A Brief History of Fake News

Some people are under the impression that mainstream news has only recently become a hotbed for false narratives and bias reporting - here's why it always has been

No matter what your political leanings are, in this day and age most people are aware that at least some of the mainstream news organizations are biased and push narratives onto the public. What few people are aware of however, is just how pervasive the problem really is.


The media has a tremendous amount of power and influence over modern civilization - it can shape people's views on the world and of their own society, it can influence elections from a municipal all the way to a federal level, it can draw attention to issues and shift it away from others, and it can even drive people to hysterical beliefs. This has been true for quite some time, but with the increasingly online and always connected society we currently live in, people's lives are affected now more than ever.


It's gotten to the point that some people are even driven to depression and despair - some the less critical-minded people in our society have been led by members of the media and prominent environmental groups to believe the world is coming to an end in the near future and unless we take drastic action we have precious little time to live. Unfortunately many of those people simply don't know better, and have been targeted at a young age to believe in the latest hysterical beliefs that have very little basis in reality.


Now this sounds like complete lunacy, and it is, but that makes it no less real - climate change activists like Greta Thunberg and her accomplices in the media are instilling fear in the minds of many. If you've read my rant on climate change you'll be well aware of some of the massive holes in this doomsday rhetoric.


It's no surprise that the media is actively disseminating this agenda - after all, negative and impending-doom stories get a lot of hits on social media and grabs viewer's attention, supplying media corporations with much-needed ad revenue. It also tends to fool the young crowd which is also the most active online.


Of course the climate change narrative pales in comparison to the anti-Trump agenda spewed by almost every news broadcaster and website in North America. Whether it be the thoroughly false Russian collusion nonsense, the ridiculous and beyond parady Steele dossier, the disgusting smear campaign on Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the media's infatuation with Trump-smearing con-artist Michael Avenatti, or any number of headline-grabbing hit jobs that then get retracted due to provably false statements, if you follow mainstream news you'd think Trump was a tyrannical, racist demon.


You'd have no idea about the massive economic boom that's taken place under Trump, the influx of jobs he's brought back to America, record-low unemployment numbers for minorities and women, his vital role in stabilizing the Korean Peninsula, the decimation of ISIS, and even his work to crack down on human trafficking and pedophile rings, which you'd hope everyone could agree on as being a good thing.


Nowadays, the blatant bias and narrative pushing is incredibly transparent. "Journalists" and reporters post clear political agendas on their public social media accounts, no longer even attempting to hide their personal bias. Anyone in Hollywood that doesn't support leftist ideology is black listed and shunned by their peers, conservative voices in media are held to very different standards by their employers than liberals, and Republicans are smeared as racist or unintelligent on news programs the world over.


Though mainstream media and politicians would never accept any blame for their antics, their misinformation has even led to violent action, such as the man who attacked an ICE detention facility in Tacoma with a rifle and incendiary devices.


Despite having border facilities to temporarily house illegal border crossers for decades, the news has pinned these facilities on Trump. Spreading false information such as that Trump is keeping children in cages (often sharing photos that were taken years before Trump was in office, in which Obama was president) or that he's neglecting the people there is ironic given that it is actually the Democrats and media that have created and are exacerbating the problem.


The border facilities have been overrun with people illegally crossing into the US and when caught, claiming they're just there to ask for asylum. It's a legal loophole that has existed for quite some time and certain Democrat politicians have even been encouraging people from third-world countries to use this tactic - looking at you Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. These facilities were not meant to house near the amount of people that are currently being held and when Trump wanted to change the laws to prevent this issue, Democrats refused to budge. When Trump wanted to increase the budget for the facilities to help mitigate the overcrowding and understaffing at the border, Democrats again refused to negotiate.


Democrats solution has been to let these "migrants" go into the United States, a policy that directly places American lives in danger and effectively removes the border as a safeguard for American communities, despite the fact that gang members (such as the notoriously brutal MS-13), convicted criminals, and human traffickers are regularly amongst those detained at the border.


