Musings from the Tower of Babel: It is a tintinnabulation of the most impossible sort.

Welcome to Bedlam where propaganda is fact, sophistry is logic, and ideological cowardice reigns supreme.

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Journalism couldn’t survive in this environment.

The question is why cannot it not resurrect itself?

That is the multi-billion-dollar question.

Because in an age of partisan propaganda, it gets pulled from all sides.

Journalists have a bunker mentality, and they cannot see how they have failed because they would have to venture out of their shelters to see the reality.

They pathologically give themselves countless awards as if they were Halloween candy, and hold symposiums babbling decrees that the public — if they will not buy their product willingly — should be forced to invest in it anyway.

At no time do they wonder how they must change to re-engage the public.

And that is a horrendous obstacle to overcome.

But it isn’t the only noise that shatters the focus.

You have partisan sites such as Townhall decree that (Left-wing) journalism is dead — but exclude partisan Rightist outfits such as Fox News from their list, making excuses that their opinionist hosts such as Sean Hannity are exempt from scrutiny because he proffers opinion, and thus is not a journalist.

But he works on a news channel. He talks about current events. He interviews newsmakers; ergo, he is not exempt from the same criticisms, especially as their journalists and hosts all walk lockstep to the same partisan line. Nice try.

Just as CNN and the Washington Post pounce on Hannity because he isn’t from the Left, Townhall defend his honour because he is from their Right. The arguing is all very convenient — and so hopelessly wrong from both sides of that made-up linear divide.

When you are the mirror image of your enemy, you are the enemy. You are no better than those who hate because you play the same games and are fighting for the same prize. The babbling drowns out the sensibility as journalists pretend they are being informative.

And if that added noise wasn’t confusing enough, through all of that sanctioned propaganda comes sophistry right into the product. It is nothing but sink or swim patriarchal dreck, such as this piece in Aeon babbling about the evils of marriage and that it should be abolished.

The binary thinking is sanctioned insanity that is akin to forcing all single people to be married. If people wish to be wed in a state-sanctioned way, they should be given the absolute freedom to do it. If people do not wish for the formality, they are free to just shack up, and if there are people such as me who love being single, then I can remain footloose and fancy-free. I do not need everybody else to be single to validate my existence.

It all comes down to meddling: forcing everyone else to walk lockstep with you because deep down, you actually are fully aware you are wrong. When you force your opinions on others and preach for marriage — or against –your cult-like bullying is a red flag that you need numbers to prop up your shaky nonsense because you do not have facts on your side.

Your life requirements are yours alone. My life requirements are mine, and do not force me into living your fantasy — and I will not force you into copying my playbook, either.

When we have propaganda, we lose ideological tolerance. We cannot expand or grow because we want artificial confines and false scripts to guide our passive selves. With take no risks, and we do not experiment. We just coast on static rules.

That’s why journalism died, but more importantly — why is can’t resurrect. It is stuck in its own pine box, believing it is a comfort and a fortress of protection.

We need the alternative to journalism — a place that is not beguiled by ideological partisanship and artificial lines in the sand. We need those who understand ideology is a game of logical fallacies and hypothetical constructs, and instead, seeks facts.

It is the simplest method of informing a public. Do not tell them what to think. Do not tell them how to think. Do not give them scripts that turn into props to hold them up.

Thinks facts. The more you have, the more obvious the solutions becomes.

I have been musing from this Tower of Babel for over twenty years, chronicling its cacophony and mixed messages. It is time for clarity and simplicity, and with a map of facts to get out of that maze and out into the open…

 

The “journalism’s crisis = democracy’s crisis” narrative continues — and it’s not working.

When I wrote OutFoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s war on journalism, I discussed how the Fox News Channel used memos to keep ideological consistency in their stories. The documentary by the name same that came out before it, had originally exposed John Moody’s now notorious memos.

Those memos were not just part of the FNC ideological narrative — they were the way journalists walked lockstep to build a wall of defence to prevent anyone from challenge their conclusions when their facts were wanting.

That lockstep is now continuing across the entire profession with a false narrative that a crisis in journalism means a crisis in democracy.

The Los Angeles Times is the latest copycat trying to scare people into coming back.

The headline itself is pure propaganda:

The staggering body count as California newspapers founder, and democracy loses

No, the bombing in Syria has left a body count — what you have is journalists losing their jobs because of their own inability to keep up with the times and change gears. Do not play manipulative games with your bloated egos.

Democracy transmuted with the onset of the Internet — something that journalists to this day cannot grasp. They do not understand that democracy is strong enough to go on without them.

Society has informational resources and venues to speak out. Journalists had the monopoly on both, and now they don’t. If they wanted to stay viable, they should have faced that reality, and done something about it — they had that opportunity, but they thought they didn’t need to take it. That isn’t the public problem.

Journalists want everyone else to accommodate them — and that’s not going to happen.

