Going after Facebook: Advertisers and Media Outlets knew about Facebook’s methods — why do you think they used that platform to shill their own products?

If No News, Send Rumors (1991) by Stephen Bates is probably one of the greatest books about journalism ever written, and I highly recommend reading it if you want to understand why journalism collapsed.

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I have both the hardcover and paperback versions of it, and have recommended this book for years.

It doesn’t provide the thesis that journalism had troubles. What it does is very simple: it chronicles the world of journalism across the decades, including ethics. These are well-research vignettes, and I consider it essential reading.

It showed the profound lack of morals in the profession: how one journalist planted evidence to make an innocent woman look guilty of murder (spoiler alert: it worked so well that she was sentenced to death; though she wasn’t executed). It showed how reporters pushed for wars over the decades, essentially advocating death.

So when I read the continued propaganda campaign against Facebook from both The Guardian, but especially BuzzFeed, I am reminded just how hilarious the fear-mongering has become.

Facebook was always about algorithms and giving advertisers tailor-made campaigns and readers to them. That was the attraction of Facebook in the first place. These advertisers pulling out now is a real knee-slapper — as if they didn’t know or take advantage of it. They would have to know it, and tweak their campaigns to take advantage of it.

Of course they knew and traditional media did not keep up, and lost out.

I knew it, too. I never assumed the Internet was private, or that advertisers wouldn’t salivate at the idea. That’s rubbish.

Live Out Loud was the acknowledgement that privacy was less important than self-expression. People knew the risks, they just didn’t care.

So why the shift in narrative?

For journalists, they are trying to reclaim ground they lost based on their own methods. They never kept up, and paid the price.

Will it work?

No.

It will not encourage people to go back to legacy media. After all, media outlets also used Facebook to get specialized audiences to migrate to their own platforms. So they took advantage of the same technology and morals to try to benefit from it.

I do foresee another medium coming in, however. It is inevitable. The Internet was transformative, but it is also transitory: it is the in-between transition merging the previous three media into one — that there will be another that takes the best of all four is a given.

The world spins. It is not static, and why journalists can never see the obvious is the reason they fell behind and disconnected from the very audiences they are now manipulating for their own benefit…

Memo to the CBC: Journalism prompts no closer look at anything. If it did, it would be questioning the very propaganda it is now so gleefully pushing.

CBC has a very deceptive piece here about BuzzFeed UK’s yarns about the fate of dead Russians in the UK. It is worth tearing apart not just because journalists are arrogant sots, but because the piece tries to spin a narrative that doesn’t align with reality.

Let’s go back to the very flawed “dossier” BuzzFeed published. They got themselves in trouble in more ways than one — and then ran to a former senior FBI official to try to verify that dossier because they were not capable to do any actual fact-checking themselves. The dossier itself was written by Christopher David Steele, a former MI6 agent. That it came from the UK and not the US matters for reasons I will explain below.

The provenance of the original dossier should be a red flag that BuzzFeed has caught the eye of people in the optic manipulation business. BuzzFeed is not like Jane’s Intelligence Review. It is not a publication that can handle any sort of “deep” investigative journalism. It can be a proxy for special interests, but it cannot be taken as real investigative journalism.

Because BuzzFeed’s stories leave a lot to be desired. There are a lot of questions, such as why would Russia bother killing ex-pats whose best before dates expired years ago, or who had something to gain by making it look like there is a Big Bad enemy to fear. The smell test for the narrative fails. When we focus on fearing an enemy, we do not focus on scrutinizing those who either pretend to be our allies, or are neutral and hiding in plain sight.

But these kinds of games are nothing new. Magicians make a living of using misdirection to get attention away from the obvious and towards lies. In fact, one stage magician, John Mulholland, wrote the CIA’s manual on trickery and deception decades ago, but was finally declassified and is freely available for a long while now.

But CBC refuses to question the narratives proffered by BuzzFeed — or how accurate their stories actually are.

But then again, CBC is the same network that had one of its foreign correspondents in a war zone in the middle of the night, pretending to quiet her camera crew so they wouldn’t be detected, but then had glaring lights all around them as if soldiers had super-hearing, but were utterly blind. Yeah, you weren’t in any real danger, were you, kids? Nice try.

What the CBC piece does prove, beyond a doubt, is that journalism is still seen as a place to pollute the information stream to frighten middle class people into giving up their rights in the name of freedom. The problem is that it really isn’t working.

Another problem is that journalism isn’t actually what it pretends to be. Finding sources and stories takes effort, but journalists go to (a) authorities in government, and (b) public relations firms to get information. Whenever they try to go one step more, they always have to walk back because the story turned out to be false (you can read Don’t Believe It!, the upcoming When Journalism was a Thing, or earlier entries on this web site if you want proof from me).

