What’s New About Fake News?

Yves here. The intensity and crudeness of propagandizing has gotten worse in the Trump era, but it’s not as if we weren’t swimming in a sea of disinformation before (think the classic example of agnotology, the prolonged campaign by Big Tobacco to discredit science connecting cigarettes to cancer and other health problems, which has been closely copied b big Energy to discredit the science connecting human activity to climate change). As one reader put it, the US had the feel of the late USSR, where many people had lost trust in official media and the statements of political leaders because they’d been on the recieving end of obvious lies one too many times. When and how we reached a fake news tipping point isn’t clear, but as Dorman stresses, one of the big reasons we are here is that too many people have abandoned standards of evidence and logic in making cases for their causes.

By Peter Dorman, an economist and a professor at Evergreen State College whose writing and speaking focuses on carbon policy, child labor and the global financial crisis. Originally published at EconoSpeak

The apparently falling standards for what people are willing to believe in seems to be the topic of the day.  We have immense, well-capitalized media outlets like Fox News just making stuff up, crazy conspiracies on the internet, a refusal to accept scientific expertise on matters, like climate change, where it is as well established as it’s ever been.  What’s up with all this?

I was provoked into thinking about this by a dreadful book review in The Nation: David Bell on Sophia Rosenfeld’s Democracy and Truth.  I haven’t read Rosenfeld, and maybe she’s pretty good, but it’s clear Bell is confused about the very starting point for thinking about the problem.  He talks about “regimes of truth”, which he cribs from Foucault: there is no capital-T truth out there, just different views on it which possess more or less power/authority.  We happen to suffer from elites or at least some portion of them, writes Bell, who have particularly dismal standards regarding what should count as true.  The solution is to replace the bad authorities with good ones, more or less.

The error, which ought to be obvious, is that capital-T truth is irrelevant.  It’s the wrong reference point, and it doesn’t matter that no one really knows (for sure) what it is.  The real question is, what are the standards we hold ourselves to in learning about the world and minimizing error?  For instance, do we honestly engage with those who disagree with us?  Do we maintain a modicum of self-doubt and face up to the evidence that could show us we’re wrong about something?  Do we respect logical consistency?  These standards don’t guarantee we’ll arrive at the Truth, nor even that we’ll know it if we stumble on it by accident.  They do reduce the risk of error, and that’s about all we can ask.  By not centering the discussion on standards for argument and belief, Bell can’t even pose the relevant question.

So what’s distinctive about the current situation?  I don’t think it’s the extent of dishonest and otherwise wildly erroneous argument and pseudo-facticity; there’s been an abundant supply of that over my lifetime (I’m on in years), and from what I’ve read it was abundant long before that.  I can remember being furious at the Walter Cronkites and David Brinkleys of my youth for purveying news that was blatantly false.

Here’s a hypothesis.  What has changed is not the amount of falsehood but the willful disregard for standards of error detection in order to disseminate it.  We live in a world of greatly increased information flows, where a false news report can and will be contradicted within minutes by someone in a position to recognize it, document its falsity and post it on electronic media somewhere.  A higher proportion of the population is college-educated than ever before, and even many reporters can understand budgets, follow basic statistical analysis, and make sense of scientific arguments.  In other words, as standards have risen, standardlessness stands more exposed than it did in the past.  It’s simply more blatant, because it has to be.

Take an example: the Gulf of Tonkin “incident”.  This was, as all sides now agree, a direct, calculated lie.  The administration of Lyndon Johnson wanted a free hand to wage war in Indochina; to get it they fabricated a fake attack by North Vietnam on a US navy ship.  (The actual attack was us against them.)  But it wasn’t transparently false.  There was a tiny trickle of evidence from Hanoi and only much belated information from US sailors.  It was a fog of war thing.  Today, on the other hand, when Trump issues a lie, the counterevidence is in front of our eyes within minutes.  To maintain his lie, Trump has to discard elementary standards of truth-seeking and reveal himself for what he is.  LBJ had the luxury of being able to keep up appearances.

