press — very much including the Times’ own infamous Judy Miller — helped foment the Iraq War just boggles the mind. And all those faraway brown people blown to pink mist make Clinton’s “lives are at risk” especially nauseating. I’m gobsmacked by the “fake news” moral panic, hornswoggled, beyond flummoxed. Or I would be, if only Clinton blaming fake news for her loss weren’t just another example of Democrats never holding themselves responsible for anything.

Oh, and at some point I should propose some solutions. Obviously, the whole fact-checking paradigm is wrong; I’m so old I remember when we had editors and reporters to do that, so returning to those days would be a start, at least. So, whatever public policy it would take to get more local newspapers going again is something we should think about. We should also think about breaking up ginormous media monopolies; after all, epidemics spread more easily in a monoculture. And then there’s Facebook; maybe they shouldn’t be in the algorithmic newsfeed business at all; after all, the most reliable parts of a program are the ones that aren’t there. And Facebook, too, is an enormous monopoly. Perhaps there should be more power centers in social media, as well. Just some thoughts.[5] Readers?


Bud from legal insists that I say this post solely represents the views of “Lambert Strether,” and does not represent the views of Naked Capitalism.


[1] “Tiebout sorting refers to the sorting of households into neighborhoods and communities according to their willingness and ability to pay for local public goods,” via Encyclopedia of Education Economics & Finance. Here is an NBER paper: “Tiebout Sorting and Neighborhood Stratification” (PDF).

[2] The “demanders” in the Clinton campaign would disagree, but the Rice-Davies Rule applies. None of that mail has even debunked, despite false claims by the Clinton campaign. Whether the mail had no strategic consequence, especially at the margin, is another issue entirely.

[3] Leaving aside, again, the dystopia where demanders believe all stories are false.

[4] Gardiner’s paper, “Truth from These Podia,” suffers from serious link rot. And so we lose our history.

[5] Also, some kind soul should fund deliberative debate in the schools and for adults at the rate of, oh, $10 million a year or so. It would’t take much. I guarantee we’d see improvement in discourse in as little as three years, as varsity debaters came up and started to show the critical thinking skills they gained at the podium in public policy discussion. Incidentally, historically black colleges and universities have done very well recently in debate, so do let’s make sure all the debate money doesn’t go to the already credentialed burbclaves, mkay?

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Synoia

    The whole “fake news” narrative is not about “fake news,” or propaganda, or agitprop.

    It is about taking control away from, and by implication devaluing the analysis, of these who debunk the propaganda, or agitprop from the “legitimate (aka: fake official)” news outlets. Examples of this are Naked Capitalism, Ian Welsh, Marcy Wheeler and Zero Hedge.

    It is both a monopolistic action of the “legitimate (aka: fake official)” news outlets, and the powers in Washington, enabling this monopolistic behavior for both parties self interest.

    This comment solely represents the views of “ME” and does not represent the views of anyone else. (OK Bud?)

    1. Waldenpond

      The fake news chant is just an addition to the Russia, Russia, Russia bs. The goal is always delegitimizing any voice other than far right capitalists and war mongers. Media has collapsed/flipped. The media being promoted as legitimate is outright lies and never ending propaganda. They occasionally slip in facts but they are meaningless to the discussion. The alternative sites are the only ones attempting to distribute facts and discuss issues based on facts.

      I won’t be surprised to see legitimate news sites blocked from accessing ad revenue and payment systems. No ads, no facebook, no twitter, no paypal for those deemed to be disseminating facts.

      1. Webstir

        A friend of my mine stated the other day, “Don’t mistake gaslighting for a genuine concern that you might, in fact, be crazy.”

        To which I replied:

        “The age of modern advertisement (think Mad Men) was kicked off by behavioral psychology professor John B. Watson who is most popularly known for the “Baby Albert” experiments. What is not widely known is that he was kicked out of John Hopkins for having an affair with his research assistant shortly after said experiments. Where did he take his talents? You guessed it: Advertising — where he popularized the notion of selling “sex appeal” rather than a product. In mu opinion, the rest the western world’s economic and political history, then, are all “gaslighting” footnotes to the recently discovered ability to psychologically manipulate people to create demand where there was none previously.”

