12.26.2016 12:59 PM

The truth about fake news

I hate to upset my progressive friends and all that, but here’s the truth about the “fake news” stuff that all of the media have been talking about since Unpresident Trump “won” by getting three million fewer votes than his sane, competent and qualified opponent last month:

Fake news isn’t news.  We’ve always had fake news.

There. I put it in a block quote so you’d notice it.

Political parties, and political campaigns – and those who are trying to influence the outcome in elections – have always propagated “false news.”  Falsehoods, spin, lies, bullshit: the false news, you will always have with you, to mangle Jesus’ aphorism.

So, George H. W. Bush lied with “read my lips.”  Bill Clinton lied with “sexual relations with that woman.”  George W. Bush lied with “weapons of mass destruction.” Brian Mulroney lied about free trade – “we’ll have none of it.”  Pierre Trudeau lied about wage and price controls – “zap, you’re frozen.”  And so on.  Those are just the ones off the top of my head.  There are plenty more.

I don’t think most of those politicians thought they were in the false news business when they uttered those whoppers.  They probably hoped those things were true, or they believed those things were kind of true.  Spin is “hopeful persuasion,” Clinton guy George Stephanopoulos once said, and I always liked that characterization.  It reflects what I have observed with many political folks: they believe in subjective truth, not objective truth.  And they don’t actually believe there are any objective truths.

Let me give you a real life example, because I’m all about real.

I was near Union Station in my truck, waiting for my beautiful, amazing daughter to come home for Christmas. I was thumbing through Twitter, killing time.

I came across a tweet by the Unpresident, Donald Trump, in which he said: “We did it! We secured Nickelback for the inauguration.  Very pleased, a great American band.”

I laughed out loud.  Trump is an idiot, but this was idiotic even for him.  Nickelback are Canadian! Ha!

There weren’t any of Trump’s telltale spelling mistakes in the tweet – “unpresidented” being my all-time favourite – but it featured that little blue Twitter check mark, indicating it was real.  And the Twitter handle was authentic, too.  Sitting there in my truck, squinting  in the dark, it look real enough to me.

So I tweeted this:


People must’ve thought that was funny, because they retweeted it, and favourited it, about a zillion times in the succeeding days. Twitter itself said there have been about 180,000 “impressions” about the tweet (meaning, I’m told, a human being saw it) and nearly 2,000 retweets and twice as many likes or favourites or whatever. So, a lot.

I was pretty focussed on my daughter, you see, and not so much Twitter.  But, later on, when I again looked down on the screen, someone had tweeted back to me, saying the uneven spacing suggested to them that it was fake. So I looked at the tweet again and saw that they were right: the line spacing was off. Some mischief-maker had Photoshopped the thing and sucked in a ton of folks, me included.

And then I got to thinking. So it’s fake: so what?

Some other people – mainly Trump-lovers – starting objecting to the fake tweet. They wanted me to delete it, and tell everyone it was fake.  They started citing Snopes and stuff like that.  They were going bananas.

So I thought some more.

No, I thought, I’m not going to. Donald Trump is a lying sack of shit. He “won” the presidency on a mountain of lies. Lying was all he was any good at, in fact.  He is the Liar in Chief.

So, on Twitter, I started pushing back. Fake news for a fake president, I said to one.  True is false, I said to another, with Orwellian gusto.  Snopes lies, I told one or two, in the hope that their puny craniums would implode.  Embrace the new era, I tweeted to one woman, and stop clinging to the quaint notion that there is any truth left to be had.

The knuckle-draggers were going apeshit about all of this, naturally, and I always enjoy that. I love poking a stick between the bars of the conservative cage. But, in the midst of all the Twitter twaddle, I thought a useful point was being made, as well.

Namely, if the Right are going to tell lies about us, and get away with it, well – what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, I always say.  Let’s bombard them with false news, too.  Let’s make them suffocate in it.  Let’s destroy them with it.

If you are progressive, you will be possibly horrified by this, because you are a good person and you observe boundaries.  And, as a fellow progressive, I say to you: I endeavoured to be a good person, too. I tried to stay inside the lines, too.  And what did that get us, precisely?  It got us Donald Trump.

Hopeful persuasion, Stephanopoulos called it.  I like that.  Let’s persuade voters with what we hope to be true, but not what has been proven to be true, beyond a reasonable doubt.  Let’s just make it true on, say, a balance of probabilities.

If that standard is good enough for a civil court, it’s good enough for me.

Truth.

