President Obama lied, openly, intentionally, and repeatedly, to the American public and to Congress in order to make sure that a nuclear deal with Iran was struck.
His speechwriter, Ben Rhodes, called this “the narrative.” Rhodes explained that most reporters are twenty-somethings who will basically believe anything released through the D.C. “echo chamber.”
So it was the White House itself that pushed “fake news.”
They ran the story that gun shops were selling firearms too loosely, that guns were then used to commit crimes, and so stricter gun control was a must. This was Operation Fast & Furious, and it was promulgated through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
By virtue of the fact that he was murdered and two F&F guns were found at the scene, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry effectively ended the scheme. Many months of investigation ensued, but in the end President Obama invoked executive privilege. We will never have the full truth.
In 2012, Ambassador Christopher Stevens was murdered in Benghazi. We don’t really know why. According to researcher Ed Klein, in his book Guilty As Sin, it was the President’s idea to blame a YouTube video for the fury of the crowd, which Secretary Clinton objected to but supported anyway.
The fake news manufactured by our President was so transparent, so laughable, that even today it is literally impossible to repeat it with a straight face.
During the election campaign, we had the lie that Hillary Clinton was ahead in the polls. Which, research showed, was the result of pollsters intentionally skewing the methodology by including more Democrats.
We had the lie that Trump was a racist, Jew-hating Nazi who raped 13 year old girls and grown women alike, peeped on beauty queens, and bragged about grabbing women’s vaginas. It emerged that the Democrats had tried to ensnare Trump in just such a scenario.
As someone who grew up in the New York City area, I was of course well aware that Trump fancied himself a collector of beautiful women and was a big talker. He was a regular guest on the Howard Stern show, which is about as politically incorrect as it gets. But the rest of it was absolutely insane — and yet many people absolutely believed it.
Total fake news.
We had the manufactured reality of CNN and other mainstream news outlets “reporting” on the election while simultaneously admitting that they would abandon all pretense of journalistic objectivity to make sure that Trump never got elected. The coverage was wall-to-wall Hillary cheerleading and similarly nonstop Trump hate.
As far as the debates went, there was Donna Brazile, feeding the candidate the questions, a shocking corruption of the election process that went virtually un-remarked upon.
There was the Democratic National Committee, which staged violence at Trump rallies and then got caught doing it.
And of course, they stole the primaries from Bernie Sanders — more or less openly.
There were allegations that voting machines, even on election day, were literally flipping Republican votes back to the Democratic side.
As a public I think it is fair to say that we have suffered through so many lies, for so long, all the way around, that trust is a rare commodity.
Much of the concern people had focused on Hillary Clinton’s email shenanigans. Others said her doings were more or less matched by George Bush.
This week we heard that President-elect Trump had a “meeting” with the press to more or less kick ass and take names. We heard him “announce” that he will not pursue prosecution of Hillary Clinton.
None of us know exactly what this means. We don’t know. Because there is no transparency.
Just yesterday, two of his biggest supporters, Breitbart News and the pundit Ann Coulter, called him out on the comment regarding Hillary Clinton. Not only had he backtracked on a core campaign promise, but he had also hinted at just the kind of political over-reach President Obama is notorious for.
But then again, maybe the announcement was a tactic?
The election saw a degradation in the value we should place on classified information, sensitive information, and information that is simply confidential. It is not okay to “set it all free.” And we should treat violations with the seriousness they deserve no matter who commits an infraction.
Clearly, though, it was the massive release of leaked emails that provided the public with critical information they needed to vote.
I actually share the President’s concerns about people relying on this kind of data. For one thing, it might not always be real — it’s kind of like buying prescription drugs from Canada, right? Could be cheaper, could be a capsule of shredded talcum power.
For another thing, when you only get the bits and pieces, you don’t see the full picture. We should have had a full accounting of the Clinton Foundation from official sources, what they were doing, who they were meeting with and why, and how decisions were being made when State Department business was involved.
When you only have partial information, and you are only talking to your small circles of self-reinforcing believers, what you get are very strong opinions based on a lack of facts.
