For all the controversy generated by Donald Trump’s efforts to delegitimize the American news media by claiming they are “fake news” in an attempt to create a post-truth era where facts do not matter, a propaganda technique long employed by the Soviets/Russians and many other authoritarian regimes, this was not something new to the Trump campaign in 2016.
There was, of course, FAUX News and its mantra of “we report, you decide,” reducing everything to mere opinions rather than objective facts. “Don’t bother me with the facts, I know what I believe!” FAUX News is a rejection of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s admonition that “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”
There was the quote attributed to a Bush aide by Ron Suskind (reportedly Karl Rove) in 2004: The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
In 2014, the National Republican Congressional Committee has launched more than 20 “fake news” sites to attack Democrats running for Congress, creating a media uproar and drawing protest from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the NRCC’s counterpart. GOP campaign arm launches fake news sites against Democrats. “If anyone was wondering why voters don’t trust Congress, look no further than the NRCC’s brand new voter outreach strategy—fake news sites,” said Josh Schwerin, national press secretary for the DCCC, in a statement.
Last year, Republican governors got into the “fake news” business. GOP governors launch ‘news’ site critics call propaganda:
The Republican Governors Association has quietly launched an online publication that looks like a media outlet and is branded as such on social media. The Free Telegraph blares headlines about the virtues of GOP governors, while framing Democrats negatively. It asks readers to sign up for breaking news alerts. It launched in the summer bearing no acknowledgement that it was a product of an official party committee whose sole purpose is to get more Republicans elected.
Only after The Associated Press inquired about the site last week was a disclosure added to The Free Telegraph’s pages identifying the publication’s partisan source.
The Republican Governors Association describes the website as routine political communication.
And who could ever forget Kellyanne Conway’s classic “You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving — Sean Spicer, our press secretary — gave alternative facts.” Conway: Trump White House offered ‘alternative facts’ on crowd size. Chuck Todd responded: “Alternative facts aren’t facts, they are falsehoods.”
Recently, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), noted for his attempts to undermine the House Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election on behalf of “Dear Leader,” created his own “fake news” website. Devin Nunes creates his own alternative news site.
Fake news has recently found its way into Maine politics. Democrats say fake news posted on conservative website, shared by Republican Party. “The posts have alarmed state Democrats and media observers, who fear that this type of hyperpartisan, anonymous reporting could be a test run for the 2018 governor’s race.”
And now “fake news” has found its way into Arizona politics from our Koch-bot Governor Doug Ducey and his GOPropagandists. Former Doug Ducey staffer launches ‘news’ websites attacking Democrats:
State Sen. Steve Farley has issued the Farley Report from his campaign websites for years, offering on-the-ground dispatches from a political body few of his Tucson constituents will ever see themselves.
The blog-style website, now hosted on his campaign website for the Democratic nomination for governor, describes the frenetic pace at the Legislature while bemoaning what Farley thinks are bad ideas by Gov. Doug Ducey and other Republicans.
But the next time people search for the newsletter online, they may be directed to a different version of the Farley Report, one not written by the senator.
On that site, the coverage will be about him.
But it won’t necessarily be positive.
Grabbing a similar domain name
A Republican operative who until recently worked for Ducey got hold of the domain www.FarleyReport.com and started publishing Feb. 16.
Pro Tip: Candidates should always reserve every conceivable iteration of possible domain names to prevent assholes like this guy from setting up misleading fake web sites using your name.
Brian Anderson, who left Ducey’s office last September and soon after formed an opposition-research business, has launched two online “news” sites, including the one touting “real-time views” into Farley’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor.
On a second website, Anderson is posting about other Democrats, Arizona Democrats Exposed (azdemsexposed.com). That site will feature news about Democrats at all levels of government, legislative fights at the state Capitol and Democratic candidates running for office, he said.
Recent posts there also target the other Democratic gubernatorial candidate, David Garcia.
The site published a post about Garcia’s touting of a survey that found Ducey is vulnerable in his reelection bid. But Garcia did not disclose the polling firm’s history with clients that include “Democratic Party-aligned candidates, officials, and groups,” according to the post.
But that’s not uncommon. Candidates on both side of the aisle rarely talk about any bias a polling firm whose results they are touting may have.
Another post mocked Garcia for leaving the state on Feb. 14 — statehood day. He also ripped U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Arizona, for calling President Donald Trump “a psychopath.”
Anderson likens the sites to local versions of partisan national websites, such as the Washington Free Beacon or the Washington Examiner, which some see as reputable sources of information.
Sorry, but no. Partisan websites are not the same thing as the “fake news” websites set up by Anderson to smear political opponents. He is intentionally misleading the public and is not a credible news source.
