Category Archives: media manipulation

The Alternative Fact That Shook The Nation

[UPDATE]:

I hate it when I’m right about this stuff.

——————————————–

“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe…”

I confess, even I have been a little taken aback by this. The lie was so blatant, so obvious, that even people who would no sooner pay attention to a White House press briefing than pick up a copy of Scientific American were stunned by it. I mean, I got texts from completely non-political family members about it, and they were shocked at the chutzpah.

Here is a close-up of Sean Spicer’s eyes as he told his lie:

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What I see here is panic. The only thing missing is the gun to his head. The entire charade, as both Michael Moore and Mika Brzezinski noted, looked like a hostage tape. He’s saying this because he was forced to, and he knows exactly the pile of shit his boss is making him wade into, and he knows there’s not a damn thing he can do about it. Indeed, the statement sounds like it was written by Trump himself. The hyperbole, the grandiosity, are straight out of Trump’s Twitter feed.

Ari “We know for a fact that there are weapons there” Fleischer, a man who has told his share of bald-faced lies, said this:

“This is called a statement you’re told to make by the President. And you know the President is watching,” Fleischer wrote.

So while a stunned nation hashes and rehashes What It All Means®, I’m particularly hung up on this one fact:

The President of the United States forced his spokesperson to lie to the American people about how many people watched his inaugural.

This stupid, petty, in-the-grand-scheme-of-things meaningless thing was THAT important to him. He is supposed to be the leader of the free world focused on, you know, important stuff. But he forced his spokesbot to tell an obvious, easily checked lie about how many people watched his inaugural. It is that important for Trump. He must have the biggest, the best, the most, the (fill in the blank superlative), and yes, he will die on this hill. What little political capital he had was squandered on something stupid like crowd size because Trump demanded it.

Just let that sink in for a minute. It’s just … astonishing.

I know there’s been a lot of speculation about some deeper strategy here: that this marks the latest salvo in the Trump Administration’s war on the media, that Trump is attempting to delegitimize the national news media and delegitimize the entire concept of truth, that this marks the end of “access journalism,” etc.

While some of this may be true, I really don’t think it’s that complicated. I really think it’s as simple as this:

Donald Trump requires constant and undiminished reinforcement of his greatness.

This is Pathological Narcissism. It’s scary as hell, because this level of neediness is never sated. This is Tyrant 101. This is how wars happen and freedoms are lost. The fact that this weak-minded man has surrounded himself with sycophants and ego-strokers is not surprising (they all do that), but at some point even Spicer and Kellyanne are going to give up, because even the best enablers can’t keep propping up the naked emperor forever.

Traditionally when that happens, the enablers are marched in front of the firing squad. Or, if they’re smart, they’ve figured out how to get the Pathological Narcissist to self-destruct (see the final scenes of “A Face In The Crowd” for an idea of what I’m talking about … a “leak” for the pre-internet age.)

What will happen here, I don’t know. I see in Kellyanne’s eyes their own special brand of cold-as-ice ambition and craven opportunism:

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She thinks she can manage the Ego In Chief but the thing about Pathological Narcissists is that they are never, ever truly managed. Their emptiness is a bottomless pit. Kellyanne may think she’s smart and has Trump under control but her “alternative facts” flub shows she’s not immune to a screw up herself. She might not be quite smart enough for this situation. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kellyanne weren’t the first one trotted out before a (metaphorical, let’s hope) firing squad as the Id in charge lashes out those who failed to sell his greatness to the world.

Interesting times, indeed.

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Filed under Donald Trump, media, media manipulation

When You Have Something To Hide

Sniveling little twerp James O’Keefe got busted trying to take down one of the conservative movement’s favorite liberal enemies, billionaire George Soros. This time, the ineptitude is truly a marvelous thing to behold, with O’Keefe accidentally laying out his entire scheme on the voicemail of his intended target.