        My point being, it is worth considering the impact media creating ideological demand where there was none before.

  2. craazyman

    This problem is so old it’s ludicrous. They’re talking about it like it was just discovered! LOL.

    I think these quotes are true, but I didn’t know Thomas Jefferson and I did not carry on a literary correspondence with him. It would have been a pleasure! Despite his flaws. He was a man of his time, but a brilliant one.

    Here are some more Thomas Jefferson quotes about newspapers. I think he would have been in the peanut gallery railing at the mainstream media just like the rest of us.

    #2 below is my favorite “the violence and malignity of party spirit” Whoa!: 
    1.  “The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them, inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.  He who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details are all false.” ~Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, 1807. ME 11:225 
    2.  “I deplore… the putrid state into which our newspapers have passed and the malignity, the vulgarity, and mendacious spirit of those who write for them… These ordure’s are rapidly depraving the public taste and lessening its relish for sound food.  As vehicles of information and a curb on our functionaries, they have rendered themselves useless by forfeiting all title to belief… This has, in a great degree, been produced by the violence and malignity of party spirit.” ~Thomas Jefferson to Walter Jones, 1814. ME 14:46
    3.  “As for what is not true, you will always find abundance in the newspapers.” Thomas Jefferson to Barnabas Bidwell, 1806. ME 11:118 
    4.”Advertisements… contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.” ~Thomas Jefferson to Nathaniel Macon, 1819. ME 15:179
    5.  “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper.  Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.”

    source: http://www.fourwinds.com (I Googled a string of words about Jefferson and newspapers, since I knew of his opinion there.)

    1. lyle

      I grew up in Detroit during the Vietnam war. In Detroit you could listen to the news from Canada and hear the elements of Propaganda in the US news (or fake news to use the modern term). It was as if two different wars were happening depending on which side of the river the news was broadcast from. Back then from the US news perspective Pravda was one big sheet of fake news (propaganda) . Back then you could also buy a shortwave radio and listen to the BBC as well as Radio Moscow (which had strong signals in the US).
      So back then one had to learn to take all news with a very large grain of salt because the folks putting the news together influenced how news was reported. It is just now that it appears that younger generations have tumbled to the fact that news organizations pursue a point of view and report news skewed to support that point of view.
      For another example back then the Socialist workers party had a newspaper that to the US mainstream point of view was propaganda,but from their point of view was the truth.

      1. heresy101

        The Militant only told the “truth and nothing but the truth”, or as Sgt. Friday would say – “just the facts, ma’am”.

    2. JF

      In large part this is also why the Framers put together a United States Republic, “wherein the legislative authority necessarily predominates.”

      Democracy was too susceptible so reliance was placed on the two-house, separately elected sources, to provide thoughtful discourse via indpendent legislators. Ideally these people were to be thoughtful people who tried.

      This too has become a department-of-thought (the others are judicial and executive) that is lacking thought, well at least in one party, the one that also denies scientific fact and believes we can not govern ourselves because we are the problem. But their richtung is clear, no need to think too much about how to vote.

      1. hunkerdown

        The Framers were the very same class of idle oligarchs that we are attempting to do battle with today. Jeremy Belknap’s famous Supplication, that we should submit to the “enlightened” (i.e. freed from having to actually work to the order of others) rule of liberal dispensationalist Rescuers, is a bipartisan stipulation.

        Surely you didn’t forget Hamilton Electors so quickly? Or Becky Fischer interviewed in Jesus Camp: “excuse me, but we have the truth!” Or which class and which interests are in fact running the press, and at whose interests’ expense? People who vend noble lies klike liberalism or Belknap’s learned helplessness tend to be discredited rather quickly.

