2016.11.23 vox populi

It’s late November already, and here in the United States, Thanksgiving day is upon us. In the northern latitudes, this is a time when people are mostly considering it early winter, and of course, there is the whole thing of people regarding this time of the year as a beginning of the Christmas season. We are now well past the big national election day, and you would be reasonable in thinking that people might have settled down a bit and regained some sanity about the whole extended circus of that. Yeah, wouldn’t that be something?

One of the items that has popped up in the past days was a post on Facebook by former Clinton administration cabinet member Robert Reich where he “shared” an essay he wrote on the Newsweek magazine website, and introduced it with the comment “Either the Democratic Party cleans house, or we start a third party.”. What do you mean, start a third party? Yes, this still continues, the absurdity that has been going for a long time, involving people hammering the notion into American minds that there is R and there is D, “Our Two Party System”, and any political party organization outside of that is “Third Party”, no matter how many “third” parties there are. Here it is again, an instance of something where it could seem on the face of it as if we have a nation where people can’t count, when, of course, it isn’t that at all. It’s a ridiculous game of bombarding people with the idea that anything outside that “two party system” is just some outside fringe cult of nothing, insignificant oddities to be ignored.

Perusing social media world, I encountered some short blurb commentary about the economy.

This brought a comment from an online random stranger saying-

By every metric used to measure the economy it is doing quite well. But people are going to believe what ever they want, so statistics just don’t matter. Especially in the era of Trump, make believe is now the new normal.

It is hard to know where to even begin with something like this.

It’s also a good time to point out that just recently I was writing about the documentary “Blind Spot“, where a main theme was precisely the kind of “make believe” that pervades the culture that is represented by the random stranger quoted above. There’s the trouble. People like the quoted stranger, who clearly has a lot of company, think they have the realistic and objective view, based on a selective batch of statistical games pumped out at them on a regular basis.

You know the stuff. It’s “low unemployment!”, based on a statistical report that simply does not count masses of unemployed people. It’s “a record stock market!”, whipping out a number for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, never really considering what that number is, what it means, if anything. It’s a report that says the economy has grown by X%, whatever that actually means, or gasoline prices are some relatively low amount compared to some other price in recent history, with no discussion and grasp of our petroleum situation. Insert your own examples that I might not be mentioning.

The basic theme is fairly clear, and I think that among many people, it’s so standard, so ubiquitous, so steadily reinforced in a sort of cultural and political “echo-chamber” of conforming grtoupthink taking priority over actual reality, that the regular nicely packaged “economic report” simplistic summaries of what basically amounts to PR propaganda simply is their view of the matter. In this case, now, anything not conforming to the package is a matter of silly fools living in “make believe”, and, now, given the political atmosphere, it’s about “the era of Trump” somehow. The thing that struck me immediately, when I read the comment I just quoted, is how this kind of thing, this blindly devoted groupthink, completely dismisses people whose general assessment of the economy comes more from the experience and observations of their own lives and what’s happening around them, day to day and over the longer term. You know, reality.

There are many sources of much broader and deeper examinations of everything that falls under the heading of “the economy”, especially these days, considering the broad expanse of information and communications facility of the internet and WWW. I mention some of them with links occasionally, some of them come up indirectly as references in other articles or podcasts or something that I’ve pointed out, but now, one recent development in the clattering noisefest is a burst of echoing chatter about “fake news”. This seems to have started off with something about the management of Facebook deciding that “fake news” is a problem on their website among their millions of users, and, by god, something must be done!

This gets all kinds of complicated. This is almost an entire subject of its own. Of course, it should be obvious to anybody who is involved there, that people have regularly passed around among their social media connections links to things like the news parody site The Onion (one of the great things on the web). Along with that kind of stuff, unfortunately, it’s likely, especially the way the Facebook “News Feed” works (a title loaded with irony), you are very likely to encounter great heaping piles of what could simply be categorized as dumb shit, including a high frequency of items like hoax reports flashing breaking news of the death of some famous person who is probably quite bemused to learn of the spreading news of their demise.

