When Lies Become Truth

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One of the advantages of the Internet is that everyone has a printing press.

One of the disadvantages of the Internet is that everyone has a printing press.

People are writing tracts that are just bunk.

The Economist is not a rag. It is nowhere close to being a rag. The Economist is one of the most respected publications in the world.

Altenative right organizations are all over CNN because it covers news the way it is supposed to be covered. Using the conventions of journalism that are taught in school and religiously repeated in newsrooms … at least the newsrooms that are left.

The president of the United States is leading a war on media and in particular on The Washington Post … a very respected news source.

Donald Trump’s minions talk of alternative facts and the Bowling Green Massacre that never existed.

Alternative right organizations are huge supporters of Fox News which when your agent first saw it … well … it was shocking. That’s not a news outlet. That’s a propaganda outlet. It is shocking in its biases. You’d never pass journalism school if you stuck to Fox News’ conventions.

Goebbels

If you say a lie enough times (I’m thinking Joseph Goebbels here), people will start to believe it. Many of those lies are very dangerous.

Here are some quotes from Goebbels:

  • Arguments must therefore be crude, clear and forcible, and appeal to emotions and instincts, not the intellect. Truth was unimportant and entirely subordinate to tactics and psychology.
  • A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth
  • Propaganda works best when those who are being manipulated
    are confident they are acting on their own free will.
  • Propaganda must facilitate the displacement of aggression by specifying the targets for hatred.
  • The truth is the greatest enemy of the state.
  • The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.
  • Whoever can conquer the street will one day conquer the state, for every form of power politics and any dictatorship-run state has its roots in the street.
  • There is no need for propaganda to be rich in intellectual content.

Any of this sound familiar?

I never in my life thought I would see such things. That we had learned the lesson of truth and good conduct many decades ago.

I’m worried that I’m wrong.

 


 

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31 thoughts on “When Lies Become Truth

    1. Bruce,
      Too many of them and a bit too often, BUT what we are seeing south of the border is taking it to an extreme level.

      How do I know a politician is telling a lie – easily – his lips are moving.

      However, if a politician tells me the glass is full and yet the glass sitting in front of me is clearing only half full; then repeats the claim that it is full because they hope I will eventually see it as full – that is evil propaganda and can not be normalized nor can it become an accepted technique.

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  1. I hope that you are wrong but the realist in me says that what we are going through would be familiar to some people in early Nazi Germany.

    Goebbels also said “Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.”

    I have great difficulty taking seriously anyone who thinks The Economist is a “rag” and, in the old days, would just have ignored him and his ilk. I don’t think that we can afford to do that anymore. Reading the comments on newsfeeds is very scary – the KoolAid is definitely being drunk. I understand some of these people are seriously under-informed and, in some cases, are scrambling for answers to things they don’t understand. Unfortunately, they are looking in the wrong place for their salvation.

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  2. In 1993, the British Council in Seoul was making space, so myself and a couple of my mates scored stacks (three full taxi loads) of old British magazines.

    We had full runs of The New Statesman, The Spectator, and The Economist dating to the early ’80s. In those pre-Internet days, an English reader in Korea had limited options (but strange ones; I read the U.S. military paper Stars and Stripes all the time and could often bum a Foreign Policy from an officer when he’d finished reading it). Every issue was read cover to cover, and my posh mate Mad Roger filled in the cultural blanks. I still believe that until circa 2001, The Economist was a highly credible publication.

    Things change.

    Even a bumpkin like me can note how ownership and personnel changes can degrade the previously long-established quality of a business. Are media outlets immune? Just look at the Citizen, Ken.

    John Ralston Saul nailed it when he describes the technocrats who’ve subverted enterprises like The Economist as Voltaire’s bastards. They are sophistic whores and propagandists for a malignant system.

    Can we all agree on that?

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      1. Interesting edit of my post. I was trying to avoid using British twice. Perhaps I should have gone with crumpet muncher.

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          1. Yes, true but we all enjoy a bit of fun. Placing an argument with a satirical frame is an often successful rhetorical convention, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

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    1. Marc:

      Congratulations getting through one of John Ralston Saul’s essays. They should carry the warning: “Do not read while operating heavy equipment.”