  3. susan the other

    The disastrous world that Hillary built is coming apart. She said in the 90s that she saw no way to save labor and prevent offshoring and being killed by cheap imports: “There’s just no way to stop it.” She came from the left and became the biggest free marketeer there ever was. Yet, her behavior has been so pious. She, as much as any tool who ever graced the halls of Washington DC, is to blame for shamelessly securing her own position by destroying the country. While the rest of us were lamenting the disappearance of truth, the neoliberals were attacking that idealism with a term coined by Steve Colbert: “truthiness” and everybody had a good chuckle until the truthiness was on the other foot – now they demand an end to “fake news”. What about just tolerating all the “fakiness” And the “newsiness” with a fake smile? C’mon Hill, I know you can do it.

    1. hunkerdown

      Worse, Obama demanded “truthiness”. That’s code, to me. There is a malicious design afoot.

    2. Left in Wisconsin

      She came from the left and became the biggest free marketeer there ever was.

      This is a bit misleading. She was a Young Republican, had a brief dalliance with the anti-war movement in college, and then went to law school and joined the board of Wal-Mart. It’s a stretch to say “she came from the left.”

      But I do agree that she is a big free marketer.

        1. redleg

          There is left and right. However, the 2 US parties are currently far right and just to the left of that.
          The actual left is essentially unrepresented.

    3. Allegorio

      ” She came from the left and became the biggest free marketeer there ever was.” @ susan the other, is more “fake” news. She was a Goldwater Girl for Pity’s sake. Her father was a petit bourgeoisie factory owner. She came to the left to subvert it and co-opt it, a fake progressive decrying fake news. It is often argued that all assertions are mere projections. In Hitllery Klinton’s case fake is what she always was so of course all opposition to her is “fake”. Her objective was to make the world safe for her billionaire friends. She veered left because in the 1960’s & 70’s the left was ascendant, fronting for her billionaire friends. Remember Winthrop Rockafeller ex governor of Arkansas?

      1. J Sterling

        Am I right in suspecting that he owned capital and employed labor, and did no work but the guard labor of deciding who to employ and checking how hard they were working? Nothing petit about that.

        The real petit bourgeois mix their own labor with their own means of production, and maybe employ a young worker who has not acquired, or an unfortunate who can not acquire, their own. You can imagine a good healthy nation consisting entirely of such.

        It’s when you get whole families whose prosperity depends on charging others to work with their property, and who hand that privilege to their sons and daughters and spouses, that the rot sets in.

  4. BeliTsari

    As one by one, well known lefty blog aggregators got all ‘et up by David Brock’s CTR, it was difficult to miss their trolls & sock-puppets were all using Rick Berman’s playbook http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/4/24/1519540/-Paid-Clinton-Troll-Speaks-out-I-was-aghast-at-what-I-saw Dissidents were entitled, gullible. basement-dwelling millennial, or misogynistic, racist agents provocateurs, spreading discordant enemy agitprop. They used Hill + Knowlton Strategies’ decades-old buzz-words from tobacco, asbestos, fracking & bio-engineering scams, to discredit anybody questioning Debbie, Robby and John’s stomping down loyal, lifelong Keynesian Democrats and handing the presidency to Trump, the states to ALEC and Judiciary, regulatory agencies & Congress to leering, smirking, up-front drooling Fascists. http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/01/06/resistance-2/

  5. Gaylord

    Another aspect of this is the obfuscation of true news. An example of this is the news blackout and dismissal of any significance pertaining to the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns, fallout, and continuing emissions of dangerous radioactive isotopes into the environment. This is an institutionalized conspiracy borne of complacency and self interest.

    The worst part of this is there are typically no judgments or consequences against the perpetrators of false information that is explicitly used to gain support for and acquiescence to policies that result in criminal actions and grave harm — i.e. war, exploitation & impoverishment, mass displacement, confiscation of resources, deleterious pollution & ecocide, etc. The justice system is as irredeemably corrupt as the rest of the political system.