I don’t mean to come across as so cynical as to say there’s no difference.  On the contrary, standards matter enormously.  Both presidents lied, but only one directly and openly flouts the standard that evidence should count.  My claim is that we’ve arrived at a point at which transparent disregard for logic and evidence is the only way to continue lying.

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55 comments

    1. Lee

      Because if it is true that “Beauty is truth, truth beauty” and “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, you would be correct, sir, madam, or other.

      Reply
      1. chuck roast

        If one were to believe that “Beauty is the only truth” then the circle would be closed.

        We all are aware of beautiful women (or men) that are recidivist (family blog) holes. And they are in constant demonstrative mode, but that doesn’t make them any less physically beautiful.

        There is a certain satisfaction in moving to this weltenschauung. Ones rage factor disappears and ones annoyance factor diminishes substantially…there is a bit humor in it.

        When anxiety is reduced the true beauty of the natural environment reveals itself and “fake” stuff becomes like rain off the back of my visiting mandrake.

        Reply
        1. Alex Cox

          I think you misunderstand the use of the word beauty here. When the poet wrote “truth is beauty and beauty is truth and that is all ye need to know,” he didn’t mean catwalk models or Hollywood stars or starlets. He meant actual beauty — the beauty which surrounds us, if we are able to see it.

          The most important Navajo song, I am told, is the Beauty Way. The poorest segment of our increasingly impoverished society seeks to remember and celebrate the beauty which is/was everywhere… even on our road to hell.

          Reply
          1. witters

            I like Anthony Ashley-Cooper (3rd Earl of Shaftesbury) on this: “what is beautiful is harmonious and proportionable; what is harmonious and proportionable, is true; and what is at once both beautiful and true, is, of consequence, agreeable and good.”

            Reply
  1. integer

    Today… when Trump issues a lie, the counterevidence is in front of our eyes within minutes.

    The corporate liberal media hates Trump, so they are happy to point out his lies, except when he is lying in service of the foreign policy establishment, and those lies are the most consequential.

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    1. ptb

      Well that’s the other thing. When he simply repeats the lies of previous administrations, the ‘fact checkers’ are eerily silent. Which does wonders for their trustworthiness.

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      1. TimH

        That’s because American politics has been successfully polarized. Political supporters have to blindly support their team. This is why identifying Democrats largely embrace Gitmo when BO continued it, despite the clear horrors under Bush.

        The establishments themselves are entrenched too. The horrified rhetoric coming from both parties against AOC shows that.

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      2. Yves Smith Post author

        Right, despite Trump being a classic bullshitter (someone who has no interest in the truthfulness of what he says, as opposed to a liar who knows he’s lying and thus usually takes more care), the fact that Trump is getting a working-over when other Presidents were treated with deference when selling garbage volumes, makes Trump supporters feel justified in rejecting criticism.

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        1. Plenue

          I’m not going to diminish what he [Trump] does. But I just remember in 1965 Lyndon Johnson told the American people for six months “we’re not going to war in South Asia” and he already had troops there. I mean there’s a lie. – Seymour Hersh, Interview, On Contact with Chris Hedges, 30/06/2018

          Reply
  2. el_tel

    Many thanks. The “the willful disregard for standards of error detection” is the only explanation I could come to regarding the last Guardian “meltdown” after its blatant nepotism was exposed in Gogartygate in 2008. (I really wish I’d waited an hour and posted my comment here instead of on today’s links since it is very relevant to fake news).

    In my comment I detail that today the Guardian had another editorial meltdown which, if one wants to be charitable, was just a plain old “Grauniad” mess-up. However, when a BTL person finds a remarkably similar “reader’s problem” from a Guardian column from several years ago, red flags are raised big-time. Whilst both this and the 2008 Gogarty episode are on one level just funny meltdowns, enabling the hilarious BTL commentariat to crucify the editors, they raise serious questions such as: Why are you demanding money in increasingly intrusive ways for “real news” when your coverage gives the impression of going way beyond the old “Grauniad typos” and going into full on clickbait, which seem to rely on believing enough people won’t apply the “sniff test” of plausibility and test of journalistic integrity?

