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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

The Biggest News Story of 2018

The Daily Escape:

Santa Dash, Glasgow Scotland, 2012 photo via Just Run lah

Hope that you had a relaxing Christmas, one that you will remember, and not because you bought a Lexus. Here at the Mansion of Wrong, the party is still underway. Our last guests will be leaving on January 2nd.

In reading the endless lists of the most important news stories of 2018, Wrongo felt that the major news story was Trump’s awesome amount of lying. Back in the dark ages, before GW Bush and Cheney, the idea of a president lying outright to the American people was cause for outrage. The liar’s poll numbers would drop immediately and all of the press would call out the transgression.

Now, when Donald Trump actually lies daily, telling whoppers that are stunning to behold, there is little outrage, and certainly none from the Right. This is exacerbated by the main stream media, many of whom report Trump’s lies as if they’re news stories, often without providing any context that tells the truth of the matter. They have become complicit in Trump’s dishonesty, and we all suffer as a result.

It’s Orwellian: Lies become truth, truth is devalued. We can’t be an informed people when the information we receive is often full of lies and distortions.

This is without question, the biggest story of 2018.

Next column, Wrongo will reprise his 2018 Wrong predictions, looking back on the year that was, scoring his successes and his prognostication failures.

Now, listen to Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss perform “The Wexford Carol”, an ancient Irish carol. The great Canadian violinist, Natalie MacMaster joins them. This is from their 2008 album, “Songs of Joy & Peace”:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Saturday Soother – November 10, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Fall colors on the Katsura River, Kyoto, Japan -2018 photo by DillonCohen27

Larry King on Trump:

Trump is the story in America. I would bet that ninety-eight percent of all Americans mention his name at least once a day. And when it’s come to that, when you focus on one man, I know Donald 40 years — I know the good side of Donald and I know the bad side of Donald — I think he would like to be a dictator. I think he would love to be able to just run things. So, he causes a lot of this. Then his fight with the media and fake news. I’ve been in the media a long time….And at all my years at CNN, in my years at Mutual Radio, I have never seen a conversation where a producer said to a host “pitch the story this way. Angle it that way. Don’t tell the truth.” Never saw it. Never saw it.

I know, you weren’t sure that Larry was still alive. He is, and he’s not wrong. Here are more of King’s quotes:

So when CNN started covering Trump — they were the first — they covered every speech he made and then they made Trump the story. But, they covered him as a character. They carried every speech he made. They carried him more than Fox News, at the beginning. And so they built the whole thing up and the Republicans had a lot of candidates and they all had weaknesses.

Larry has a point. We spend waay too much time talking about what Trump talks about. People haven’t been addicted like this to the news before, and it isn’t healthy for us as individuals or as a country.

Sure, it would be terrific if people knew all the facts about issues before they voted, but social media, the internet and cable news no longer trade in truth. They’re in it for the money, not for the news.

We can’t uncover the truth without serious digging.

Think about the Jim Acosta affair at Trump’s Thursday press conference. Acosta confronts Trump, Trump wants to move on, but Acosta doesn’t think they are done, and wants to follow up with another question. A young female intern tries to take the microphone away from Acosta without success, and the WH says Acosta laid hands on the intern, then sends out a video to shame Acosta.

But, the video was doctored, according to the WaPo:

White House shares doctored video to support punishment of journalist Jim Acosta: https://wapo.st/2JPGGSA

And the press secretary, Sarah Sanders, defends releasing a doctored video.

Hold that thought. On Friday, Trump says that he doesn’t know Matt Whitaker, the guy he just appointed as Interim Attorney General. That sounds strange, no executive appoints a person that he/she doesn’t know. So, here are two quotes from Trump about Whitaker. They are both as uncomplicated as a statement can be:

“I know Matt Whitaker.” –October 10, 2018
“I don’t know Matt Whitaker.” –November 9, 2018

The truth is that he clearly knew Matt Whitaker when he said he didn’t know him. The sad part for America is that he has no guilt, and no shame, when he contradicts himself on something knowable.

There is little truth from Trump, or in his administration, so why does the media cover him so slavishly?

Wrongo recommends that the Main Stream Media immediately reduce their coverage of Trump by 50%. By cutting it in half, two wonderful things will happen:

First, the country’s obsession with his lies will weaken. People’s stress levels will be reduced.

