I WAS Fake News

Who am I?  Why am I here?

If you, dear reader, happen to be d’un certain âge, you know what I did just there, channeling Vice-Admiral James Stockdale, the running mate of Ross Perot in 1992.  So you can rightly deduce already that I am of the generation that uses a cellphone for calling more than for selfies.

… And that’s the one tidbit I will divulge about myself and not much else.  My life exists within the intersection of some tiny occupational and avocational subsets.  If I told you how I make my living or what I do for kicks, Google will bring you to my doorstep in a couple of clicks.  And I can’t afford that, because the folks who sign my paycheck have no patience for my interest in … well, in the things that brought you to Mark Tokarski’s Piece of Mindful blog.  And so I cloak my identity behind a pen name, hiding not so much from you, but from my employers.

Mark has very graciously invited me to join the team of thinkers and writers that contribute to his blog.  I do not have the Web presence of Tyrone and Daddie and Straight, and so I thought it best to introduce myself by answering the question that is sometimes put to commenters: How did you find your way to this website?

The answer begins with the Pausbezoek …

Back in May of 1985, Pope John Paul II decided to make an official visit to the Netherlands, long considered one of the loyalest provinces of the Roman Church.  His visit turned out to be one of the most awkward episodes of his papacy.  I watched the reports on ABC News of the massive protests and angry mobs that greeted him stop after stop, with stone-throwing hooligans dogging his every appearance.

(By the bye, the whole rock-chucking business puzzled me …. The Dutch way would be to put sugar in the Popemobile’s gas tank.  Make up kooky songs lampooning the Vicar of Christ. String a wire across the parade route and scalp any convertible-riding cardinals in his entourage. But throwing stones? That’s for hill folk …)

I watched these protests anxiously. Not because I cared a fig about the Pope, but because I was planning myself to take a tour through Europe in a couple of months, spending half my time in Holland.  I would be alone with just a backpack and a Eurail pass.  Would I be safe?  Or would roving gangs of Dutch thugs threaten me with brickbats?  Might I be thronged by chanting mobs of Lowland progressives, denouncing an intruder from Reaganite America?

When I finally arrived in the Netherlands, one of the first things I asked the friends I was staying with was their opinion of the Pausbezoek, the Papal Visit.  My friends didn’t think there was much to say.  But what about the huge protests? The massive demonstrations?  The verdomde stones?!?

They asked: What do you mean?  It was the opposite.  The Pope came … and hardly anyone showed up.  Not even crickets.  Maybe there were a few protesters in Utrecht. (But, eh, Utrecht—what do you expect?). Otherwise, the embarrassment was squarely on the Pope for being such a lousy draw.

I didn’t argue.  But I knew what I had seen on television.  My friends had to be wrong.  After all, how could they know what happened elsewhere in the Netherlands?  Holland’s a big country, right?  (Well, actually, it’s a small country, and smaller still after a hard rain.)  Back home, I can’t say with certainty what happened in the next town over. So although they were smart people and well-read, on this matter my friends were just misinformed, I concluded, and I was justified to be on my guard as I headed on towards Rotterdam.

After all … Why would Peter Jennings have lied to me???

(As it turns out, the worst thing that happened to me in all of Europe was that a puny pot-dealer in Amsterdam shoved me in the back for the impoliteness of ignoring him.  I encountered far more serious threats immediately upon my return to the States.)

Less than a year later, in the spring of 1986, I was helping to organize a pro-life march in a famously pro-choice city.  (And please, commenters, this blog is not the place to debate the abortion issue: I am not now advocating, but just giving context.) My assignment was to notify local news outlets in hopes of getting coverage.  Truth be told, there was nothing to cover.  About two dozen people showed up to amble peaceably down the sidewalk for a couple of miles.  It was a non-event, the tree that fell in the forest with no one to hear it.

EXCEPT … for the one local news crew that bothered to cover it.  However, the weekend producer at that station must have been a sympathetic Irish Catholic.  When I watched the eleven o’clock news, I was stunned: clever camera angles and florid reportage made our motley crew seem like a million-man march.  Everything said and shown was technically true … but the net result was a deception!

Then I thought back to what I had seen on TV exactly a year before, the reports from the Netherlands about the Pausbezoek.  Could it be?  Had my Dutch friends been right all along?  Was the frightening footage more fiction than fact?

A colleague had videotaped the local news report on our pro-life march, and I watched it again.  There I was, walking down Massachusetts Avenue, looking like one in a myriad (instead of the one in a score that I actually was).

It was as clear as day. I was my own firsthand witness: the news could be faked.  And that night, I was the fake news.  And I wondered …  What couldn’t the media accomplish, I wondered, if they added a little more active dishonesty to the mix?