But the government did not make enough information available.
And I disagree with Rudy Giuliani. This isn’t about opening up old wounds. It is precisely about avoiding the very real problem of people making shit up and sending it around as though it were true. While I dislike the term “fake news,” there is a valid concern about “hysterical news,” the rule of the mob— rather than facts and reasoned analysis.
It is very hard to get the facts if the Administration itself — an Administration which promised unparalleled transparency, but which was scolded by the Society of Professional Journalists for being just the opposite — literally makes stuff up to promote its own agenda.
I am a Libertarian, not a Republican or a Democrat, because I believe that we need far fewer regulations and far more respect for freedom. Since my party has never been in control of anything, I can stand back and opine rather freely that Republicans and Democrats alike are guilty of the same desire to control the news and thereby public opinion.
In fact the modern founder of public relations, Edward Bernays, was specifically recruited by the American government to manipulate the public into supporting World War I.
If you know me you know I am a government communicator (and as always all opinions are my own.) Having gained some experience here, I have pretty strong opinions about the duty of the government to affirmatively protect freedom of speech and the flow of information, and to provide easily understandable, reliable information that is not at all partisan in nature.
Nobody in America believes that the government should spill all its secrets. This is militarily indefensible, and on the domestic front makes it impossible for law enforcement to do its job.
But there are also too many people who think that the government is not only untrustworthy, but is actively working against their interest.
It is more accurate to say, I think, that the overwhelming majority of political and civil servants are there for positive and productive reasons. But when corruption takes root, as it sometimes unfortunately does, it needs to be rooted out — especially before it becomes part and parcel of institutional operations, and prevents good people from responding.
In the case of “pizzagate,” which was rapidly dismissed by the august New York Times as a crazy conspiracy theory, I think it is absolutely critical that we see a proper investigation. What is the story with kids in Haiti? Why is there a pizzeria where the President hangs out, which gets money from George Soros, and whose owner has an Instagram photo of a toddler’s hand taped to a ping-pong table, among others? Why do John Podesta and his brother Tony look so much like the police sketch of Madeline McCann’s abductors?
There is a saying among communicators that gossip will fill the vacuum when information is not forthcoming from the proper channels. Indeed, what we are getting right now is silence and stalling.
Why did we hear, in a video from a former State Department official, that Hillary Clinton’s candidacy was an attempted “coup,” and that elements of the government staged a “counter-coup,” and that this is how Wikileaks got all its emails?
What was with the focus on Russia during the campaign, anyway? Does anybody really believe that Donald Trump is a Russian agent?
Notice how that narrative is gone.
There is a sea change afoot that the powers that be don’t seem to understand. We in the public may be gullible, we may want to believe, we may find this leader or that leader affable and inspiring and even visionary.
But we have been through a lot in our personal lives and our professional ones. We have been lied to, and lied to a lot. We know what deception looks like and we truly lack the patience for it.
The issue with fake news is not communication. We are a very sophisticated world now, with constant exposure to both news and opinion and advertising. We know how to say things and we know how to discern what is said.
No. The issue we face is the imminent outing of corruption.
It has always been true that certain people, groups of people, and/or networks of groups, have operated outside the law.
But what is new today is the unprecedented power of people + technology to find, share, analyze and make public information that the criminals would rather keep to themselves.
If in the past you could poison a researcher to shut them up, in the future this will not be possible. Too many people are armed with computers and suspicious of the powers that be.
Oddly enough, it is often true that failure yields opportunity.
By working so hard to make falsehood true, the President has sensitized millions of people to the importance of discrediting falsehood.
That can only be good for democracy. As Pat Buchanan said about Donald Trump’s presidency, we who want the truth must “prepare for the long war.”
There will always be people who try to brainwash us into following their way.
It is our job, as good followers of the people we’ve entrusted to lead, to resist any effort to do so.
May God bless our wonderful Nation and help us to be free, and strong, and proud, and courageous in the defense of our ideals and laws.
All opinions my own.