    1. foghorn longhorn

      It is amusing that a reactor melting down in the Ukraine requires locking out thousands of sq. miles of land, lest one be radiated to well done.

      But three reactors melting down in Japan on the beach of the Pacific Ocean is no biggie
      They are hosting the olympics in Tokyo in 2020

      Oh yeah it must be fake news.

  6. Paul Tioxon


    This lucky coincidence is from the UC Press. They have a blog about different books they put out. And this one’s relevant and timely. There is a brief overview of Watergate and The Kennedy/Nixon TV debates of 1960 and the ongoing myths surrounding them.

    Debunking Media Myths, Those Prominent Cases of Fake News

    by W. Joseph Campbell, author of ‘Getting It Wrong: Debunking the Greatest Myths in American Journalism’.

    “The mainstream media’s recent angst and hand-wringing about a surge of “fake news” has tended to ignore that the media themselves have often been purveyors of bogus tales and dubious interpretations.

    “Fake news” has plenty of antecedents in mainstream media — several cases of which are documented in my book, Getting It Wrong, a new, expanded edition of which was published recently.

    The book examines and debunks media-driven myths, which are well-known stories about and/or by the news media that are widely believed and often retold but which, under scrutiny, dissolve as false or wildly exaggerated. Think of them as prominent cases of “fake news” that have masqueraded as a fact for years. Decades, even.”

  7. oho

    Don’t forget that the entertainment divisions all of MSM’s parent companies rely on quid pro quo “fake reviews” to juice positive buzz for movies/TV series.

    And often those fake reviews are spun as real news.

  8. Steve H.

    Just checking, since I took a crack at the Reuters disclaimer, is the Bud from legal thing irony? ‘Cause I cain’t tell no more.

    ‘Cause if that’s the case, that’s a Case-1. And that means NC is a purveyor of fake news.

    But Wait! Is it weasel-words to say ‘does not represent the views of (institution)’? Where is the agency? The DNC has a platform with explicit, well what are they, the DNC says ‘political rhetoric’ as opposed to actual positions. Wouldn’t it be better to say ‘the views of the owners of’ or ‘the editors of’? But are you then saying that Yves does not share this view? Or are you an editor and don’t agree with yourself? Well, you get the idea.

    Anyway, I’d say let’s kill all the lawyers, but let’s leave legal Bud alone.

  9. Edward

    One comment I would make about the WMD reporting was that the international press, including some British papers, were debunking the propaganda. It was as if America and the rest of the world were in separate realities. Many Americans were reading the Guardian to obtain independent news. The WMD claims of the Bush administration were debunked in congressional speeches, but the pro-war lawmakers didn’t seem to care.

    1. ambrit

      That’s what’s scary now. The pro war legislators don’t seem to care now as well. Last time, it was Iraq, no push over, but not “really” dangerous. Now, it’s Russia, which is truly dangerous. There’s a significant difference between IEDs and ICBMs.

      1. Edward

        This is why I almost voted for Trump. I ended up voting for Stein, but I dithered for a while.

        1. ambrit

          I know that dither feeling. Many of us, and I include myself, are going to be very upset when we’re dithered.

      2. Allegorio

        The neo lib/cons are totally enamored of technology, i.e. relying on “ADA” to run their political campaign, drone assassination squads, pre-programmed voting machines, soon to come robot armies. What the neo lib/cons are planning with regard to Russia China et alia independent nuclear armed nations are hypersonic nuclear weapons that will wipe out their leadership before it has a chance to push their respective red buttons. What could go wrong? Their lust for power is so great, their need for domination so over powering that they would risk the whole planet for their obsession with absolute power. We are in the realms of serious psychopathy here. This is what all the talk about renovating our nuclear arsenal is all about. Once they’ve eliminated international opposition, you know who is next.