Yet another hit for the fail parade known as Project Veritas, O’Keefe’s “non-profit” by which his dirty tricks are financed. I’ve long wondered why some enterprising journalist — a real one — hadn’t been able to find out who is funding O’Keefe and his band of merry pranksters. Maybe no one is interested; after his early hits on ACORN and NPR, he had less success with intended targets Sen. Mary Landrieu, CNN journalist Abbie Boudreau and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Even his earlier hits have flamed out, after O’Keefe and an accomplice were forced to pay $150,000 to a former ACORN employee who sued.

At one point it was reported that Foster Friess and PayPal’s Peter Thiel gave money early on. Whether they still waste their money on this clown, I have no clue. Especially when the organization’s actual purpose seems to be Making James O’Keefe Feel Important. So, where does the money come from?

And now I have my answer:

O’Keefe portrays himself as a rigorous journalist who is dedicated to furthering “a more ethical and transparent society.” He refuses, however, to be transparent about who is funding him. According to tax records obtained by PRWatch.org, an investigative watchdog group run by the Center for Media and Democracy, in recent years hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to Project Veritas have come through a fund in Alexandria, Virginia, called Donors Trust, which specializes in hiding the money trails of conservative philanthropists. In its promotional materials, Donors Trust says that it will “keep your charitable giving private, especially gifts funding sensitive or controversial issues.” The records obtained by PRWatch.org also show that one donor, a conservative political activist in Wisconsin, contributed fifty thousand dollars just before Project Veritas undertook a sting of one of his political enemies—a state senator.

This is so precious. Only “conservative philanthropists” would need a fund that actually specializes in hiding their donation. You know, guys, if you have to hide what you’re doing … maybe you shouldn’t be doing it. That’s what mama always told me, anyway.

Also: as it appears Project Veritas is little more than a dirty tricks operation which will take out your political rival for a fee, I can’t help but wonder why they are given tax-exempt status in the first place. Isn’t tax exempt status reserved for organizations providing a “social good”?

Jane Mayer, who wrote this New Yorker piece, asked a similar question. There are many right-wing organizations professing to provide a “social good” which are, in fact, doing dirty tricks for fun and profit. America Rising Squared is one; rather than provide a social good, it appears to exist purely to intimidate private citizens who engage in social or political activism. No wonder the people financing this form of intimidation want their names kept secret.

The question is, how long can this go on? Sooner or later someone is going to get sued (again). A law will get passed, a loophole will get closed.

Until then, watch your backs. No, no… I’m not talking about the people who James O’Keefe is targeting. The way this inept band of Konservative Keystone Kops keeps tripping over their own shoelaces, they’ll take themselves out. I’m talking about you moneybags on the right who keep financing these ratfucking operations. You’re going after private citizens now, not just politicians. We’ll find out who you are and plaster your names all over Twitter. Bwaahaaa.

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Filed under conservatives, George Soros, James O'Keefe, Media, media manipulation

What Is The Point Of Fake News?

Okay, internet: someone please explain to me the purpose/goals of these fake news sites which proliferate across the internet, peddling stories that are just … well, wrong. They’re not even satire, they’re just stupid. Why do they exist?

I’m talking about ones like this fake NBC site, with the enticing URL “nbc.com.co” that makes some bleary-eyed folks think it’s the real NBC.com. Recently this site stymied a lot of folks who should have known better by claiming the band “Survivor” was suing Kim Davis and Mike Huckabee over their song “Eye of the Tiger.” I see shit like this on peoples’ timelines and I just want to go nuts. These stories aren’t real! You look like an asshole for spreading them!

The fake news site National Report is another one. I’ve also seen fake New York Times urls.

These sites look real, and the misinformation goes viral as people who have been duped into thinking the news is real spread the false word via Facebook and Twitter. The stories have enticing headlines: “Christian Pastor In Vermont Sentenced To One Year In Prison After Refusing To Marry Gay Couple,” and “JetBlue To Begin Weighing Passengers” — stuff designed to gin up outrage and increase the viral hits. But they aren’t funny, they aren’t clever, they aren’t even satire. They’re just bullshit. And there are no ads on these sites, so what’s the fucking point?