I would find out a few years later at my former job.  It was a one-of-a-kind position in the country, and so I became the go-to guy that news outlets would call from time to time for an expert opinion.  I learned quickly: a journalist never slows down for the facts.  If they have a pre-conceived notion of any sort, you cannot deter them.  At one point I taped an interview with a cable news network (let the reader understand).  I didn’t say what the reporter thought I should.  But that was no problem for him.  He simply taped himself asking different questions from the ones I had answered and cropped my responses to fit.  When the piece aired, I was magically voicing the very opinion that he wanted me to provide!

(Without giving away too much: almost every news outlet I encountered wanted me to lend credence to their belief that they, the national news media, have been eroding the distinctiveness of American dialects.  There is, however, no data to support this self-important opinion.)

I complained bitterly to my boss.  He told me, “For any news story that I know from my own direct experience, I have never seen the media tell it correctly.” Subsequent events, including a small book tour, corroborated his sentiment.

I learned quickly that there are two kinds of newspeople.  First, there are the incurious pretty faces that spout whatever the press kit tells them to say.  Then there are the “hard-hitting” journalistas who bend all creation to align with their agenda.   I spent an hour and a half taping an interview with a public-broadcasting personality.  She pressed me long and hard to procure for herself my expert vindication in the face of her critics.  I couldn’t do it: the facts didn’t support her.  No bother!  The bits and pieces of our conversation got sewn together in post-production to air as fifteen minutes that made her sound like the expert and me like a dullard.

Another time I appeared on an evening news program.  The producer set it up as a remote interview—like I was someplace far, far away, connected to the anchors through the miracle of satellite linkup.  In fact, I was in the same studio as the rest of the news team, sitting twenty feet to their right.  I had to be coached to look into the camera throughout the interview and fight like hell the natural urge to turn my head to speak directly at the person addressing me.  It was a charade: fakery for fakery’s sake. There was no benefit whatsoever in the deception.  (Subsequently, an instance of something similar with Ashley Banfield and Nancy Grace has caught the attention of media critics.)

And so again I wondered … If a reputable news source is willing to practice deceit when there is absolutely nothing to be gained by it, what would they be willing to do when there is actually something at stake, financially or politically?

With my own direct experiences in mind of being made into fake news, I began to consume mainstream media differently.  The siege at Waco, the war in Bosnia, the 1993 WTC bombing, … my acceptance of the official narrative became provisional only.  Once I opened my mind to the possibility of intentional deceit within the Fourth Estate, I began to spot traces of it regularly.

And that’s what eventually led me to the Piece of Mindful blog.  Of all the Truther inquiries I have ever inputted into a search engine, the one that I searched on the most is this phrase: “the news is fake.”  Most of the sites that come up, I now realize, are misdirection or limited hangouts.  But once, and once only, on about page nine of the results, an entry from POM came up.  And I have been hanging out here ever since.

If, by some long shot, you are still with me, there are two conclusions I would like to draw from my experiences.

The first is unlikely to shock any visitor to this website: much of the news is fictitious.  And by “the news” I mean the mainstream sources (ABC-CBS-NBC-PBS …), not just the alternative websites.  This is not conjecture, conspiracy theory, or a circumstantial argument.  This is eyewitness, firsthand observation from the guy who was made into fake news by the alphabet outlets.

The second point is more subtle: one creative editor can produce as much fakery as a troupe of actors. I am seeing lately in Truther forums a Manichaean tendency to declare that everything, everywhere in the news is pure fiction.  There are no shades of gray; just the black and white of pure fiction or pure history.  In any news report you see, some say, everyone is an actor or a CGI cartoon or just an imaginary character.

This is NOT how I encountered fake news.  In my experience, the facts were not so much fabricated as subverted.  Something real happened, and that something was nipped and tucked and massaged and reframed to present something else that didn’t happen.  I am real.  My expertise is real.  My interviews were real and the words that came out of my mouth were real.  No one synthesized my voice or digitalized my image.  But the net effect of the presentations was often to convey a meaning other than the one I actually expressed.  This is the power of a clever editor to fake the news.

One finds often on Truther websites the Latin dictum: Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus. (Untrue in a single thing, untrue in all things.)   This is, of course, a legal (i.e. procedural) doctrine.  It is not a statement of logic.  Indeed, in and of itself this dictum is a logical fallacy.  A single typo, after all, does not obviate the truth of an entire book.  Likewise, the fact that the Powers-That-Be falsify the historical record on many points does not entail that the whole record is fictional. Some facts are fabricated, no doubt; but many more have likely been subverted through editing for the purpose of societal conditioning.

Did World War II happen?  My friends in the Netherlands, who lived through the hongerwinter  of 1944-45—the winter of starvation when the German occupiers claimed all the food for themselves—they know that the war was real.  They still suffer the lingering effects of that hungry winter in their troubled digestive tracts.  The fakery of much World War II propaganda does not entail that no battles were fought, no atrocities were committed, and no prisoners were taken.  Indeed, it strikes me as entirely plausible that psychopaths like Winston Churchill would glibly play draughts with human pieces across the checkerboard of the planet, caring little for the real blood that was really spilt. I would make similar points about the Vietnam War, ISIS, NASA, and many other Truther topics.

