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The face of fake news

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Megyn Kelly took on more than just Alex Jones in her NBC “Sunday Night” interview. She took on fake news. I’m glad she did.

Honestly, I was very worried that Kelly would equivocate and underperform like she did with Russian President Vladimir Putin. I was worried that Jones would get a pass and use the performance to pick up even more viewers–and believers.

It turns out I was wrong, as were others who believed the interview was a bad idea.

It was important to expose the abhorrent conspiracies and ideals that Jones represents.

But motivations are really key here. I have to believe that Jones’ motivations are personal. He suffers from the same need for importance and recognition that the other main topic of Kelly’s piece–President Trump–succumbs to. Jones simply wants the clicks, the influence, and the power.

There are plenty of Twitter, Facebook, and web-based Jones wannabes, and some in the main stream media. The New York Times and the Washington Post are not immune from what Kelly termed “reckless accusation, followed by equivocations and excuses.” The MSM simply couches their version in “bombshell” headlines, unnamed sources and back-of-the-paper retractions.

There’s nothing inherently wrong, or un-American, about people like Jones. They’ve been around since before Erwin Wardman coined the term “yellow journalism” in 1998.

But there’s a more pernicious motive floating out there: foreign governments using people like Jones, and teenagers in Eastern European basements, to float their own anti-U.S. propaganda. The Russians are experts at disinformation–they call it “Dezinformatsiya.”

The Washington Post delved deep into the history of Russian fake news right after the election. In 2015, Adrian Chen published a chilling New York Times Magazine piece titled “The Agency” about Russian efforts to create fake news events and use social media “trolls” to promote their own interests.

Russia’s information war might be thought of as the biggest trolling operation in history, and its target is nothing less than the utility of the Internet as a democratic space. In the midst of such a war, the Runet (as the Russian Internet is often called) can be an unpleasant place for anyone caught in the crossfire. Soon after I met Leonid Volkov, he wrote a post on his Facebook wall about our interview, saying that he had spoken with someone from The New York Times. A former pro-Kremlin blogger later warned me about this. Kremlin allies, he explained, monitored Volkov’s page, and now they would be on guard. “That was not smart,” he said.

The fact that President Trump relies on the very same social media tools that the Russians have thoroughly infiltrated and corrupted in order to make his points and win political power–that translates to actual government power–is more than troubling.

It means that Alex Jones, President Trump, and the Russians are all feeding the same cancer of fake news.

I submit there’s very little difference in Trump claiming he’s the victim of a “Witch Hunt” by “deep state” operatives (or hinting at “tapes” of conversations with James Comey), Alex Jones claims that Sandy Hook was a hoax, and the “Internet Research Agency” creating a fake story about a chemical disaster in St. Mary Parish, Louisiana. They are all set ups not in service of truth, but in service of other motives.

But when we can’t tell the difference between real Russian interference and the president’s tweetstorms and Jones’ conspiracies, in a culture where these events lead to political violence, injury and death, someone’s got to call foul.

Kelly took the opportunity to call foul on Jones. I applaud that she did. If the main stream media, including her employer, NBC, would take the hint and back off from their one-sided attacks on Trump, conservatives, and Republicans, maybe her message would begin to spread.

If the media itself doesn’t take the high road in combatting fake news, not leaping to conclusions, burying stories that offend their own world view, and projecting pure opinion as objective fact, then how can we expect anyone to believe them?

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Culture and Religion

Church administrator and wife, David and Connie Reiter, accused of stealing $1.2 million for personal gain

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Church administrator and wife David and Connie Reiter accused of stealing 12 million for personal ga

The former church administrator for Westminster Presbyterian Church in Upper St. Clair township in Pennsylvania has been arrested along with his wife for allegedly stealing $1.2 million of church funds over a 17-year period.

David Reiter, 50, has been charged with theft, forgery and receiving stolen property, while his wife Connie, 44, faces two counts of receiving stolen property, according to Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office. The couple allegedly faked an auditor and manipulated church accounting records in order to have money for vacations, sporting events, and other personal benefits.

My Take

Churches and other religious institutions have a hard enough time fighting corruption outside of their congregations. When the corruption is happening from within, it not only stings even more for the church body but also adds to the fodder for anti-Christian voices to use in their calls for changes.

Already on social media, the story is getting attention as another example of why churches should be taxed. Mixed into the discussion are calls of hypocrisy and bad faith within the faith itself.

In these times, it’s important to expose those who use their positions in church or their claimed faith as reasons to commit crimes. Whether it’s simple stealing, sex abuse, or any number of other crimes associated with “religious” people, the necessity to live as an example to the world has never been greater.

The scoffers will scoff whether they’re given reason to or not. But when the attacks are unjustified, their scoffing is less effective. This is why we need to cleanse the church of people like the Reiters if they did, indeed, do as charged.

