You can’t miss either of the two operative buzz-words being bandied around like so much meaningless noise in the last few months. The media rails about it, politicians whine over it, activists shout it: we’re now in a ‘post-truth’ world, drowning in ‘fake news.’ The election of Trump was blamed on it, the rise of the alt/new/fascist right is a sign of it, and the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom happened because of it.
Really, though? Does no one care about truth any longer? Are lies suddenly masquerading as journalism? Is there some new scourge of deception and delusion sweeping across the Western world, making it impossible to tell what’s really going on around us?
Nah. This isn’t new. And it’s not what we’re told to think is happening, either.
Let’s look at some news stories of this last week in the United States, shall we?
- A few nights ago, Meryl Streep criticized Trump and called herself and other Hollywood actors ‘the most vilified segment in America.’
- Two days later, the new president of the United States engaged in this exchange with a reporter for a news company owned by the third largest media conglomerate in the world:
- This was a day after it was reported there is video footage of Donald Trump paying Russian prostitutes to urinate on a bed where the Obama’s liked to stay in Moscow.
- There was also a report about US tanks entering Germany and a brief story about Russia’s propaganda network interrupting live footage of US congressional speeches.
All these examples I mention were news stories, reporting on actual events which occurred. It’s true that Meryl Streep gave that speech, it’s true there are claims about that video, that Trump argued with that reporter. Tanks moved into Germany to protect against Russian invasion, and also C-Span’s live footage was interrupted by Russian Television.
But in each case, truth was utterly irrelevant to the stories. Let’s look at them all again.
Meryl Streep is currently worth $45 million dollars. While there are certainly some who probably think Hollywood is full of degenerate reprobates, unless she meant that rich people are the most vilified people, it’s hard to imagine she wasn’t just engaging in one of her award-winning performances.
The second of these stories is a bit more complex. Watch Trump’s exchange with the reporter again if you can (I’ve watched in over thirty times now, it’s so fascinating).
The reporter is the chief White House correspondent for CNN. A couple of things you probably already know about CNN: they’re owned by the third largest media conglomerate in the world, are worth $10 billion dollars, likely turned a 1 billion dollar profit in 2016, and were the first media outlet to break a certain story Trump was understandably upset about.
That story, of course, was of the piss-video. Or, less sensational but potentially more-damning (c’mon, it’s just piss) is the dossier which claims such a video exists. That document, by the way, is available to you on Buzzfeed, the same quality news site that keeps you up-to-date on J.K. Rowling’s twitter feuds and quizzes about the Kardashians and whether or not you are devoted enough to chocolate. (I’m not, apparently).
Read the dossier if you like. You won’t find the video (and probably wouldn’t want to see it anyway) because no one’s certain there actually is one. The dossier suggests it, but before you go trusting that, there’s some stuff you should know about who wrote it.
It was written for a private intelligence firm by a private investigator originally commissioned by a rich Republican customer who wanted to stop Trump. But then, according to the New York Times:
the Republican interest in financing the effort ended. But Democratic supporters of Hillary Clinton were very interested, and Fusion GPS kept doing the same deep dives, but on behalf of new clients.
And from Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept (a reporter hated by both Democrats and Republicans alike for his whistleblowing activities:)
ALMOST IMMEDIATELY AFTER it was published, the farcical nature of the “dossier” manifested. Not only was its author anonymous, but he was paid by Democrats (and, before that, by Trump’s GOP adversaries) to dig up dirt on Trump. Worse, he himself cited no evidence of any kind but instead relied on a string of other anonymous people in Russia he claims told him these things. Worse still, the document was filled with amateur errors.
So the dossier exists, but the tapes probably don’t, and the whole thing is likely false and was paid for by people who wanted to prove that Trump is being manipulated by Russia.
Which brings us to the last two news stories. The report of the tanks rolling into Bremerhaven, Germany was short but chilling:
The deployment — which also includes 3,500 U.S. Troops — is to protect Eastern Europe against a potential Russian invasion.
In the dock area of the German city of Bremerhaven all around is American military hardware just off the boat — everything from Humvees to tanks. The official name for this display of military muscle is Operation Atlantic Resolve.
Its purpose is to reassure America’s nervous European allies that the U.S. military will stand with them against any aggressive moves by Russia.
Sounds scary, huh? And it should be a bit scary. But what the report doesn’t mention is that Operation Atlantic Resolve was initiated in 2014 and started its primary roll-out in April 2015. That is, the tanks rolling in to Germany from the US are definitely an escalation in military tensions, but not a spontaneous one. In fact, they happened before the Russians were accused of meddling in the US election, and might even help explain a Russian motive for hacking the pro-war Democratic campaign of Hillary Clinton…..
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