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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

Thoughts and prayers are exactly what we need

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Thoughts and prayers are exactly what we need

One of the more disturbing developments in recent years is the growing attacks on thoughts and prayers in the wake of tragedy. Not only are more and more shouting that thoughts and prayers are “not enough” in the wake of tragedy. Many are also doubling-down on the idea by calling thoughts and prayers an excuse to do nothing.

This assertion not only strikes me as wrong-hearted but fundamentally in ignorance of two honest observations.

Firstly, those who attack thoughts and prayers ignore the necessity to grieve and the resolve that arises in the hearts of those who mourn.

Offering thoughts and prayers provides a message of unity and compassion. It’s a unified message that the victims of tragedy do not stand alone. The time where we offer thoughts and prayers is a time where we can set aside our petty differences and unite in mourning.

Further, it has often been my observation that those who offer heartfelt and fervent thoughts and prayers are the ones which arise from their knees, wipe the tears from their eyes, and provide the most energetic actions towards the support of others.

Mocking thoughts and prayers is mocking the humanity of those who are overcome with the grief of a heart-rending tragedy. It’s to mock the natural response of caring, faithful citizens. Quite honestly, it boils my blood that anyone would mock or belittle a quiet, tearful prayer, a lit candle in the window, or messages on social media that are, for once, positive, supportive, and contemplative.

Secondly, the attitude of mocking the thoughtful and prayerful is yet another example of the degradation of what holds us together as a society. It is a manifestation of our nation’s rotting core of community and brotherhood.

Ultimately, it is a demonstration of the same societal decay that is itself responsible for the lost souls of those who not only perpetrate horrible crimes, like mass shootings, but who resolve to end their problems by ending their life or escape their hollow realities through substance abuse.

We need a more thoughtful and more prayerful society. If we are ever going to get to the bottom of what is causing people to grow so cold in their hearts to kill others or so fallen from hope to kill themselves, we must rediscover the compassion and empathy that can alone save our families, our communities, and our nation from abject dysfunction.

Thoughts and prayers are not keeping us from solutions to the problem. Thought and prayers are the only true beginning to real solutions for the problems that ail our country.

We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.

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Culture and Religion

Everything wrong with our political discourse in a single tweet

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Everything wrong with our political discourse in a single tweet

I will be completely transparent. I did not click on the link to read the extended version of what John Pavlovitz wrote. I looked at his tweet and determined that I was not going to give him the revenue for a single click. Especially for such clickbait. I did look at his profile which reads: “Author of ‘A Bigger Table’, ‘Hope’, and ‘Low.’ Unapologetically committed to equality, diversity, compassion, love, and justice.” Given the content of his tweet, the word irony comes to mind. As well as the dismal state of our politcal discourse.

John takes an approach toward people he disagrees with politically that I would not allow my children to take against anyone. Whether they looked different, practiced a different religion, came from a different country or God forbid, may vote for one of the insane Democrats currently on the debate stage. I have taught my children to think more deeply than that about people and relationships. To look at what people do. Not a single characteristic and make inane judgements like John.

I have been clear in all of my public statements that I did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. I also did not vote for Hillary Clinton. It was astounding to me out of a country of 340 million people we had two candidates under investigation by the FBI. It was even more concerning that one of them would be leader of the free world.

However, I will vote for Donald Trump in 2020 barring some unforeseen circumstance. I do not own a MAGA hat, and do not think I have ever tweeted the hashtag without irony. However, given the fact I could now be construed as a supporter, John’s aspersions are being cast at me. They are also being cast at many of my friends who did vote for Trump in 2016. Wonderful people, they just thought Hillary Clinton was as corrupt as she actually is. I know them, their children and their values. Here is what we actually teach our children in the order John has defined them:

  • Do not judge people by the color of the skin, who they love or what they worship and be very suspicious of those who do. It is the content of a person’s character that matters.
  • Apologize if you are wrong. Do not ever apologize for speaking your mind. Be polite. Don’t waste time being politically correct. That is a soft form of censorship that does nothing but limit your thinking.
  • Diversity is more than skin deep. (See number 1.)
  • You need to take responsibility for your own behavior and success. Then be generous.
  • Empathy means you can understand where a person is coming from. Don’t confuse that with sympathy and ever think you can truly understand someone else’s lived experience. Move through your life with empathy.
  • America is exception and has given more freedom and opportunity to more people than any other country in the world. That does not mean everything America has done is a source of pride. Learn history and to ensure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.
  • Women can be whatever they want to be from CEO, to teacher to stay at home mom. They should not feel shame for any choice they make.
  • See number 1.
  • Religion is the foundation for values that made Western civilization one built on free will and freedom. It also helps you find the “you” shaped hole in the world.
  • When in doubt, do your homework.

I literally can’t imagine thinking the way John thinks. Of course it does not surprise me with the identity politics so valued by both the far left and the far right. To actually imagine that you can tell anything about someone based on a single characteristic is the most arrogant and simplistic point of view I can imagine. To think you know anything about the values people teach their children based on their preference on taxes, regulation, border security or foreign policy is asinine.

I have no idea what John has taught his children any more than he knows what the millions of Trump supporters nationwide teach theirs. I certainly hope they have been taught to be open-minded, to actually listen to people with different ideas and judge people for who, not what they are. Otherwise their point of view will be a simple and lacking as John’s tweet. And our public discourse will never improve. That would be sad.

We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.

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Democrats turn Mexican Independence Day celebration in Chicago into political statement against Trump

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Democrats turn Mexican Independence Day celebration in Chicago into political statement against Trum

The long-standing tradition of cruising in Chicago streets for Mexican Independence Day had a double meaning this year as hundreds of revelers circled Trump Tower in Chicago waving Mexican flags and honking in celebration and protest.

The change in venue from the normal “cruising” in Hispanic neighborhoods was prompted by law enforcement’s decision to block off roads normally used for the occasion. The disruptive and sometimes violent celebrations were relocated after 10th district police blocked 26th St. in the Mexican neighborhood of Little Village.

The motivation behind the blocked streets in Hispanic neighborhoods was clear: To move the celebration downtown where it could become a protest. We know this because the official police statement declared their reasoning was for cleanup following a parade… but there was no parade scheduled for the streets in question. This was clearly a political move orchestrated by leftists in the Mayor’s office.

Cars and trucks with Mexican flags have been cruising Hispanic neighborhoods for Mexican Independence Day since the mid-80s. It wasn’t until far-left Mayor Lori Lightfoot sought to weaponize and politicize the celebration that the venue was changed to the streets right in front of Trump Tower.

Expression of cultural pride is one thing. Waving Mexican flags defiantly at Trump Tower has turned the celebration of Mexican Independence Day into a political statement, just as Democrats want it to be.

We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.

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