      And don’t use ‘credible’ too much. You didn’t but you could in the future. Generally that’s a word best left on Reddit to be used there was too often. It’s generally the only polysyllabic word Reddit people know.

      cheers

      kgray

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      1. I’ve heard of Reddit, if I ever get into it I’ll take your advice. So far, Facebook is how I interface with the social medias. For knowledge, I prefer libraries or questioning human informants.

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    2. Marc,
      No – can not agree on that.

      The news is what tells me what someone actually said. Whether in print as a quote, radio with that someone’s actual voice or television with pictures and sound, what was said was said.

      The news is what tells me what someone actually did. Could be with pictures or documents, sound , what was done was done.

      After one sees and hears what actually happened then one forms an opinion for one’s self on whether what actually happened was good,bad,funny or unimportant.

      The news is not an opinion piece,

      An opinion piece is calling a lie an alternate fact,

      Propaganda is telling the alternate fact repeatedly.

      Look for the facts and ignore the rest then form your own opinion based on what you actually just heard or saw.

      If a comedian says or does something crass then I would believe that that was the comedian’s shtick.

      If the Prez says or does something crass then I would believe that that was his basic nature.

      I , personally, do not like crass people and I do not trust their deeds.

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        1. Marc,
          I am not sure what the point is of asking your question about misquote?

          When one hears the voice or sees the actions (either live, on recordings or on video) then there is no misquoting being done.

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  3. The Voter:
    My “ilk”? What are you implying? Greasy insinuations from anonymous pomposities don’t constitute an argument, or my understanding of rhetoric is completely deformed.

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      1. If you look to the sources of their data, they are themselves subverted and corrupt. In the real world, this is all well known. In Ottawa, even journalists display a naïveté that might be charming in a small child, but has no place in critical analysis.

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        1. Marc:

          “In the real world, this is all well known.” There’s a catch phrase that’s popular in the inner regions of the Internet. It implicitly says I know better than you because I live in the real world (and you don’t) and it is well-known so you can’t dispute it. The only thing lacking is facts.

          “In Ottawa, even journalists display a naïveté that might be charming in a small child, but has no place in critical analysis”

          Oh brother give me a break. You wouldn’t know which end of the pencil to use compared to some of the fine journalists I know. (And here’s a tip. On the first story you cover, at this time of year, use a pencil … a ballpoint pen freezes in the cold and doesn’t work. A pencil just keeps on running. You can always tell the rooks because their pen freezes. Here, I’ll lend you a ballpoint.) In other words, don’t tell someone with 40 years in the craft how the craft should be run. Good grief.

          kgray

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          1. Ken:
            I’ve read your stuff since I was a kid. You always struck me as sincere and fair in reporting and upholding the public good. Countless times you would chide the political, bureaucratic and business big shots in this town for being out of touch with reality.
            I’m not a trained journalist, but I’ve been drunk with plenty of them from the international media, sometimes at media junkets I would infiltrate (free food and open bars, gotta love it), sometimes in expensive hotel bars, and not a few times on Hooker Hill in Itaewon.
            As to how your craft should be run, annoying kids on YouTube get millions of times more attention than you, I, and most of what could be called facts.
            I respect you Ken, you’ve made excellent efforts in good faith throughout your career. Yet here we are, living in the dumpiest embarrassment of a capital city on the map while feeling mighty self-satisfied. It’s delusional. Watson? C’mon Ken, we’re on the same side.
            I’m a pencil guy myself (the tactile pleasure of it I enjoy). I have my own plans that in addition to pencils, involve cameras, microphones, and trustworthy, honest nerd protégés to deal with the internets.
            If you choose to fact check my content, I’ll take that as a singular honour.

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    1. Marc,
      “Ilk” means “kind” or “sort”. I’m not sure what it is that you perceive as “greasy insinuations” in the use of that word.
      What I was saying was that in the past, had you or someone else called The Economist a “rag”, I would have ignored them and their comments because it wouldn’t have been worth acknowledging or responding to. I referred to you and those like you since you aren’t the only person holding these opinions and my previous and my changed reaction would apply to all of you.
      In this brave new world, I see that there are people who are misguided or misinformed and believe what they’re being told by those who don’t have their best interests at heart. This leads to a distortion in their view of the world. Perhaps you are among them but, then again, you may not be.

