Wednesday, July 12, 2017

More Than One Way for a Dog to Lie

By Jeramee Sikroski
Editorial Assistance by Jason Missmer & Patty Powell Lazak

     Rational Americans fear the damage that Trump will do to our great nation and gravely desire him out of the White House.  The Diogenetic Light has also written several articles about fake and junk news, the damage that it does, and how fake news blocks our progressive goals.  Removing Trump is one of those goals that fake news impedes.  We used the term “junk news” in the last article because information does not have to be completely false in order to be mentally toxic and misleading, though some people do like to split that hair 1.  In this article, we will be blunt and honest with this broad category of material that covers both patently false and also misleading stories.  It is propaganda – biased or misleading information used to promote a particular cause or point of view.  As we will see, a source that puts out junk news will also put out fully fake news.  The consequence of either type of propaganda is a misinformed reader.

     Every media site will be biased in one way or another, but reputable and trustworthy sites are aware of their bias and try to limit it.  They also work to make sure that what they assert as fact is true 2.  One way to mislead people is by using misleading headlines, especially if it contains words that are emotionally loaded. There is also just flat out misreporting by using falsehoods in one’s report. This is especially egregious when a site does not correct poorly written stories. Here, we examine the damage done by the propaganda site Bipartisan Report. 

     We cannot have healthy bodies if we constantly breathe polluted air. Likewise, we need to create a cleaner atmosphere for our minds. Clearly seeing the consequences of fake news propaganda is a necessary first step.

Right now
Well it's finally time to face my fears
Gonna get the hell out of here
And create a fresher atmosphere
But the consequence is clear . . . 3,i

[Note: We would prefer to save the “propaganda” label for the end of the article. Upon examining the half dozen or so stories that we did for this article, though, we decided that it was too blatantly propagandistic to reserve judgment until the end.]
[Editor’s note: our practice is not to provide hyperlinks to propaganda articles in the story, but we do include hyperlinks in the citations below. We want our readers to be able to verify our credibility, but we also do not want to encourage people to actually read this garbage. This is the balance we struck.]

Articles in the Fake News Series:

Calls For Invocation Of 25th Amendment Hit W.H. Hard After Brzezinski Attack ii

There's a furnace set on high
And a yearning undefined
But it's time to turn the tide
It's social suicide

     The headline above tells us that there is a serious call for Trump’s removal through the 25th amendment.  (To understand why removal through the 25th amendment is not a helpful strategy click here.)  After all, the only way for the White House to be “hit hard” is if those impeachment calls are serious.  It sounds like the heat has definitely been turned up.  If we read the article, though, the only people making those calls are news people and some celebrities.  They include not one congressperson or senator, not even a Democrat 4.  Not a single person with the authority to actually bring a bill of impeachment in the House of Representatives is quoted in this story.  Without political leaders calling for Trump’s removal, which should have happened already (if the story were true), this is not a strong or serious call for invoking the 25th amendment.  The information asserted by the headline is decimated by what is actually reported.  Further, one cannot truthfully claim that the White House was “hit hard” unless there are members from Trump’s own party calling for his removal under the 25th amendment.  There simply is no serious call for Trump’s removal under the 25th amendment at this time.  This Bipartisan Report story was posted on June 29th.  If you need further proof, just check the day’s headlines to see if there has been a growing chorus calling for Trump’s removal by the time this article gets posted, which will be around 10 days after the Bipartisan Report piece.

     One may counter that the headline is not part of the article and should be discounted.  The purpose of a headline is to quickly convey what the article is about and grab the reader’s attention.  Writing misleading headlines violates the primary rules that decent journalists follow when writing headlines iii.  These misleading headlines convey false information and do so intentionally.  There are two elements to lying: conveying false information and an intent to deceive.  Misleading headlines do both, so let's be honest: Bipartisan Report lies 5, and it does so to intentionally inflame readers.  Being overly emotional weakens our ability to think accurately and to persuade undecided voters to support liberal causes and candidates.  (More on persuading undecided voters here and here.)  It is mentally toxic and socially destructive.

There's a furnace set on high
And a yearning undefined
But it's time to turn the tide
It's social suicide

Trump Caught In ‘Fake News’ Creation Scandal That He Will Never Recover From iv

     The fake news scandal in this article is about the fake Time magazine covers that Trump had hanging in his golf clubs for many years.  This headline is also highly charged and emotionally loaded, especially considering that the target audience is people who already loathe Trump.  But let’s take a look at how damaging this scandal is that “he will never recover from.”

Why would anyone get angry about this?
It's not the worst thing he's ever done.
It's not even the worst thing he's done this week.

