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How Fake News Exaggerations Affect Privacy

Stan Ward

Stan Ward

January 9, 2017

At the heart of attacks on “fake news” is delegitimizing the outcome of the US presidential elections, and the promotion of Russian interference in its root cause. There is also a broader attempt by the US government to gain the upper hand in its continued assault on privacy, by establishing Russia as the “straw man.” This is being done while simultaneously trying to restore the credibility of the mainstream media (MSM), which was badly damaged by its blatantly biased reporting during the election cycle.

You can bet that in an attempt to combat fake news, a free media, and thus free speech, is a target. This puts privacy and free speech in the would-be censor/crusader’s crosshairs. Ironically, the method being employed to foist this charade on the public is just as bad as real fake news would be. The retaliatory scheme being used is – simply put – bad journalism.

The left-wing, ultra liberal mainstream media (MSM) is giddy about still being relevant in the aftermath of its disastrous news coverage in the run-up to the election. It has seized on the subject of fake news having altered the election outcome, to throw the spotlight off its own glaring mistakes. In its tawdry efforts, it has attracted some odd bedfellows in its dubious campaign – the ultra-conservative Republicans. Warning: wherever you find these folks, you can bet that cries of national security will ring out – and whither it goes, so goes privacy.

The reason this arranged marriage is so strange is that the effort to call-out fake news and focus on some 200 news outlets seems to unevenly target right–wing sites. They, by the way, are also entitled to free speech protections, despite the liberal media’s scorn. But strange things are afoot now, to be sure. Consider that, before the election of Donald Trump, the intelligence community – at the vanguard of the accusations of Russian hacking and meddling in the election, and now the MSM darlings – were roundly vilified by the MSM as dangerous government tools of oppression.

Again focusing on the hypocrisy of pandering to them now, let’s not forget how little the MSM and liberals thought of the intelligence community with regard to George W. Bush’s Iraq War-WMD debacle. Similarly, the possible election of Donald Trump was supposed to make thermo-nuclear war with Russia a likely scenario, because the ’’unfit, unstable” candidate would have possession of the launch codes. Now, the MSM seizes on Trump’s  possibly cozy relationship with Putin as a negative – something akin to treason. As if two powerful world leaders being cordial could possibly be bad.

Thus, the same intelligence apparatus, so slighted by the liberal MSM, is now lionized as the pillar of the republic, and deemed worthy of our veneration. Be careful here! The spy community and law enforcement cabal don’t need blanket admiration to strengthen their posture against free speech and privacy. Don’t forget that they can wave the flag and wrap themselves in it, along with the national security blanket!

Hence, the spies can use the lies of the MSM to become more emboldened. These lies are ubiquitous, have grown more absurd, and are now institutionalized in the US government and adopted by the CIA, executive branch agencies, and many US senators and representatives.

Privacy is always threatened amid a concerted program of propaganda. A main tenet of propaganda is that if you tell a big lie frequently enough, it will appear to be the truth. However, ultimately truth (along with privacy rights) will be sacrificed and trampled as a casualty of the propaganda, whether the propaganda is coming from the right or the left – from the USA or Russia.

Such an example of the confluence of fake news and bad journalism is an off-shoot of the Russian hacking fiasco, and is highlighted by Glenn Greenwald in The Intercept. It involves the non-story of Russia purportedly hacking a Vermont electric utility.

Under more scrutiny, the “story” is really worse than a non-story. It was false, although the Washington Post was among the first to declare it credible. So, bad journalism is as bad as fake news when it spirals sensationally and virally out of control, spewing distortions and outright lies. In taking the WP to task for its shoddy journalism, Greenwald has been castigated as an ultra-conservative – even an alt-right acolyte. Greenwald describes the feeling:

I’ve been transformed, overnight, into an early alt-right adherent, an avid fan of Breitbart [an alt-right organ], an enthusiastic Trump supporter [not true], and needless to say, a Kremlin operative. That’s literally the explicit script they’re now using, often with outright fabrications of what I say.

There was a time when a skeptical, investigative MSM was considered a healthy thing for a vibrant democracy, and a protector of civil and privacy rights. It was considered a beacon of free speech. But now, by abandoning journalistic principles, skepticism is equated with treason – as in Greenwald’s case.

To portray Greenwald as an alt-right advocate or right-wing supporter after his storied past is absurd. In this climate, privacy is bound to lose a champion, and thus become a victim, because it will lead to government excesses in an attempt to “regulate” free speech.

Editor’s note: as always, Stan’s views are very much his own.

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