SIO16: Debunking Liberal Fake News

This week, Thomas talks about the recent increase in “fake news” coming from the more liberal outlets. From “spin”, to misinformation, to outright lies there are plenty of examples to choose from among recent headlines! Is this just what happens to the party that is not in power?

Thomas also tackles some Trump updates and some listener voicemails.

Atlantic interview with the managing editor or Snopes

New York Magazine article on possible election hacking
538 article debunking it

Washington Post Article about State Department Resignations
CNN article debunking it

Woman dies because of Trump’s “Muslim Ban
Follow-up debunking it

Police Raid and burn Tipis at Standing Rock
Debunked here, here, and here.

Bill Maher and Piers Morgan Clip


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4 Replies to “SIO16: Debunking Liberal Fake News”

  1. Trump’s comment on Putin has been rattling around my brain. On the Majority Report, Michael Brooks noted that a key distinction between Trump saying that and Chomsky saying essentially that (aside from using it as a political tactic to avoid questioning about Russian connections) is that Chomsky’s implicit assertion is that we should stop enabling those killings, whereas Trump’s seems to be that we should embrace it, or at least not rock the boat (at the absolute most charitable interpretation, Trump is suggesting we shouldn’t throw stones, because we lack the moral high-ground).

    I was content with this distinction, until listening to Jeremy Scahill on the latest episode of Intercepted. They tend to lean into the “we called out the Obama administration” angle, and in that context, while I struggle to consolidate the respect I have for President Obama with his expansion of the drone program/extra-judicial killings, I realize there is some aspect of my political ideology that accepts the government’s use of targeted killing for (presumably) justifiable reasons. I don’t know if this is a cultural remnant left over from action movies, if it’s a kind of political pragmatism, or if it’s just me convincing myself to be okay with something I don’t think I can change. I know I hate that there’s an aspect of my thinking on this which isn’t dissimilar to what Trump’s seems to be, and I know it terrifies me to think that he’s been put in charge of deciding whether or not certain people will die.

    Another thing that concerns me is the cited “unsubstantiated” story about an increase in trans-suicides following the election. From the research I’ve seen tracking suicide rates in general, it’s difficult to come up with accurate assessments, mechanisms need to be adopted to specifically account for collection limitations (e.g., deaths by suicide not reported as such out of concern for loved ones), and even with all the intricacies addressed, analyzing data takes time. As noted in the episode, data we do have access to (based on reporting in The Washington Post, CNN, Time, The Guardian, etc.) documents an unprecedented spike in calls to suicide hotlines following the election (2.5 times the norm according to LifeLine, as high as 5 times the norm according to Trans Hotline).

    We can’t infer that an increase in distress leading to such a dramatic uptick in suicidal ideation correlated with an increase in suicide attempts or completed suicides. That said, I don’t believe we can ethically disregard the reporting as “fake news” based on the lack of a specific kind of corroboration (i.e., documented rates). I definitely agree it’s irresponsible to share articles which make assertions they can not verify (both journalistically and from a suicide advocacy perspective), but I just want to be cautious in how we respond to unsubstantiated rather than demonstrably false news. Case in point, I see no reason to conclude “if there had been completed suicides in response to the election, we would have heard about them by now.”

    Also, while Googling, I found a story published in November about Trump supporters trolling a trans-woman’s suicide note on facebook for making reference to the president. So now I’m sad about that.

    As to the “resignation” article in the Washington Post. I’m having trouble viewing this as a misleading headline. I’ve seen corroborating reporting from the Atlantic and MSNBC which outlined some of the turmoil in the transition (e.g., people told they would not remain in their positions only to be offered positions the day before the inauguration, failure to have incoming staff exposed to outgoing staff for training and orientation, failure to fill key roles, terminating overseas staff without the traditional notice to arrange a return to the USA, conflicting reports about people choosing to/being told to leave, etc.).

    The Washington Post article itself notes that state department officials described the resignations as surprising and “unexpected,” and it quotes David Wade as saying “It’s the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember….” The fact that a state department spokesperson described this as a routine change-over, while maybe technically correct regarding the mechanism, might be viewed as overly charitable in omitting the surprise and apparent disarray in the way this occurred, particularly given the statement by Ambassador Richard Boucher who suggests that senior officials traditionally stay on during the transition, and “that’s not what happened this time.”

    I take your point, when you note that this isn’t necessarily something you’d feel comfortable calling “fake news,” but it seems like your objection to it is based on an inference, and the “debunking” is itself somewhat questionable.

    Super minor point about the assumption that people have not died as a result of the executive order. We don’t know that nobody died. The White House claimed only 109-348 people were affected, and the State Department proposed that fewer than 60,000 would be affected by the ban, whereas the Washington Post (whom I still trust) reported that at least 735 could have been barred entry in foreign nations, and that the ban would likely affect over 90,000 individuals. Again, given the chaotic and obfuscatory nature of the administration and the inept way the executive order was put into place, we can’t say that no one is dead today who would have been alive if not for the ban. Obviously, it would be super irresponsible to speculate without evidence, but we can’t just assume we would have heard about it if someone had died.

    And as for Bill Maher, past guest/correspondent Jeremy Scahill reportedly pulled out of this week’s episode of Real Time as a result of Milo being invited. I think I’m going to follow his lead and find something else to do this week.

  2. On the one hand, I want to applaud your attempt at being fair and balanced. On the other, I think if you going to be fair and balanced, you should say something about Trump’s use of the label “fake news” to whitewash any story that is critical of his administration. I think Jake Tapper did a great job of doing this:

  3. Piers wasn’t wrong about the muslim ban in the broadest sense. It was a ban on muslims from 7 countries. Piers Was playing semantics I think.

    As for saying calm down when it comes to hyperbolic claims he is right. Calling everyone right of Lenin a nazi is hysteria and needs to stop. I think that was what Piers was trying to say. I also agree that lost to election for the democrats.

    What Hillary did was ran against Trump based on how horrible he was but never offered policies that inspired democrats to vote for an alternative. This has happened in Ontario for 3 straight elections. The conservatives ran on a platform of not being Kathleen Wynn or Dalton McGuinty. They never brought up alternative policies they just ran against the current government and they lost. You have to give people something to vote for. Hillary never gave anyone a vision of what she was for, only what she was against. Democrats stayed home and President Trump became a reality.

    So hysteria about how bad Trump was lost the democrats the election because that doesn’t inspire people.

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