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  4. Sorry to disagree. I was an avid reader of the New York Times for many years. Read it in graduate school and through my years in government. But no longer. The biases which came out in the last election showed me that it is no longer the paper of record.
    Ditto CNN. It was dubbed the Clinton News Network for obvious reasons. Ditto the Washington Post. The Wall Street Journal remains a reasonably neutral paper. If I had to have only one U.S. publication it would be the WSJ.

    Whether we like or hate Trump, he was correct when he accused the media of bias. I am here to say yes. You may say sure they were biased because they were trying keep this person from winning. (somehow they overlooked the pay for play Clintons). Ok. Just be upfront with your bias.

    The mainstream media is openly Democratic. And so they supported Hillary, through thick and thin. (they still haven’t openly reported on the collapse of the Clinton “foundation”)

    Enough. The greatest victim of the last election was the mainstream media in the U.S., this includes the major networks. They lost the trust of much of their public. As I said in a note to the New York Times, Print the news, not your views.

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    1. Robert:

      A good paper prints news and views. The views can be what they want … the news should be written straight.

      I always get a kick out of people who say the media is liberal. I was on the Citizen editorial board and I can tell you it wasn’t liberal. It was so right wing when I joined it, it was frightening. By the time I left, it was more centrist.

      Most of the newspaper outlets in the country are owned by Postmedia. It is conservative. Accordingly, the media, for the most part, is conservative in Canada.

      Thank you for the good words about the Wall Street Journal. I was offered two jobs there. I can tell you it is not centrist … it is conservative.

      cheers

      kgray

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      1. I should have said the mainstream media in the US is liberal.
        The NY Times actually apologized after the election for some of its biased reporting. Some of its biases showed up in news, not the view or opinions section. With CNN? It’s all bias. Its liberalness makes a counterpoint to the National Reviews conservativeness. Fox is openly right wing. CNN pretends to be balanced. Not.

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      2. Spare me the opportunity to toss in a few related thoughts.

        There are only about 15 minutes of actual news each day, but there are 24 hours to cover it. Thus the news networks have to fill in a lot of time with opinion and perspective on the 15 minutes of actual news. To attract viewers, and thus advertising revenues, the TV news shows need to generate controversy. They typically select a zealot on each side of the issue and let them shout at each other, often at the same time. I only suffer through this cacophony when I am on an exercise bike, and only if someone else has the remote control.

        The concept of right, left and centre is one of perspective, with the perspective being that of the beholder. Many people consider themselves to be in the centre, but very few actually are (yours truly included).

        As I have commented on the Bulldog on a number of occasions, this is a world populated by people who have the opportunity to select what they want, when they want and where they want. For those who don’t enjoy the perspective of The Economist, I suggest not reading it. For those who enjoy CNN, you know the channel number. For those who prefer the facts on national and international stories, without having to sift through a lot of opinion, I recommend Reuters. The Reuters UK web site gives a good view into what is happening in not Canada and not the USA.

        Finally, for those who want some perspective on what is happening in Ottawa, you are on the right news site.

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  5. Perhaps it is time to bring back the term. Lost Generation.

    People who are living post-crash and in recession are disoriented and looking for answers.

    The status quo was not working well. Changes were coming to many old social taboos, but day-to-day eking out a living was not getting easier.

    Do people honestly think that a person, Donald Trump, who is not and has never been a philanthropist is supposed to all of a sudden give a damn about regular people? Is a person who operated an unaccredited university all of a sudden going to become a great teacher? Is a person who talks about Frederick Douglass as if the man is still alive will use history as a guide?

    Lost and hurting many are, but the words pre-election along with the words and actions post-election merely seem to show that – like a scorpion – it is in his nature to be what he is.

    Propaganda and self-promotion are his fortes and he wants those things to become acceptable. Thus he attacks the news people that report on and film his shenanigans.

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    1. Bombast and bluster got Trump where he is and he’s become dependent on them. I honestly wonder sometimes if he knows any other way. He thinks his continued success is dependent on nobody seeing behind the curtain.
      The problem with those tactics is they require a continuous upward trajectory and eventually you run into the peak of your progression and things begin to unravel. I’m not sure if this is a parallel to the Peter Principle or not. The unfortunate thing is that others have been and will continue to be victimized by those shenanigans.

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