The Liars That Get Away

Professional liars like James O’Keefe are able to successfully manipulate the media into damaging their targets.  Amanda Marcotte writes:

At this point, he releases a video, everyone knows up front that he’s a liar, and everyone will just pretend that he’s not for the 12-24 hours it takes for the video to ruin someone’s life.  And he’ll basically gloat in public by releasing the full video, as if to say, “Hey, we all know I’m lying, but no one seems to give a flying fuck!”And on that, he’s right.

How do you fight against that?

This folds nicely into a larger question of how we fight a range of falsehoods perpetuated and popularized by the media.  New organizations (or companies purporting to be news organizations such as Fox News) can all too easily put false info out there, at which point it becomes “effective truth” (Digby):

This is why O’Keefe is able to keep going. The Village really believes that it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not once it’s “out there”. O’Keefe and the Brietbartians know this and since they get oxygen from the fact that liberals flail around trying to prove them wrong

This is a dire strategic problem for our country.  Without the proper facts we cannot make the proper decisions, and one party is content with governing based on wild falsehoods:

MAHER: New Rule – Fantasies are for sex, not public policy. When you go down the list of useless distractions that make up the Republican Party agenda; public unions and Sharia law, anchor babies and a mosque at ground zero, ACORN and National Public Radio, the war on Christmas, the New Black Panthers, Planned Parenthood, Michelle Obama’s war on desserts…

…you realize that one reason nothing gets done in America is that one of the political parties puts so much more into fantasy problems. Governing this country with Republicans is like rooming with a meth addict.

You want to address real life problems like when the rent is due and they’re saying “How can you even think of that stuff when there’s police scanner voices coming out of the air conditioning unit?”

This creates a massive power imbalance favoring lie-based politicians and pundits, and leads to policy decisions with very real effects.

So what can we do to counter?  A few things:

  1. Support non profit journalism (via Miguel Bloomfontosis)
  2. Build a website to document lies, sources, and media acceptance in a way that makes said data easy to digest and use.
  3. Hit the pocketbooks of media organizations that go along with falsehoods (via Olive)
  4. Proof by Prank – If we are going to drive home how toxic this is, we need to use the media’s willingness to publish anything buzz worthy coupled with their love of navel gazing to our own advantage.
  5. Cultivate brave and perceptive public figures who can – when a new lie hits – see it for what it is and step in to counter it.
  6. Break up the monopolies.

1.  Any support that gives real journalism a chance to live and thrive outside the bounds of a profit motive will serve us in this battle, and in many more to come.

2.  With intelligent data we can identify trends and bolster arguments.  Do some organizations fall more readily for these kind of lies?  How often do they repeat them?  How long does it take to issue retractions?  How frequently do they repeat those retractions?  Are the retractions made through the same media as the lie(is a tv mistake retracted only on the website)?  Etc.  What we need here are dedicated volunteers to gather data, verify data, and a web application that can transform that data into a story laypeople can quickly grasp.

3. Armed with #2 we will know who to go after.  Is CNN especially susceptible?  Then we need a campaign to go after their advertisers.

4. Using your opponent’s strengths and weakness alike against them is essential when fighting a more powerful foe.  The media’s strength is that it can take any story and disseminate it quickly to a large number of people.  Their weaknesses are a willingness to forgo diligence in order to snag a potentially juicy story, and a love of gazing inwards.  This gives us the opportunity for a real one-two punch.  Our first strike takes advantage of their strength and willingness to accept “evidence” at face value.  A false video of our own could gain wide play before it gets outed.  At which point we engage in the essential step two – claiming responsibility and using the prank as an opportunity to drive home repeatedly the problem the media has with accepting stories like this uncritically (and dearth of critical reporting in general).

5. Once someone like James O’Keefe let’s the cat out of the bag – we know.  The instant a known liar puts forth a ridiculous story we need people in high places to go on the news shows and tear down both the lies of people like O’Keefe, and to criticize the media directly for accepting them.

6. Media companies have become large corporations that collude on coverage.  As such when it comes to the product (news articles) – we are unable to get the product we need from the companies that utterly dominate the market.  This impacts what gets covered (blogs may be able to expose cracks here and there, and if we pretend wikileaks isn’t being politically prosecuted we can imagine viable alternatives to getting the truth out – but largely investigative journalism happens at the pleasure of these large media companies).  For a country that votes a functioning news service is a public utility.  If private companies want in on the game that’s fine, but there needs to be a greater responsibility to provide accurate news – even if that responsibility only comes from societal pressure.  At the very least though – we need to break them up.  Large multinationals are simply too powerful to respond to pressure in a way that makes them truly accountable.

With each of these initiatives in place we could make sizable headway towards changing the way our media functions.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: