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Jim VandeHei’s Four Fake Ways to ‘fix’ fake news

I don’t know Jim VandeHei, and despite being a heavy consumer of news and information, don’t frequent Axios news, unless it is referred to me.  In fact, that’s how I saw his article on ‘4 ways to fix fake news‘; I saw it on the Drudge.  I don’t have an ax to grind about Axios.  I’m indifferent.  But, if his article achieved anything, it is to persuade me that I should take a position re: Axios:  against it.

He lists 4 ‘provocative’ ideas.  I’m going to take serious issue one of them in particular, and then circle back to touch on the other three, but I’d like you to observe in advance that only 1 out of the 4 ideas he gives are directed at those who produce the news in the first place.  In my opinion, that is suggestive.

His first terrible idea was this:

News organizations should ban their reporters from doing anything on social media — especially Twitter — beyond sharing stories. Snark, jokes and blatant opinion are showing your hand, and it always seems to be the left one. This makes it impossible to win back the skeptics.

Emphasis added.

So, VanderHei wants to restore faith in the media and his big idea is for… wait for it… the media to hide and conceal its bias.

Great idea!  Because presenting yourself as objective and neutral when in fact you are an ideologue is a terrific way to win over those who are skeptical!  [That was ‘snark,’ by the way.]  In point of fact, VandeHei is encouraging the media to return to its previous posture, which fueled the current distrust, distaste, and disgust, that people have with the media.  Irony alert!

At least he’s honest enough to note which direction most of the bias is coming from.

This bias has been obvious to any rational and objective observer for as long as I’ve been paying attention.

Quick autobiographical note: the Clinton-Lewinsky fiasco was a big catalyst moving me out of my childhood liberalism.  There was no FoxNews to blame, no Breitbart.  There was Rush, but I didn’t listen to him.  All I had was the regular media, which at the time I did not realize was drenched in partisan–liberal–bias.

And what a bias it was!  I recall vividly how much the media gave Clinton a pass on his behavior, pooh-poohing it as simply Clinton’s ‘private life.’  I distinctly remember reading Europeans doing the same.  (More than a little ironic, in light of the current liberal progressive hysterics about Trump’s behavior… while voting for Hillary Clinton.)

Naive young man that I was at the time, I thought that getting blowjobs from an intern and using a cigar as a dildo to masturbate her while in the Oval Office and while conducting presidential business (eg, taking calls while Lewinsky did her business) goes well beyond one’s ‘private sex life.’  But according to all the news I read at the time, it was NO BIG DEAL, and the evil Republicans were making it into something it was not–like, our business!

Remember, at the time, for my own reasons, I already believed the Republicans were evil. Yet, I found that it was the Republicans expressing concern about something that I was concerned about, not the Democrats.  Cue an important component of my ideological transformation…

To say that the kid glove treatment of Clinton at the time in the media was not liberal bias in the media is insulting to anyone with intelligence.  And its just one example out of many.

However, unless the liberal admits to the bias, you can only see it if you are rational and least somewhat impartial.  But if you are rational and at least somewhat impartial, the biased reporting in the news and what we see in the entertainment industry has been patently obvious for the two decades or so I’ve been paying attention.

VandeHei proposes we go back to that?

In point of fact, I am glad that media figures have been broadcasting their bias.  While folks like myself have been calling attention to it for years, there are large numbers of decent individuals who can’t bring themselves to believe that people could really be as indecently biased and still ascend to the highest levels of the NY Times, the WAPO, or CNN.   But now, thanks to people at these and other outlets transparently and shamelessly ‘showing their cards,’ all doubt has been removed–if you are rational and even slightly impartial.

Moreover, many Americans have been reticent about taking a ‘side’ in the culture wars, but just as I was surprised to learn that it was the Republicans that cared about sexual misconduct inside the Oval Office and shocked to learn that the media elites looked down on me for having such an old fashioned view, many Americans are surprised to see their values mocked by the media and Democrats so blatantly, even as they lecture us incessantly.

I’m not talking about conservative Americans being shocked.  I’m talking about moderate and even liberal Americans.  To discover that the people supposedly representing your values think you are a vile, bigoted hick for thinking people ought to stand for the anthem and keep men out of girls’ locker rooms (for example) creates a disillusionment that I myself remember full well.

For myself, I believe that a source is more trustworthy if it admits its bias and is transparent about it.   When I said I was a heavy consumer of news, I did not mean ‘conservative’ news.   Most of my reading is of liberal sites, such as the Huffington Post, Salon, and Politico.  Precisely because they don’t lie about who they are, and precisely because it is easier to identify their bias and factor it out, I prefer to develop my understanding of what’s going on in the world from such sites.

I recommend the same approach to everyone.  Scroll down to the ‘pro tip,’ for example.

VandeHei says:  “The Axios social media policy, which applies to all our colleagues, prohibits the sharing of political views or derogatory snark online”

In other words, the Axios policy is to encourage their contributors to conceal from readers what they really think.  If I wanted rank deception from a news source, I already have CNN, the NY Times, and WAPO.

Bad advice, VandeHei.

Better advice:  each contributor should clearly list their party affiliation, who they donate money to and in what amounts, and disclose their ideological stance.  By all means, beyond that, the Axios contributors can be encouraged to produce fair, even handed, ‘news,’ and keep their insults off of Twitter.  However, if you keep your insults off of social media, but embed your contempt instead in your news articles and present them as ‘objective facts,’ you will have only fueled the growing skepticism for the ‘media.’  How will we know if Axios contributors are doing that or not?  Disclosing their biases would be a good first step.

Now a quick word about the other points.

First, regarding his ‘advice’ to politicians to stop using the term ‘fake news.’

This is a great example of concealed bias.  When VandeHei says ‘politicians,’ that is obvious code for ‘Trump,’ as among politicians, the only one who has had the audacity to call out the ‘fourth estate’ is Trump.  Are Democrat politicians complaining about ‘fake news’?  Give me a break.  He means, simply, Trump.

Instead of having the courage to be straight about what he really means he frames it in terms he hopes sounds ‘fair and reasonable.’  That’s because he knows that if he says what he really means, his bias will be exposed; or, perhaps more charitably, he knows it will give the appearance of bias.

I think the best way to get ‘politicians’ to stop invoking ‘fake news’ is for the media to stop… publishing fake news.

I know, its a genius idea.

Another of his ideas is for social media companies to ‘self regulate’ or even allow government regulation to ‘stanch… the flow of disinformation or made up news.’

Again, my only experience with VandeHei is just this article, but if I only had this one article to go on, I’d have to conclude that he is a wildly biased progressive elitist ideologue.   We’ve already seen what liberals consider ‘real news’: only that which other liberals declare to be ‘real news.’  What is ‘disinformation’?  Why, whatever the fair, objective, impartial ‘experts’ at the WAPO and NY Times determine!  Or SNOPES!  LOL.

Or we need are a thousand faceless bureaucrats determining what is true and false??!?! At least with most of the media, you get a byline telling us the name of the person.  When a government bureaucrat acts, we never learn their name.  We are never informed about their bias.  There is no way for us to hold that person accountable.  Moreover, many, if not most of these individuals are likely to be as biased towards liberal progressivism as those in the media are.  These are the people he wants to intervene?  This is his proposal?

Give me a break.

VandeHei says, “The worst thing for a country is having people believe lies, or trust nothing. One day soon, something bad will happen, and it will take faith in information to fix it. You erode trust at our collective peril.”

Well, ‘information’ as the totally fair, objective, ideologically-neutral VandeHei and the other totally fair, objective, unbiased contributors at various MSM outlets, construe it.  Right?

This is one of the few times VandeHei accidentally makes a good point in this article.  Certainly, one of these days, something bad will happen, and we will need faith in information to fix it.  But it is the MSM which is undermining that faith, not the people (VandeHei means specifically Trump) who have caught on to the MSM’s contempt for their fellow Americans.

I have proposed that the MSM should transparently disclose their biases as a better step forward.  However, I doubt very much that the MSM can restore faith in its assessment about what is ‘good information’ unless it radically re-constitutes its entire enterprise.  However, there are reasons why liberal progressives gravitate towards the media in greater proportion than those with other ideologies.  Simply put, they see the media as one of their most potent methods for creating change, and creating change gives their life purpose.  Reporting ‘just the facts’ so that others can make up their own minds?

Get real.  It’s never going to happen.

And yes, that means that some day, something bad will happen, and yes, it will take faith in information to fix it–but no, that faith will not be restored, and yes, we will be a nation in peril.

And it will be largely the fault of the MSM.

Finally, VanderHei makes another decent point in his advice to “You”, but I’m afraid he does not go near far enough.  He says:

“Quit tweeting your every outrage.”

Ok, I’m with you as far as it goes, but to frame it as though there isn’t an outrage industry which is encouraging it to begin with is itself outrageous.  On this blog, I have been documenting the fact that the ‘powers that be’ positively rely on stoking outrage in order to move society in the direction that the ‘powers that be’ want society to move.

