Sydney Williams comments on Fake News and freedom of speech. A must read!

Thought of the Day – “The Media – Abdication of Responsibility”

Sydney Williams4:30 AM (6 hours ago)
to Sydney

On Monday evening, Connecticut’s version of Ground Hog Day emerged, giving two more weeks of lockdown for hair salons and barber shops. Already, Connecticut was the last of the fifty states to ease restrictions. On the same day, the dyspeptic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, criticized the President for obesity. This from a woman of so many face and body lifts that there is little left of her that God and her parents created.

Sydney M. Williams

30 Bokum Road – Apartment 314

Essex, CT 06426

Thought of the Day

“The media – Abdication of Responsibility”

May 21, 2020

Politics and the press; two cherished institutions that spoke

with tongues so forked they could double for fine dinnerware.”

                                                                                                                                Harlan Coben (1962-)

                                                                                                                                One False Move, 1998

It may be splitting hairs, but President Trump is wrong when he calls out The New York Times and Washington Post for printing “fake” news. What those papers are printing is “slanted” news, articles biased toward a leftist, political ideology. Fake news is fabricated, while slanted news is prejudiced, where a reporter selects what to emphasize, deemphasize or omit based on personal political preferences. Satire (“An obsolete kind of literary composition, in which the vices and follies of the author’s enemies were expounded with imperfect tenderness.”[1]) is a form of fake news. However, with the exception of good satire, both fake news and biased reporting are a disservice to readers seeking truth. It is the latter that is subtler, so more difficult to discern and address. The burden for determining what is real and what is false is the consumer’s, as reporters have abandoned responsibility to readers and viewers.

Owners, publishers, editors and bloggers can spout whatever opinions they choose. This is a free country and that is their right. But when opinions filter into news stories, and news is reported as unvarnished truth, the consequence is divisiveness and a threat to freedom, which relies on a well-informed citizenry.

Professor Carl Bergstrom of the University of Washington teaches a course called, “Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data.” In a phone interview with Michael Rosenwald, printed in the Columbia Journalism Review in the fall of 2017, he said “The average American spends nearly an hour a day on Facebook. Doing what? Mostly spreading bullshit.” Whether that is true or hyperbole, I do not know, but a Pew Research Center survey in 2016 essentially confirmed the trend. It found that 14% of U.S. adults shared news they knew was fake. Other surveys support the contention that people willingly pass on information they know to be fake, if it aligns with their preconceived political opinions; for example, promoting Trump derangement syndrome has become daily fodder for the leftist media.

Fake news should make us all wary. If something seems amiss, it probably is and should be double-checked. But slanted news is a beast of a different kind, especially when it appears in so-called respectable news sources. In a free country, the press has the right to print or report what they will. That principle predates our own Constitution. In Commentaries on the Laws of England, in 1770, William Blackstone (1723-1780) wrote: “The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state: but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public: to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press: but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous, or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity.” Thus, while political bias in mainstream media is not “illegal,” a free but irresponsible press is subject to libel. But, more important for our purposes, an irresponsible and unaccountable press does not serve the people.

Thomas Jefferson, who once wrote to Lafayette that “the only security of all is in a free press,” anticipated the willing obeisance of a pliable media to a favored political leader. In a 1785 letter to the Dutch statesman Gijsbert Karel van Hogendorp, Jefferson wrote: “The most effectual engines for [pacifying a nation] are the public papers. [A despotic] government always [keeps] a kind of standing army of news writers who, without any regard to truth or to what should be like truth, [invent] and put into the papers whatever may serve their ministers. This suffices with the mass of the people who have no means of distinguishing the false from the true paragraphs of a newspaper.” It was a lesson understood by Lenin, Hitler, Mao Zedong, and others of similar ilk. When mainstream media and political leaders align, freedom is at risk.

One of the most egregious recent examples of biased reporting had to do with the Russian investigation that should have ended with the Mueller report. Nine reporters from the Washington Post and the New York Times shared the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting on Russian interference in the 2016 election and its connection to the Trump campaign. In making the award, the Pulitzer Prize Board cited twenty articles between February 9, 2017 and September 8, 2017. We now know that the reporters got the story wrong. Whether they were stupid, incurious or blinded by biases is unknown. We do know that their editors failed to confirm facts. They were advocates for a political cause, not independent investigators. There has been no apology from the Pulitzer committee, nor any mea culpas from the reporters. In fact, it now appears that any collusion that took place in 2016 was between Democrats and the U.S. intelligence community. Where are those same investigators?

Reporting on COVID-19 has been politicized, swathed in biases, innuendos and inaccuracies. For example, why have not investigative reporters looked into New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to send post-hospital, virus-infected patients to nursing homes rather than to the U.S.N.S.  Comfort, or to the make-shift hospital at the Javits Center? The most vulnerable are the elderly with comorbidities, many of whom are in nursing homes, where about 50% of all COVID-19 deaths have occurred, a fact known since the first deaths were recorded in Washington State in February. And, what about death counts?  Are they too high or too low? Colorado’s Democrat Governor Jared Polis’ decision to call out the CDC for exaggerating death counts received limited news coverage. Early models exaggerated the virus’ virulence. Now, today’s New York Times reports a Columbia University model estimates that 83% of all deaths would have been prevented if the lockdown had occurred two weeks earlier. How can they know with such precision? If the numbers accord with the narrative, the estimate is accepted as fact. In taking hydroxychloroquine, the President was accused of ignoring science. No mention was made of Michigan Democrat, State Senator Karen Whitsett, a COIVID-19 survivor who credits the drug with her survival.

While government cannot demand a newspaper or cable news channel report honestly, people are best served when editorial comments are consigned to opinion pages and news is presented accurately and without bias. With major news sources having forgone responsibility to the public, getting correct information has become the responsibility of the people. Freedom should be foremost in our minds, and valid information is a critical part of the process. As Albert Camus said in 1957, “A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad.” Biased reporting, with social media having joined the hunt, has become ubiquitousIt is when the press and politicians collude that democracy and freedom are at risk.

  1. On May 21, 2020 at 11:35 am,
    Josey Wales says:

    America’s troubles are locked into their own reprobate mind 💀

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