     If it’s true that Trump will never recover from this, then it will be reflected in his approval poll numbers.  Let’s look at two different websites that compile and average the approval poll numbers together to get a composite score.  One is Real Clear Politics. The other is statistician Nate Silver’s website.  Both sites average multiple opinion polls together.  Staying true to their statistician ways, 538 further evaluates polls based measures of sound methodology and validity v.  From that evaluation, they give each poll a grade and then adjust the weight of the poll based on those measures of validity.  Real Clear Politics (RCP) generally gives Trump slightly better approval ratings than 538.

     Looking at the Trump’s approval from RCP composite poll average vi from June 27th, the day before the fake Time cover story broke, he was at a net negative -14.2% approval.  (RCP states it as +14.2% disapproval.)  As this article is being written, he stands at a net negative -14.4% approval (or +14.4% disapproval.)  If something is so bad that a politician can never recover from it, wouldn’t we expect more than a 0.2% drop in their approval polls?  [Update: by July 8th, Trump’s approval had improved to a net negative -12.3 % approval rating. What was that about never recovering?]

     Similarly, we can look at’s Trump approval poll composite average vii.  On June 27th, Trump had a -15.7% net negative approval rating.  On June 30th, he had a -14.7% net negative rating.  Did you notice that?  His approval rating actually went up an entire percentage point!  A few days later, on July 5th, he was at -15.1%, but it is still half a point better than the day before the story broke.  Instead of a permanent stain on his reputation, approval polls are showing no effect or possibly a slightly positive effect.  How could the headline be so wrong?  [Update: On July 8th, Trump’s approval had dipped back down to -15.9% net negative approval. This, however, is still not evidence that he would “never recover.”]

     Are those fake Time magazine covers petty, childish, and outrageously stupid lies? Absolutely.  Are they relevant to national policy in any way whatsoever?  Nope.  Are they even the most stupid or obnoxious thing he’s been caught doing this week?  Not by a long shot 6.  How long can Trump persevere in his determination to act like a toddler-bully?  More importantly, how long can the Bipartisan Report persevere in contaminating people’s minds with this psychological poison?  When will people on the left wake up and stop patronizing the “Bipartisan” poison peddler?  It is dishonest to deride the Republicans for being the party of stupid if we on the left also fall for fake news and propaganda.

Like you 7
Perseverance is a useless tool
Just a patron on a ship of fools
Feigning interest in the cast and crew
Why you've broken every single rule

ISIS Hacks Secure Government Website With Horrifying Message For Trump; Feds Paralyzed viii

     This article is about computer servers from state and local government websites being hacked by an ISIS-supporting group.  As is typical of Bipartisan Report’s stories, it does not provide links to any of their source material 8.  That makes it difficult to check the accuracy of their reporting.  Given what we have seen so far, we would guess that is intentional.

     Before we get into the meat of this article, we need to address the “Horrifying Message” in the hack.  Here’s what it said: "You will be held accountable Trump; You and all your people for every drop of blood flowing in Muslim countries."  That is a promise to hold Trump accountable, and, yes, ISIS does so through terrorism, but how is it horrifying?  Burning people alive is horrifying.  Given the truly horrifying things that ISIS has done to people, to call this “horrifying” is an insult to reason, to the victims of ISIS, and to dictionaries and logophiles 9 everywhere.  Now, onto the main course of this article.

     Bloomberg’s coverage of the hacks ix from June 26th states that several government websites in Ohio and one from a town in New York were hacked and defaced.  It has quotes from government officials in Ohio expressing defiance to this petty attack and also statements of actions government officials in Ohio have taken to fix the problem.  (There is also a screenshot of one government official crying like a cowardly chicken-little that the “heartland is under attack 10.”)  One thing it does not say is ANYTHING about the federal government.  Nada, zip, zilch, zero.  Where are they getting their information?  We'll return to that question in a moment.

     CNN’s coverage from June 26th x was a bit longer and also covered an identical hack in Howard County Maryland.  It further said that the FBI field office in Ohio would not comment at that time.  CNN’s updated with a new story a few days later when a Washington state government website was hacked. 11,xi  The story then stated that the investigation was being led by the FBI field office in San Fransisco.  The details of what the federal government is doing are not disclosed.

     The lack of disclosure may be frustrating for citizens who want to be informed.  Is that, however, the same as “paralysis”?  Of course not.  Not telling a person what you are doing is not the same as being unable to state what you're doing.  Any investigative agency is going to give very few details to the press while they conduct their investigations.  If they disclose the information they have, then the people being investigated will know exactly how to evade them.  This isn’t rocket science.  So, again, where do they get their information that causes them to claim that the “Feds Paralyzed”?