It isn’t only that, of course, as there seems to be an entire field of websites who, in somebody’s mind, creating these things, might think of themselves as parody or satire, just creating humorless pages upon pages of bullshit, making something that has the appearance of a straight news site, that they just load up with pieces that are just plain false.

This whole story gets more twisted, however, as now this all takes more twists and turns as people start to classify a variety of news and information and commentary sites as “fake news” or “propaganda”, simply because, well, they clash with “the real news” or “legit news sources” that, very unfortunately, are often providing examples of gross blatant propaganda. If you want examples of what I’m talking about, all you have to do is read back through posts here in this space. There are piles and piles of cases of supposed “real news”, from what people regard as the established totally trustworthy and nobile Free Press of America, that are profoundly distorted propaganda, and even absolutely wrong, false, just plain lying.

Robert Parry of the Consortium News site published a great article concisely examining the problem of purportedly “legit” and “real” news doing awful reality distortion, even as actual real events are reported honestly and thoroughly by media that are then condemned, by the “real news” media communicating raw propaganda, as being propaganda.

Things have just gone completely fucking nuts. There is something to seriously examine in the kind of, let’s say, common ground of mindset between things like people dismissing other people as being ridiculous, stupid, misled and deluded for having the gall to form their own ideas and opinions about “the economy” based on their own direct experience and observations, while those very same people, that is, the ones doing the dismissing and ridiculing, basing their views of the world based on what’s supposed to be “real news” that has degraded into a propaganda machine, and dismissing people doing thorough honest objective journalism, and telling the truth, as “fake news” and “propaganda”.

Oh yeah… I almost forgot, silly me, there is also the popular tendency for people to laugh off a lot as “conspiracy theory” and “tinfoil hat” nuttery.

For anybody thinking that all this can be neatly and simply broken down and categorized neatly, that’s a tough task sometimes. In other words, it’s not like you have “legit news sources” that are all true or false or “alternative news” (or whatever label you like) that are all true or false. Even so, there are sources on the web that have not given any reason to seriously doubt their credibility, that provide articles that are almost exhaustively researched and reported, complete with concrete citations of specific information and sources. I’ve referred to some of them, often. Compare that to so many stories pumped out by “legit real news” here in the US, the usual suspects we know so well, that are worse than sketchy and superficial, with “information” like “sources say”, or maybe, for example, the US State Department is not involved in any way in working to overthrow the government of another nation, and this is a simple clear fact because a State Department character said so.

‘Statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.’

— From: The Chronicle of Young Satan, Mark Twain

‘There was no corner of the known world where some interest was not alleged to be in danger or under actual attack. If the interests were not Roman, they were of Rome’s allies; and if Rome had no allies, the allies would be invented.’

— From: The Sociology of Imperialism, Joseph Schumpeter, Meridian Books, 1951.

I wonder what Mark Twain would have to say today. Probably quite a lot. Now that I think of that, it immediately occurs to me that George Orwell and Aldous Huxley would also have quite a bit to say.

One of the sites on the web where you can find actual honest journalism is Consortiumnews, and earlier in this note I already mentioned an article from the past few days does a nice job of taking a good honest look at the idea of “fake news” and providing a good concise summary of examples of how badly we are being bombarded with what might more reasonably be filed as “fake news” that, unfortunately, even tragically, is regarded as the “real news”, or “legit” news.

Another new item appearing is an editorial from CNN talking head Christiane Amanpour, not only appearing on the CNN website, but also reproduced on the website of The Guardian in the UK, where I actually saw it first. There, Amanpour sounds a fairly dramatic alarm about a crisis in journalism that left me disgusted and appalled, and not really for the reasons that might be expected if you read the piece. Amanpour claims that “journalism faces an existential crisis in the Trump era“, but I would argue that we are in an era when American journalism faces an existential crisis, quite apart from whether or not Trump had been elected. There is a point that is very serious, indeed, that with Donald Trump as President, given his recent behavior, his treatment toward what is supposed to be a functioning free press could be problematic and disturbing. That gets somewhat lost, in my view, in light of the bigger problems with what is supposed to be a functioning free press, that are, as I just said, not about who won the election and will be occupiying the White House soon.