    2. fresno dan

      January 8, 2017 at 4:30 pm

      “It was as if America and the rest of the world were in separate realities. Many Americans were reading the Guardian to obtain independent news.”

      Damnit – its too late to be responding to comments, but what Dave said is like dangling a sirloin in front of a hungry dog. And nobody else citedTHE KARL ROVE QUOTE:

      “The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off.

      “That’s not the way the world really works anymore.” He (Karl Rove) continued “We’re an EMPIRE now, and when we act, we CREATE OUR OWN REALITY. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

      1. Edward

        This quote is quintessential Rove. Here he is saying something his critics haven’t dared say, saying it more eloquently then them– and getting away with it. If I am in a debate with someone and I accuse them of not being “reality-based”, ordinarily I expect that person to get angry and make a denial. Wouldn’t proving the accusation win the debate? Or if someone told me I was “reality-based” I would normally take this as a complement. It makes me wonder what are the “ground rules” about what is considered good or bad in U.S. politics. There is actually a similar quote in Mein Kampf.

        1. a different chris

          Yeah but… Rove is preying upon the weak-minded.

          A simple response – “sure, we will be judiciously studying how you fucked up” would have been my response. And eventually, “how about that Math, Karl??”…

          Rove, Bush, etc. are all at home doing the judicious studying of what everybody else is doing now. Couldn’t happen to a nice group of people.

          1. Edward

            True– in the long run, or even medium run, their great schemes didn’t work so well. All the same. Rove seemed to specialize in taking a criticism against his people, and making it a badge of honor or, in the case of swift-boating, turning his opponent into the villain. It is a trick that puts Hitler’s big lie to shame and it actually seemed to work– for a while.

  10. Bugs Bunny

    Seems to me that enforcement of existing Anti-trust law would go a long way in remedying the blob opinion that characterizes MSM reporting. I’m no neoliberal but competition law forces competition and from competition comes diversity in media strategy, reporting and publishing.

    Sorry I said competition three times. I tend to harp on this subject since I was at the center of some pretty tough Anti-trust fights back in the day when the DOJ did its job.

    1. Left in Wisconsin

      Won’t ever happen because Big Media has convinced everyone that they are dying so no need to worry about anti-trust niceties.

      Relatedly, my contact in print journalism (not NYT or Wapo but regional level) reports that there are basically no editors anymore. Stories get posted online directly by the reporters themselves and then copy-edited on the fly or if a complaint comes in. But, at least at the regional level, the reporting is only constrained by lack of reporters, not the need to ‘confirm the narrative.”

  11. ekstase

    Questions I’m asking myself:

    ” put them in the delusional bucket on the supplier side, as opposed to the malevolent bucket.”
    1) Could someone, theoretically, be put in both buckets?

    2) If Elvis is not on Mars, then where is he?

    1. ambrit

      The answer to question 1) is quantum based. Whichever bucket you look in, there “they” are. I suspect the answer to question 2) is also quantum based. Schrodingers Blue Suede Shoes anyone?

  12. Persona au gratin

    “News” – aka storytelling/myth making about “real” recent events – has always been “fake” to some degree or another. The question is, to what degree? However, I doubt most of any political stripe would contest the fact that lately it’s become simply out of control. Welcome to the “information age!”

  13. NotSoSure

    Does the following scenario: “The supplier knows the story is true, but the demander wants to believe it’s true/false” falls under the scenario of “The supplier knows the story is true, but the demander knows nothing about it at all”

    Or how about: “The supplier wants to believe the story is true, and the demander wants to believe it’s true”? Sounds a bit like religion (probably not “fake news”).

  14. nonsense factory

    Was the 2013 Syrian gas attack stories blaming the Syrian government fake news?

    Very likely so.