    You’d already lost me with your neoliberal third way rubbish….if I want a good laugh I’ll go to the Daily Mash and contribute to proper news sites like NC like I did twice in the past.

    Reply
  3. BlueMoose

    To be complete and show how pervasive it really is, couldn’t the author have included at least one example from the ‘other’ side? I do agree that nobody is even trying to hide it anymore. It is just blatant, in your face 24/7 crude propaganda. It would be humorous if the consequences wern’t so serious.

    Reply
  4. notabanker

    I am reminded of the Gabbard Town Hall on CNN. Out of the chute she was asked about Syria. The CNN moderator pressed on the answer, Do you believe he used chemical weapons on his people? Gabbard responded that we need to investigate facts, if he is a war criminal he should be tried. CNN moderator pressed further, But the US Government has said he used them? Do you not trust the US Government?

    Gabbard’s eyes lit up, you could see she visibly choked back “What part of WMD’s do you not family blog understand?” and instead gave the cool calculated version of that response. She then received her biggest ovation of the night.

    The veneer is worn through.

    Reply
    1. Kilgore Trout

      At another point in the CNN interview, Gabard was asked by the moderator (paraphrasing) whether she was a capitalist. Gabard did a nice job of eliding out of that one as well, a “gotcha” question to the moderator tantamount to “When did you stop beating your wife?” OTOH, a different forum might suitably have permitted a long thoughtful answer.

      Reply
    2. Kokuanani

      Gabbard was on Colbert last night and was the subject of these same “gotcha” questions. She did a good job of responding.

      Reply
  5. ptb

    It’s even a tiny bit worse than that.

    The contradictions become more apparent in politics, so too in the marketplace. Especially in relations between businesses and mass market customers, but also in relations within and between businesses.

    Anyway, my theory is that successful business entities are the unrivaled apex of our social structure. So their behavior sets the example for our society. Fake news, in their world, is just Advertising 101.

    Sounds hopeless. But only if you take ‘respect for facts’ at face value.

    The reality is that it’s contextual – you have to know when you’re supposed to lie, and when you’re supposed to be honest. And we all do, and we don’t need censors to go around teaching us these rules — human social behavior does it in a tremendously effective way. Look at behavior in the business world – it’s remarkably smooth, the level of roleplay and make-believe is enormous, and there’s no written instruction of any kind for it.

    Now take the parallel back to politics. Again the objective (maybe not my objective, but I don’t get to decide) is get everyone to internalize a nuanced understanding when to lie and when to tell the truth. Again censorship is unnecessary, since basic social behavior does it better. Censorship is also actively harmful – picture a reprise of state control a-la 1930s modernism, but updated for the cel phone age. Not gonna beat this one to death.

    So why is does debate even exist if human behavior is so great at getting everyone to internalize the same set of unwritten rules?

    Reply
  6. Lee

    Really, really old fake news:

    I’m so far behind in keeping up with the news that I only recently learned that as Roman emperors go, Nero wasn’t the baddie he has been made out to be. He did not fiddle while Rome burned. Not only were fiddles yet to be invented, but the emperor was in the streets directing firefighting efforts.

    His public execution of Christians was not his idea but was forced upon him by popular demand. Christians had been since their inception and at the that time were still universally an apocalyptic sect, who both celebrated and gave their god credit for the city’s burning. They may or may not have gotten what they deserved, but they surely asked for what they got.

    I saw it on PBS, so it must be true.
    https://www.pbs.org/video/the-nero-files-tztkdq/

    Reply
  7. Anon

    Yes, yes, only Fox news makes stuff up. So lets change topics to sports and entertainment. Look at Michael Jackson or Lance Armstrong. The willingness of the corporate media to support lying cheating degenerates started well before Trump. If the corporate media can’t even be bothered to try to report on sports or entertainment what can we expect with things like politics? Oh yes and it is all Fox News fault.

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      Sports scores tend to be the only thing in the mainstream news that’s on the up and up, it isn’t as if the Nets beating the Pistons 103-75 last night was fake.