 


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Culture and Religion

Returning to sanity, the greatest benefit of limited government

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Returning to sanity the greatest benefit of limited government

The ever-expansive government born of collectivism results in power for the elite and insanity for everyone else.

How did we get to this point? How did we get to a situation where reading the news is akin to trying to drink from a fire hose in attempting to take in the events of the day?

There were times in the not so distant past were this wasn’t the case, when we could go about our business not having to waste time with such concerns. This is clearly a vestige of a political movement that wants to impose expansive government on every aspect of our lives. The elite of the collectivist Left would prefer a society driven to distraction intimately involved in everyone’s private life. The only way we can survive this is by reversing course back to a point where government and society doesn’t control every aspect of our lives.

Colleague JD Rucker started this conversation with his article on limited government in continuation to the insane situation we find ourselves. Two important points being that we need dispense with tribalism and that Liberty can only survive when the government is limited.

Individualism vs. Collectivism, Limited vs. Expansive government, Liberty vs. Tyranny

In the engineering field, any analysis of a situation begins with basic equations and principles. In this case we begin with the two primary sides of politics, the individual and collectivist mindsets corresponding to Limited and Expansive government models.

  • Those trying to conserve Liberty: Libertarians, Conservatives and true Liberals are on the political Right of the individualist mindset.
  • Those trying to expand government for their own benefit in property and power: Leftists, socialists, communists, fascists, Statists, etc. are of the collectivist mindset.

To be sure, there are those who would prefer to keep these discussions in a far more complicated realm. Their motivation showing a desire to confuse the issue and obscure their actions. One cannot analyse any form of technology without delving down to the underlying equations and the same holds true for politics. If the examination shows one side is motivated by a desire for power, then this is the conclusion, no matter how certain factions would like this to be concealed.

Liberty is maximized when government is minimized

The critical point in this analysis is that expansive government is antithetical to freedom.

“The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.”
Thomas Jefferson

This theoretical expression is borne out by practical reality. Authoritarian systems are clearly bereft of freedom. One would be hard pressed to demonstrate that national socialist worker’s party Germany or the old USSR were paragons of Liberty and human rights. Even the present day examples of socialist Venezuela or communist North Korea are more akin to open air penitentiaries than places of freedom.

Supposedly the argument is that free college, free housing, free health care, free food, free childcare and even free money is ‘freeing’ to some – but not all. The problem is that all of this is funded at some point by other people’s money, with the bite hitting ‘progressively’ lower and lower as people of the higher classes figure out methods to stop their property from being stolen. None the less, there will be those who will effectively be reduced to involuntary servitude, the opposite of being ‘Liberated’.

The problem has always been one of those who wish to get something for nothing and those who desire power no matter how it’s obtained. Without strict limitations on government, such people will always find a way to empower themselves at the expense of everyone else. Therefore, those people have to be constantly monitored, else they implement some new program here or a new tax there.

It becomes a rhetorical law of attrition, were people just become worn out trying to keep the power hungry in check. They may get upset at one issue, only to overlook another that crops up somewhere else.

Do you trust the government?

This is the critical questions of our time. Most people will answer that they don’t, albeit for differing reasons. However the central theme still remains.

  • If one does not trust the government, then why would anyone want it larger with expanded power?
  • If one does not trust the government, then why would anyone want it in control of one’s health care?
  • If one does not trust the government, then why would anyone want it to have a monopoly on the use of force?

We could go on and on, but the point is clear, a government that is inherently untrustworthy should only have limited power. This is why the strict limitations on government reveal the sheer genius of the founding fathers and the superiority of the American system of limited government.

The preservation of sanity by limited government

A government with strict limitations as to it’s proper functions [such as formulating and imposing budgetary restraints on itself] as well as what it cannot do doesn’t have to be watched 24/7. The citizens can be assured that they can go about their business without worrying that the government will grow out of control.

This is why we need to get back to a government that lives within its bounds and budget. This is why politicians of all stripes should have limited power in a limited governmental system. That is the only way to conserve Liberty and our sanity.

 


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Culture and Religion

A look at modern-day Capernaum

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A look at modern-day Capernaum

Much of what is written about Jesus Christ in the New Testament took place in the city of Capernaum on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is here where Peter’s mother-in-law lived and was healed by Jesus. It is also here where our Lord and Savior performed many miracles.

Today, the ruins of ancient Capernaum can be visited by tourists, though it’s really not a major attraction. You won’t find the standard touristy amenities here such as hotels or large-scale guided tours. Instead, you will find a pair of churches and a park that acts as an information center for the people who visit this beautiful land.

A YouTube channel I recently found takes us on a brief but lovely tour of modern day Capernaum. Those who are blessed to visit Israel should consider making a stop in this important city in Biblical history.

 


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