Let’s Remember What “Fake News” REALLY Was
January 16, 2017

 
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I‘ve seen it every time control of the White House changes hands. The people who only just started paying attention as of the most recent election are “shocked, shocked!” to discover something terrible about the outgoing administration or politics at large that previous administrations were FAR more guilty of, but they didn’t pay attention to it back then because “their guy” was in the White House doing it. And now that they’ve started to pay attention, suddenly it’s an outrage!

Case in point: This new term “fake news”. Suddenly, everything is “fake news”. And just what constitutes “fake news”? Apparently, it’s any news source that reports something the reader doesn’t like. After months of whiny Tweets about “fake news”, Trump sidelined a CNN reporter last week, telling him his organization is “fake news” before calling on someone from the online Right-wing tabloid “Brietbart.com”. During the primaries, Trump had praised “The National Enquirer” for their report claiming Ted Cruz’s father may be connected to the JFK assassination. In the first days of Trump launching his campaign, he falsely claimed to have “seen on TV” “thousands of Muslims on rooftops in New Jersey cheering” on 9/11 as the towers fell. Never happened, and his claims that it did ARE “fake news”.

But the birth of modern “fake news” really goes back to the George W Bush Administration.

Before the invasion of Iraq, almost no one in the mainstream news seriously questioned claims coming out of the White House that Iraq was: amassing “stockpiles of chemical weapons”, developing “pilotless drones” and the existence of “mobile weapons labs” all being amassed with the intent of “attacking the United States”. And when people like Ambassador Joe Wilson dared claim what we were being told wasn’t true, reporters friendly with the Bush Administration, like the WaPo’s Robert Novak, attacked him, exposing his CIA agent wife’s (Valery Plame) secret identity. And then there was NYTimes reporter “Judith Miller“, who was spoon fed false information by none-other than Vice President Dick Cheney himself regarding Iraq’s WMD program, who then cited Miller’s reporting on shows like “Meet the Press” to bolster his own claims of the existence of WMD’s. But despite doing so, she never called him out for it, choosing instead to uncritically continue helping the Bush White House sell the war. Everything the Bush Administration said about Iraq being an imminent threat, even alluding to the possibility they may have been involved in 9/11, was not true and their critics were destroyed with the help of fellow members of the Press terrified of being labeled “on the side of the terrorists” after 9/11. No one asked the hard questions until it was too late. And suddenly, in a prime example of locking the barn door after the horse escapes, The Press suddenly became hyper-vigilant and critical of the Bush Administration, determined not to be embarrassed once again.

With a now adversarial Press questioning their every move, the Bush Administration reached out to friendly right-wing reporters and welcomed them into the White House. Most notorious of these was a “reporter” going by the name “Jeff Gannon” from a hard-right online-only “news” source called “Talon News”. Gannon was called on at almost every WH Press conference. The moment the questioning became too adversarial for Press Secretary Scotty McClellan, he’d call on Gannon to toss him a softball question. Among his more ridiculous [ibid]:
 

“Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. [Minority Leader] Harry Reid was talking about soup lines, and Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet, in the same breath, they say that Social Security is rock solid and there’s no crisis there. How are you going to work — you said you’re going to reach out to these people — how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?”

 

Yes. That really happened.
 

Interestingly, no one in the Bush White House ever looked very hard (or really cared) into just who this fawning “Gannon” character was that they had granted access to the White House in a time of war… not just to the Press Briefing room, but even President Bush himself. For if they had, they would have discovered: 1) His name wasn’t “Jeff Gannon” but in fact “James Guckert” and 2) that he secretly moonlighted as a gay prostitute for men in the military. A serious potential blackmail threat. But the Bush Administration didn’t care as long as they had a friendly face in the Press gaggle fawning over them.

Oh, but it didn’t end there boys & girls. Because the major news outlets were now highly critical of the Bush White House, the Bush Administration starting producing THEIR OWN fake news… using fake reporters (actual actors) with fake names… claiming to be reporting on recent successes coming out of the Bush Administration. The video was then distributed to small market, low budget news stations across the country that were desperate for content to fill their newscasts. But those stations never told their viewers where the content came from, and never revealed that the “reporters” in those newscasts didn’t actually work for them.

From grateful Iraqis thanking Bush for the overthrow of Saddam, to tales of advances in airport security put in place by the Bush Administration…. ie: anything the White House felt they deserved praise for but weren’t getting. And by no coincidence, small-market TV stations typically fell in rural areas that tended to vote Republican, so “feel-good news” that pushed back against much of the negativity local viewers were hearing from other sources helped the Bush Administration shore up its flagging base, create confusion, and sow distrust of other news outlets reporting critically of them.

As their success with “fake news” grew, the Bush Administration got cocky, expanding their “in-house fake news” distribution to major markets like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta, attracting attention that led to exposure of the entire program and its shutdown.

But like the TV commercial says: “But wait! There’s more!”

While producing “fake news” segments with paid actors posing as reporters, the Bush Administration also tapped friendly “established” (I hesitate to call them “real”) Conservative reporters to report favorably on their activities. I already mentioned Novak & Miller above, but another was Conservative African-American columnist Armstrong Williams, who was paid nearly a quarter of a million dollars to promote “No Child Left Behind” [ibid]… the failed education policy that led to years of incessant testing and schools wasting all their time “teaching to the test” rather than teach children how to solve problems or learn anything new. But according to Williams, the program was a resounding success.

So when I now hear Donald Trump and his supporters criticize legitimate news organizations that fact check their stories before reporting on them as “fake news”, while directing others to Right-wing troll sites repeating ridiculous unsubstantiated and/or debunked stories like “PizzaGate” and “Jade Helm” that are unable to link to a single source to substantiate their claims, it makes me furious. (Note: I ALWAYS provide links to back up any questionable claim.)

And now Donald Trump is doing it. I swear to God, this country has just elected a 13-year old girl as president of the United States. I KNOW his iPhone is covered in Rhinestones. I just KNOW IT.
 

Postscript: Sadly, next week will be our first post under a new Commander in Chief. I STILL can’t bring myself to say the words “President Trump”. It’s still an unfathomable thought. And I’m someone who has insisted George W Bush be called “President Bush” in his first reference in any column simply out of respect for the office regardless of my feelings towards him. I’m just not prepared to make that same commitment to Donald J Trump.
 


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January 16, 2017 · Admin Mugsy · No Comments - Add
Posted in: fake scandals, myth busting, Politics, rewriting history, Right-Wing Hypocrisy