Opinion: Spinning journalistic fraud into ratings gold – Pacifica Tribune
In the hyper-partisan climate that envelops our country, we live with disinformation poisoning on a daily basis.
There seems no exaggeration or deception outrageous enough not to spread throughout the media sphere.
Many of us have learned how to disregard or filter the worst of what we see and hear, finding sources of information we think are legitimate, if not totally free of bias.
Unfortunately, the absurd has become all too real for many others, and the spreaders of misinformation know this. The more extreme the lies, the deeper the hook goes.
On Fox News last week, President Biden’s chief medical advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, was compared to Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor known as the Angel of Death. Fox contributor Lara Logan, who made the comparison, claimed she’d heard it from unnamed others.
“… What you see on Dr Fauci — this is what people say to me: that he doesn’t represent science to them. He represents Josef Mengele,” Logan said.
Shocking? Obscene? Jewish groups certainly thought so, yet it’s now become normalized to hear such bile.
While the First Amendment guarantees the right of free speech and freedom of the press, that right is not absolute. There are still limits, both in the law and in the public square. Ethical standards apply as well.
Alex Jones, Tucker Carlson — and even CNN’s disgraced and fired anchor Chris Cuomo — may have discovered that fact the hard way.
Jones, the farcical-but-malicious host of Infowars, was found liable by a judge for repeatedly describing the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre as a hoax, while Carlson’s faux documentary on the Jan. 6 insurrection was condemned for its promotion of alt-right conspiracy theories and inaccuracies.
While Cuomo’s info fraud was not active disinformation, it was similarly disturbing. A CNN probe found he had violated the ethical standards of his position by giving behind-the-scenes advice to his disgraced brother, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is accused of sexual misconduct.
That, of course, pales in comparison to the false claim of 2020 election fraud — a lie so damaging it was used to justify an insurrection — and the hazards of disinformation poisoning seem all too clear.
Why is this happening?
There is no single or simple answer. It likely has as much to do with personal and political ambitions as it does with technology, facts and objective analysis.
But while mistakes or misunderstandings are always going to be woven into the daily report, there is no excuse for the virulent strain of inaccuracy that comes at us 24 hours a day.
Commentators such as Jones and Carlson have demonstrated just how adept they are at spinning journalistic fraud into ratings gold. Carlson’s three-part “Patriot Purge” suggests the attack on the U.S. Capitol was instigated by left-wing radicals, possibly as part of an FBI-led false-flag operation.
According to PolitiFact and other media reports, the “documentary” is so filled with fabrications and discredited theories that it spurred the resignations of two Fox News commentators in protest.
Yet this hasn’t prevented the purveyors of disinformation from continuing to build pyramids of falsehoods.
Indeed, various analyses that weigh reliability, neutrality and factuality show a media landscape awash in questionable news sites, most on the hard right.
In this environment, objective reality has been turned on its head. Instead of facts dictating coverage, on too many sites dogma determines what’s considered true or not. If facts contradict ideology, go with what you believe.
While there’s no denying that errors are baked into our communications infrastructure, lying shouldn’t be. And liars shouldn’t be allowed to go unchallenged.
That’s a fact.
David Kutzmann spent 32 years in daily journalism as both a reporter and editor, including 18 years at the Mercury News.