Just a few words to save you and me some sanity

I have written before my browser feed seems to be like a gossip column with the he said/ she said stuff that goes on as news. Rather than spend time on issues, we spend far too much time on things of little consequence. The reporters share some culpability, but the political and entertainment news makers share most of the blame.

So, here are a few rules of the road to help both your and my sanity.

  • If a politician is adding little or no value with his or her comments, ignore him or her. I see so much BS being spewed out of the mouths of elected officials, it is embarrassing. Names like McCarthy, Trump, Cruz, Cuomo, Gohmert, Gaetz, Greene, Graham, Johnson, et all are having a very hard time uttering truthful comments. Ignore them if they cannot add value. Just because their followers may believe their BS, does not mean we have to.
  • Ignore the comments that come from entertainment hosts disguised as news people. Fox defended in court one of its nighttime hosts saying he was not a news person, but an entertainer. So, Fox argued successfully his comments should not be considered news and are not subject to defamation scrutiny. This is the “no one should take what he says seriously argument,” which is hypocritical because that is why the person is on the air. Carlson, Hannity, Ingraham, O’Donnell et al are entertainers. And, the truth is not a consistent guest on the shows of too many.
  • With that said, we should not knock too many entertainers, as some comedians have reported news far more accurately than some news sources. But John Oliver, Trevor Noah and Jon Stewart never claimed to be news people. Yet, each have received acclaim for the veracity of their news reporting used in their comedy shows. The work they did on tele-evangelists, property seizure, voter id laws, punitive court costs, beauty pageants, conspiracy parrots, etc. were excellent.
  • Truth. We need this more than ever. Yet, too many have devalued its use. When the truth is deemed superfluous, the lies flow even more. And, organizations and followers take on the personality of their leader. The head of the Republican party is known as a very untruthful person. So, it is not a surprise conservative pundit David Brooks said a week ago, “To be a leader in the Republican Party means you have to lie.” This does not give a hall pass to Democrats, as they need to be as truthful as possible. The lying is far more prevalent on the right, but it is not absent on the left.

That is enough for now. Seek out the truth tellers. Ask questions and listen to the answers. But, it is more than OK to ignore those who are not only not in the ballpark, but are not in the same city as the truth.

My browser seems like a gossip column with the tribal BS – where is the news?

With all of the tribal BS going on, the folks who are supposed to report on the news seem to spend a lot of time correcting others. It has grown commonplace for very biased sources to make things up and watch the more legitimate news sources report on the lack of veracity of the biased source. To be honest,, news reports of the lack of veracity of some opinion hosts is not really news to me.

It should be noted this is all by design, as it gets people talking about nothing important overlooking the fact that things are not getting done. The other unfortunate objective is to discredit the whole news process. If sources with lots of followers lie often, and more reputable news sources get caught in a lie, it defames the news credibility. We just witnessed almost six years of a former candidate and president routinely claim that all negative news about him was “fake news.” Just because he said it was fake, did not necessarily mean it was not true.

But, this also impacts other politicians. As a group, politicians are not known for their truthfulness. And, some are well known for not being consistently truthful. This former candidate called an opponent “Lyin’ Ted” and was not far from the truth, yet he failed to look in the mirror when he made the accusation. Sadly, if a politican says something, check other sources. The body politic has earned this requirement.

So, if I see things in my browser that are he said/ she said stuff, I pass. Nowadays, if I see a picture of the former president who is not known for his veracity, I pass. The same goes for certain opinion hosts and politicians, as their words are usually less than truthful, so I pass.

Negative news has a larger echo than positive news

We should remind ourselves that bad news has a larger echo than good news. This is why good news articles and social media posts are so needed. News agencies publish “conflict” as it sells better. The doctor who does things well 19 times out of 20 is not newsworthy, until he messes up that one time. The best offensive tackle is not newsworthy unless he is penalized or his opponent gets by him to the quarterback.