    But this is right in line with Hillary Clinton’s “public vs. private” position claims. It’s okay to be dishonest about it because intervening to overthrow Assad is obviously “the greater good” just as overthrowing Gaddafi “we came we saw he died ha ha ha!” was a good idea. Unintended consequences? We’ll just cook up some more propaganda to make it look like it’s all going well. Image matters, not substance. If we tell everyone we’re going to win the election, then we’re sure to win the election; we just have to believe, get everyone on message, tell the right story. . .

    Reminds me of a William Gibson quote from Neuromancer:
    “I mean, these guys are all batshit in here, like they got luminous messages scrawled across the inside of their foreheads or something.”

    1. Michael

      Yeah, this was one of the prime examples that was in my head when I wondered wtf HRC was complaining about.

  15. XonX

    Bud from legal insists that I say this post solely represents the views of “Lambert Strether,” and does not represent the views of Naked Capitalism.

    OK, but is Bud part of the problem or part of the solution? Does Naked Capitalism have a view? I thought NC was a forum of views, not a person or a corporation-“person” (and so what if it was).

    So why does Bud need you to say that? What good or bad thing does this enable or prevent because you have now followed Bud’s advice?

    Just curious I guess. I took the time to read it, so now I’d like to know why I did.

    1. Richard

      It sounds to me like the ‘Bud’ admonition is fake in itself. If Lambert – or anyone else writing on NC – says or said anything legally inappropriate, Naked Capitalism would automatically be accountable for publishing it, whether or not its views (whatever they may be) were being ‘represented’.

  16. Goyo Marquez

    What’s interesting to me is how Hillary follows the Clinton modus operandi in prepping the battle space by first accusing others, (They’re promoting fake news), of what she’s about to do, (Putin stold the election.)

    60% of the time it works every time.

  17. John Parks

    “Perhaps there should be more power centers in social media”
    I am not sure by what you mean as “power center” in social media but in my mind any concentration of shared interests or thought merely becomes an easier target for opposition.

    In your links today I was pleasantly reminded of the earlier days of the Moscow Times. I used to check in there regularly to get a vicarious taste of Russian culture and business. It was there that I was introduced to Chris Floyd’s writings. He was employed there at the time. He was, and still is, an example of a decentralized voice, as is Counterpunch, Black Agenda Report, (esp. Margaret Kimberly), Consortium News, Naked Capitalism and more. Your consistently varied links are a testament to the independent and decentralized voices that abound in the web. There are many singular voices around the www that are writing about their lives and it is their singular experiences that, when exposed to the ether, create a larger community that can not be easily attacked or eliminated.

    While the new US legislation designed to control the narrative is a bit scary, and perhaps ambiguous enough to extend to US as well as foreign sources of information, it is probably a good idea to be able to bob and weave rather than to remain stationary target. Serpintine! Serpentine!

    The US is not alone in trying to control the narrative. China has their “picking quarrels and provoking quarrels” law that I feel that our US PTB envies and is working toward. Controlling the narrative in Russia is not easy either, as the gov in Russia knows all too well. There is an active web presence of Russian citizens than spans their political spectrum too. See (HERE) from yesterday.

    Bob and Weave!

  18. Fool

    woah now…how can Hillary possibly have been “patient zero” of Fake News if Snopes — official media arbiter of Real News — created their Fake News section in May 2015?

  19. bezoff

    While I cherish my academic debate training, it is far from a guarantee that someone will apply that training to their lives. I have remained friends with many of my fellow debaters on Facebook including the debate coach (who served in that capacity for 25+ years). Without exception, they were outspoken supporters of Clinton during the election. Basically, if the DNC dropped something into the water supply, it would show up in my feed with one of my debater friend’s pictures next to it in due time.

    The coach of our team, by far the worst offender, even live blogged the Democratic National Convention and said stuff like “I had some reservations about Hillary being a bit too hawkish, but listening to Bill (!) puts me at ease.” This is someone who taught college level debate classes at a major state university.

