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Sunday, May 13, 2018

"To update Mark Twain, there are lies, statistics, and news media accounts."

As readers know, I have written three books on Donald Trump and the press -- in real time. "Trump the Press" on his nomination was written during the primary season. Likewise, "Trump the Establishment" was written during the election.

"Fake News Follies of 2017" was completed on December 28, 2017.

These were not collections of blog posts. These were books that allowed me to explore more deeply the failings of the press. Judging by the Amazon reviews of the books, I succeeded.

I share with all readers the first chapter of "Fake News Follies of 2017."

In 2017, the media and Democratic Party officials defined Fake News as websites that look like news sites but disseminate information that is false or misleading. They included satirical sites.

President Trump and his supporters defined Fake News as news organizations that deliberately disseminated false stories. They did not include satirical sites.

I define Fake News as the fog of war. In 2017, much of the political media chose to go to war with Donald John Trump. They did not choose wisely.

Much of the media refused to believe Trump won the presidency fair and square on November 8, 2016. All their polls showed he would lose. He must have cheated. But how? Barack Obama gave them a sophist answer.

Nine days after the election, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Obama held a press conference in Berlin. Asked about the election, the president launched into an eight-minute lecture. He blamed Fake News.

“Because in an age where there’s so much active misinformation and it’s packaged very well and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television. If everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won’t know what to protect,” he said.

But most Fake News flowed from the mainstream news media. Its disinformation campaign surpassed anything on social media. Biased reporting spread like measles in a kindergarten under Obama, as many media outlets embraced his liberalism.

Reporters went after Trump with abandon, and with the blessing of their editors.

“If you have a nominee who expresses warmth toward one of our most mischievous and menacing adversaries, a nominee who shatters all the norms about how our leaders treat families whose sons died for our country, a nominee proposing to rethink the alliances that have guided our foreign policy for 60 years, that demands coverage—copious coverage and aggressive coverage,” Carolyn Ryan, senior editor for politics for the New York Times, told the newspaper’s media critic Jim Rutenberg in an August 7, 2016, report.

In that piece, Rutenberg noted, “As Ms. Ryan put it to me, Mr. Trump’s candidacy is ‘extraordinary and precedent-shattering’ and ‘to pretend otherwise is to be disingenuous with readers.’

“It would also be an abdication of political journalism’s most solemn duty: to ferret out what the candidates will be like in the most powerful office in the world.

“It may not always seem fair to Mr. Trump or his supporters. But journalism shouldn’t measure itself against any one campaign’s definition of fairness. It is journalism’s job to be true to the readers and viewers, and true to the facts, in a way that will stand up to history’s judgment. To do anything less would be untenable.”

He called for journalists to abandon the principle of fairness in the name of principle. How low the news trade had fallen since the days of nineteenth -century newspaper publisher E. W. Scripps, whose motto was “Give light and the people will find their own way.” Ryan and Rutenberg wanted to do the thinking for the people.

The 2016 presidential campaign completed the merger of opinion and news coverage, ending the noble experiment in objective journalism.

The telegraph led major newspapers to form the Associated Press on May 22, 1846. Information suddenly traveled among the cities in minutes, not days. The divergent political views of its member newspapers forced this syndicate to play stories straight down the middle. But 170 years later, newsrooms abandoned objectivity to stop Trump’s election. Most of the media wanted Clinton to win. She received 243 newspaper endorsements. He received but 20.

Ryan’s dream of toppling Trump with “copious and aggressive coverage” backfired. It was too much and too obviously unfair. Having abandoned objectivity, the news media’s post-election cry of not being Fake News rang hollow.

For when it came to Fake News, the news media had no rival. From Janet Cooke of the Washington Post winning a Pulitzer in 1981 for making up an eight-year-old heroin addict, to NBC News, CNN, and the New York Post framing Richard Jewell as the Atlanta Olympics bomber in 1996, and beyond, the media has spread Fake News faster and broader than anyone else on the Internet could.

To update Mark Twain, there are lies, statistics, and news media accounts.

Fake News had many facets. Outright lies were rare. More common was spinning the news. Agenda setting was the most powerful tool in manipulating public opinion. What made page one dictated the public debate.

Richard Benedetto, who retired as a reporter to teach at American University, compared coverage of the murder of an abortion doctor in Wichita, Kansas, on May 31, 2009, and murder of a soldier and the wounding of another at a recruiting station in Little Rock, Arkansas, the next day.

“Here’s how the media played the two stories,” Benedetto wrote in Politico on June 9, 2009.

“Murder of abortion doctor on Sunday—front-page news in most major newspapers and a lead story on network TV news shows on Sunday and Monday.

“Murder of one Army recruiter and wounding of another on Monday—buried inside the same papers and newscasts on Tuesday.

“Meanwhile, follow-up stories and columns on the abortion doctor still got bigger play in at least four major newspapers—the Washington Post, USA Today, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal—than the shooting of the soldiers got on its first day.”

One explanation was most journalists in America favored abortion-on-demand, while few liked the military. The murder of an abortionist meant more to them than the murder of a soldier. Also, the murderer in Little Rock was Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, a Muslim. Many journalists felt it their duty to combat Islamophobia, which meant downplaying such stories.

Agenda-setting manipulation failed in the 2016 election because the constant barrage of negative coverage overloaded people. By the time the Clinton campaign rolled out the vulgar Billy Bush tape, Trump supporters had tuned the media out.

“A whopping 91 percent of news coverage about Donald Trump on the three broadcast nightly newscasts over the past 12 weeks has been ‘hostile,’ a new study finds,” Hadas Gold reported in Politico on October 25, two weeks before the election.

However, Trump was not the first Republican presidential candidate to face an overwhelmingly negative press. In the 2004 race, CBS News resorted to Fake News. The network reported that President Bush’s commander when he was in the Texas Air National Guard, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, wrote memos disparaging Bush’s service in 1973. CBS showed viewers photocopies, not the original memos.

The only person who knew whether the memos were true was Killian. He died twenty years earlier in 1984. But new technology exposed the lie. Blogger Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs looked at the purported memos and determined the thirty-one-year-old memos were not typewritten but produced by modern word-processing software.

Within a few months, longtime anchor Dan Rather left CBS because his attack on Bush backfired. His deceit led to an infamous headline in the New York Times on September 14, 2004, “Memos on Bush Are Fake but Accurate, Typist Says.”

Reporters Maureen Balleza and Kate Zernike wrote, “The secretary for the squadron commander purported to be the author of now disputed memorandums questioning President Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard said Tuesday that she never typed the documents and believed that they are fakes.”

More than a decade later, fake but accurate applied throughout the media.


  1. I've been reading this one a little bit at a time. Left it in a certain location and try to read it while there. It is really disturbing because you know realize while reading it that the other side must have given up on the enlightenment project a long time ago and simply wants to enslave our descendants by whatever means are available.

    There is no common ground any more.

    1. I too have been slowly reading it due to circumstances beyond my control. I have not finished any book or started a new one in months. fake News Follies is excellent. If anyone reading Don’s blog has not bought the book, do yourself a favor and buy it.

  2. "Hands up, don't shoot."

    But perhaps the the Fakiest of all is their role in the Fusion/Dossier Debacle, an Agit-Prop Black Op against the American people that continues to this very day.

  3. Did congress authorize the money for barry to pay billions to iran and if not how did he get the dollars delivered on pallets? Is it time to indict barry for funding terrorists? PDJT should go on the offensive and put the real traitors in jail, or, execute them!