It was a devious political ploy that actually took policies that have been in place for decades, and even used footage and photos from Obama's tenure, to paint Trump into a corner. Some politicians (looking at you again Ocasio-Cortez) have gone so far as to claim that Trump is running concentration camps, a disgusting smear that has no merit and has even drawn the ire of the few remaining survivors of the Holocaust in the US. That rhetoric led one activist to attack the afforementioned detention facility in Tacoma, which of course Cortez nor any in the media claimed any responsibility for (she even went so far as to refuse to denounce the attack).


So what has gotten us to this point?


Well, it turns out, fake news has been a common thread throughout history.


While it may have become more and more obvious to those paying attention, fake news used to be a lot more subtle - it often took years or even decades to expose many of the biggest falsehoods disseminated by the mainstream media, with those suspicious of particular stories or claiming it to be false labelled as "conspiracy theorists". This rhetoric is even more prevalent today - if you don't believe what the news is selling you, or you distrust "trusted" sources like CNN or the New York Times, then you're a conspiracy theorist, or a far-right fool.


Speaking of the New York Times, let's take a look at one of the biggest proponents of fake news, and some of their history with the subject.


The Holodomor

In the 1930s, millions of people died of starvation in the Ukraine thanks to the USSR's communist leader Joseph Stalin. While some argue he didn't intentionally starve the Ukrainians as an act of genocide and it was merely his misguided economic policies that led to the disaster, regardless of some dubious defenses it nonetheless led to between 2.5 and 10 million people being starved to death directly as a result of Stalin's actions.


So what did the New York Times have to report on the matter at the time?


"People were hungry, but not starving".


This incredulous claim was the work of Walter Duranty, the head of the New York Times' Moscow bureau at the time. The newspaper reported that there was "no famine or actual starvation", directly rebutting reports from the few other journalists at the time that were accurately reporting on the USSR's territories.


Reports from the Guardian for instance portrayed a very different scenario - one in which an entire country was being starved and slowly killed while the rest of the world did nothing to help them. Gareth Jones was the correspondent writing those reports, and for his efforts the New York Times smeared him as a liar and claimed he was spreading propaganda.


The Guardian was one of the few publications at the time reporting on the situation accurately - though none were as brazen as Duranty, many other reporters covering the region slanted the situation in the Soviet Union's favour, often out of fear of being expelled from Moscow which would lead to the loss of their livelihood at a time no one could afford such a thing given it was during the Great Depression.


So why did Duranty and the NYT cover up Stalin's starvation of the Ukrainian people so aggressively?


Money and access, of course.


Duranty managed to get exclusive interviews with the ruthless communist leader for the paper, a major win for the New York Times that helped their bottom line. Everybody won in their little arrangement - Stalin got positive press coverage to help cover up his misdeeds, the New York Times got exclusive access to the USSR's despot to help sell papers, and Duranty got to live a lavish lifestyle in an exquisite hotel with luxurious amenities paid for by the Times. Everybody won; except for the millions starving to death in the Ukraine of course.


Duranty wasn't simply a naive puppet in this case - he was fully aware of the reality of the situation, which he admitted to in a visit to the British Embassy in Moscow in 1934, even claiming that as many as 10 million people had died from the famine. But he was living in luxury that few at the time could have imagined - he had a maid, a chauffeur, a cook, a secretary, and a researcher to do all the leg work. All he had to do was write some puff pieces praising the USSR and covering up its atrocities, and he got to keep his extravagant lifestyle in exchange.


And write those puff pieces he did. His series of articles on the Russian people, arguing that they were "Asiatic" in thought and required autocratic government, won a Pulitzer Prize for Correspondence in 1932. His reporting apparently even played a key factor in US President Franklin Roosevelt's 1933 decision to officially recognize the Soviet Union.


Over a decade later when the truth was made clear, Duranty defended his earlier reporting, becoming a full-on Stalin apologist and claiming that the starvation was caused by Stalin's need to keep the Red Army equipped to dissuade Japanese aggression toward their territory, and was not an intentional genocide attempt.