Can anyone answer this question? Why? Just to fuck with people? To be mean? I don’t get it.

And why hasn’t the real NBC.com sued?

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Filed under internet, media, media manipulation

The Revolution Won’t Be Photographed

History is written (or recorded) by the victors, or so the saying goes. Today I saw an art installation from Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar which really illustrates that idea.

For some background, here’s what the BBC wrote about Jaar’s installation in 2014:

Jaar chose not to show us any pictures but instead blinded us with a blaze of projected light. Rather than a despairing nihilist gesture, Lament of the Images was integral to a strongly held argument that images mattered.

Jaar’s installation was a response to the increasing political control, erasure and suppression of images. Our encounter with Jaar’s field of light was preceded by three glowing panels of back-lit texts presented in a darkened room, all musing on different forms of blindness and erasure: beginning with Nelson Mandela being dazzled by the light on his release from prison and how prisoners were blinded by the glare of the sun on the limestone as they broke rocks in a quarry on the centre of Robben Island.

Texts two and three considered the loss and control of images in relationship to two significant events: the burial of 17 million photographic images from Bettmann and United Press International, purchased by Microsoft chairman, Bill Gates, in a limestone mine, and how before launching airstrikes against Afghanistan, the United States Defense Department had bought all rights to satellite imagery of Afghanistan and neighbouring countries, creating an “effective white-out of the operation”.

And here is the final panel, the one related to the “white out” of our bombing of Afghanistan:

IMG_1745 3

It’s powerful stuff. Presented in an art context, it was more than powerful: it was enraging. As a reasonably engaged American, I wanted to know why I hadn’t heard about either the Bill Gates or Afghanistan incidents of image suppression. Especially Afghanistan. I remember much uproar about the Bush Administration censoring photographs of coffins arriving home from Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t remember anything about this.

Pictures are powerful, a picture is worth a thousand words, as the old saying goes. No wonder the Bush Administration wanted to make sure nobody saw the devastation our bombs wrought on Afghanistan.

Today if you Google this story, you find this, from the New York Times:

The Pentagon contract, concluded on Oct. 7, also means that news media and other organizations outside government will not be able to obtain independently their own high-resolution satellite images of the Afghanistan region.

In addition, the contract effectively allows the Pentagon to keep the images it bought out of the public eye forever. None can be released without Defense Department approval.

The old disputes between the military and news media centered on access for the media pool. The new dispute is about access to images collected in the nonsovereign territory of space.

The Pentagon has also taken a more subtle approach to the fight. Under the law, the Bush administration could have blocked news media’s access to the satellite on national security grounds by invoking a never-used provision, “shutter control.” Such a move would have quite likely set off legal challenges and heated protests. Instead, the Pentagon achieved its desired result through its contract.

For some reason, this story basically disappeared. And that’s exactly how the Bush Administration wanted it. By using economic power instead of legal power, they made sure there was little if any knowledge or protest about their actions.

The power of the pocketbook — be it the U.S. government’s or Bill Gates’ — is not new. That these are the people who can control our history by controlling what information the world sees is scary, indeed.

I recommend that someone in the news media petition the Obama Administration to release these images, much as President Obama allowed the photographing of coffins arriving home from war. We need to see what we have wrought. We bought this war, we need to see the damage we caused.

And let me add a final word of caution: we can petition the government to release these images. We can use FOIA requests, the news media can make an argument about the First Amendment. We have no such recourse with the Bill Gates images. None.

Next invasion, wait for Son of Dick Cheney to get Bill Gates to buy (and bury) satellite images on the government’s behalf.