Social media became a real threat to those who wish to quash free speech and democracy; and so, an online publication is an ideal place for a vested interest to spin a yarn — particularly one whose base is not the United States — not because the UK is some horrid place, but because the US has an inconvenient measure in place that the UK does not.

Because BuzzFeed’s narrative is pure war propaganda, I find it very interesting that these stories are originating from Britain, a nation that has no equivalent to FARA in the US.

If you do not know what FARA is, then shame on you. I mean it. Shame on you. Whenever a foreign agent or country wishes to seek the services of an American law firm, lobbyist, or public relations firm, those firms have to register with the US government. This has been law since 1938. So really, shame on you for not knowing that.

Why it is shameful not to know is simple: whenever a group of foreigners are suddenly seen as “good folks” or “bad guys” in the press, that means that a foreign agent has paid a PR firm to make their people look good while making their rivals or targets look bad, and reporters, being the lazy and deceptive slackers that they are, cribbed the press release. That means that there is a paper trail in the US…but not in other countries. UK has unbelievably effective public relations firms — and they do not have to let anyone know who is footing their bills. If you are particularly dense, the year 1938 should give you a clue why FARA was created in the first place — because it was about preventing Nazis from infecting the US information stream.

The UK government is now openly talking about meddling in journalism — and a government that is already in a weakened position thanks to their own election bungling, they are not exactly disinterested parties. May’s government will find ways to make it seem indispensable anyway it knows how. There is nothing impressive with BuzzFeed because they are giving a floundering government the perfect narrative to deflect attention away from their own troubles as they try to make themselves look strong.

Contrary to the spin that it was “highly likely” that the Russian regime ordered hits (notice there is never any definitive proof) — using a method that would be immediately associated with them — and then pretending these deaths were not hits — sounds like a theory Inspector Lestrade would offer to Sherlock Holmes — or Sheriff Amos Tupper would offer to Jessica Fletcher. The underlying logic is more aligned with what an uninitiated and sheltered middle class Westerner would think Soviets would do than be what an actual Soviet would do because the mindsets are nothing alike. Either the Soviets are cunning strategists — or bumbling buffoons. They cannot be both at the same time, and this working theory reeks of someone who is both culturally illiterate and has a severe bigoted view of Orthodox Christians.

If you are going to malign an entire group of people with a paranoid conspiracy theory, have the good sense to at least look up a few things on Wikipedia to get your story semi-straight.

The loopy and fear-mongering narrative makes little sense: those Soviet ex-pat spies have already spilled everything they knew to their new hosts long ago. Their use or threat would be extremely limited given they have been out of the loop for as long as they have been. So the propaganda here makes little sense.

Do nations meddle in the affairs of other nations? Of course they do, but that is the unfortunate byproduct of allowing bored control freaks to be leaders of nations. Americans have been meddling in the elections of foreign countries for decades, and they get indignant and huffy if you point out the obvious to them.

And through all of these ghost stories to frighten the gullible middle class, this yarn does suffer from a huge confirmation bias: that if the Soviets — who aren’t all that powerful globally — would be doing such things, then which other more powerful countries are doing it, too?

For instance, I have noticed quite a few high-level hackers have wound up dead lately. Why aren’t we questioning those very, very coincidental deaths?

Because they would reveal that those who point fingers at others have three fingers pointing straight back at them.

Contrary to the article’s assertion that journalism “prompted a closer look” at 14 deaths — journalists were fed information from a source with vested interests to spin a certain narrative a certain way, allowing various institutions to use it as an excuse to push their own narrative that they are needed to Save Humanity from the Bad Guys.

It was done in precisely the same way during the first Gulf War when the PR firm Hill and Knowlton was hired to bring public support to Kuwait. Their secret weapon was a teenaged girl — but you had a couple of reporters back then, who had thinking caps — and they found out the story of Iraqi soldiers killing Kuwaiti newborns was a lie.

The structures of both stories played identically; however, the mandatory FARA filings gave savvier people a lead that perhaps the story was a fraud. Unfortunately, the stunt did its trick and the war was already over.

And make no mistake, the purpose of this propaganda dread tale is to prime people to support a war they should absolutely avoid at all costs, but this time, someone was smart enough to use an Internet era to avoid having to file with FARA and do it in an English-speaking country that has superior PR without the pesky foreign agent registration act. They still reach a global audience, but through the backdoor.

