Friday, November 25, 2016

Real vs. Fake news. How I tell the difference on Social Media.

Responding to a query I received this morning about how to tell real news from fake news on the internet after posting yesterday about a lie told by Ann Coulter, here is how I do it.

I assume everything I read as "news" on Social Media that isn't a story about an actor/actress or musician is FAKE (interestingly enough, the social media tends to be pretty good about pop stars and people who act). That said, if it's something that interests me, I go to the web and independently source it. I google a question, just like you would on and look for what comes up. I look at the sources. For example:

By FOX New's own admission 85% of what it does is opinion - so I disregard those. I look for news from Canada and other countries where it's actually a crime to tell a lie and call yourself news (it's the reason there is no Fox News in Canada). News sites from other countries have a fairly large presence in the US, don't be afraid to read them. I look for sites that have won awards for journalism like Digby or Crooks and Liars. And then I do it again. I need to see the sources from at least two independent resources, which is harder than you might think given how incestuous industry is. (For example, did you know that Blue Moon Ale is actually Coors?) I look to see who owns the news source - it's why I stopped believing anything that comes from the Wall Street Journal.

There are sites I read for editorializing - for example Daily Kos, which has a decidedly Liberal bent (and to which I contribute from time to time). But I look at it with the same skepticism as I do Facebook. Always double-check. Triple check. If someone offers up a number as a FACT in places where almost everything is social media based, I try to verify the fact. Then I try to disprove it. In the case of Coulter's very obvious lie I went immediately to disprove, simply because experience has taught me that she almost always lies. The point is that there is almost never a single side to a story. That there is always a perspective in a news story. Try to find another one. Assume that when you read news on a social media site that it's being told to you because it want's to promote a specific bias. Look for the other side of that.

There is a simple reason I do this: the news media doesn't do it any more. They used to but now they don't have time - the world moves too damned fast for facts. Facts are slow and take time and care to reveal properly. It's EASIER to just say "Terrorist attach!" than it is to say "We don't yet know what's happening but we've sent people to find out so please be patient and stay here on this channel - stop looking for a Kardashian and wait please! This is important!"

Maybe we should have celebrities time their tweets to appear after the truth gets reported in a news story. "Once we have real answers we will have an unpublished tweet from Kim Kardashian showing us a new picture of her tits! Stay tuned!"

But let's go back to the top of my thesis here. I assume that anything trying to pass itself off as news on Social Media is false.That it is gossip at best and I despise gossip. If you START there it might make you more skeptical as a person, but it also might make you better informed because you seek out the truth itself.

Remember a couple of years ago that a survey was done and it found that the most informed people about news were the people who watched The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and that the worst informed were those who watched Fox? Hold yourself to a similar standard, and see what happens.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Stopping the Ultimate Bully