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Filed under Afghanistan War, media, media manipulation

Hey Amazon: Next Year Buy A Damn Ad

[UPDATE]:

Ha ha ha, via Balloon Juice:

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If last night’s “scoop” that Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos had a top secret plan to deliver packages by drone was supposed to restore 60 Minutes’ tarnished reputation, this blogger ain’t buying it.

What a load of utter bullshit. The idea defies common sense, logic, and economic reality, not mention civilian airspace. The whole thing had the stench of a “balloon boy” hoax to me. But that didn’t stop every single freaking news outlet from picking up the story and running with it. Even the dang BBC World Service had a long piece about it on the radio this morning.

All you need to know about Amazon’s mythic drone delivery program is that this BS piece ran on the eve of that other media-manufactured hoax, the so-called “Cyber Monday.” I’ve always wanted to know who invented “Cyber Monday,” I mean, it’s not like we all don’t have home computers and can shop online whenever we damn well please. What makes Monday so special? Absolutely nothing. Some marketing person invented this meaningless consumer BS. Forgive me but I refuse to play along.

But you know who will play along? 60 Minutes and every other media outlet which decided to give Jeff Bezos and Amazon loads of free publicity. Which, near as I can tell, is just about everybody.

Business Insider did the math:

How much was that free advertising worth?

“60 Minutes” gave more than 15 minutes to its Amazon story. A 30-second spot during the 7 p.m. show usually costs just over $100,000.

If you figure Amazon got 30 30-second commercials’ worth of time, you can estimate that it got about $3 million worth of “earned” media.

But $3 million is probably a very low estimate. That’s just the cost Amazon would have had to pay to reach “60 Minutes'” 13 million viewers. Thanks to all the coverage Amazon Prime Air has gotten in other outlets, many more millions of people are talking about the company today.

Yes, do remind me how blogs killed journalism. I’m all ears.

Apparently “drones” are the new “outragous campaign ad” PR stunt. You know how during campaign season some candidate posts a really heinous ad on YouTube which gets everyone riled up and the news media covers it as news, so the campaign doesn’t have to buy airtime? This is that:

After the “60 Minutes” show last night, a Hacker News reader compiled a list of previously announced delivery drone programs, many of which were also PR stunts:

Textbook drone delivery
Cake drone delivery
Pizza drone delivery
Parcel delivery drones
Beer delivery drones
Taco delivery drones
Sushi delivery drones
General delivery drones

Stupid news media falls for this stuff every damn time. Pwned by marketing people, meanwhile we’re supposed to believe everything else you people tell us? Pfft. Offa my lawn (and taxpayer-funded airwaves). If I wanted to watch free advertising I’d switch to a damn infomercial channel.

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Filed under advertising, media, Media, media manipulation

PR Stunts

So let me get this straight: Teanuts like Louie Gohmert and Michele Bachmann push for the government shut-down which results in shuttered national parks and monuments. Then they orchestrate a PR stunt at the World War II Memorial with a bunch of veterans where they get to look like big damn heroes? And the media gobbles it up like candy?

“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Bachmann said. “It was big buses and a narrow strip of sidewalk, and there were all these veterans standing here behind police tape and they’re prevented from going in to see the memorial.”

Really? What the hell did you think would happen when you shut down the government, lady?

Gohmert Tweeted photos of himself with the veterans. This was grandstanding of the highest order, an obvious PR ploy and attempt to deflect any responsibility for the mess they themselves created:

Gohmert and other Republican members of Congress also went to the memorial and criticized the government for preventing visitors from coming to the memorial.

“We’ve got park service employees out here,” Gohmert said before the gates were opened. “Why wouldn’t you have them here to allow the veterans in, instead of stand and keep them from coming in?”

Umm, because it’s closed? Because you closed it? Do you break into convenience stores when they’re closed, too?

Again: the national media ate this BS up like candy. No one, not WTVF (my local CBS affiliate) or CNN or even the Associated Press bothered to point out that the very “heroes” breaking down the barricades were the people who voted for the shutdown in the first place.