So this fear-mongering temper tantrum has to stop.

It won’t, but it won’t do the dead industry any good.

People left for a reason. They wouldn’t have if journalism gave them what they needed. It didn’t, and it hasn’t.

If you want to connect to the public, then don’t have a chip on your shoulder. Otherwise, get your walking papers can get out of the way…

 

Associated Press, Fox News, and the Trust Issue.

Fake news is supposed to mean non-media entities parading as legitimate news, but as I shown in 2005, legitimate outlets have been spewing fake news for years.

The Associated Press did just that when they mischaracterized an on-air blunder on Fox News Channel’s MediaBuzz hosted by Howard Kurtz (the original story is archived here and here, while the corrected version is here and here):

Fox News inadvertently posted a graphic showing it lagged other cable news networks in trustworthiness.
It happened during a segment Sunday on “Media Buzz.” Host Howard Kurtz was talking about a Monmouth University poll about whether the media regularly or occasionally report fake news.
But the graphic on the screen showed results from another question about what cable news outlets do respondents trust more. Fox News was last at 30 percent.
Kurtz realized the mistake. He said “that is not the graphic we are looking for. Hold off. Take that down, please.”
The graphic was shown out of sequence. It wasn’t shown “accidentally,” especially as it takes time and planning to create that graphic in the first place. Kurtz discussed the graphic in question, but it wasn’t supposed to come up when it did.

This wasn’t a case of “gotcha.” This wasn’t a story at all.

Kurtz pointed out the distortion, while Left-winged partisan outlets, such as AlterNet took full advantage of the original flawed piece as did BoingBoing. Other outlets, such as the Washington Post covered the incident as did MarketWatch. Some others have been having a fit over AP’s antics.

The kerfuffle is over a very flawed and melodramatic partisan study from Monmouth University that makes a huge leap in logic that “‘Fake News’ Threat to Media; Editorial Decisions, Outside Actors at Fault.”

The AP story proved that fake news is a problem inside the old guard outlets. The FNC is a partisan outlet, as I chronicled in 2005, but here is a case where a bad study wasn’t questioned, and then another media outlet ignored the methodological flaws of the same study and could have brought MediaBuzz to task for not scrutinizing the study. Instead they misrepresented a mundane error and polluted the information stream.

Journalism has a serious trust issue. While the Monmouth study did reveal that people do have trust issues with the news (a no-brainer observation considering that news media use has been eroding for years), how they did it, and the questions they asked leave a lot to be desired. It is like using a psychic to determine if the man whose bone is protruding out from his leg has a broken limb.

But these are the screwy times we live in. There is a profound disrespect for facts. It is all about a narrative that is used to force people to believe the same ideology you believe in — and of course, this ideology completely benefits your backside. It is driven by folksy logic — the belief that life is a parable where fictional patriarchal story structures are logical and natural, and drive reality.

And it’s not.

You have to fight to find facts. They are raw and unprocessed. It is the reason why we need a profession that ignores the narratives to find those nuggets that show us what is really happening.

And when you have a program that takes a study for granted because they appeal to authority, and then have a wire service misrepresent the program, there can be no deep trust. Everything becomes babble, and our instincts to see truth from lies becomes dulled, and we begin to lose our way…

The Battle of the Zombie Grifters: It is war between the Partisan Left and the Partisan Right. How a dead profession cannibalizes itself one propaganda campaign at a time.

America is under siege, and it is a zombie attack. The dead profession of journalism wants citizens to join the ranks of the undead and it has thrown a virus into the mix, known as Propaganda.

Yes, it is really that dreadful, but as not too many people want to be zombies or hang out with zombies, the siege has been something of an epic bust.

That’s why citizens found a nice refuge on social media and walked away from journalism in droves.

Zombies are not pleasant to listen to with their babbling, and they stink.

So seeing that the pickings are, like, super-slim, the zombies have turned on each other. It is a Zombie War, kids.

But since zombies have rotten cabbage for brains, thinking up how to divide themselves into sides was reduced to Left and Right.

Dead journalism has been reduced to partisan propaganda with two grifter warlords trying to reclaim the glory.

The Left side of the partisan equation have gone full-force, being the quintessential paranoid conspiracy theorists extraordinaire. Everyone is to blame: Trump, Russia, Facebook, and the Right-wing media.

The mainstream Left are the equivalent of the Alt Right media, with both sides battling each other for ideological supremacy. It truly is a lose-lose war.

Both the Left and the Right have been busy, playing the same con games, but then pointing out the con games of the other side to prove their brand of partisanship is superior to enemy’s side. It is a form of meta-propaganda.

No one reports the facts anymore. It is just one agit-prop campaign after another.

When I wrote OutFoxed, I was privy to intern emails from the FNC, dictating how things would be covered. In Canada, one major newspaper chain centralized their editorials for all of their papers as they also wanted writers to waive their moral rights.