     Where they get their information is important because this is a news digest site.  As we discussed in the article on Redrum News, sites like this do not do their own journalism.  Instead, they read news stories and “digest” them, which means that they rewrite and condense the article.  Digests create value by getting rid of the extraneous, or unneeded, material in an article and letting the reader get what is most important from it.  Digests are also supposed to cite their sources, which Bipartisan Report does not do.  Is it dishonest to include “Feds Paralyzed” in a headline when it is not supported by anything written in the article and not supported by anything in other media sources which are their likely original sources?  Is Bipartisan Report just pushing propaganda?

     Let’s take a quick look at the value being offered by this news digesting service.  The ISIS hacking story in Bipartisan Report is 247 words.  The CNN story from the 26th is 450 words.  What value is added by the 200-word reduction?  Sources from reading software developers xii to Forbes magazine xiii give pretty consistent ranges that the average adult reads at between 200 – 300 words per minute, depending on the medium (digital or paper) and the type of reading involved.  Thus, the time saved is a minute or less.  In exchange for those seconds saved, the reader has also taken blatant falsehoods into their minds.  All in all, is it worth the time saved when you also have to deal with blatant lies?  What’s even worse is that is not even the most misleading of their recent headlines.  How much time will it take to remove these Elephants in the Mind?  Given their knack for misreporting the news, how much time is saved when one has to fact check every single story they publish?  How long will people choose to be simultaneously entertained and poisoned by Bipartisan Report’s fake propaganda stories?  

Shadows entertain the unwashed masses
Scholars explain their numb reactions
I don't even know if I can ever find truth
but I'm sure it won't come from following you

This article concludes with Lying Dogs Will Put You to Sleep.

1 We did this also because we, like our society, are evolving in how we grapple with this scourge.
2 We should not expect that every news organization will get the story right 100% of the time. Reputable media organizations, however, vet their sources to ensure accuracy and to make corrections when they are wrong. It is the fallacy of overgeneralization to say that if a couple stories are not completely correct (out of 100’s published every week) that the entire organization is “fake news.” Contrast that with the amount of completely un-true news being proffered by Bipartisan Report in this article.
3 From the poem and song, “Social Suicide” written by Dr. Greg Graffin of the punk band Bad Religion. Words courtesy of AZLyrics.
4 We believe that Democrats should refrain from openly calling for Trump’s impeachment right now. There are investigations occurring that will, hopefully, yield facts so damning that there is no way for Trump, Pence, or his team to survive politically. (Hopefully, that includes McConnell and Ryan too.) If Democrats call for impeachment prior to a strong case being laid out publicly, however, then they are going to be seen by evey Trump supporter and even some middling voters as the boy who cried wolf over and over. We need to have a case built and solid facts supporting it out in the public before cries for impeachment will be taken seriously by an overwhelming majority that is needed for impeachment and removal to be successful. We need to convince those folks in the middle first before there is any chance of getting enough support to remove him.
5 We admit this is quite a conclusion to make this early in the article, but we will back this conclusion up definitively as we continue.
6 Trump’s tweets insulting Mikka Brezinski, saying she was bleeding from a bad face lift, also happened during the time that this article was being written.
7“You” here should properly refer to the propagandists at the Bipartisan Report, and not to readers that have been suckered by their propaganda, in our opinion.
8 There is one link to a Facebook post of an Ohio governmental official who was overblowing the attack in an obvious attempt to rile up the Republican base. To that public official: yes this is a threat, but the sky isn’t falling. Pull up your big girl panties and stop acting like a child.
9 Logophile – a person who loves words.
Editor's apology: We know that we should veer away from such arcane words, but this one was too cool to edit out.
10The story states the only effect was to deface a front page of a website. Honestly, this “attack” has all the real-world effect of spraying graffiti on a building. It’s annoying but to call it an “attack on the heartland” is every bit as much propaganda as what Bipartisan Report publishes. The America I grew up in is much stronger than this and would never be harmed by some stupid graffiti. Conservative snowflakes like this need to stop whining.
11This CNN article was posted a day after Bipartisan Report’s piece was posted. One can argue that it is not fair to judge their reporting by information that came out later. We must reject that assertion. They have the ability to update their articles. The writing evinces no clear signs of delusional thinking, so we assume that they also have the ability to write honestly. They merely choose to write dishonest, click-bait propaganda.

Sources: (Last check on or around July 1, 2017, unless otherwise noted.)

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