The whole point of much of our media coverage is to generate and facilitate ‘outrage.’  In the first place, that’s how you get things done if you are a liberal progressive–they call it ‘direct action.’  (The rest of us call it mob action.)  In the second place, its obviously part of the business model of much of the MSM.  They want people to share their articles willy-nilly, and need the income to compensate for falling ad revenue.  I assume Axios welcomes the web traffic.

I don’t think VandeHei is out of line putting some of the responsibility on the individual to abstain from the outrage du jour.   I have a half dozen posts on this very blog suggesting the same.  But let’s not act as though certain institutions in our country are not greatly responsible for provoking ‘national outrage.’

VandeHei’s entire proposal seems designed to get the rest of us to lend more credibility to the MSM and increase its prestige, and cast himself as some kind of ‘white knight’ coming to the rescue of the ignorant, gullible masses.   His one–the one, mind you–suggestion for the media for restoring that prestige is to encourage the media to stop insulting the American people publicly.

Sorry, but Mr. VandeHei, you need to go back to the drawing board on the ‘fake news’ front.

*** Because of the inevitable idiot who comes along and says, “Oh yea, well why didn’t you disclosed YOUR bias!!??!?!?” I am compelled to point out that I am not a member of the media, you big dummy.
Still, I will tell you my bias:  While I leaned liberal all the way through my coming of age in the 1990s, the events of 9-11 marked a turning point for me.  Today, I would call myself a ‘constitutionalist libertarian.’  I am frequently disgusted with the Republicans for their failure to uphold small government principles and individual liberties, but nonetheless recognize that they are presently the only viable entity ostensibly advancing that agenda.









    • Endbringer on October 22, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    One of the best news segments I ever followed was Meghan Kelly. Even after watching her for years, I’d no idea what her personal opinion on various topics actually was, because she’d seem to ask pointed questions and arguments no matter who or what things were about. At least till the end with Trump, and she was more openly opinionated. But for awhile, I always held her show as ideal journalism.

    So yeah, that something to be said for not making your bias public (because everyone has it) if you’re trying to inform people, but I agree it needs to go further in either not letting it effect reporting, or if a person can’t do that (and indeed few seem able these days), then just be upfront about it.

    Probably should really something if honesty isn’t held as the best policy.

    • Anthony on October 22, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    I didn’t exclude the possibility of reporting news without disclosing one’s bias, but I did say that it would have to ‘radically re-constitute its enterprise’ … and expressed doubt that this would ever happen. You’ve got too many people in the news industry who view their positions as ideal for being ‘change agents.’ They slap a fig leaf called ‘journalism’ over their righteous crusade, and in this way, justify pretty much anything they do.

    It reminds me of this time I was slandered in my local news media. Someone (not me) wrote to the reporter complaining about the obvious slant in the article. The reporter replied that newspapers have always pursued agendas–its part of ‘journalism.’ Which is all well and good, if you admit what you’re doing. But what you can’t do is avowedly set your sights on pursuing agendas AND A THE SAME TIME paint yourself as agenda-neutral. We call that a lie.

    The fact that it has been the MO of journalism for well over a century doesn’t excuse it. A lie is a lie.

    I think there is also a massive manifestation of that typical progressive assumption that normal people, who are not experts LIKE THEM, are idiots. You can’t possibly merely report “just the facts” because people are too dumb to draw the ‘right’ conclusions from the facts. The progressive newsman doesn’t just think he has the right to use his position for advocacy, but also doesn’t think people are capable of drawing ‘reasonable’ conclusions. (See: Walter Lippmann, “Public Opinion”)

    THEY decide what is ‘right’ and ‘reasonable.’ (Even worse then the prospect of Americans groping their way in the dark room of their ignorance, is that they will draw from the facts and state of affairs ‘bigoted’ conclusions. This must be fought! And they are just the people to do the fighting!

    I think this view that people are too dumb and bigoted to think for themselves when presented with ‘just the facts’ is the underlying resentment re: Citizens United. You can’t risk letting people hear certain viewpoints over and over again, as far as the American dollar can express those viewpoints, because people are so dumb, they can’t help absorbing the viewpoints as it washes over them.

    So, private money must be limited when it comes to advocating for agendas. Only the government and the elite, who really know best and genuinely have genuinely have our interests in mind (and we’re too dumb to know what our interests really are) can spend all it wants.

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