Sunday, December 11, 2016

Instead of taking responsibility for a failed campaign, Clinton rides the "fake news" train out of town

As Hillary Clinton recovers from her loss in November, she too, is playing the blame game. She echoes the narrative that the outcome of the last presidential election had more to do with Russian interference than the way she ran her campaign. She, along with her allies, are calling that Russian disinformation and propaganda, "fake news".

Despite mountains of evidence that the Clinton team ran what was essentially an unprincipled campaign to win the nomination of the Democratic Party and the loss of public trust that ensued, Hillary would rather point the finger at Russia. I know, it seems like a really bad farce, but now things get serious as news of a shooter acting on so-called fake news came to light.

According to CNN, a hopelessly confused man showed up with a gun at a pizza parlor once frequented by Clinton Campaign manager John Podesta, to investigate a crime reported in the "fake news". From the article:
So-called fake news -- often blatant falsehoods passed off online as the truth and spread by conspiracy theorists -- rose to prominence around the 2016 campaign and since Clinton's defeat millions have read "Pizzagate," a false report spread online that erroneously accused Clinton and her campaign of running a child sex ring at a pizza shop.
How convenient that we now have someone taking action that could involve injury or loss of life as a result of a fake news site. Clinton is now calling for and supporting legislation that allows the federal government to respond to fake news. To put it differently, she is calling for a government response to web sites and social media accounts that have been deemed to be purveyors of fake news.

What does Clinton mean by her comments? Somebody in the government is going to create criteria regarding the veracity of a story. Then they're going to have to respond any story that meets the criteria for "fake news". How they respond is anybody's guess. Who gets to decide what is fake news and what is not? Whatever they come up with, I suspect that this effort will run smack into the First Amendment before it gains any real traction. 

CNN's article includes a link to another CNN article about "The reality behind Russia's fake news". That article cites two studies about so-called fake news sites to show that at least someone believes there is indeed a Russian connection and that we should take it seriously. The link to the first study actually goes to an article at the War on the Rocks website, a site seemingly dedicated to making the people at the top more accountable to the people at the bottom when it come to war. The first "study" CNN offers is not a peer reviewed study, it's just an editorial, a recitation of facts and observations. But, War on the Rocks did have this to say about Russia:
Russia’s desire to sow distrust in the American system of government is not new. It’s a goal Moscow has pursued since the beginning of the Cold War. Its strategy is not new, either. Soviet-era “active measures” called for using the “force of politics” rather than the “politics of force” to erode American democracy from within.  What is new is the methods Russia uses to achieve these objectives.
The implication of this statement is that Americans already trust their democracy. With the way things have been going in the last few years, I don't think America needs any help from Russia to sow distrust in the way our democratic republic has been run. Hillary Clinton did quite enough damage on her own with her own email escapades with no one at the top willing to hold her accountable.

In addition to her email scandal, we have learned that Clinton's political network worked tirelessly to sideline Bernie Sanders, including numerous "irregularities" at the polls, hundreds of superdelegates aligned with her before even the first primary was held and a compliant mainstream media willing to designate her the winner of the nomination a day before the last primary elections were held. During the primaries, she even received debate questions before the debates from news media allies pining away for a Hillary victory. I really don't see how the Russians could add to this when it is clear that Hillary lost the election at her own hand.

Very little of this would have been known without the help of Wikileaks and Judicial Watch. Wikileaks has been releasing emails collected from whistleblowers and hackers, and from the courts as a result of lawsuits like the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit pursued by Judicial Watch. Note: I'm a progressive liberal, but I have no problem with conservative groups seeking to keep those in power accountable to the people they claim to represent, regardless if they are liberal or progressive. In other words, if conservative watchdog groups like Judicial Watch want to keep Hillary Clinton accountable by using sunshine laws to request records about her work, I'm all for it. I would think the same if a liberal organization would pursue a conservative political power broker in the same way.