No question, division exists and civility is lacking to too many in discourse. But, what we don’t see and hear are the countless folks who are living their lives and getting along. Most people do not pay attention to the blathering untruths of people named Carlson, Hannity, Ingraham, et al. We are too busy paying attention to our own lives.

If we do watch news, it is more often entertainment or sports news or something someone shared on social media that was more provocative than accurate. In fact, much of what finds may way into my browser could qualify as gossip – some one reacting to the inanity said by an opinion host who is just trying to sell ratings. My reaction before I pass on reading it is “Oh, (insert name) must have said something stupid again.” Next.

Some have prophesized this will cause our extinction. It does threaten our democracy, but will likely not cause our extinction. On that front, what we need to worry about is too many people chasing too few water and food resources. So, before we are pronounced extinct, please note it is not as bad as portrayed, but it still needs to be a lot better. Our real problems are hard enough without some opinion host masquerading as a news person making up inane things. My advice is to ignore blather and check other sources.

Shepard Smith Blasts Former Fox News Colleagues Who ‘Propagated the Lies’

Shepard Smith was one of the better journalists at Fox News, but was forced out when he told inconvenient truths about the outgoing US president. In so doing, he was at odds with the primetime hosts who offered their opinions, often to mask those inconvenient truths. In a an article by Rudy Takala of Media called “Shepard Smith Blasts Former Fox News Colleagues Who ‘Propagated the Lies’: I Don’t Know How They ‘Sleep at Night,’” Smith holds no punches in speaking about those primetime opinion folks.

Here are a few paragraphs, with a link below to the article:

“Former Fox News host Shepard Smith excoriated his old colleagues for spreading what he called “disinformation,” and said he stuck with the network in order to combat their efforts.

‘If you feel like the Fox viewers were getting mis- or dis-information, I was there to make sure that they got it straight,’ Smith said in the interview with PBS News’ Christiane Amanpour. ‘There were a lot of others in there who I thought were trying to do the same thing. But I thought that to just abandon it, and to deprive those viewers of … to deny them that, with the thought that they might replace it with opinion instead, seemed a little selfish. So I stuck with it as long as I could.’

Smith, who joined the network at its founding in 1996, left in 2018 amid tension with primetime host Tucker Carlson. He joined CNBC with an hour-long weekday program in September. The show quickly made headlines for struggling to draw viewers.

‘My goal was to just keep the blinders on and just do my job to the best of my ability,’ Smith added, before taking aim at his old network’s opinion hosts. ‘Opine all you like, but if you’re going to opine, begin with the truth and opine from there. And it’s that deviation from that that has caused me the greatest concern. I believe that when people begin with a false premise and lead people to astray, that’s injurious to society, and it’s the antithesis of what we should be doing.

‘I don’t know how some people sleep at night, because I know that there are a lot of people who have propagated the lies, and have pushed them forward over and over again who are smart enough and educated enough to know better,’ he added.”

Many people who have told inconvenient truths about the outgoing president were fired, reassigned or lost their jobs. Just the latest two, Attorney General William Barr and Election Cybersecurity leader Chris Krebs, both openly pushed back on the fraudulent and unproven election fraud claims of the outgoing president. Krebs noted this was the most secure election ever and Barr called the outgoing president’s claims ‘bulls**t.” So, they had to go.

Truth is not used often or valued by the outgoing president. Just looking at the very many people who have been pardoned, which include a parade of corruption and fraud criminals, it shows what he values. Lies and loyalty over truth. And, that is not the kind of leadership we need, from public officials or folks who tell us what they think for a living.

Shepard Smith Blasts Former Fox News Colleagues Who ‘Propagated the Lies’: I Don’t Know How They ‘Sleep at Night’ (msn.com)

The echo chamber feedback loop

“Everyone is talking about this,” says the outgoing president on more than a few occasions.. “Everyone knows this is true” or “Everyone knows” he might use as an alternative or add-on to the above, as he is prone to repeat himself. These are intentional phrases used to make the listener or reader skip past them and assume the statements are true. When you hear or read these comments, do yourself a favor and assume the opposite.