    My own brother, who was an accomplished varsity high school debater and holds a Ph.D. in a social science, told me recently that he considers Trump not merely a tool of Putin but a “monster tool”. When I pointed out the lack of evidence for his claim, he wasn’t at all concerned. He just knows it to be true. How this is substantially different from the folks who just knew Obama was going to turn America into a socialist state is unclear to me and, apparently, to him too.

    This election has been quite instructive as Lambert is wont to say. The disillusionment runs so deep and strong now, I believe hospital maternity wards should be required to post Dante’s inscription: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter”.

  20. RWood

    Hard-wired: The brain’s circuitry for political belief

    (clip) Neuroscientists at the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC said the findings from the functional MRI study seem especially relevant to how people responded to political news stories, fake or credible, throughout the election.

    “Political beliefs are like religious beliefs in the respect that both are part of who you are and important for the social circle to which you belong,” said lead author Jonas Kaplan, an assistant research professor of psychology at the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “To consider an alternative view, you would have to consider an alternative version of yourself.”

    The findings can apply to circumstances outside of politics, including how people respond to fake news stories.

    “We should acknowledge that emotion plays a role in cognition and in how we decide what is true and what is not true,” Kaplan said. “We should not expect to be dispassionate computers. We are biological organisms.”


    So, how do you feel about that?

    1. dk

      Beliefs are beliefs? Let’s publish!

      ” … how we decide what is true and what is not true.”
      This goes towards “we create the world around us”, whose application has been transferred from subjective to objective reality (no kidding, ask around). Personal truths are a luxury for people insulated from life-or-death decision-making and the penalties for being wrong.

  21. Dwight

    Krugman fudges numbers that benefits his rich patrons and HARMS (in capital letters because I mean real harms that Paul and I don’t really feel) REAL people. Paul wants to play economist, then Paul should be able to handle my calling him a sociopath.(I wanted to say douchebag but I thought it more civil to pathologize his antisocial behavior.)

  22. Ahimsa

    What about another case:

    The supplier doesn’t care whether the story is true or not – only that it is believable and drive sales/web traffic.

    See WaPo – it’s not our job to fact check our stories.

    1. ambrit

      If the no fact check responsibility quote is a true exposition of the WaPo editorial stance, then that “news source” is nothing more than a “shopper” publication.

    2. DanB

      “The supplier doesn’t care whether the story is true or not…” This is Harry Frankfurt’s definition of a bullshitter.

    3. beritbj

      Spot on for pharmaceuticals, clinical testing/marketing and FDA a business to fast-track new drugs from the industrial masters to feed the academic-industrial-political complex

  23. RobC

    Foreign Policy has an interesting article out about automating “fake news” checking, btw.

    Where I personally think we’re going to end up is we’ll have software, similar to antivirus software, which only allows approved, sanitized and verified news sources, and quarantines unapproved sources like Naked Capitalism, FAIR, WikiLeaks, etc. Initially it will be opt-in, it will then become required as governments and corporations install for staff it as part of security measures. The social consciousness will adopt and accept the notion that unapproved news services are scary dirty infections.

  24. Jamie

    ‘News’ is not well defined. If ‘news’ is what appears in newspapers (and by extension, digital news outlets), then Kahn’s typology seems to cover the possibilities and deserves to be recognized as “analytical”. However, if ‘news’ means reporting events in the real world, then only the first two are about news in any way. Numbers 3 and 4 are about gossip. We have, you see, perfectly good words for telling tales one merely believes to be true… and generally ‘news’ is not one of them, though the gossip will quite likely begin a tale with, “Have you heard the news…”.

    Taking the first definition, there can be no “fake news”, for what appears in newspapers is what it is. There can be questions about the veracity of what appears in newspapers, questions, we see, as old as newspapers themselves, and questions about the intentions of the writers and publishers of such ‘news’. But if ‘news’ is what appears in newspapers, the only way to ‘fake’ it is to publish a pretend newspaper, and the fakery would apply to the entire paper, not to individual stories within it.