The second study cited by CNN, was written and promoted by the site, PropOrNot, short for "propaganda or not propaganda". Note that this "study" was not peer reviewed, either. Apparently, one website, promoting a study by a group of people who prefer to be anonymous, deigns to be an arbiter of what is propaganda or not. This same study named Wikileaks, Truthdig, Truthout, Naked Capitalism, and more than a hundred other websites, as purveyors of Russian propaganda.

I happen to be a fan of Naked Capitalism. They are critical of abuses of power, regardless of their origins. It doesn't matter if they are talking about liberals or conservatives, they are only concerned with abuses of power, including negligence and error. They have responded to being named as a source of Russian propaganda and would like to clear their good name in their post, "We Demand That PropOrNot Remove Its Blacklist, Report, and Browser Tool Defaming Naked Capitalism and Issue an Apology". Counsel for Naked Capitalism has made a direct demand to PropOrNot to be removed from their blacklist and for an apology. From their letter to PropOrNot:
Your identification of Naked Capitalism as a “fake news site” and as an agent for Russian propaganda designed to undermine American democracy is defamatory per se. These serious allegations have caused and will continue to cause great harm to Naked Capitalism, including but not limited to impaired growth and acquisition of new content, damage to policy impact and reputation, diversion of scarce reporting and managerial resources to respond to concerned inquires and debunk this smear, loss of readers, and damage to the site’s profitability. Moreover, writers and editors associated with Naked Capitalism face ridicule, emotional distress, loss of reputation, and risk to future career advancement, including for example, difficulty passing background and security checks.
When something like this lands in court, things get public and very interesting very quickly. The people behind PropOrNot may not be willing to defend their blacklist at the risk of losing in a lawsuit, should it come to that. And that is just one website with the resources to demand accountability.

So let me get this straight. Clinton and her immense network of political allies, with many at the top with very close ties to mainstream media, are worried about fake news sites having an influence on the outcome of an election? They seem awfully worried that they cannot control the narrative enough to influence the outcome of an election themselves, don't they? This is the response of the mainstream media when they can't even keep their own story straight.

This is why we must become the media. When we post in social media, we need to amplify and echo the news that the mainstream media won't touch. We also need to be aware of and give notice of efforts by social media networks to censor or curb alternative news. I've seen numerous posts suggesting such censorship lately, particularly in respect of the protests at the Dakota Access Pipeline. If we want to keep our democracy, we must remain vigilant.

Some people have accused me of picking on "poor Hillary" and have pleaded with me to just leave her alone. This debacle about the fake news isn't just about Hillary and how she is deflecting blame for losing the election. From weapons of mass destruction, arriving to the threat of sniper fire in Bosnia to declaring Hillary as the nominee a day before the last primaries are held, the mainstream media seems more intent on manufacturing consent than serving the public good. This isn't to say that all of mainstream media is fake news, or that they are not serving the public good at all. They do have some laudable and newsworthy stories to tell.

I think that Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept places the "fake news" debate in perspective here:
The [Washington] Post itself — now posing as a warrior against “fake news” — published an article in September that treated with great seriousness the claim that Hillary Clinton collapsed on 9/11 Day because she was poisoned by Putin. And that’s to say nothing of the paper’s disgraceful history of convincing Americans that Saddam was building non-existent nuclear weapons and had cultivated a vibrant alliance with al Qaeda. As is so often the case, those who mostly loudly warn of “fake news” from others are themselves the most aggressive disseminators of it.
The problem with the mainstream media becomes painfully obvious when we realize that 90% of the mainstream media is owned by 6 parent corporations, and we're expected to believe they have no ulterior motives. It seems that the stories that actually do serve the public good that are shared by the MSM are mere crumbs to the public they claim to serve.

The purpose of protecting freedom of the press is to provide a check on bad actors in government, not a shield for them. It would seem then, that Hillary Clinton and the MSM have entirely missed the point of the First Amendment, a point that is not lost on the people accused of publishing "fake news".

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