Living in a post-truth society

The so-called ‘pizzagate’ story gets weirder the more one delves into it. It has become a symbol of how social media has enabled fake new gets circulated widely. For those not familiar with it, the story was that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party were running a child porn/sex trafficking ring out of a Washington, DC pizza shop. Just stating this will raise the eyebrows of even a marginally rational person, because it seems such an absurd claim on its face that it would require a high level of evidence to substantiate it. But apparently no evidence at all was necessary for the Clinton-haters, especially one person who went to the shop with a rifle to shut down this operation and shot up the place before being arrested. Fortunately there were no injuries.
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The new red scare and fake news

In the December 2016 issue of Harper’s Magazine (subscription required) , Andrew Cockburn writes about the constant threat inflation that is practiced by the US government, whipping up one scare after another in order to support the vast expenditure on new weapons system, many of which do not work and cost vastly more than originally budgeted. We had the Soviet Union and president Kennedy’s infamous ‘missile gap’ and then when that threat waned, we had the war on drugs and then the war on terror and now we are in a retro period in which Vladimir Putin and Russia are back as the new scary monster that will destroy us if we do not spend more on fighting them.
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A telling example of how the media works

Journalists and editors often get highly offended when it is suggested that they serve as the mouthpieces of the owners of the media institutions they work for. They protest that they write what they want to write about and that no one censors them or tells them to slant the reporting in a particular way. But as Noam Chomsky and Edward Hermann pointed out in their brilliant analysis Manufacturing Consent (1988), that kind of explicit direction is not necessary. It is even counter-productive because such tightly controlled information systems are clearly seen as what they are, propaganda. To be truly effective as propaganda, those generating it have to believe that what they are saying is of their own volition, and this is why the western media works far better as a propaganda system than media where the state runs it.
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How Roger Ailes got taken down by a ‘dumb blonde’

I mentioned in a previous post that my schadenfeude has limits when it comes to actual physical harm done to people and their families. But I have no limits to my enjoyment when it comes to how the odious, sexist, serial harasser Roger Ailes of Fox News got his comeuppance at the hands of someone who was widely seen as a dumb blonde. As I have noted before, former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson may have played a dumb blonde on her network but she is no fool.
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The future of newspapers

Newspapers are laying off beat reporters because their work does not generate enough revenue. The subscriber base is decreasing while the online ad revenue is not rising fast enough to compensate. But newspaper beat reporters covering actual events are the foundation of the news food chain, providing the essential nourishment that sustains all the other things such as TV, commentary, blogs, and other online services. If they go, the rest collapses.
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Et tu, Megyn?

After the initial allegations of sexual harassment against Roger Fox News head Ailes came out following Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit, some prominent media figures in the company defended Ailes. Conspicuously silent was one of their stars Megyn Kelly and speculation abounded as to why, with one theory being that she wanted to take the high road and not get down into the mud since her contract was due for renewal next year.
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