This worldview is perhaps a little more complicated than some current trends in conspiracy theorizing.  It requires a more tiring and delicate mental balancing act between provisional acceptance and provisional rejection of events in the media.  It is, however, true to my personal experience, and true also to my understanding of falsifiability in science. If we are too quick to label everything as whole-cloth fiction, we fall into a circular pattern of reasoning in which all evidence soon becomes moot.  At that point, conspiratorial thinking becomes dogma instead of theory, and we lose any hope of awakening our fellow-citizens here in the Matrix.

But waking up people is what I hope to do.  That is who I am, and that is why I am here at Piece of Mindful. 

M.R.

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15 Responses to I WAS Fake News

  1. annspinwall4 says:

    Marrten, Thank you so much for this excellent post. It answered many questions for me. I don’t like the new meme that nothing we know about history is real. I felt sure that TPTB could care less about the welfare and safety of our young, naive, soldiers. They are in control with propaganda and fake reports of what is really happening “on the ground”, but blood is spilled, populations of various countries are starved and real people suffer.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Maarten, and welcome aboard. We look forward to your future writings.

    I was raised in a strict Catholic family, and was an altar boy. In the early sixties I got out of school for a funeral where they needed two of us kids to participate. They did the ceremony, and then we were taken to the cemetery, and a young man, Duane Scharoch, was laid to his rest, killed in Vietnam. I stood there in my altar boy garments and as the guns fired a salute watched tears roll out of the father’s eyes like a waterfall. I had never seen such grief in my short years. I had never seen such pain … and how many times has this pain been inflicted on us … hundreds of millions of times? War is real. People suffer and die.

    About abortion … you say it is not a topic for this forum. I am so conflicted on the issue, hearing all the arguments, but I feel the sincerity and passion of the so-called “pro-life” people and would never diminish them in any way. The other side is an easier proposition with a clear outcome. To be pro-life requires a deeper virtue.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. papalmony says:

    Good to see someone stand up and be publicly pro life here! This is the moment for those who supported Trump to finally take a stand and put to rest the fantasy of abortion rights! And thank you Mark Tokarski for letting people be pro life here and not just talk about the fantasies being projected upon us by the puppet masters!

    Like

    • Maarten Rossaert says:

      Hmmm … yeah, so … just to be clear, this piece wasn’t about pro-life at all, and it certainly wasn’t pro-Trump. In the intervening thirty years a lot of life has happened to me, and I would not now take part in a pro-life rally. But I would empty my pockets to help an unwed mother, if that assisted her in keeping her child. Otherwise, the whole pro-life/-choice schtick is just more of the manufactured polarization of American society, keeping us at loggerheads with one another so we don’t have energy to see the bigger picture.

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  4. daddieuhoh says:

    Welcome, Maarten! I take your point here, and I think it’s an important one. Of course ‘fake news’ often goes much further than skillful editing, as I imagine you’d agree. I do understand the temptation to believe that it’s all 100% fake, because it truly is difficult to know where to draw the line between what is fake and what is reality. Once you’ve been exposed to dozens of manufactured events and outright fake hoaxes, it’s all too easy to believe that everything is fake from the ground up, including things like wars. You could say it’s an easy trap to fall into, and I do believe it’s a trap. And it helps answer the question of “why are they showing us all the fakery?” “Why are they making it so obvious?” The answer is that it then makes it difficult to draw the line between fake and real and makes many people vulnerable to believing that it is all fake, and then they launch other projects trying to capitalize on this vulnerability and misdirect them into bogus conclusions and dead ends.

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    • Exactly so, Daddie. There are indeed manufactured events, along with real events and edited events. I have wondered lately if some of the real events are edited to make the scenes, reactions, witness statements, etc. look more like the fake ones, so that the public’s discernment is blunted, keeping people from sorting out anything anymore.

      Part of the controllers’ strategy, it seems, is to insert voices in the Truther community calling BS on everything. If there should be a train crash tomorrow in Cleveland, you know that certain websites would reflexively claim it to be a fake event. But trains do crash from time to time, and disturbed people do bring guns to schools once in a while. The “everything-is-fake” meme can only serve to paint all Truthers with the crazy brush in the eyes of the world.

      I am at here POM because of the provisional stance that is taken in the course of research. Mark has said: We are going to get some calls wrong, but we just keep following the facts and changing our minds as need be; no shame in that. This is a mark of intellectual maturity, but it is also mentally and emotionally a harder path to take than the blind dogmatism that all news and all history is fraudulent.