Second, it will drive Trump crazy. He will say even bigger whoppers to try and get America to reconnect, and mainline more Trumpiness.

Both outcomes would be completely acceptable to Wrongo.

Enough for today! Time for Wrongo to heed his own prescription. Let’s all take a few deep breaths, and relax. Poke around in the pantry, find your favorite coffee, and brew up a nice, fresh cup, just the way you like it.

Station yourself near a big, south-facing window, and take in the natural world. Here in the northeast, it’s raining for the third weekend in a row, so we’re staying inside once again.

Now, listen to “Spiegel im Spiegel for Cello and Piano”, written by the Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt in 1978. Wikipedia says that since 2010, Pärt has been the most performed living composer in the world.

This is a beautiful, although minimalist piece. It is said that Keith Jarrett once said classical music showed him how to play fewer notes and make more music.

This piece proves Jarret’s point. It should calm you down, because it’s so pleasing to the ear:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Monday Wake Up Call – Bad Journalism Edition

Raul Ilargi of The Automatic Earth gets us thinking about truth in journalism:

The two most viral photographs of the ‘Trump Separation Scandal’ have now been debunked, or at the very least been proven to have been used ‘out of context’. This is a dangerous development, as are the reasons to use them the way they have been. Both pictures are of children who had not been separated from their mothers at all. But both were used to depict just that: a child being taken away from its mother.

Here are the two pictures. The first shows a Honduran toddler sobbing. The photo was taken on June 14th.  It was used widely by the media, with the accompanying message that the child was about to be separated from its mother:

But the NYT reports the child was not separated from her mother. That was reported on June 23rd. Pro-Trump news outlets have had a fine time calling the photo fake news. And the same photo was photoshopped by Time Magazine for a cover that used the little girl juxtaposed with Donald Trump looming over her, with the caption, ”Welcome to America”:

Now, Time may not have known the true status of the child at the time when they made the choice to place her on the cover with Trump, but they’re absolutely ok with using it. The NYT quotes them:

Our cover and our reporting capture the stakes of this moment.

But, there is a major difference between illustrating a moment, and reporting. A Facebook funds-raising page using the original photo above inspired hundreds of thousands of people to donate $19 million for a nonprofit legal defense fund for immigrants and refugees.

Is that a good outcome from bad reporting? If people are interested in donating, why trick them into doing it? Back to Ilargi:

That’s what is dangerous: seeing a photo of a child in distress makes people halt their critical thinking. That’s also why such photos are used. They help build a narrative that doesn’t have to be factual to shock people. But at that point TIME becomes a fiction magazine; it’s where it leaves journalism behind.

There also was a picture of a caged little boy crying, “Detained by ICE at a border facility” said the caption:

But the image of the crying, caged young boy, which went viral, was actually taken at a demonstration. RT reports that this photo was shared by activist journalist Jose Antonio Vargas as a comment on the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown on families. More from RT:

It has since emerged that the picture was in fact not from a detention facility at all, and instead was taken at a protest against Trump’s immigration policies held on June 10 outside Dallas City Hall.

Some activists argue that the origin of the photo is irrelevant, that it portrays a true problem, even if this particular image is not a true representation of the facts on the ground.

But we’re on a slippery slope with that reasoning. We shouldn’t be using any available means to message against even a wrong policy.

What’s dangerous about this approach is that if journalists are allowed to spread a narrative that isn’t confirmed as true, they may be “reporting” unsourced stories simply to make a point. Then, no one will ever know fact from fiction.

This is the downside of instant, global communications. The narrative can outrun the truth, the myth can become fact. Since social media compensation is often tied to “clicks” on an article, publishers and editors have a conflict of interest: sell the truth, or sell the narrative?

Children are being taken from parents at US borders, and Trump’s policy needs a healthy debate. But playing loose with the facts cannot be permitted by the media.

Time for the media to wake up! It helps no one if the charge “Fake News” is true. To help them wake up, here is Billy Bragg doing “It Says Here” from his 1984 album “Brewing Up with Billy Bragg”:

Sample Lyrics:

It says here that the Unions will never learn
It says here that the economy is on the upturn
And it says here we should be proud
That we are free
And our free press reflects our democracy

If this does not reflect your view you should understand
That those who own the papers also own this land

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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