      Reply
  8. JEHR

    I would like to see the fake news outed at every opportunity; for example, when Trump is lying blatantly during one of his TV press conferences, it would be nice to see a bubble pop up visibly beside him with the truth. That conference would be very interesting and reminds me of the cartoons that show the difference between thought bubbles and speech bubbles.

    Reply
    1. marym

      Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale uses twitter to live fact check Trump’s speeches. His results are accumulated to a database. These are mostly fact-like and frequently repeated statements of a simple form (number of electoral votes Clinton got, trade deficit amounts, miles of wall being built), and common anecdote formats for which there’s no independent evidence (burly workers tearfully somehow coming up to him and thanking him for whatever).

      Even if the technical challenge is surmountable of doing this on tv as “thought bubbles,” it would still seem to be more difficult for other forms of political lies that require a more complex counter argument and references.

      Reply
  9. Carolinian

    Actually, I was just reading an article that suggested LBJ himself was lied to by MacNamara re what happened during Tonkin Gulf. Is this true or simply someone covering up for Johnson’s legacy?

    So yes the truth is elusive but in this scientific age one hopes it will be respected and that people no longer operate on “revealed” truth but demand evidence. And re Trump, one thing the author doesn’t mention is that from time to time Trump tells the truth and the media then insist he is lying even though he isn’t. Therefore it’s not simply about Trump. Truth is on the downswing because lots of people make their living by not telling it. In that sense perhaps the decline of religion really is a bad thing because at least faith based ethics were better than none at all.

    Reply
    1. JohnnyGL

      Another tricky episode of elites lying to each other is, supposedly, Roosevelt didn’t know someone under him had cut off shipments of oil to Japan. Once that was done, the Japanese felt they had to strike the USA so they could make a stab at grabbing the oil fields in Indonesia.

      That might have bumped up the timeline of US entry into the war.

      Reply
      1. Ray Duray

        JohnnyGL, I have come to a rather more cynical conclusion about FDR’s foreknowledge of the simultaneous attacks on Pearl Harbor, the Phillipines, British and Dutch interests on Dec. 7-8 in the western Pacific.

        A source I found to be thoughtful and thorough on the topic is Robert Stinnett’s “Day of Deceit” https://tinyurl.com/y4k3qsck Stinnett has me convince that the Admiral in charge of Pearl Harbor was deliberately scapegoated by his superiors in Washington, that the U.S. had set up a sanctions program that became increasingly intolerable to the Japanese, that FDR was well aware of the potential for a sneak attack similar to the devastating Japanese attack on the Russian in Port Arthur, 1905 and that the fleet in Pearl Harbor, consisting of obsolete battleships would make a fine target while the real naval power consisting of our carrier groups were safely dispersed at sea.

        Was it all a setup to con the Japanese into a fatefully bad decision? Yes, I believe that was part of it. Was it also a publicity coup that aroused the anger of an otherwise pacifist leaning American public. Yes, Pearl Harbor served that purpose was well.

        I’d say the chances of FDR being unaware of the oil shipments, fuel shipments, medical shipments, industrial shipments and food shipments beign withheld from Japan was nil. Pearl Harbor was a brilliant maneuver working two angles at once. My hat’s off the FDR, Harry Hopkins, and the JCS et al for figuring out how to create a new world with America as the dominant force thereafter for next 70 years. That doesn’t happen very often. And sometimes it takes a little conniving, cajoling and conspiracy to advance the pieces on the chessboard

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        1. Plenue

          “I’d say the chances of FDR being unaware of the oil shipments, fuel shipments, medical shipments, industrial shipments and food shipments beign withheld from Japan was nil.”

          What a bizarre conspiracy theory. Of course he was aware of them; it was deliberate US policy! Did you before imagine the embargoes and freezing of Japanese financial assets was done without the president’s knowledge?

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      2. rob

        Roosevelt was too smart to not know the Japanese would attack…. in the near term. The treasury dept(they were the ones who handled these types of investigative knowledge before the national security act of 1947.) had figured that after the july end of oil shipments, the japanese would have to find new sources withing 6 mos….. so right before the 6th month, the japanese pulled a “port arthur” also a strategically appropriate act. When certain of unavoidable conflict/fight, the best course of action is to strike first, strike hard….
        Even a low level state dept employee in kobe japan, at the american embassy who was detained for a day or so on dec. 7th 1941, said he wasn’t “suprised” “something” happened. After all the treasury report had been available for months by then….And everyone knew something was going to happen……soon.