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  5. Phillip Solesky says:

    Until proven otherwise, an assumption of fakery (in one form or the other) in all news, until proven otherwise, is much safer than to assume you’re being told anything resembling the truth.

    Like

    • Maarten Rossaert says:

      You are positing a false dilemma: assume fakery or assume honesty, no other choices.

      I advocate a third way, which is to assume nothing and simply to note provisionally the narratives that are being offered all around us, with full awareness that they may be true, edited, or manufactured.

      Assuming fakery is just like assuming honesty: it is not “safer” by any meaningful metric, just equally lazy.

      Like

  6. Vexman says:

    Hm, maybe a word to harsh, Maarten, to be lazy would describe me as equal as Phillip. I’m a true rookie when it comes to ability to analyze video and photo material, a bit better at photos maybe, but still I need a lot of guidance and trust invested to be able to decrypt what I see. It may be like you suggest, that it all comes in three flavors as true, edited or manufactured, that’s a good angle to look at it. However, there is a certain pattern in this mess of information and you can’t deny, that with everything learned so far about the video/photo trickery throughout ages, one is truly better off by believing fake is default. Or to at least doubt about it being true unless it can be verified by one’s own senses. How can that be seen as lazy? I wish you could at least rephrase that statement, it’s so discouraging :/

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    • So here’s a f’rinstance … getting into the car today to drive home, I flilpped on the radio. “Traffic on the Eights” told me that there was a big tie-up at Exit 17 on the highway I normally take.

      What should the thinking man do? Assume fakery until proven otherwise? Say, “Fie on them and their ersatz accidents!”? How would I prove to myself that “Traffic on the Eights” need not be automatically doubted? I am nowhere in a position to verify 99.9% of the slowdowns they report. And because I seek alternate routes per their suggestions, I have never actually been in a place to confirm the truth of any snarl they claim to exist. Zut alors! Maybe it’s all a big conspiracy to get us to spend extra money on gasoline as we take longer routes to avoid the faked accidents! Those dadgum Rockefellers!!

      A person who consistently assumes fakery as the default stance could not function in society. I doubt, Vexman, that you or anyone else truly operates on the premise that all is fake until proven authentic.

      Maybe “lazy” isn’t quite the right word. But when I see claims in the name of Truth such as “99% of all wars were faked,” the only apt words I can think of are much stronger than “lazy.” Let’s say instead that automatically assuming fakery—like automatically assuming honesty in the news or history—is at best blamefully naive.

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      • Vexman says:

        Ha! Lucid words, I like it. I never thought about the subject in this way and it’s true that I don’t believe 100% of all info received is fake. I as well never thought about where the limit is, how does anyone separate the news/info on this level? To trust a weather report or driving directions on my Garmin is actually completely different than trusting anyone about the reasons for WWI. With people, those who are on my internal/mind list of approved sources are in my trust zone and I acknowledge them in 100% (not with my reaction or belief necessary), but I don’t doubt about them. I really never thought about it till now. I sometimes recognize fake/hoax subject in no time at all, but sometimes it takes me years to realize them, some of them I’d never realize if it wasn’t for others who showed them to me. Tricky subject to describe in full, but you are right – I do not function on the premise that 100% of all received info is faked. Let me be precise in my statement then – I believe 100% of news (TV and radio) is there with a) twist , b) multiple purpose and c) planted as such to misdirect, confuse, scare, divert, repel, wake desired/planned feelings,etc. There is no coincidence and there is no coincidental content about truth seen on TV or heard on the radio, that fact alone says something about the power of such media. Especially if you weigh in human nature and psychology of our mind, you can quickly realize how manipulable we really are. Since I’ve learned that I was manipulated and lead around as a truly blind man until several years ago, that scared me, I never saw myself as with lack of intelligence or to stupid to see I’m being duped. But that’s exactly what was going on with me in relation to that – I was duped to believe many things, most of them faked and manufactured. And this is the reason that I changed my attitude about it, information that is not connected to simple reasons or already confirmed source of information, gets immediate label “to be approved” and a red light goes off in my mind. In other words, I scrutinize my sources until I can judge it for myself. Such process is the same with many of us, I guess, it depends how precise is one’s filter and stupidity threshold about the information perceived.

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      • Phillip Solesky says:

        Now that I know that you really DID mean lazy, I’ll put it this way. I’ll automatically assume everything is fake and then do my own investigating (don’t see how that is lazy) when it’s something of importance and still go on assuming that the homeless guy downtown didn’t save 3 people’s lives by jumping in front of a bullet without investigation. You really had to stretch to try and prove your point. Where have I heard that before?

        Like

  7. Phillip Solesky says:

    Thank you. I was just getting ready to read that again to see if I read it wrong. That was exactly my sentiment, believing fake as a default.

    Like

  8. tyronemccloskey says:

    “Consider the Source” will be my gravestone epitaph-

    Like

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