The Times was largely quiet on their blatant Soviet propaganda campaign after it was unearthed, until many years later in 1990 when it was brought to the fore once again thanks to a novel detailing Duranty's reporting and deep Soviet ties. The Times issued a scathing editorial and claimed Duranty's work was some of the worst reporting to ever grace the newspaper. The paper's long overdue response was more than a little hollow - it's easy to say nearly 60 years later that previous staff which no longer worked for the paper fucked up.


If nothing else, the New York Times Holodomor scandal shows just how much news corporations have been willing to bend the truth in order to get exclusive access to major figures and insider information, even if it means throwing morality out of the window.


Project Veritas

Project Veritas is an operation dedicated to exposing companies such as mainstream media corporations for their political bias and shady dealings. It gained online fame through a series of undercover videos which expose news executives in what they thought were private conversations admitting to deceiving the public.


These videos include a senior producer at CNN admitting they still had no proof of any Trump wrongdoing in the Russian collusion investigation even after CNN CEO Jeff Zucker had ordered staff to pursue all Russia leads at the expense of other stories, admissions from Twitter executives that they censor political content that they don't like and employees regularly view supposedly "private" information from their users for fun and sell metadata of that information to advertisers, and a senior staff editor at the New York Times admitting the paper sensationalized Trump during his election campaign in such a way as to dissuade people from voting for him (effectively meddling in an election, exactly what the paper repeatedly claimed Russia did).


In it's most recent and high profile exposé, footage of an ABC news anchor talking to her producer on a hot mic was released to the public. Not realizing someone might share her off-air remarks, the anchor went on a rant to her producer about how she had an exclusive interview several years ago with an accuser of Jeffrey Epstein, who supplied evidence (including photos and documents) to support her claims.


If you've been living under a rock for the last year and somehow haven't heard of Epstein, the disgraced billionaire and convicted pedophile was arrested for the final time earlier this year after evidence mounted that the supposed "hedge fund manager and financier" was running an international pedophile ring.


Many major political players and celebrities were implicated by their ties to Epstein, who was a longtime Democrat donor and a close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton alongside many others. Since his arrest, reports and witness testimony have linked other big names directly to criminal activity, including a former US governor, a former chairman of the board for Disney, and Britain's Prince Andrew.


In August 2019 Epstein was found dead in his prison cell from an "apparent suicide" despite suffering multiple fractures in his neck which would be virtually impossible to achieve by himself given the size of his cell and what he had access to.


Epstein had allegedly kept detailed records and even video evidence of the very powerful people he associated with, leading him to be killed in a rather transparent cover-up that even the most gullible fool wouldn't be duped by. People on both sides of the political spectrum were united in believing that Epstein was murdered, but we've yet to see any consequences or ramifications from this play out.


The New York DOJ had declared prior to his "suicide" that they had found DVD's or CD's in a locked safe in his $77 million New York penthouse (which was "given" to him, free of charge, by Les Wesner, the owner of Victoria's Secret who since claimed to be a victim of Epstein's fraud, despite being accused of being an Epstein accomplice by multiple women) which had "young [name] + [name]" written on their labels with the first redacted names being the names of unknown females and the second being the names of prominent and powerful figures.


Since his death, those apparent blackmail tapes haven't been mentioned again by the DOJ nor anyone in the media.


Of note, Prince Andrew had already seen scandal by UK tabloids years ago as he was seen multiple times by paparazzi at Epstein's New York residence, one of the locations said crimes were allegedly committed. The UK press put him under scrutiny for being around Epstein after Epstein had pled guilty to state charges and became a convicted pedophile back in 2008 (though his ridiculous plea deal allowed him to escape federal charges and serve mere months in jail, where he was allowed to do virtually whatever he pleased thanks to the power of bribery). While the scandal wasn't touched on in the US, the UK did at least cover Andrew's curious ties to a known pedophile.


That scandal would become a full-on firestorm in recent months as more allegations linking the member of the royal family to pedophilia and forced prostitution. Prince Andrew has even submitted himself to an interview regarding the situation, vehemently denying any wrongdoing and instead saying he should have known better than to associate with a man like Epstein. The interview only further incriminates him however as multiple claims he made during the interview don't add up including his bizaare claim about sweating not to mention his questionable body language; it doesn't take a body language expert to watch the interview and believe he's not being truthful, but there are plenty of experts that confirmed those suspicions.