        What could be , is that they shut off the oil supplies to initiate an attack, 6 mos later….. the world was already at war…. we just weren’t yet.

        Reply
        1. Wukchumni

          The American ambassador to Japan knew of the Pearl Harbor attack and alerted FDR et al a year before, the news of which was only divulged a dozen years later…

          On January 27, 1941, Grew secretly cabled the United States with information gathered from Ricardo Rivera Screiber, Peruvian Minister to Japan, that “Japan military forces planned a surprise mass attack at Pearl Harbor in case of ‘trouble’ with the United States”, information that was declassified twelve years later. Grew’s account says “There is a lot of talk around town to the effect that the Japanese in case of a break with the United States, are planning to go all out in a surprise mass attack on Pearl Harbor. Of course I informed our Government”

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Grew

          Reply
        2. The Rev Kev

          I think too that the expected Japanese attack was supposed to be in the Philippines and not also an addition attack on the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour. When on that Sunday Frank Knox, U.S. Secretary of the Navy, was told the news of the attack, he said: “My God, this can’t be true! This must mean the Philippines!” he was told by Admiral Stark, Chief of Naval Operations, “No sir. This is Pearl”. Clearly then the expectation of those in the Roosevelt administration would have been an attack on the Philippines after which the US Pacific Fleet would have then sailed to defend those territories. The best laid plans of mice and men…

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          1. JBird4049

            Exactly. The Japanese Navy did succeed in their unexpected attack on Pearl Harbor.

            What I do not understand about the criticism of the United States and its embargoes on Japan. The horrific Japanese actions during its efforts to conquer China as well as its brutal treatment of the citizens of annexed Korea. If the United States had not put its embargoes in place it would have been supporting Japanese atrocities.

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    2. Plenue

      Gulf of Tonkin was all McNamara. There were doubts right from the start that there ever was a second attack on a US destroyer, starting with the ship’s captain himself (in point of fact, there was no attack. The panicked destroyed was maneuvering wildly, firing at literally nothing, and dodging ‘torpedoes’ that were actually pings from its own sonar reflecting off the ship’s own rudder). McNamara purposely made sure that no dissenting information ever reached LBJ’s desk.

      Reply
  10. David

    As a useful guide for the perplexed, I would recommend Julian Baggini’s “A Short History of Truth” which eloquently sets out the different types of truth, and how to recognise and distinguish them.
    People get far too excited about the idea that there’s no single absolute truth. That’s indeed the case, as it’s also the case that the truth which is accepted is the interpretation backed by power. It’s always been thus. But that doesn’t mean just giving up, and suggesting that there’s no need or no virtue in trying to separate the rubbish from the genuine attempts at truth. Indeed, the basic distinction is really one of motive. You can’t fault somebody who tries their best to be truthful based on the information they have, and their ability to evaluate it in the time available.

    Reply
    1. lyman alpha blob

      In case the comment I just tried to post doesn’t show up, I’ll mention here that Harry Frankfurt’s classic “On Bullshit”, which was written well before Trump, is also a very good read on the topic.

      Reply
    2. Alfred

      I want to read that book; thanks! I’d also recommend Sissela Bok’s book, Lying (1978; see below, evidence of two minds thinking alike while I was writing), which gets at the same issues from the opposite side. A look at Wikipedia’s discussion of the Ems Dispatch is also instructive. Perhaps its treatment of the ‘alleged’ Operation Mockingbird is equally relevant. I’ve wondered for some time whether the issue of ‘truth’ has become all the more intractable in the USA because of the tendency here to imagine historical criticism to apply only to Biblical texts, rather than to all texts (or discourse) — and even in the Biblical arena to disdain it. Another (related) possibility is that the American Fundamentalists have been quite successful in portraying “Truth” either as a starting point rather than a destination, or as an absolute rather than the contingency that liberalism discovered it to be. The latter model, because it rejects the skeptical attitude that liberalism adopted toward all documents, seems to account for the success of Fox’s ‘fair and balanced’ approach, which portrays two sides to every issue but allows only one of them to count as ‘truth’. Is it journalism? Or is it propaganda? News? or Fake news? Truth? or truth in advertising? “You decide.”