Far from journalism prompting a “closer look”, what it is trying to do is resurrect itself at the cost of human lives. It is a psychopathic and desperate gambit, that blinds with fear, not see with rational calm and critical thinking. We have gone through this scheme before over the decades, but this time, with journalism being a dead profession. It is not doing what it is supposed to do. BuzzFeed may be a digital-only outlet, but its fortunes have tumbled, and its reach is not sparking what it is supposed to be sparking. It would be something that someone who doesn’t actually understand this whole Internet thing would assume is some hip place where all the Young People surf, and leak it to them.

It will be interesting to see what the next move will be when it didn’t do what traditional outlets could have done even 20 years ago.

The former Yugoslavia this is not, when people bought whatever CNN told them to believe.

And it reminds me of all those Dateline/48 Hours/ 20/20 stories about how the police go after innocent people because they form a theory, and then just look at who they believe is guilty without asking hard questions or creating alternative theories you need to confirm or refute.  BuzzFeed didn’t do that, and that calls into question their methods, motives, but most importantly of all, their sources.

That is not journalism. It is partisan propaganda, and we are living in an age of propaganda.

When news stories pick bogeymen, it is usually a preface to a needless war. It never fails.

If we had genuine journalism, the real impetus for the resurrected Red Scare would have been exposed, the same way the real impetus for the first Gulf War was exposed, albeit a little too late.

But we don’t. We have stenographers whose partisan pseudo-journalistic outlets spew propaganda to dwindling audiences. The theatre of patriarchal narrative is the same, but the seats are still empty.

Because while this may be an Age of Propaganda, but also an age out Outrage Passivity and slacktivism where people think marching in the streets and ranting on Twitter will make all the problems go away. When people ignore it and stand their ground, nothing actually changes.

So the CBC is doing what the rest of journalism is trying to do — use hyperbole to pretend that journalism still matters. It doesn’t, kids. It cannot compete with selfies or memes.

You know, something like this…

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Dear Buzzfeed: in 2005, I pointed out the fake news crisis in my first book. My 2018 book and this web site has said we are now in an information apocalypse. Why is Aviv Ovadya’s belated word worth more than mine? Because he’s a man and I am a woman?

Journalism is rife with rank misogyny. Unless a man says it is so, a woman’s well-researched word means absolutely nothing.

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Buzzfeed’s sexism continues with this article:

He Predicted The 2016 Fake News Crisis. Now He’s Worried About An Information Apocalypse.

Sorry, Buzzfeed, I predate Aviv Ovadya.

My proof:

Don’t Believe It!: How lies becomes news.

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and

When Journalism was a Thing.

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But journalism has attracted men who cannot imagine a woman could actually predict anything. It is an inherent rig within their own structures.

And, by the way, my first book has been quoted in other books, academic journals, and been used as a textbook. It is not as if it is some obscure, extremist book. It is well researched, and warned the profession that they had to make serious changes, or else no one would be able to discern their work from propaganda, which is what fake news essentially is.

This web site has also repeatedly shown that the profession has collapsed. My book is coming out, but it goes into greater detail.

But when you are a woman pointing out troubles, you are dismissed as silly and hysterical.

I am neither silly nor hysterical. I am rightfully angry that I am being ignored and shut out.

But I also know that I am not the only woman who gets ignored this way.

Journalism collapsed because of the conniving games they play: and they should stop having the default assumption that only men can see the troubles in a profession and society.

Why fooling journalists has always been child’s play

The Hijab hoax is yet another black eye for journalists.

CNN reported the story as fact.

So did the BBC.

And the Guardian.

Newsweek did.

The New York Times did.

The Toronto Star did.

The Globe and Mail did.

BuzzFeed did before their cleansing.

The CBC did, linking it to other hate crimes.

Oh dear, and a 11-year-old can fool the international press with ease.

No wonder people no longer believe the press.

How can such a hoax be believed by “seasoned” reporters?

In this case, the “hate crime” was part of a convenient narrative for the press in their never-ending feud with the American president.

It is the reason #MeToo took off so rapidly. It was part of connecting the dots.

Or removing liberties in a game of Go.

Except there were way too many red flags to ignore.

There are real cases of things happening, except the crimes are not palatable for the press. Here is a cute little kid who is eloquent, and the crime was PG-13 friendly.

Real-life attacks are not so clean and sanitary.

So the press rolled with it with a roar, without asking hard questions.

You ask about the surveillance footage. You walk the same path with a stopwatch, and take notes of possible witnesses and possible inconsistencies.

That was the problem from the get-go. The media didn’t look at all for corroborating evidence. You talk to neighbours and teachers. You talk to the local gossips. You talk to the crossing guards and schoolmates.