And that’s it in a nutshell, folks. That’s all this whole government shutdown thing is: one big giant PR stunt. One chance to capture donations and B-Roll and optics for the 2014 election. I mean I’m sure it’s all a big coinky-dinky that news cameras were on site as Gohmert and Bachmann busted through those barricades, right?

Wake up and smell the bullshit.

I’m not surprised that the media plays along with this nonsense. They’re the ones reaping the financial rewards when campaign season rolls around and the TV ads start running. This is collusion of the highest order.

Shame on all of you.

More from Wonkette ….

[UPDATE]:

And more from Gawker. Apparently the vets were flown in on a chartered jet and Reince Priebus has vowed to keep the WWII memorial open.

If you don’t think this whole thing wasn’t manufactured for its PR value, I have a bridge to sell you. Wonder how many fundraising emails this little stunt has spawned?

And yes, maybe Bachmann, Gohmert and Steve Palazzo should have worked harder to keep from closing the thing in the first place.

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Filed under Congress, Media, media manipulation

Ersatz Politics

Ted Cruz’s marathon bloviating session is no filibuster — he’s going to have to sit down and shut up when the Senate convenes this afternoon, because he doesn’t have the power to stop the cloture vote. But this little charade provides us with a useful peek behind the curtain of our modern political establishment.

You have a powerless faction pretending to take a bold stand on an issue that’s already been decided — after first negotiating the terms of this piece of theater with the opposition ahead of time. Meanwhile the facts-be-damned news media winks and nods and plays along, and partisans on both sides of the aisle prepare to exploit this for donations.

This isn’t politics, this isn’t even the peoples’ business, it’s theater. Or, as Charles Pierce put it, just part of the never-ending campaign that has taken over our modern American political discourse:

As has been pointed out, this is something of a mock filibuster, but that’s because it isn’t an attempt to do serious legislative business. It’s an extended campaign commercial, B-Roll for the local stations in Ottumwa and Council Bluffs.

Eggg-zackly. Really, that’s all this is — that’s all anything coming out of Washington is these days. It’s all one giant PR campaign as both sides scramble to “define the issue” (any issue, it doesn’t matter) and prepare the flood of fundraising e-mails and direct mail requests. Washington has become one vast telemarketing and direct mail operation. Ted Cruz is merely the clip art for this week’s campaign. Next week it will be someone else.

This isn’t me being cynical, this is reality. This is how Washington works today and make no mistake: is feature not bug. This politics of dysfunctional is working exactly as intended for those on the inside. It’s the raison d’etre for that whole “politico-industrial complex” I wrote about a year ago. Nothing has really changed except now the star players are members of Congress themselves.

With all of this going on it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that what Ted Cruz’s theater is all about is denying people access to affordable private, for-profit health insurance. Because no one really hears that amid all of the other Kabuki. And that’s the biggest shame of all.

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Filed under Congress, filibuster, healthcare, Media, media manipulation

The L Word

Sorry I haven’t updated in a while, I’ve been busy with some other stuff. And I’m trying to finish up a project this week so blogging may be light.

But I am just really confused about why the press is letting Mitt Romney get away with outright, repeated lies. My confusion is prompted by this post over at Blue Virginia. They link to Paul Krugman telling ABC News that

“The press just doesn’t know how to handle flat-out untruths,” he said.

And, you know, bullshit. Am I the only one who remembers our glorious media calling Al Gore a liar over every little thing he said and didn’t say, but they pretended he said? After Al Gore’s first debate with George W. Bush — ABC News ran this atrocious hit piece. This was 12 years ago yesterday, people. The headline:

Al Gore Prone to Exaggeration

The lede:

This just in: Al Gore has a penchant for exaggeration.

ABC called Gore a liar over that stupid Texas wildfires/FEMA thing. It’s so lame it’s not even worth rehashing, but ABC was wrong and the point is, it’s a stupid thing anyway. But Mitt Romney can outright lie about everything that matters — his tax plan, his Medicare plan, the reason domestic coal production is down, etc. etc. etc. — and it’s fucking crickets.