      Reply
  11. Steven

    When and how we reached a fake news tipping point isn’t clear,

    I know when it was for me. George H.W. Bush’s Desert Storm smelled but GW Bush’s (or was it Dick Cheney’s?) blatant smash-and-grab invasion stunk from well before the get-go. GW offered the decisive proof with his cute little ‘look under the chair for WMDs’ at some event or other. IMHO this illustrates the author’s main contention

    My claim is that we’ve arrived at a point at which transparent disregard for logic and evidence is the only way to continue lying.

    much more decisively than the Gulf of Tonkin.
    My theory for all the willful disregard for evidence is the huge stake most of us have in maintaining a comfortable status quo powered by other people’s oil (i.e. energy) – after having burned through this country’s once ample endowments in an orgy of waste. What we are trying to sustain is above all a ‘financial-military-Congressional-fossil fuels complex’, roughly in that order.
    What matters now is continuing to sustain the illusion that the money-as-debt the West is creating (and has already created) has value, sustaining the privilege of Western politicians to continue writing hot checks to sustain their power and the monetary fortunes of their most powerful constituents.
    The really pathetic part of this is that the ability to compel other nations to continue accepting that money depends in the last analysis on a military capable of enforcing, if required, the ‘legal tender’ status of the West’s money. And that capability has been seriously eroded by those gorging at the money trough of the US military industrial complex.

    Reply
  12. Vichy Chicago

    The School of Pragmatism in the late 19th century had it right: first people decide, then they deduce. And they seek out those sources that confirm their position.

    The only real story about “fake news” is how long the press has managed to convince us that they’re an honest broker, only reporting the story. Very few of their number have done that.

    For example, the yellow press at the end the 19th century in the Hearst-Pulitzer wars ramped up circulation by claiming the Spanish sank the USS Maine.

    Even earlier, the viciousness of partisans newspapers in the early years of the United States. Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State and Benjamin Franklin Bache used “The Philadelphia Aurora” to attack the Federalists. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and John Fenno used “The Gazette of the United States” to attack the Democrat-Republicans.

    “Infamous Scribblers: The Founding Fathers and the Rowdy Beginnings of American Journalism” is a fascinating account.

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  13. TimR

    Wouldn’t it be remarkable if business, government, military, media, academia had all become “criminogenic” environments, hollowed out by fraud and corruption, but somehow Science!!! had managed to preserve its noble ideals intact?

    And why do I even say “if”? Silly me, that would be agnotology. Truly, we live in a marvelous world. The shining priests of science can be relied on, if nothing else can. I rest easy in this delightful thought. Thanks to the author for this reassurance.

    Reply
  14. Steve

    Carl Jung – After finishing The Undiscovered Self said that Americans had become so superficial that within a generation or two they would no longer recognize evil or their participation in it.

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    1. jrs

      of course his very own participation in it is much more ambiguous than the nobody in Americas participation.

      Reply
  15. Kevin

    ..and when Wolf Blitzer states “Breaking News!” at every single cotton-pickin commercial break – does anyone really believe it is “Breaking News”? – And what happens when some “Breaking News” actually occurs?

    And if you’re going to start every single cotton-pickin segment with that lie, why would I trust anything you say??

    They really believe we are numb skulls.

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  16. RBHoughton

    I suspect that what we are talking about has become more fundamentally important in the political analysis and hence the willingness to create new ‘truths’ in justification has become more widespread. The west’s control of global affairs, which rests on the means of exchange, has greatly diminished and appears to be coming to an an end. The cause is 2008 and the US government’s response to it. We are today seeing the UN standing up and asserting opinions based on justice – something they hardly dared to do in the recent past. We are seeing some BRICS adopting independent policies that are not shaped to our advantage. The world is changing after two centuries of Anglocentric guidance.