Why? Because you are hearing an echo chamber feedback loop. The echo chamber occurs when the same piece of information, rumor or conspiracy theory is repeated within limited sources of information. In fact, this is how disinformation is so easily shared, especially with an untruthful, unrelenting and unaware user in the White House. In fact, when a Russian, Iranian, Chinese or American troll hears the outgoing president repeat what they made up, it is like capturing lightning in bottle.

Here is how it works. One of these sources will concoct an outlandish story that has some link to the truth or preconceived notion. about a person or party. Hillary Clinton is a prime target, eg, she is imperfect and an easy foil for made up stuff. As of this writing, there is a North Carolina man who is in jail because he believed that Clinton was running a child trafficking ring from a pizza parlor in Washington and took action armed for bear.

The concocted story is then picked up by one of the conspiratorial websites or a known sensationalist like Alex Jones, Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh. Since the outgoing president is on the look out for props to sell with (meaning a good story), he will latch onto it and retweet. Since he is president, the news agencies may pick up on the story he is espousing. As it gets repeated more, the lack of veracity of the story does not get repeated each time with the story, especially within the limited sources of information.

Then, the outgoing president will hear these stories and repeat them again. The story is still concocted, but now the White House incumbent believes it to be true and will punctuate statements with the phrases above. What is also interesting is even when the outgoing president makes things up on his own, he will begin to believe his own BS. This is what has happened with fraudulent claims of wide-spread voter fraud. He staged this story for months, but now believes it to be truth. Why? Because losing cannot be tolerated.

Years from now, historians will look back at this period and define the outgoing president as the most corrupt and deceitful US president. The voter fraud story is just a subset of his deceit, but the real story is how a person, well documented as untruthful, has convinced his followers every else is lying. That may be the biggest con in American history.

Two rules of thumb to remember. Read and listen to multiple sources. And, if the outgoing president says it or writes it, do not assume it is true. The odds are well in your favor to consider it false.

If you give a mouse a cookie

One of the kids’ favorite children’s book is “If you give a mouse a cookie.” The book takes you on a series of steps after that first cookie offer. In this vein, here are a few meandering thoughts.

If you get your news from extreme talk show venues, then do not be surprised by the strange looks you get when you espouse what you heard or read.

If you get your news from the president, you may want to check additional sources as his veracity is highly dubious.

If you are too rash with getting out of shelter-at-home restrictions, please heed the counsel of Dr. Birx who said on Fox she worries about people bringing home infections to grandma and grandpa, something you will regret the rest of your life.

If you protest with an assault weapon in tow, do not be surprised when your message is discounted. If you walk into a legislative building with a firearm, do not be surprised if you are arrested.

If you say inane things, do not be surprised if people treat you with circumspect. Saying you will eat health care officials if they stand in the way of opening the economy does not improve your argument.

If you drink disinfectant to prevent COVID-19, do not be surprised if you end up in the hospital. Same goes with the Tide pod challenge or shooting your fanny with silicon to look like a Kardashian.

And, if you give a mouse a glass a milk, don’t be surprised if he wants a cookie to go with it.

Vox on Fox

Vox on Fox. No, this is not a Dr. Seuss book title or quote. It is more akin to a quote from Mark Twain, “It is easier to fool someone than convince him he has been fooled.” Why? Vox has put together two You Tube videos which should heighten your concern over Fox News (see below), which my oldest son shared with me.

One video notes the power and reach of Fox. It traces its origins to a memo of Roger Ailes when he worked for President Richard Nixon. It shows how Fox influences the news covered, even if you don’t watch Fox News. Like a dog chewing on a bone, Fox will overinflate small issues to discredit the Democrat Party. This is why Fox watchers know who AOC is moreso than non-Fox watchers. This is why Benghazi became a bigger issue than it was as determlned early on by a nonpartisan review.