So don’t tell me the media doesn’t know how to handle lies. They call Democrats liars all the time, even when we aren’t lying and yes, when we do. It seems what they don’t know how to handle are Republican liars. Especially presidential ones.

I’m going to crawl back in my hole now.

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Filed under 2012 presidential election, Media, media fairness, media manipulation

Dave Weigel Called It

I just about choked on my morning coffee seeing that Politifact dude talking about their “Lie Of The Year.” The winner? The liberal claim that Paul Ryan’s plan would kill Medicare. Seriously.

Here’s what the Politifact dude didn’t say. Their “Lie of the Year” was a meaningless online poll. Back on December 7 Slate’s Dave Weigel wrote:

So if the “Ryan plan ends Medicare” line is named “the lie of the year,” you know why. Wasn’t this a plotline on Glee?

Oh wow. Paul Ryan freeped the poll. Amazing. And the news media ate it up! Apparently Politifact’s “Lie Of The Year” is as meaningless as one of those stupid online polls everyone always runs because, well, it is a meaningless online poll. Yet this “lie of the year” nonsense has gone out on all of the wire services. Wow, this is the best propaganda money can buy and it’s all completely free!

Time for another blogger ethics panel, perhaps? C’mon, “liberal” media. Stop hurting America. Do your fucking jobs.

(h/t, Digby ….)

(Details on why the Lie Of The Year was actually true, from Steve Benen ….)

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Filed under media, media manipulation, Medicare

War On Christmas Is ON Beeyatches!

[UPDATE]:

Now we know where The Hill’s Alicia M. Cohn gets her tips: a right-wing talking point factory known as The Heritage Foundation. Figures.

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A tale of two stories about a 15-cent Christmas tree tax.

First, from The Hill:

Obama administration proposes 15-cent Christmas tree tax

By Alicia M. Cohn – 11/09/11 10:17 AM ET

The Obama administration is proposing a new tax on Christmas trees to fund a board promoting the holiday trees.

The Christmas Tree Promotion Board would be funded by a new 15 cent per tree tax on large-scale producers of Christmas trees. A group of Christmas tree producers and importers worried about the skyrocketing use of artificial trees proposed the new board.

Wow, that evil Mooslim Obama really does hate Christians! I knew it!

Hmm, but if you read the story at The Chicago Tribune you get a much different slant:

Christmas tree tax to promote the real thing

Agriculture Department approves 15-cent-per-tree fee on growers to fund industry program

WASHINGTON—— The Christmas tree ad wars are about to heat up, albeit in a rather jolly way.

Following an extended debate that pit one region against another, the Agriculture Department on Tuesday gave the green light to a new industry-funded Christmas tree promotion program.

By taxing themselves, growers will raise $2 million a year for ads promoting the merits of real, live trees. Or, at least, trees that once were living, as opposed to the artificial kind that have seized an increasing share of the holiday market.

So wait a minute … this is an industry-funded tax and the Dept. of Agriculture just gave it the green light? Because they have oversight over these kinds of taxes? It wasn’t something the Obama Administration cooked up because they’re so gol-durned concerned about what Christmas tree Americans choose each year? I’m so confused. Which one is it?

This is the kind of shit that makes me nuts. Cue Bill O’Reilly getting foamy mouthed about another salvo in the “war on Christmas.” Or don’t bother, just look at the first comment on The Hill story:

Now Obama wants to tax christians… nice
BY COREY on 11/09/2011 at 09:43

Nice framing over at The Hill, no doubt destined to launch a million crazy e-mails from Patriot Depot’s servers straight to your mother-in-law’s computer.

Love the liberal media.

Here are the screen shots. As always, click to enlarge:

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Filed under Media, media fairness, media manipulation, War On Christmas