33 Comments

  1. Deb Lindenas says:

    I discovered at the rip old age of 21 in 1977 that what you see and what is reported are often different. I attended a speech in a downtown Toronto ballroom given by Pierre Trudeau. It was exciting & it certainly a first for me at that point in time. Later when I watched the report about it on the news, they gave a 15 second sound bite & the reporter told the news audience what he talked about. What? Wait! THAT’S not what he talked about! Lesson learned very early on. Although it wasn’t nearly as bad back then, it’s been pretty slanted for 15-20 years. As for the Trump tweet, still lol even if it was “fake.”

  2. harvey bushell says:

    FYI there are a number of places to make fake tRump tweets.

    http://i.faketrumptweet.com/1gk5yixgg8_rqq83z.png

  3. Kevin says:

    Sitting here on the balcony in sunny Curacao, where everything is dushi, thanks. So what do I do? I haul out the laptop and check this website. I’ll have to seek therapy when we get back home.

    Yes, things aren’t always (or even usually) what they seem in the media. Human rights rallies are a case in point. I used to make a point of going, but the pattern was that a handful of members of International Socialists would show up and position themselves between any reporters and the bulk of the crowd. So if you were a passer-by or watching the tv news, what you’d see is people with IS signs backed by crowds of people. Conclusion: IS must be a huge group if they can field that many people to an event. And that impression would overshadow the real message of the rally in many people’s minds. Shabby IMO, and made me stop attending those things. And made me more critical/sceptical of what was being presented and how.

  4. André says:

    “It’s not fake news as long as you want to believe it.” – George Castanza (“It’s not a lie as long as you believe it.”)

  5. The Doctor says:

    Fair enough points Warren, but I still say there’s an important distinction between fake news and parody. There’s an important difference between what The Onion does and what those mercenary, sociopathic assholes pumping fake news out of Macedonia are doing. And that deranged far-right moron who stormed into Comet Pizza and started shooting wasn’t responding to anything parodic.

  6. Al in Cranbrook says:

    I recall you conceding that Stephen Harper never did any of the (ridiculous) things of which his opponents (mostly Liberals) accused him.

    It goes both ways, and this time your team lost.

    It’s not like Hillary Clinton was such an amazing candidate that Democrats just couldn’t not hand her the reigns. In reality she was about the second lousiest candidate they could have picked, barely a notch above the worst in Bernie Sanders. More pointedly, after eight years of Obama botching the hell out of just about everything he came near, nobody else in the Dems seemed to want the job of cleaning up after him.

    How many people held their noses and voted for Trump? Millions! And millions more did exactly the same voting for Clinton! Worst election in living memory, everybody lost! IMHO, Clinton (or Obama 2.0: The Sequel) would have been just as big a disaster for America and the world, if not worse! The world (and America) is in pretty tough shape right now, and lack of leadership from POTUS has a helluva lot to do with it!

    Voters didn’t want more of the same old, same old! They’re fed up with all of it! They want to get back to basics, which is what teams/corporations/businesses do when all the other shit fails, and keeps on failing! And failing…and failing…and failing.

    This is more than just mere cynicism happening…and cynicism piled on top of it all is not the answer!

    IMHO, it’s long past time for “Liberals” to step back and take a good hard look in the mirror to see what others are seeing, check out what their politics has actually come to mean, where it went off the rails, and what needs to be done about it! Or IOW, get back to their own basics!

    And not to kid themselves that somehow here in Canada they are above the fray. Trudeau et al are leading this nation down the very same path that has made a veritable disaster zone out of Europe, and that has finally wrenched America to the core of its very being.

    With all due respect.

    • CuJoYYC says:

      “Voters didn’t want more of the same old, same old!”

      And yet they got the ‘same old, same old’ cronyism but this time on steroids. He’s filling the swamp with crocodiles and sharks. (Sorry for the mixed metaphor) Nice try Al.

    • redraven says:

      has anyone ever seen Kellie Leitch and Al in Cranbrook in the same room at the same time. It’s been a year, the Harper stench is lessening and here they are rising from the dirt beneath the shine. Maybe you could join Count Spatula in scraping the crap off of Ottawa but personally I hope you go back to your coffins where we buried all the bad ideas you were blathering on about a year or so ago.

    • Tim Sullivan says:

      More voters wanted HRC than The Donald.

      So there’s that.

  7. MississaugaPeter says:

    Can’t beat them, join them.

    Slippery slope.

    The end must be near.