So let’s just say that journalism has been stifling independent over the last couple of decades. This erosion is nothing new — it happens nationally and locally, mainstream and  fringe, and through broadcast and print.

So when one media outlet points out the sins of another, it is a war tactic. It is akin to a group of armed soldiers telling you that their enemies are armed, and therefore untrustworthy.

Sure.

It is why both sides of this equation are equally manipulative. They want control. They want power. They cannot stand that people may discover that those lines in the sand are not divine, and there may be better ways to develop an ideology that doesn’t involve getting a script and then following it to the letter.

So when partisan on the Right Sinclair Group had their on-air talent not present news but a partisan propaganda tactic, the partisans on the Left jumped on it with their own partisan propaganda tactic of showing the various anchors repeat the same script.

Fight propaganda with more propaganda.

The default assumption is, of course, Sinclair is issuing a script and its enemies exposed it; ergo, the enemies are right, but considering one group showed one cluster…and then another did the same thing, they are, in fact, doing what Sinclair did. They are no different.

And the worst of it is that we have no alternative to a dead profession. We have a war of two grifters trying to reclaim power. We even see governments panicking that they are losing their grip, with France wanting more control over social media.

It’s a changing world terrifying the old guard whose old feints and gambits have failed them — and they would have never allowed for social media and search engines in the first place if they knew how liberating it would have been.

Anarchy slipped in, along with the idea that you didn’t need someone else to validate your thoughts or serve as a middleman to relay your life for you. It is a war on all fronts with journalism’s partisan sides battling each other as they battle social media for dominance they can never regain.

Let them slap fight each other. That’s not the problem — it’s the lack of the alternative that matters — and it matters right now…

It is 2018; so why does North America continue to ignore female media critics?

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It was about 2007 when I was interviewed for a magazine profile, and the editor of the magazine had been surprised at my credentials back then and wondered why I wasn’t promoted more by other outlets and institutions. I did receive an award from my alma mater McMaster University for my career achievements, but he noted it should have been much more than that, and he was right.

I would have if I was Alexander Kitty.

Fast forward to 2018, and I can tell you that the situation is no better for women.

How so?

What has been on everyone’s mind since the 2016 US election?

Fake news.

You would think my 2005 book would suddenly be in demand, all things considered.

Not a chance.

I may be blunt, eccentric, and suffer no fools, but my work is sound and solid. I do my research, and I am thorough.

So why hasn’t Don’t Believe It! been at least mentioned by writers and journalists discussing fake news?

Because I am Writing While Female.

The book has been mentioned in other textbooks and academic papers. If you want to understand the history of fake news, that book will tell you everything you need to know.

The misogyny in the North American press is beyond control, despite #MeToo.

However, not every place is as disgracefully silent as North America.

This is an academic paper from the University of Łodź in Poland that is a discussion of fake news from 2018:

The creation of fake news is nothing new. Alexandra Kitty in her book Don’t Believe It! How Lies Become News (2005) discusses many such cases.

Why is there no mention in North America? Either it is ignorance…or sexism. There is no third option.

Even before then, in 2005, the Irish Times had this passage in an article of book recommendations from various individuals, and this is one:

Don’t Believe It – How Lies Become News (Disinformation Co, £9.99) by Alexandra Kitty should be compulsory for anyone in the media business.

Yes, it should have been because that was the reason I wrote it: so that journalists and other news producers got a clue; so we wouldn’t have fake news being indistinguishable from real news.

But as the book came from a woman, those in the business just ignored it because they are convinced they know everything, and any criticism — real or perceived — levelled at them requires stewing or a temper tantrum…and the requisite demonizing and blaming of the person who is telling them the reality and truth of a situation.

In 2005, I had two media books come out within exactly one month of each other (Don’t Believe It! and OutFoxed). That is not a common feat, and these books, when they were reviewed or noticed, were well received; so I wasn’t churning out dreck. Only one academic paper actually bothered to notice this accomplishment in their footnote:

The publication date for Alexandra Kitty’s Outfoxed was April 15, 2005, nine months after the documentary. One month earlier (March 15, 2005), she had published a book on the broader topic of news and its manipulation.

This is sexism at its absolute worst. Men can be stoned out of their heads, rude, boorish, weird, uninformed, arrogant, and clueless…but they will be seen as visionaries who can see into the future.

Women, on the other hand, are ghettoized. We may get a patronizing pat on the head every once in a while that is supposed to make us girls feel validated enough to just run along all happy and out of the way of the men, but we have to waste precious focus and resources on willfully distracting battles that men do not.

Even now, this article is about how the New York Times’ CEO says print will be dead in ten years…while I say the entire industry of journalism is already dead and buried.

I outline it all in When Journalism was a Thing.

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As well as on the site.