You may be wondering, why is the Prince Andrew bit of the story so importart?


Well if you watch the Project Veritas video, the ABC news anchor points specifically to the royal family as being one of the key reasons ABC squashed her interview and the team's damning report on Epstein some three years ago.


When the royal palace found out that ABC had these allegations against Prince Andrew, they threatened the news organization, including the notion of withdrawing access to Prince William and his wife Kate. ABC as such decided to sit on the story to preserve their access to the royal family, much to the chagrin of this particular ABC news host.


While she seems more pissed off about losing out on the story rather than the fact that "the most prolific pedophile this country has ever known" was roaming free and continuing to claim more victims, it's important to note that this video was not aired live and was never intended to be released. Hence, when the video surfaced thanks to an insider leak, it's hard to take her seriously that in fact ABC squashed the story because it didn't meet their "editorial standards" and her frustrations shown in the video were simply inaccurate.


That's the claim she and ABC made in separate statements after the leaked video went viral, despite directly contradicting what she had said when she thought she was speaking in confidence off-the-record. ABC claimed that they didn't have any supplemental evidence to support the claims, something which their anchor contradicts directly in the video by stating that the accuser supplied photos and they had found other women to support her.


It's also quite funny that ABC would try to play the "editorial standards" card when they, like so many publications, have been caught red-handed on dozens of occasions disseminating false information in regards to one Mr. Donald J. Trump. They published unsubstantiated claims aimed at Trump's Supreme Court Justice pick Brett Kavanaugh not too long ago for instance, which would have been comical if people weren't stupid enough to take them seriously.


Not to mention all of the so-called "experts" they and many other organizations constantly interview to disseminate their take on events rather than simply laying out actual facts and letting the public make their own decisions - you know, how news is supposed to operate.


Getting back on topic, the Epstein scandal just highlights how low media corporations will go in order to maintain access to public figures and protect their bottom line - from covering for a brutal communist dictator who starved an entire nation, to hiding a story exposing a prolific sexual predator and his pedophile ring, news companies haven't changed much over the years.


Propaganda

Mainstream media has always been used by governments for propaganda. While the "free press" is meant to eliminate that from society, propaganda is still prominent to this day and more disturbingly, seems to have less of the public aware that it exists so prominently in the western world.


Sometimes journalists, reporters, and media organizations are aware that they are not accurately reporting the truth, but just as often the media has been used to unwittingly spread propaganda to the public to help government agendas.


Ironically, in North America propaganda is covered quite a bit in school - in particular Nazi propaganda is looked at in depth. While the Nazis were the undefeated champions in propaganda (even duping western outlets into proliferating their propaganda on multiple occasions, which I'll get to later), virtually every country on the planet is guilty of disseminating propaganda.


If you spend some time researching Operation Mockingbird, which I encourage you to do, you'll realize just how much the CIA invested in infiltrating the free press and shaping the narrative in a project that began way back in the 50's, including paying and threatening journalists to write what they told them to and placing their own assets in media corporations. The entire operation was called a conspiracy theory for decades when independents made claims that the CIA was disseminating propaganda or working with news organizations, until documents proved its existence many decades later, though the full extent of its success is still unknown.


A more recent example many people will be familiar with in the United States was the threat of "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq, which pushed the public into supporting an invasion of Iraq in 2003. The media bought the US government's insistence that these weapons existed and unwittingly their analysts and opinion pieces all helped sell the war to the American populace, when in fact, no such weapons ever existed in the country.


Even more recently the mainstream media has been a handy propaganda tool used by the Democratic party. From their sham impeachment process which has yet to provide any firsthand evidence and is all based on a secondhand account of a call we have full transcripts of, to Hillary Clinton's infamous "all 17 US intelligence agencies" claim, the media has been a willful arm of the Democrat party in trying to actively oust an elected US president.


Most intelligent members of our society are aware that our government lies to us - what about other countries? Surely western media isn't often duped by propaganda spewed by other governments? Right?