You find out who is the victim. You work toward finding the culprit. Even as a journalist, you have to do the legwork. Why would this girl be a target, rather than another girl. Was it convenience, for instance, or something else?

This was a classic case of journalism by stenography. Grab a press release and roll with it.

And then other media crib the notes, amplifying the story that was never, even if it were true, been overplayed as it did, considering the number of real hate crimes that never make it into the news that were far more violent, severe, and persistent. It did not warrant that kind of coverage it got. I can see the Toronto Star and the Toronto Sun making a mention of it without naming the victim to protect her identity…and ensure what was reported was, you know, true, and a couple of local stations, but that’s it.

Hate crime hoaxes are a murky area: people feel uncomfortable with them, and they are on the outskirts of being a more hardcore version of a hoax: it is a form, inventional or otherwise, of propaganda, and even war propaganda.

Because it incites and takes advantage of the already established line in the sand.

This will set back a lot of real hate crimes. It will play into the hands of those who think these are not real cases. The press had the duty to pull back. They could have said there was a report of an attack, but instead of giving the girl’s identity and then speculate whether it was a hate crime or not, they should have given the details of what they had — and didn’t have. Was there surveillance? Witnesses? Evidence?

That’s what good journalism needed to be — but as usual, we didn’t get that at all.

And that is the reason a world of grown-ups got fooled by a child.

 

It’s not about the advertising model: it’s about sophistry fatigue: Mashable and Buzzfeed’s woes show the need for a new model of journalism.

Mashable and Buzzfeed are fast becoming yesterday’s reads. The received funding from investors and thought they could buck a trend plaguing traditional media. No dice.

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Because they have the same problems of the traditional press.

They are filled with sophistry, opinion, and filler. The facts are sprinkled here and there to maintain a façade of legitimacy.

The press has diluted the products so much, that they have lost their mandates, and most online news outfits (The Intercept being a noted exception as is WikiLeaks), roared on to the scene with a model that was all filler and sophistry because they were going to wow the crowds with attitude.

Attitude doesn’t cut it. Attitude is cheap and it is usually a feint to disguise the fact that you’re not all that. It is a form of misdirection, and no matter how sassy you are, your product speaks louder than your sass.

The advertising model is being blamed, but really, if the crowds were there, advertisers wouldn’t even care. They would not turn up their nose at the rush. The Drudge Report could not be simpler, but its elegance in presentation ensures that people will come frequently to get a pulse of what’s going down in the world. No one in the news world has managed to clue in to the its structure’s significance.

So it is not about the finding model. It is about trying to stretch the tiny attention spans of audiences who are trained to point and click by the way tablets and smartphones have been set-up.

People come to a site, determine tl;dr, and then leave. No investment, and why not?

Because the Internet is all about fragmentation.

It is about reacting, not reflecting.

That is the problem that has to be addressed just as news producers have to relearn how to understand their atom of their existence: the fact.

They have to understand reality and truth, and Buzzfeed and Mashable never got any of it.

The model of journalism needs to change. The new media and the old are both equally clueless that their structure is flawed and unworkable.

Figure out the news part, and everything else begins to fall into place.

 

Only a true media critic knows that Buzzfeed is in serious trouble. That’s right; cheap filler quizzes and first-world GIFs are not going to save Buzzfeed or journalism.

Buzzfeed is purging its ranks.

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I guess the inane quizzes, shallow commentary, and blasting Donald Trump is not helping its bottom line.

It is the easy and cheap way of doing business.

They shamelessly pander to Millennials and evoke countless pop culture references, which isn’t easy these days as there has been so much splintering in the entertainment industry, that you don’t have the Michael Jacksons or the Princess Dianas to ride on their iconic coattails.

Their journalism is not even journalism. It is beyond horrible. The Intercept it is not. It is for vapid and shallow self-obsessed people with no attention spans, and you really cannot build an audience around people like that.

That the Internet is not saving journalism is a very troubling sign: when there were newspapers, there was news. When radio came along, there was news from two different media. When television came along, there was news from three different media.

But when the Internet came, the profession imploded.

The natural assumption was that there would be new breeds of journalists and new outlets that began online, but the offerings have been shoddy and disturbingly bad.

And now it is becoming obvious these ventures will not be able to sustain themselves.

These properties have been vastly overinflated, but they cannot deliver.

What has been happening to traditional media outlets is starting to happen to the online ones as well.

And the problems will not just go away. Because operations such as Buzzfeed have no clue about creating a news product, there will be no traction.

And there only so many life-sink quizzes you can do before you realize you are wasting your life for nothing.