  8. Doktor Froyd says:

    Latent delusion feeds on fake news.
    It makes you feel good deep down in your insidious id where you feed your fantasies.
    Humanity lives in desperate hope and will swallow fake news hook line and sinker.
    It’s been like that forever and those at the top feed the peons with stories of miracles.
    Hope may be based on an utter complete lie, but you just can’t resist believing what you want to hear.

  9. Bill Templeman says:

    History has been changed by fake news, or more properly, wishfulness and yesmanship. John Godfrey, head of British Naval Intelligence during WWII, discovered these fatal flaws in the Nazi intelligence corps. The Nazis tended to believe stories that supported their view of reality (wishfulness) and they would go to great lengths to give their superiors the news that Hitler wanted to hear (yesmanship). Operation Mincemeat is a fascinating deception that saved thousands of allied lives during the invasion of Italy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Mincemeat Spin, lies, bullshit, etc. has won wars. And lost peace, as we are about to see with Trump.

  10. Charlie says:

    “Namely, if the Right are going to tell lies about us, and get away with it, well – what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, I always say. Let’s bombard them with false news, too. Let’s make them suffocate in it. Let’s destroy them with it.”

    Jesus Christ, Warren — your words are like a narration of my inner thoughts.

    These are precisely my sentiments of this post-election world. Why should progressives be expected to play by the old rules when Trump’s legion of supporters are off creating their own reality and disregarding any notion of conventionality?

    We don’t exist in a normal world we did prior to Trump, so why should we be restrict ourselves with self-imposed decorum?

    I’ve been saying this for a while now; we need to lean in. If idiots like Trump and his sycophantic, vocal supporters can interpret facts at their whim, then we should stop giving Donald Trump any benefit of a doubt.

    Ironically, the leap from presumption to reality isn’t that far when discussing Trump: We presume Trump’s team had been in contact with Russians, so fuck giving them the benefit of any doubt, lets just start confronting that truth. We know Trump’s administration is one that will seek to empower wealthy men, so lets just call it as it is. We should stop waiting for “confirmations” and just assume the worst. Because, the fact of the matter is, thats what they did with Clinton and thats how Trump ended up as POTUS.

    Under the new circumstances, centrists and progressives are set up to fail if the fundamental basis of factuality is no longer valid.

    • MississaugaPeter says:

      What made Hillary better than Trump? They both were/are despicable. The same old/same old vs. hopefully not same old/hopefully not same old. Hillary was a continuation of the 1%-99%. Trump was a tongue out to the 1%. That’s it. Get over it. Trump’s appointments are just as 1% as Hillary’s would have been.

      You want to get after Trump, don’t become like him, expose his lies. But don’t do it by fabricating lies. Then all are lying and once again mostly decent folks will have to decide which liar lies less and vote for them.

      Hillary was the embodiment of the status quo. She completely ignored Michigan, Wisconsin, and Black voters. That is why Trump won. Joining a fake news campaign will only muddle everything more, and Trump may be reelected, or another Trump will rise up.

    • Lance says:

      These are precisely my sentiments of this post-election world. Why should have conservatives and libertarians have been expected to play by the old rules when Hillary’s legion of supporters were off creating their own reality and disregarding any notion of conventionality?

      We don’t exist in a normal world we did prior to Trump, so why should we be restrict ourselves with self-imposed decorum?

      I’ve been saying this for a while now; we need to lean in. If idiots like Clinton and her sycophantic, vocal supporters can interpret facts at their whim, this is exactly why we never gave Hillary Clinton any benefit of a doubt.

      Ironically, the leap from presumption to reality isn’t that far when there was discussion of Clinton: We know Hillary and Bill Clinton had been in contact with Russians after making thousands of dollars in speeches there and selling them American uranium, so fuck giving them the benefit of any doubt, lets just start confronting that truth. We know Clinton’s time as S.O.C was one that sought to empower wealthy men, so lets just call it as it is. We should stop waiting for “confirmations” and just remember the worst. Because, the fact of the matter is, thats what they did with Trump and thats how Trump ended up as POTUS.

      Under the new circumstances, neo-liberals and progressives are set up to fail as the fundamental basis of their “factuality” has never been valid.

  11. Darren H says:

    The biggest takeaway from this article is that Warren hates the environment. He drives a truck and therefore is a carbon-spewing troglodyte. Shame! Shame!

  12. Aongasha says:

    I say go for it WK if you wish, but it won’t matter. The elites of the media, politics and business have been lying to us for years. Why do you think the MSM is dying and none of us have trusted the latter two for a long time? Many of us just don’t care anymore. We ignore them all. The result? 30 out of 50 states voted for Trump and basically said feck you to the media and the experts, pundits etc. So who’s to blame? The folks or those who invented the games and started playing with truth a long time ago and continue to do so today?

