We want the news to be news. We want to rely on trusted sources and ignore those who lie to us. It’s part of why we may bristle at stories on the latest nonsense spouted by Rush Limbaugh and other passengers in the right wing clown car.
There is room to argue that a journalist like Chuck Todd, says it isn’t his job to expose the Republican Party’s lies, is de facto giving Republicans the license to spread their propaganda.
Recently, Jason Easley discussed the dangers of conflating trustworthy media with media that tells us what we want to hear. He says something important about the danger of falling into the same trap that people who rely on Fox or *SMH* Rush Limbaugh for their news and ideas.
There is a school of thought on the left that Limbaugh should be ignored. These are folks suffer from ostrich syndrome. They want to stick their heads in the sand and pretend like what they disagree with doesn’t exist. This desire is a manifestation of the fact that a segment of the left is becoming just like the right. There are people who only want their media to stay on the left side of the partisan fence.
Aside from understanding that propaganda comes from all areas of the political spectrum, it’s as important to understand the tactics involved. The more obvious tactics include editing comments and images to distort their original content and context. Another obvious trick, favored by the Koch brothers, is buying deceptive ads where actors are presented as “victims” of the Affordable Care Act.
Since it is election season and the GOP’s attempt at re-branding was a flop, they are focusing on what they do best – spreading lies and misinformation. The NRCC has been busy creating over 20 fake news websites. They look like they could be new sites, but the content reads like something you’d see in a political ad or on Fox (which in many ways is one long political ad). All the NRCC websites come from the same domain: www.electionupdate2014.com. The sites are called (name of City) Update. They contain “analysis” of a Democratic opponent’s record that reads like a partisan hatchet job.
One example is a site called “San Antonio Update”:
The site has the appearance of authenticity at least until you go to the bottom of the page where in teeny tiny letters, the NRCC comes clean, acknowledging that it paid for the site:
Obviously, the NRCC is hoping people won’t read the full content, lest they see the disclaimer at the bottom of the page.
Republicans may be thinking they have a first amendment right to lie to voters. However, in his own advertising one Democrat points to the obvious shortcoming of fake news sites.
Aside from being unethical, it’s a dirty trick that is also pretty insulting. The implication here is that our opponent and his friends think Texans are too dumb to know the difference between a real news website and their fake one
Another example is something called “Des Moines Update” you can see that site here. Like the previous example, this site is paid for by the NRCC. This time the target is Staci Appel.
As the Des Moines Register‘s Editorial Board said in an editorial on the subject of fake news sites,
But there is nothing humorous about dressing up political propaganda as legitimate news. It diminishes the credibility of legitimate news organizations as well as the Republican Party. If Republicans want Iowans to know why they think Staci Appel should not be elected to Congress, they should clearly and honestly identify who is delivering that message rather than disguising it as an objective news report.
The fact is political ads are part of the landscape, but most of us recognize that advertising isn’t news. Advertising is intended to sell a product, a service or in the political context a candidate, a political party or a position on a political issue. That means in the best of circumstances, political ads will emphasize the positive in a chosen political candidate and the negative in an opponent. While there are rules that preclude deception in most forms of advertising, the same is not true of political advertising. As the Supreme Court ruled, political speech that includes outright lies is protected speech under the First Amendment.
News, at least as most of us understand it, is supposed to be factual and it is supposed to expose lies, misinformation and distortions. That’s what makes this use of fake news sites so insidious.
Image: Free Press