The other video shows their influence on one viewer who occupies the White House. This person has access to some of the best intelligence information in the world, but chooses to be more influenced by Fox and Friends. This must cause great consternation to people who do their darnedest to get it right as they get upstaged by entertainers who can sell a better story to a key listener.

The narrator of the Vox video notes the causal relationship between items said on Fox and Friends and this viewer’s tweets. The narrator notes he counted fifty tweets from this person within three minutes of the story being said on Fox and Friends. And, often the words are verbatim.

Even when I was a Republican, I did not watch Fox News. The opinion folks are simply over-the-top story tellers, who should not be taken serioiusly – Beck, Riley, Hannity, Riviera and so on are caricatures. The ones who found their conscious like Lt. Col. Ralph Peters or Judge Napolitano get vilified for speaking the truth. Peters left offering a condemning resignation letter.

If you do persist in watching Fox, pay more attention to Chris Wallace and Shepard Smith. The are news people. if you get your news from Hannity or Carlson or that viewer’s tweets – do yourself and country a favor and stop. You are being “Twained,”


Plausible sensationalism creates the illusion

In follow-up to a satire post inspired by The Onion, back and forth comments with Linda and Jill noted a sad truth. There is so much fake news created by, for and passed along by this President, it may be putting The Onion’s satire on the back burner. What used to play as satire is being covered by pseudo-news/ entertainers on various shows as news or plausible speculation. And, some pseudo-news outlets have a mission of putting forth conspiracy theories or false stories.

Democracy requires an informed electorate. On NPR, I heard a news reporter who has been victimized in a cruel way by fake news, state that in Europe, they are used to Russian propaganda. One of the top rated shows on Sunday night in one of the Baltic States is to highlight fake news that has been planted by Russian agents that week. Whereas we watch some faux-reality show here in the US, they are debunking myths presented as news. In the US, it has been proven we will believe just about anything.

The key is for the fake story to have “plausible sensationalism.” To create a saleable illusion it has to be sensational. Yet, it cannot be off the boards crazy, as it will not be believed. It has to have some grounding or plausibility. The plausibility could be a person who is painted as untrustworthy or it could be related to a fact. The news reporter speaking on NPR noted the Russians under Putin have done this for years and often will surround a fake story with three or four true ones. So, the reader or watcher will be fooled in believing each story is true.

InfoWars does this quite often, which is a reason they offend and are often sued. The lead storyteller, Alex Jones, will say the mass shooting at Sandy Hook was staged, for example. Or, he may claim that Hillary Clinton is raising money by running a child pornography ring from a pizza parlor in Washington. The first story relies on the NRA and their avid members to make the story plausible. The second one relies on the built-over-time mistrust of Clinton coupled with a pizza parlor for plausibility.

Recently, we had Geraldo Rivera and others on Fox claim the story of the bombs being sent to fourteen Democrats was a “false flag” operation. Per these pseudo-news/ entertainers, the bombs were not real and being sent by a Democrat plant. The purpose of the operation is to influence the election. The false story got so much airplay and social media use, it had to be debunked by the US Justice Department.

The same goes with the President who is the biggest purveyor of fake news in America. He watches these shows or hears of the stories and passes them along. Then they get reported on Fox or mainstream news, and then he repeats them saying “people are saying.” All they have done is repeated the lie the President said. It is akin to validating your own rumor when it circles back to you. The President will often say things without proof or make up parts of conversations as he did with the Finnish President when he said they rake the forests to prevent forest fires in Finland.

Whether he is saying there our middle eastern terrorists among a slow-moving caravan of many women and children which justify the cost of sending troops to our border or claiming rampant voter or election fraud, there is enough plausible sensationalism to make people believe his BS. On the first one, why would terrorists spend months in a caravan to infiltrate the US, when they have such a good track record of recruiting people online? On the latter one, his party has been claiming greater voter fraud than exists to pass voter suppression laws.

