Whose Fake News?
Sharyl Attkisson is a national treasure. Just to summarize her background:
CBS News: 1993–2014
2000: Investigative Journalist and Editors Finalist award.
2001: Emmy Award for Investigative Journalism
2002: Co-Authored college textbook, Writing for Broadcast and Internet News
2002: Emmy Award for Investigative Journalism
2005: Edward R. Murrow award for Journalistic Excellence (team)
2008: Edward R. Murrow award for Journalistic Excellence
2009: Investigative Journalism Emmy for Financial Reporting
2010: 2 Emmy Award nominations
2010: Emmy Award
2011: Emmy Award nomination
2012: Emmy Award for Investigative Journalism
Unfortunately for Sharyl, her subjects have not made her popular with some powerful people:
2008: Broke the news that Hillary Clinton’s “I was in Bosnia under gunfire” claim was a lie. (Attkisson was with Clinton on that plane)
2010: Emmy nominations were for investigations into members of Congress and the waste of tax dollars
2011: Nomination was for “Follow the Money” investigations into Congressional travel to the Copenhagen Aid summit and problems with the Haiti relief programs.
2012: Emmy Award was for an investigation into Fast and Furious, on which she wrote, regarding the release of documents late into the investigation:
It’s information that, if revealed at the time, would have proven the falsity of many Obama administration assertions in the gunwalking case. It also would have been extremely damaging to the President’s re-election campaign. As the documents are reluctantly turned over years later, it’s clear that the goal of delaying their release until the story was long past–has been accomplished
2014: Published, Stonewalled: One Reporter’s Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington.
In 2013, CBS found that Attkisson’s computer had been infected with a keystroke logging virus, for perhaps two years. This software gave easy access to the hacker of Atkisson’s financial accounts and passwords, but there were no thefts, indicating that the intruder wanted “something else”. Attkisson has filed suit (in 2015) against Eric Holder, the DOJ, and the USA for unlawful intrusion; that case continues in litigation.
However, although the above sounds a bit right-leaning, Sharyl is no shill. She’s gone after government corruption on a nonpartisan basis, earning plenty of praise from Democrats as well as frustration from Republicans during investigations of the Bush years, specifically into the TARP program (Emmy Award, Parts 1, 2 and 3), governmental waste, and the Iraq/Halliburton connections (1 and 2).
So, now that I’ve set the table for you regarding Sharyl, let’s talk about her latest, soon to be released book, “The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think and How You Vote.” Sharyl recently delivered a TED talk on this, and what you think you knew is not what she knows.
Investigative reporting, to a large extent, is about seeing curious patterns of events where other people see them as disconnected, then doing research and finding out that there ARE actually connections between those apparently disparate events. And this is what Sharyl describes when she points out:
…it wasn’t until 2016 that the actual phrase fake news was introduced to the American public on a national scale. Liberals were first to heavily promote use of the phrase referring to conservative disinformation and right-wing websites and there’s certainly plenty of that example…
But, there’s more:
…in the meantime Trump and conservatives counterpunched with their own notion of fake news meaning biased, sloppy, erroneous reporting as committed by the mainstream media and the left. Plenty of that, for example on President Trump’s first day in office a Time magazine reporter falsely reported the Trump had removed the bust statue of Martin Luther King from the Oval Office.
Which then begs a question:
…if fake news by other names has always been around why does it suddenly
become the stuff of daily headlines during the 2016 campaign?
I did a little digging and I traced the effort to a nonprofit called First Draft which appears to be about the first to use the phrase fake news in its modern
context. On September 13th 2016 First Draft announced a partnership to “tackle malicious hoaxes and fake news reports”. … the goal was supposedly to separate wheat from chaff to prevent proven conspiracy talk from figuring prominently in internet searches…
And, Sharyl noticed a pattern:
Exactly one month later President Obama … insisted in a speech that he too thought somebody needed to step in and curate information in this Wild Wild West media environment.Nobody in the public had been clamoring for any such thing, yet suddenly the topic of fake news dominates headlines on a daily basis. Iit’s as if the media had been given its marching orders. Fake news, they insisted, was an imminent threat to American democracy.
Sharyl goes on to talk about how in her studies of the media industry, there is no shortage of attempts by moneyed interests to manipulate public opinion. She goes on:
What if the whole anti-fake news campaign was an effort on somebody’s part to keep us from seeing or believing certain websites of stories by controversializing them, or labeling them as fake news?
But who would want to do such a thing?
Well, that thought is a sugar high to an investigative reporter. :-)
When connecting the dots I find it often helps to follow the money. I wanted to know who was funding the nonprofit First Draft and its anti fake news effort. I found the answer; it was Google.
Google’s parent company Alphabet was run by a man named Eric Schmidt. Eric Schmidt as it happens had devoted himself to Hillary Clinton’s election
campaign, offered himself up as a campaign adviser, and became a top multimillion-dollar donor to it.
His company funded First Draft around the start of the election cycle. Not
surprisingly, Hillary was soon to jump aboard the anti fake news train and her surrogate, David Brock of Media Matters, privately told donors he was the one who convinced Facebook to join the effort.
I’m not the only one who thinks the whole thing smacked of the rollout of a propaganda campaign. Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept wrote “the most important fact you need to realize is that those who most loudly denounced fake news are typically the ones most aggressively disseminating it.”
But something happened that nobody expected the anti fake news campaign backfired. Each time advocates cried “fake news” Donald Trump called THEM
“fake news” until he’d co-oped to the term so completely that even those who
were originally promoting it started running from it.
In fact it’s now commonly misreported that it was Donald Trump who thought up the phrase; actually, it was just a hostile takeover.
And, she finishes with a warning:
I’ll leave you with a final thought and a warning. It’s about a new catchphrase being bandied about: “Media Literacy” (…)
Media Literacy advocates are busy trying to get state laws passed to require their version of media literacy be taught in public schools. (…)
I think media literacy is a“ new name promoted by some of the same
people who want to tell you what to believe. People with their own agendas
using terms designed to fool you into thinking they’re neutral authorities.
What you need to remember is that when interests are working this hard to shape your opinion their true goal might just be to add another layer between you and the truth.
Sort of changes the definition of “woke”, does it not? :-)