I am not the only woman to be ignored this way. It’s not just an Alexandra Kitty Problem. It’s a Woman Problem.

We don’t allow for women to be taken as seriously as men.

And it is time that rancid cowardice is confronted once and for all.

Journalism’s confirmation bias in the Powerball Jane Doe saga: their narratives never consider alternative explanations.

The Toronto Star has a silly column on the Delaware woman who won over a half billion dollars just doing the slacker thing of buying a lottery ticket and now she is suing to remain anonymous.

The Star’s take is very instructive: they are taking an anonymous say-so that she is afraid for her safety — and then the reporter lists some cases where there was trouble after a lottery win.

The article has a severe case of a confirmation bias: only looking at evidence (or in this case, unrelated anecdotes) that seems to confirm the theory, not the ones refuting it.

Why is the Star taking an anonymous woman’s word as the gospel truth? The press in Canada has been in a tizzy for anonymous women making #MeToo claims — but then turn around and not question an anonymous claim on another matter?

Journalists use anonymous sources all the time (I never did use anonymous as a reporter until I was asked to write the book OutFoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s was on journalism. I was given two thick binders of interview transcripts from the movie in their entirety, but while the vast majority were on the record, three former Fox News employees were anonymous — and no one bothered to tell me who they were. Well, I am not an old school journalist for nothing — just based on the content of the interviews, I managed to find out the identities of all three within ten minutes. Usually, people would think having already completed interview transcripts would make things easier, but I had to verify everything independently, and that was a nightmare, especially given the tight timeframe I was given. Since I could be confident with what I had, I could use all three anonymous interviews for the book; otherwise, I would have had to skip any one that I could not pin down either the identity or the content of the interview. I literally slept one hour a day in the five months I had to complete the project); so the waffling stance on such sources is interesting.

But in this case, the reporter chooses to gloss over any other theory why someone who just won a massive amount of money would be behaving in such an obstinate manner.

First of all, if you do not want to have your name and face plastered all over the place after winning that much money, don’t play the lottery offering that kind of money. You knew what you signed up for, and no one owes you a dime. If you cannot even smile for the camera and let people know who you are because that is too much for you — don’t play. No one put a gun to your head.

Second, and more importantly, there are at least three very important reasons why gaming institutions insist on transparency:

  1. The “winner” may have stolen the ticket. In Canada, we have had convenience store workers steal tickets from customers and then claim them as their own, but it can just as easily be a personal support worker, maid, or anyone else who could swipe a ticket, and then pretend it was theirs.
  2. We have had spouses try to take the entire jackpot and leave out their partner who would be legally entitled to half. We have even had people steal a group ticket of which they were a member, and then try to have a child or spouse claim the entire jackpot. I would be very suspicious of someone wanting anonymity for that reason.
  3. Unless we have a name and a face, for all we know, the winner is bogus and the lottery is a scam. We have has insider rigging; it would not be a stretch to have phantom winners. Lottery money doesn’t come from thin air — it is the pooling of all the buyers who have a right to know where and to whom their money is going.

So there was no shortage of other scenarios the columnist could have used. Why would someone go to the trouble of a legal suit to keep her identity hidden? That is the central question here. I do not buy the innocent explanation, for example. Your life is going to radically change when you are suddenly given that kind of money, but you knew that when you bought your ticket.

I believe there are a myriad of reasons why you would go to those extreme measures to keep people from knowing you won the lottery, and this is a story ripe for local journalists to investigate. She may be hiding from someone because she is afraid of them — or afraid of being forced to hand over some of those winnings to them. Bringing up volunteerism and community is often a deflection from stating the real reason for wanting to be anonymous.

As a journalist, every time someone gave me the church and apple pie sob story, a little digging showed me something far more realistic, and almost always held the key to what the real story was. I am not saying she stole a ticket, but if I were a reporter covering this story, I would be hitting the pavement to confirm or refute my instincts with facts.

I wouldn’t be writing a column giving an unverified yarn credence. I would want to know the why of this story, and then dig from there.

OutFoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s war on journalism

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The director of 2004’s smash hit documentary Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalismteams with journalist Alexandra Kitty in an even more detailed and updated examination of how media empires, led by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News, have been running a “race to the bottom” in television news. They examine media consolidation by focusing on the Fox News Channel: How did Fox gain prominence? How did the Fox News Channel gain audiences and influence public debate? How does Fox report reality? Is the network merely interpreting events or is it pushing propaganda? Who are the main players and how do they treat their friends and enemies? Why should readers care about how Fox takes liberties with its facts?

Each chapter blends interviews from Greenwald’s documentary, transcripts from Fox programs, and other research pertaining to Fox News not only to illustrate the Fox “mentality,” but also to show the factual, ethical and structural problems with the news channel. Interviews and transcripts are analyzed to give readers a strong sense of what Fox is actually telling its audiences.