Wrong.


Western media has a long history of spreading foreign propaganda, often without knowing it (though of course there are a lot of examples where they do, such as the afforementioned starvation in Ukraine).


The Nazis are (rightfully so) targeted by historians and scholars as being one of the most prolific propaganda machines in history. One of the things that isn't talked about nearly so much is how the Ministry of Enlightenment and Propaganda used western media to help them in their cause.


One of the biggest successful cases of this was in the aftermath of the bombing of Dresden during World War II.


For those that don't know, Dresden was (and is) a major city in Germany. A cultural hub with historic landmarks and architecture, no one expected it to be a target of an Allied bombing raid in 1945, especially given it had virtually no military presence in the city and was far from any ongoing battles in the Allied invasion of the country.


This made it a perfect target to use Germany's own tactics against them.


Germany had long been using area bombing tactics on cities thanks to their Luftwaffe fleet, from their devastating campaigns in Europe to their non-stop bombardment of London which killed some 50,000 people in 1940 to 1941.


In February of 1945 as the allies pressed further into Germany, it was time to return the favour. In four raids over two days, the British Royal Air Force and US Air Force dropped nearly 4000 tonnes of explosives and incendiary devices on the city, resulting in a massive firestorm that hollowed out the city centre and killed up to 25,000 people.


With the Allies expecting it to lead to a decrease in German morale, Germany's propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels instead used the opportunity to sew discord in the western peoples and reinforce the idea that Germany's enemies were trying to slaughter them entirely.


Releasing forged documents and drastically inflating the number of casualties that were reported by city officials, Goebbels masterfully manipulated western media into disseminating Nazi propaganda. Claiming over 200,000 civilians were killed in the attacks, western news stirred up massive public outcry over the bombings with many claiming that the Allies were no better than Germany and questioning why they should continue to fight.


To this day historians and scholars debate the moral justification of the Dresden bombings, and many still equate it with the atrocities committed by the Nazis as if they are somehow even remotely comparable.


Ironically, western media ignored reports and photographs coming from the Soviet Union in 1944 detailing Nazi concentration camps. While the world (mostly) knew of Hitler's blatant anti-semitism and the attacks on Jews (such as the Nuremburg Laws enacted in 1935 in Germany long before the war began), nobody was prepared for just how cruel and disgusting the Nazi regime truly was.


After the Soviet Union first discovered a hastily abandoned concentration camp called Majdanek in mid-1944 and captured other camps shortly after, Soviet officials invited journalists to document the evidence of the mass killings and torture that occured there. Western media however refused its existence, believing it to be Soviet propaganda. It wasn't until nearly a full year later in 1945 that US forces would liberate their first concentration camp, Buchenwald, and western media finally covered the news and realized it was in fact true.


In more recent times, other countries and groups have taken full advantage of western media in much the same way.


In a twisted recreation of history, the Jewish community is once again under attack from all angles thanks to relentless propaganda. The mainstream media has repeatedly lent credence to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas (a recognized terrorist group) and portrayed Israel as the evil occupiers of "Palestine".


On many occasions, news organizations have released reports and claims made by terrorist-led organizations as if they were accurate. This included the widely covered claim that an Israeli airstrike (in retaliation to Hamas rockets being shot into Israel) killed an innocent baby - of course, when it later came out that the baby was actually killed by an Islamic Jihad rocket and Hamas had paid the family to make those claims, no similar media firestorm was generated and the incident was quickly forgotten about.


While Islam is an entirely different topic which will get its own rant in the near future, to touch on it here, we see a rapid rise of violence toward Jews in communities with rising Muslim populations. It's gotten so bad that in Germany, where an entire nation has vowed to never allow such hatred and disgusting behaviour to happen again, their government has issued official statements warning Jews to hide their religious affiliation to avoid violent attacks against them, admitting that once again Jews are unsafe on German soil.


The Future of Fake News


One of the latest fads for news companies is to post misleading headlines that grab people's attention, while the actual article contains more accurate reporting and directly contradicts the sensational headline.