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  17. The Rev Kev

    I find it remarkable that Trump and his senior figures can come out in public and say yeah, Venezuela is all about their oil. We want it and they have it. It’s a heist. And the main stream media just goes on about the poor people in Venezuela suffering because there is not enough food (without asking why) or are sitting in the dark (without asking how that came about) and saying that they need to make Greedo the President (without asking about his background).
    When the public body is cut off from the facts so it is almost impossible as to make up their own minds about issues correctly, you have a society-wide cognitive dissonance in effect. Thus the term fake news becomes a recognition of reality which leads to furious denials by those in the media to no avail. Nobody believed the news in the old USSR and the west is fast approaching the same point due to bs stories, alternate media being shut down to deny people anything not in agreement with the ‘narrative’ and dubious sources used to check ‘news’. This will not end well. It never does.

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    1. JBird4049

      Creative spin, propaganda, and plain lying has always been around. It is the increasing pervasiveness, the diminishing attempts at even being accurate, and the belief, like that of Karl Rove, that one can create their own reality.

      The news media has always had some credibility problems, but when even the New York Times cuts it editing and fact checking to nothing, and its coverage of certain issues like Trump, Russia, Clinton, and guns is reliably biased or even lies because of the distortions of the cherrypicked facts that always come to the same conclusions again and again, it becomes impossible to trust. I don’t expect to accept the the interpretation of the facts, and certainly not the conclusions, of anyone or any media; it is when the truth becomes less important than the messaging and facts become an obstacle to avoid, then my trust leaves.

      Also, I think that the elites desire to maintain the increasing amount of power gotten by Neoliberalism has meant a lot of money, time, and thought has been used to distort people’s perceptions in order to hide the reality of living under the current political economy. So much so that even the spin masters are unable to remedy what are the facts and what are the lies.

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  18. Skip Intro

    What bizarre head-scratching over a relatively obvious phenomenon. The channels of (dis)information have succumbed to the neoliberal paradigm of market supremacy: truth is irrelevant, there is only the sponsor’s message, and those most capable of projecting it. Much of what was decried as ‘fake news’ in the aftermath of 2016 was actually true, but ran counter to the narrative that the military disinfotainment cartel wanted to propagate. The ‘fake news’ meme was created to restore authority to dishonest narratives spewing from discredited orifices. Ironically, even saying fake news undermines their credibility by suggesting that news is questionable. (See Lakoff Don’t Think of an Elephant e.g.) Puzzling over some new profusion of fake news is just more virtue signaling. I guess for an economics journal/blog, this is as good as it gets… pitiful.

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    1. TimR

      Right, “fake news” itself is similar to the old “conspiracy theory” label — a weaponized term designed to silence critics of establishment narratives.

      There is much that could be said about this particular propaganda meme, such as using Trump to blackwash those who direct it at the mainstream, but this piece misses the ball entirely.

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      1. JBird4049

        Right, “fake news” itself is similar to the old “conspiracy theory” label — a weaponized term designed to silence critics of establishment narratives.

        While the terms “conspiracy theory” and conspiracists were repurposed by the Western intelligence agencies during the Cold War most likely by the CIA and “fake news” primarily by the main purveyors of the stuff.

        Let’s restate it this way, smearing people with the term conspiracist was used to hide such machinations as Cointelpro, Operation Phoenix, Watergate, Operation Condor, the various CIA drug smuggling operations, just to start with. It helps when people blame the Vast Jewish Conspiracy for our society’s problems or a deliberate planned threat to our precious bodily fluids due to fluoridation of the water; the mainstream media and people in authority are not being lazy or even bamboozled by the CIA or MI5 to hide problems, but is actually consciously spreading the filth much like Pravda was used by the Soviet government. The reality that this increases the chances of such as a major war between the United States and other large countries, as one example, does not bother them.

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  19. Steven Greenberg

    Great start to the article, but weak finish. Of course it is always easier (not easy) to diagnose a problem than it is to find the cure.

    Reply

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