  13. Doktor Froid says:

    “Democracy” is not only decrepit, it’s fast becoming obsolete in the current global reality. Trump will refuse to be “open and transparent” with the traditional media because you can’t negotiate a ‘deal’ in public.

    Russia, China, the Muslim ummah are autocratic social systems and will not convert to traditional ‘democracy’ because their leaders are dictators backed by might or religion to control their systems. It’s just reality.

    Western democracies are under attack by internal strife and external terrorism and confrontation. The US is a house divided, as are the European countries fighting between the Right and Left.

    Canada is still a traditional democracy but it too is being polarized by differing concepts of democracy — Left vs Right, Gay vs Biblical Straight, feminists vs patriarchal men, abortion vs lifers, urban vs rural, immigration vs isolation, and on and on.

    The next decade will be tumultuous, even bloody, in the streets. Welcome to the world of Trump, Putin, Brexit, ISIS/alQaeda, Justin Trudeau too.

  14. billg says:

    Fake News, Xenophobes, Racists and Homophobes, and, the uneducated.
    That’s who the Progressive Left are blaming.
    Here’s some facts for anyone who cares to actually think about them.
    In the past 6 years the Democratic party has lost over 1000 elections, from Sherriff’s to Congressional seats to Senators to Governors, that’s astounding.
    120 million American voters either didn’t vote for Hilary or voted for Trump.
    The Progressive Left has been decimated in the US, and, a Republican President has the support of a Republican Senate and a Republican House.
    Its so obvious and its stunning and breath taking to see how the one person who deserves the blame for this tragedy escapes it.
    Barack Obama has been the head of the Democratic Party for the past 8 years, what ever is left of it is his legacy.
    Blame who ever or what ever you want, but, its right there in front of you.
    120 million American voters thought so little of the Progressive Left’s message they either voted Trump or didn’t vote at all.
    Maybe, just maybe its the Progressive Left’s message that’s the issue, at least that’s what they numbers are saying.

    • Kelly says:

      I think it’s more a matter of whitelash racism and Republican gerrymandering of electoral districts plus illegal voter suppression tactics. Large mobs in the streets is the only thing that will restore government to the people and rip it away from the oligarchs. It worked in the 1960s and it will work again once the folks with power are scared shitless by ordinary people. Remember, Hillary actually won the election by 3 million votes. The Dems will win back control of Congress in two years and start making he’ll for President Pence (Trump, won’t last a year folks).

      • billg says:

        So, the White vote that voted for Obama twice are now racists, and, Republicans rigged elections.
        I think you basically proved my point.
        There was and still is a massive failure to understand the problem.
        80,000 Black voters failed to cast a vote in Detroit this year, after President Obama went on dozens of raid talk shows in that area urging people to vote for Hilary.
        You’ll blame white uneducated angry men for voting Trump in but your PC will not allow you to address why they wouldn’t show up and vote for Hilary to stop Trump.
        Women and African Americans could have put HRC in the White House, but, they didn’t, so why didn’t they?
        Once upon a time that would have been the question, but, it seems lately Progressive Liberals just don’t want to talk about things they don’t want to talk about.
        Here’s the next logical step to the anger over Trump winning a democratic election, why bother with them.

      • vinz says:

        That’s only a 3 mil difference, or 5%, of 60 million. You have one question that is vital to ask yourself before you begin.

        “Do we really have more guns than them?” Until you can answer with 100% certainty, antagonising the national form of the Oregon Militia isn’t advisable.

        Do recall that despite being illegal, no one was arrested at the Stone Mountain Klan Rally to save the confederate flag for any of the brandishing or death threats flung through the air.

        Wherever police are on your side, they may still be too scared to act. But as we’ve seen with NADPL protests, a majority will instinctively side with whomever they see as ‘in control’ and do their bidding.

        (there is also the problem of lopsided positioning. Almost all of that vote run-up came from NYC, Portland, Seattle, and California. Four cities vs a now-nationwide coalition.)

        It is simply NOT going to end well, especially since the combative atmosphere of the DNC caused many you’re expecting to join you (as in the 60s) to have already flipped, like Alveda King and Bruce Carter.

        And most everyone seems to have ignored there was more foreign interference than just the Russians, a number of South American lgbt/human rights groups actually came northward to campaign Rep (more against Hillary than for Trump) like COPINH and ECUARUNARI. Mexicans might make up the largest group of latino voters, but they’re most certainly not the only ones out there. The DNC lost the rest of them the moment they made their choice of nominee.