Knowing that many online users will only look at the headline or first few paragraphs of an article rather than reading the entire thing, news organizations use this knowledge to spread misleading or downright false information in headlines and social media posts while often technically supplying accurate information in the articles themselves. This has been used extensively in regards to pinning the border facility issues on Trump, when in fact the information in the articles themselves is admitted to be from Obama's tenure.


Another form of manipulation online is the use of retractions - bombshell accusations or hearsay will be reported on and is spread like wildfire over social media, often from "anonymous sources" which wouldn't clear even the most lenient "editorial standards" that media organizations such as ABC claim to have.


Knowing these claims are false or flimsy at best, when criticism is drawn or claims are downright proven false, the news organization will retract their claims or alter them, fundamentally changing the story from the one that generated a lot of publicity.


Those retractions and edits don't garner near the same attention as the initial, false story. Many people that saw the initial news story never hear about its retraction or any substantial changes, and so they go on repeating this false narrative and spreading it further. This is a particularly effective tactic on social media, especially because it allows major news companies to disseminate false information without any repercussions simply by retracting it later, even if those retractions are missed by most of the people they spread the misinformation to.


We live in a time where tricks like these are used every day and people fall for it time and time again.


While much of the blame on errors and retractions is placed on the rush to "be first" in the cutthroat news industry these days, once a claim is published by one organization, all of the other media outlets follow suit, parroting the original claims without verifying the information themselves. This just further exacerbates the spread of misinformation and because most outlets don't even give updates on those retractions or errors from the original source because it wasn't them who published it in the first place, and therefore the correct information is never heard by many.


In the age of information, misinformation is the new normal.


We now have major news corporations such as CNN lobbying social media companies to censor the opinions of those that disagree with them and want only "real news" to be allowed to show up in people's news feeds; this is the free press advocating for censorship because enough people have become fed up with their poor reporting that they've looked to alternatives for answers.


We arguably shouldn't even be calling the news "news" anymore. Rather than finding facts and evidence and presenting them as such for the public to infer their meaning, meaning is given with supporting facts that fit their narrative, leaving out key details or ignoring them completely.


Anything that supports the corporation's ideological views or political agenda is funnelled into the public eye, even if its based on shoddy reporting or "anonymous sources", while anything that goes against that agenda is thrown to the side unless evidence becomes too overwhelming to refute, if it ever does.


No matter your views on Trump, one thing that can be appreciated by all is thanks to him, the bias and slanted coverage of the mainstream media (along with Hollywood) has been exposed to the masses.


If their bias and inaccuracies were often well-hidden before, they're wide out in the open now. You can't go more than a few days without seeing a new "bombshell" revelation about Trump, only for it to be exposed as false or fabricated or completely forgotten about because it was never a bombshell in the first place.


Just recently for the US thanksgiving holiday President Trump snuck away to Afghanistan for a surprise visit to the troops stationed there, with a fake presidential motorcade sent to a golf course to occupy "journalists" for the day. They bought it hook, line and sinker, reporting on how the President was spending thanksgiving golfing and tweeting despite the fact that not a single one of those reporters or journalists ever witnessed Trump at the course nor had any credible sources stating they did, because he wasn't there, yet they ran with the story anyway.


Newsweek shockingly fired a reporter for putting out the false story, but many other reporters had published the same findings and suffered no consequences. That Newsweek article itself had already become viral, proving the point of how quickly false information can disseminate in today's world.


To sum things up, fake news is and always has been prominent in our society. It likely always will be. This article is just the tip of the iceberg - the cases I referenced here are just a few out of a vast number of examples. One can (and many have) write lengthy pieces and even novels on just one case where the general public has been deceived (on purpose or otherwise) by false information or disproven reports. That doesn't mean that everything you read on a mainstream news site is false however; it merely means that a healthy dose of skepticism should be applied to anything you see and hear, and the more you learn about a subject, the more you can differentiate between fact and fiction.


And with that, I'll leave you with one of my favourite quotes, courtesy of Denzel Washington in regards to members of the media: "If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed. If you do read it, you're misinformed...So what responsibility do you all have? To tell the truth. Not just to be first. But to tell the truth."

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