“There’s only so much news that outlets can cover in a day,” Anderson said in an interview with The Arizona Republic. “So if there is one website dedicated to covering the Democratic caucus, listening into every committee hearing and hosting videos of what they do and say, I think that helps elevate the discourse a little bit.”
Hoping real reporters follow up
Anderson said he hopes mainstream reporters will follow his posts with stories of their own. He said the websites are not financed by any outside entities and are not endorsed by any individuals or group — including Ducey.
You should treat this statement with a heavy dose of skepticism. Anderson is almost certainly receiving funding from conservative organizations who support his “fake news” websites. This is the modus operandi of the conservative media entertainment complex.
He hopes the websites will eventually sell advertising.
The local websites were created against the backdrop of an ever-fracturing media landscape. Now more than ever, readers can skirt mainstream news and turn to websites that reinforce their own ideas with the blending of political punditry and information.
John J. “Jack” Pitney Jr., a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California, said Anderson’s effort could also provide fodder for political opponents.
“During the Trump years, just about everything has become acceptable and the Internet provides a nice way of providing information and opposition research to those who are using it without running afoul of coordination activities,” intended to prevent candidates and outside groups from coordinating, he said.
“The ethical issue is going to be in the accuracy of the information and its relevance to campaigns.”
While the websites may not draw high readership, Pitney said they will almost certainly become go-to websites for political operatives who can use the headlines “as the basis for attack ads.”
Anderson said he wants to “supplement” the media voters consume by highlighting information about Democrats that may not make it into news articles or on TV.
Before the websites launched, he said has talked to no candidates or elected officials about them.
Ducey’s spokesman, Daniel Scarpinato, said the administration was unaware of Anderson’s plans. [Again, you should treat this denial with a heavy dose of skepticism.] He did not take a position on whether the administration supported the effort.
J.P. Twist, Ducey’s campaign manager, said he was unaware of Anderson’s plan. [Again, you should treat this denial with a heavy dose of skepticism.]
“There’s no coordination whatsoever,” he said. [Because this would be illegal.]
Democrats ripped Anderson and his websites and said they thought the governor had a hand in them.
“This is an ex-Ducey crony trying to prop up his old boss,” Farley campaign spokesman Joe Wolf said. “This is a worried governor who needs to spread misinformation about his failed records and lack of accomplishments.
“We’re truly flattered at the coverage they’re gifting us, but we’d much rather be talking about the teacher-less classrooms in our schools right now.”
Sarah Elliott, spokeswoman for Garcia, dismissed the posts about his Statehood Day absence and partisan pollster connections.
Asked if she was concerned the sites would try to sow misinformation during the campaign, she said, “I think voters, especially our voters, are going to hear from us enough to make the right decision for Arizona.”
In a statement, Democratic Party Executive Director Herschel Fink accused Ducey and his “cronies” of “creating fake news sites to attack Arizona Democrats.”
A common tactic — propaganda as news
President Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law tried her hand at promoting stories the family thought were underreported through a vlog-style report posted to the then-candidate’s Facebook page.
In 2015, then-Gov. Mike Pence killed his administration’s plan for a state-run news service after an uproar. The plan, according to the Indianapolis Star, called for press secretaries to write “stories” and compete with mainstream media outlets.
While speaking of assholes —
Chad Willems, a GOP consultant who has served as Joe Arpaio’s longtime campaign manager during his runs for county sheriff and now U.S. Senate, said there is value in Anderson’s websites for candidates who want to use the headlines and posts for campaign hit pieces.
It is common for candidate mailers to include headlines or quotes from media sources, including The Arizona Republic, that the campaign believes flatters their candidate or sullies their opponent.
Voters who are less discerning [low information voters] may not scrutinize the credibility of the quoted material.
“If you’re able to go and cite a [fake news] source on a candidate — like 70 percent of the money Candidate Smith collected came from the oil and gas industry, or some sinister force— and you’re able to cite chapter and verse from whatever new medium this is, I think there is value in that,” Willems said.
The GOP, and the conservative media entertainment complex constructed to support it, is just a vast well-funded propaganda machine. The GOPropagandists run the party, not the other way around. This is a dangerous devolution of power in our political system.
State-sponsored propaganda from the government used to be illegal in the U.S., but the GOP-controlled Congress repealed portions of the Smith-Mundt Act in 2013. U.S. Repeals Propaganda Ban, Spreads Government-Made News to Americans.
It’s a brave new world of “fake news” in the post-truth era created by the GOP. This is not normal, nor should it ever be. It is a travesty of democracy which depends upon an informed electorate making reasoned decisions. Propaganda is the tool of oppressive authoritarian regimes. This is what the GOP embraces.