  15. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    This election was a referendum on Hillary and the other Democrats on down. And they won at the top of the ticket as regards the popular vote but that’s like finishing second in horse shoes. The American voter rants and raves about punishing the establishment – – and then goes right ahead and does the exact opposite giving the House again to the Republicans and the Senate to boot. Cognitive dissonance hard at work.

  16. Kevin says:

    This post has been rattling around in my head for a few hours and finally I have to say no. Cynical as I am, I just can’t buy into it. “They” may have won, but they only won this time. If they succeed in making everyone become just like them, we’ve given them a whole lot more than an election. So sure, go ahead and see if some boundaries need shifting. Fair enough. But there have to be boundaries. I don’t believe most people want to live in a madhouse. There’s always going to be manipulation and crap put out as fact. I don’t have to fall for it and I don’t have to start slinging it.

  17. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    I’m of two minds on fake news: yeah, if you can’t beat ’em otherwise, you sure as hell can join ’em in the same tactic but then don’t you become just like ’em, and no better?

    On the other hand, Michael’s campaign was that of a Boy Scout and look where that got him. Who really knows?

  18. whyshouldIsellyourwheat says:

    “No one gets in trouble for saying that 2 + 2 is 5, or that people in Pittsburgh are ten feet tall. Such obviously false statements might be treated as jokes, or at worst as evidence of insanity, but they are not likely to make anyone mad. The statements that make people mad are the ones they worry might be believed. I suspect the statements that make people maddest are those they worry might be true.If Galileo had said that people in Padua were ten feet tall, he would have been regarded as a harmless eccentric. Saying the earth orbited the sun was another matter. The church knew this would set people thinking.”

    from an essay “What You Can’t Say” by Paul Graham
    http://paulgraham.com/say.html

  19. doconnor says:

    Many genuine attempts at progressive revolution have collapsed into the worst kind of tyranny because of a disire, or even the necessity, to do anything to win.

    Winning by compromising our principles is indistinguishable from losing.

    • Bill Templeman says:

      “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.”

      Winston Churchill

      Can we agree that we are in wartime?

  20. Dan Calda says:

    One of my oldest a dearest customers…a very soft spoken Irish gal…70ish…
    Held my arm and said…”they took John, Bobby, and Martin. Now they they have they have to take Donald, time to balance the scales”

    That she would suggest that….hmmmm.

    • billg says:

      A long time ago I had a grade 7 teacher who was teaching me guitar and played me a song he had written after Martin Luther King was assassinated, sung to the Battle Hymn of the Republic , forgot some of the words but some stuck with me.

      Peace and Prosperity’s the only thing we crave o’ Lordy
      Peach and Prosperity’s the only thing we crave..
      From Communists to Kennedy’s the whole damn world we’ll save
      We’re the land of the free and the home of the Brave

      Young John Kennedy tried to serve his native Land
      But an altruistic millionaire we could not understand
      We disagreed with what he said and what he tried to do
      So we gunned him down in Dallas now we’ve killed his brother too

      I’m sure I could recall all the words and I’m sure my long gone teacher wouldn’t mind a certain Punk Band playing it.

      Many people believe that Civil Rights moved along quicker because of JFK’s death, a Texas Democrat with a southern drawl could accomplish more then a millionaires son with a Boston accent.
      I understand and sympathize with your Irish lady’s views, but, the only hope the Progressive Left has in the US is for DJT to remain in office for 4 years then run against his record.

  21. Michael O'Shea says:

    I can certainly appreciate why you might wish to purge from memory the entire scandal ridden Chretien era which Lawrence Martin described as having “left a stench like the sewers of 17th-century London.” But do you really think anyone is going to believe that you don’t recall your Boss’ promise to “Haxe de tax.”

    On October 29, 1990, Chretien said: “I am opposed to the GST. I have always been opposed to it, and I will always be opposed to it. It is a tax that is both regressive and discriminatory.”

    On February 11, 1993, Chretien said: “This is a commitment. You will judge me by that. If the GST is not gone, I will have a tough time, the election after that. It’s the only specific promise that I’m making very clear, and it is going, it’s gone.”

    On May 2, 1994, now Prime Minister, Chretien went even further and sentenced the GST to death. “We hate it and we will kill it”, he said.

    On August 11, 1995, the Canadian Press reported that Chretien was finally prepared to live up to his many earlier promises. “On Wednesday, [Prime Minister Jean] Chretien said the replacement for the GST will be announced in the federal budget.”

    It wasn’t.

    And that’s just off the top of my head.

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