There is more of a problem with Christiane Amanpour, although, it must be said, it isn’t only about her, specifically and alone. She’s just one example, one part of something disturbing, disgusting, and appalling, something that will be more and more of a problem if this is not corrected.

I used to have some degree of respect for Amanpour, not that she really meant a lot to me one way or another, but more recently, that flipped completely. I now despise her as a supposed journalist, as I realized, from more than one incidence of her causing her credibility to evaporate, that the woman is a propagandist, and a very strident one, at that. I watched TV appearances by her where it became very apparent that she was an advocate of the reality warp pumped out by the Washington neocon cult of Empire, badly conflicting with the evident reality of world events. It could be argued, I suppose, that this is a case of simply not knowing, of being misinformed, if this were not a case of the person in question being a journalist, and, beyond that, someone who is supposed to be, and is presented as, a journalist whose specialty is world affairs, international news.

Now, having said that, I fully realize that many people would take what I’m saying as incredible, even shocking, and probably ridiculous, with likely comments like “oh, right, so you know better than Christiane Amanpour!”. That’s part of the problem. People (and organizations) are regarded as credible, authoritive, and are therefor taken seriously and taken as truthful on the face of things, even when they badly distort reality and even lie blatantly. Say anything contrary, and, well, good luck with that.

Amanpour revealed herself to be a full on aggressive proponent of the Washington neocon propaganda, in particular regarding the events in and related to Ukraine, related to the coup d’etat that happened there in early 2014 and all that has followed right up to this day. Never mind the Washington neocon program to overthrown the Ukrainian elected President and government and replace it with a puppet regime under their control, Christiane Amanpour has proclaimed repeatedly that the whole story there is about Russian aggression and invasion, and “seizure” of Crimea, with the Russians, and Vladimir Putin personally, being responsible for all the trouble there, and a larger scenario of Russia seeking to take over Europe. Aside from the complete evasion of the US involvement in the the coup and the new regime, the clear facts about the people in Crimea and eastern Ukraine wanting nothing to do with the new gang who took over in Kiev (and why) are completely pushed aside, or, dismissed as nonsense, fiction, “Russian propaganda”. There seems to be a similar reality warp and deception about the ugly circumstances in Syria, ignoring the publically acknowledged agenda of the Washington crowd to overthrow the government of Syria.

There is another new article from the Washington Post, telling us that “fake news” has caused Trump to be elected, and that it is all a devious plot by Russia with a program of “Russian propaganda” and direct corruption of the election by “Russian hackers” along with indirect fouling of the process by “useful idiots” serving the evil Russian plot, masterminded by Bond movie villain bogeyman Putin installing his puppet Donald Trump as part of his plan for world domination.

Frankly, all this has the stench of a corrupt institution frantically trying to divert attention.

The notion of “Russian hackers” and Russian government covert manipulation and “fake news” being responsible for the installation of Donald Trump as President also takes us back to the quoted stranger earlier and their ideas about what some people might think about the economic state of things. There are also all sorts of assertions flying around, with a large amount of histrionics, about “Trump supporters” and why he could have won and Hillary Clinton could have lost, that often strike me as severe delusions. You will be familiar by now with a standard meme floating around, that Trump voters and supporters are all a simplistic neat category, of ignorant knuckledragging cretins and white supremicist racist neo-Nazis, of isolated and insular backwoods bumpkins. There is, sadly, a lot to justify that kind of conclusion for an awful lot of people, but it is beyond simplistic and naïve to think that this is a simple universal explanation, ignoring what should be painfully obvious. Millions of Americans who do not fit that kind of ugly portrait went out and voted for Trump. Understanding why is something that many people seem unwilling to contemplate.

Myself, I cannot comprehend the act of actually voting for Donald Trump to be President of the United States. Really, the basic summary of this election goes something like, the good news is, Hillary Clinton lost, the bad news is, Donald Trump won.

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