    Taking the second definition, there certainly can be false accounts of real events, which could be classified as either deceptions or errors if one could know the internal state of another person’s mind, which one cannot reliably know. While such a classification might seem analytical, it is an analysis with no practical application. It is much better to focus one’s analytical skills on discerning what is true and what is false, and not bother too much about deception versus error.

    In my view, the political utility of the “fake news” meme is that it shifts public conversation into debate about intentions, which can never be known with certainty, and therefore cannot be resolved (resulting in polarization), and draws attention away from the true accounts of the events under discussion, which is exactly what the purveyors of the meme would desire. We end up talking about whether the publisher knew the account was false (as Kahn does), and the many motives for publishing false stories, instead of reviewing the details of what actually happened. We end up discussing various opinions, rather than facts. The “fake news” meme is a mechanism for converting the discussion of definite news into uncertain gossip.

  25. dk

    Information has value the aggregate context, not so much in isolation.

    I like “fake” news, it lets me know what people want me to think and they betray their own interests as well (even by omission, holes are things, too). In other words, fake and real get evaluated the same way; by checking how they fit into a unified schema, and the divergences are informative, too, although not necessarily in linear ways. It’s efficient, and I’m pretty happy with the yield’s performance and predictive qualities (aside from that it’s depressing as hell).

    It seems to me like the desire for “real” news is driven in part by the subjective experience of fast-moving events. Constantly updating information streams Twitter and Facebook make is seem like more stuff is happening, but I don’t think the rate of significant stuff is increasing at all. Permutations generated by pundits/etc. on the same story don’t count as actual “new” info. And the subjective impulse to respond/repost/comment “first” (or early) and seem smarter than “other” is driven in part by gradually intra-social competition, completely normal for an ever tightening economy and continually increasing population.

    Also, a tendency to zoom in with limited context inflates the granularity and perceived importance of items. I’m still seeking/waiting on some cogent zoomed-back takes on the Trump/Russia/DNC thing in a larger/global geopolitical context. China, hello? Named biggest/scariest cyber and propaganda actor by US govt agencies until this meme gained traction, and imo obviously a relevant player/beneficiary… further case of journo-pundit incompetence, not that that’s news.

    Also reminds me of that old Rumsfeld chestnut, “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, or vice versa,” and how everybody let him skate on that. Um, no Don. The absence of evidence is not proof of absence. But when absence is the actual case, a profound lack evidence may be the only evidence to be had. Rumsfeld was saying “I have no evidence,” and mumbo-jumbo dancing past it. A nice stat-related take her: http://www.johndcook.com/blog/2011/02/22/absence-of-evidence/

    Nope, I’m A-OK with “fake” news, it isn’t even new, (nice collection of Jeffersonian comment from craazyman, above). It’s SNAFU; lots of unknowns, lots of people filling in unknowns with the close fictions they prefer or benefit from. Watching the various reactions is clarifying, at least. But makes the pejorative attacks on commentary and alt-reporting sites like NC that much more offensive. “I am losing my grip, and it’s all their fault!!” *stabs finger wildly*

    Hope certain jaundiced journalists and financial femme fatales keep keeping it as real as reason can.

  26. ks

    In The Brothers, Stephen Kinzer describes how Allen Dulles cultivated Arthur Sulzberger (NYT), William Paley (CBS), and Alfred Friendly (WP):

    Through them, and through journalists who were veterans of the Office of War Information, the U.S. government’s official propaganda arm during World War II, [Allen Dulles] regularly planted stories about foreign countries and their leaders. By one account he could “pick up the phone and edit a breaking story, make sure an irritating foreign correspondent was yanked from the field, or hire the services of men such as Time‘s Berlin bureau chief and Newsweek‘s man in Tokyo.” The columnist Allen Drury called him “a man of notoriously thin skin who is not above trying to get the jobs of newspapermen who criticize his agency.”

    The Christian Science Monitor used to be the only source of honest foreign affairs reporting, at least it seemed so to me in the 70’s and early 80’s.

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