So, what do we do about this? Please check your sources. If you are getting your news from InfoWars, Breitbart, Donald Trump, the MSNBC or Fox pseudo-news shows after their real news efforts go off the air, please stop or take it with a huge grain of salt. If you quote Alex Jones or Sean Hannity to someone, then be prepared for pushback that you should get. If you cite the President, be similarly prepared as he is more untruthful than he is not, as measured by Politifacts and judged by people who know him well.

A final rule of thumb. Sensational stories are not necessarily false, but be skeptical and ask questions. There are two well-known sensational ones underway right under our noses. Did Mohammed bin Salmon order the execution of the Khashoggi? The Keystone Kops storytelling by the Saudis imply something is amiss and our own CIA said he did. The other is the inadvertent or planned collusion with Russia to influence our 2016 election. The fact the Russians did is pretty much accepted, even begrudgingly by the President. But, we must get to the bottom of the bigger question.

Should we be skeptical? Of course, but consider the sources and nature of those involved. And, consider the degree and magnitude of changing stories that has gone with each. One thing for certain in my book – neither one is a witch hunt.

Stories floating in the air

Between the US President and his three prominent spokes people, Sean Hannity, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders and Rudy Guiliani, there are numerous stories about what happened, what was said, what was tweeted, etc. floating around in the air. The mercurial President lives news cycle to news cycle, having the attention span of a child. So, he is prone to say or tweet something that changes a bad news paradigm. The truth is less relevant. Which is germane, as he tells stories like a child. “But, mom what about Joey or Susie. They did it too.”

Trump changes his stories so much, to me the stories are floating around in the air like comic strip bubbles. So, it is truly hard to keep track of his lies. He simply wears people out that they get numb to his prolific lying. He denied it then and denies it now, but of course he was aware about payoffs to women to keep them quiet about his many indiscretions. He, of course, knows about those indiscretions which he also denies. We just need to believe he was giving them money to keep them quiet about something that he said did not happen.

And, he of course, knew everything about Junior’s meeting with the Russians in a building that Trump owns about getting dirt on someone. Throwing dirt is Trump’s modus operandi. I was tickled to see how Sanders defended Trump who has been accused of using animal terms or lack of intellectual prowess to denigrate his African-American critics as racist tactics. Her defense is Trump is an equal opportunity attacker of critics, not using those precise words. In other words, he is jerk to people of all races.

Guiliani says now Trump never talked to James Comey about Michael Flynn. Really? I guess next he will say Flynn never talked to the Russians about a back channel or eliminating the sanctions. Or, Flynn never lied to Mike Pence about so doing, which was the stated reason he was fired. I am still trying to figure out what this doppelganger did with the old Rudy. Rudy used to be well thought of, now he is a barking dog that has a hard time keeping track of the floating stories.

At that might be the best analogy. Trump lies and changes stories so much, it is hard for him and his spokespeople to keep track of the floating stories. To me, that is sad to say about the President of our country. He lies so much, he cannot remember when he has lied and what he said earlier.

To be frank, I do not mind people being more conservative than I am on certain issues (I am actually fiscally conservative, but socially progressive). What I do mind is that conservative people try to rationalize this President, when it is quite apparent that he lies more than he tells the truth. I do mind when they accept as facts whatever Trump says, when he admits to not liking to do homework to know the facts. But, this belief in less than accurate news is precedes Trump, which is a key reason he was able to win them over.

So, my advice is to stick with good news sources. They are the ones that print retractions when they get it wrong and admit to it. Also, start from the following basis point. Do not believe a word the President says and take with a large grain of salt anything anyone on his team says. You will be more right than wrong if you do. As Omarosa said, “in Trump world, everyone lies.” That may be the truest thing she ever said, and she would know.