“I don’t like bullies.”
That’s my single favorite line of dialogue from the first Captain America movie and it comes early on. Steve Rogers is asked if he wants to kill Nazis and he responds that he doesn’t want to kill anyone, but he wants to be a soldier because he doesn’t like bullies.
I don’t like bullies either. I’ve seen far too many in my life. They have influenced my life in far too many ways, despite the fact that I haven’t accepted being bullied in decades now. That’s hardly a fair description though – you don’t accept being bullied but hopefully a person can grow strong enough that they are no longer victimized by it.
I am fortunate that I grew up to be a strong, opinionated man. It could have gone another way, certainly. I grew up as the weird kid – the child of a single mother back when being so was still a scandal (believe me, everyone said so including at least one member of the family). I had long hair when no one had it. I grew up book smart in the land of Tom Joad, and being such was out of the ordinary. We were dirt poor but I knew people far worse off – I knew people still living in tin huts and this was the 1960s and 1970s. I was short, plus-sized and for a time teachers were over-protective of me because I was the only kid anyone knew who had lost a sibling. AND a father. I was special.
I was an obvious target.
It’s difficult in hindsight to be mad at a child. I was bullied by fellow children for the most part and face it, we’re all jerks at that age to one degree or another. But we can learn. We can be taught. I became less forgiving of it the older I got because many of these people never seemed to learn. Some got better about how they treated people – some learned. Some didn’t and over time they got worse and worse.
Interestingly enough, I wasn’t bullied very much in high school. I got tall and skinny. I had a girlfriend – even the long-haired boy doesn’t get called “queer” if he’s got a girlfriend. I was a rising star in the music department back when schools still had those. I tutored members of the football team in math and that was a big deal; keeping football players academically eligible to play was good for me. I was still an odd kid and a goofball but mostly I was around a different group of kids than when I was younger. The old bullies kept trying but they found themselves in different classes than me because they just weren’t smart enough. And then one of my neighbors woke up one morning with a cross burning on his lawn and that was a sobering moment for all of us. Everyone liked that classmate and it forced a reassessment by many of the students I knew about how they treated people.
Thanks to the digital age I’ve actually reconnected with some of those people from long ago. Most are decent enough people but in two cases the people I remember as the worst of the worst were STILL the same types of people. They had power and influence now but they still treated people the same way they did when they were young. I disconnected from them quickly – because I find that the worst of them brings out the worst in me and now that I’m old enough and strong enough to fight back I sometimes worry that I will actually do it and at this point in my life I could do some real damage. I don’t want to be that person so I’ve carved them back out for good.
I can’t deny the influence though. My little brother, who was one of the popular kids, has expressed amazement that I carry around anger about those days but he had a very different childhood.
So why am I discussing this at all? It’s not about catharsis, it’s about something I wrote 4 years ago about Mitt Romney; that the victims of a bully can recognize other bullies. Mitt Romney was a bully and I discuss that in detail in my previous essay. Hard as it is to believe, in a race full of them (good lord, Huckabee, Cruz, Rubio, Kasich – all bullies in one form or another) one single bully has risen to the top and his level of bullying, harassment and sheer inability to recognize that ANYONE AT ALL could possibly be better or smarter than him requires more than just a simple scolding.
Donald Trump is a rabid dog of a bully and he deserves… NEEDS… to get his ass kicked. He’s that more rare type of bully who will never learn – is incapable of learning – and only sheer humiliation will remove him from the platform he’s built for himself.
We are fortunate that most bullies are not the same kind that Mr. Trump is. It takes a special combination of ego, belligerence, deliberate ignorance, lack of empathy, charisma, luck and determination to become this kind of person. It doesn’t happen by accident. You have to want to be that person. You have to not only believe that you are better than everyone else but that no one else can ever be better at anything than yourself – and by false equivalence that anyone who chooses to be different is automatically inferior. You have to be loud and bellicose – willing to shout down any human being and belittle them in the process. You have to be willing to say anything as if it were the truth and keep doing so no matter what opposition shows. You have to believe that people who have it tougher than you deserve it because they couldn’t reach your own personal heights. You have to be able to hold the attention of people – groups of any size. And lastly, you have to seize upon any and every opportunity that presents itself, no matter how small, and turn it into something that makes it look like it was all part of your plan.
Sound familiar?
Trump is that kind of person. He is every single one of those traits amplified. It is a rare combination and it’s dangerous. Adolf Hitler was like that too.
Yes, I went there. I compared the man to a monster who murdered millions. And tried to reshape all of Europe into his own twisted image. But good lord people, what was he right before that? What was he in the years leading up to that? And just how much support and following did he earn before it all evolved into what it became?
Hitler became a monster, but before that he was a bully. Germany, much to its shame, cooperated with him. We cannot allow the same to happen here. He had to be forced out at the cost of more lives than anyone could have imagined. Hitler hang on to power for as long as he could, and when faced with overwhelming defeat robbed the world of a chance at justice, because men like this do not relinquish power willingly.
When has a bully ever WILLINGLY RELINQUISHED ANY SORT OF POWER? Can you give any examples at all? I cannot.
If we allow this to happen – allow Trump to ascend to political power - we will never be rid of the son of a bitch. That will be the end of it all.
For all the talk of Obama as a dictator he has never been one. Despite all the rhetoric he has adhered to the language and spirit of the Constitution – you really can’t give any examples where he hasn’t that aren’t tinged with political posturing. At the end of his terms he is giving up power. He could get a third term easily enough and I’m sure that someday someone will mount a serious constitutional challenge against the term limits of the office of the President but Obama isn’t that man. Neither was Reagan or Bill Clinton and they could have done it too.
The idea that term limits are constitutional wouldn’t even slow down a man like Donald Trump – a man who believes that there are no obstacles in the world and has repeatedly said that he would order people to violate other portions of the constitution would have no issue with this.
I am like many people who 6 months ago would have never predicted Trump’s rise to the front of the pack. But recently I have come to think of him as I do now – an ultimate bully on the rise. He has threatened people. He has made fun of people. He has accepted his own set of truths. He has asked people for sworn loyalty. He shows all the signs and I am ashamed that it took me this long to fully understand that this is what he is.
The only way to put this man back where he belongs is to beat him. To HUMILIATE him. To kick his ass. He can’t be allowed to have power in the first place; he must be shown that it is unattainable and that attempting to do so ever again would embarrass him. We can’t have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore – we have to kick him hard enough the first time that he KNOWS he’s been humiliated.
One of my favorite movies of all time is “My Bodyguard”, starring Chris Makepeace, Adam Baldwin, Matt Dillon and Martin Mull. The two bullies in the movie are eventually overcome by each getting a cathartic beat down – ones that leave each of them with their tails between their legs. No one dies or anything like that – it’s not that kind of movie – but in the end the problem is dealt with. While it might be cathartic to see Hillary (if she’s the nominee) slap Mr. Trump for saying something sexist (and he will – I’d bet money on it) and scold him like the 12 year-old he is it’s going to take more than that. He has to know he’s been rejected by the whole country.
It is in fact our patriotic duty to prevent this man from rising to power.
So how do we do that?
First is voter turnout. This is more of an uphill battle than most people realize. Working our way backwards we have Obama v. Scrooge McDuck lite, Obama vs. Cranky McWhite Guy, Bush vs. Most boring war hero ever, America vs. The Supreme Court, Clinton vs. Cranky 3rd person guy, Clinton vs. Mr. Out of Touch (formerly Mr. Legacy), Mr. Legacy vs. What’s His Name, Reagan vs. the guy who admitted he’ll raise your taxes, Reagan vs. Carter. That’s going back to 1980 before we have an election that wasn’t some sort of a cartoon show, and even that one could be considered one given that it’s the movie star vs. Mr. Malaise. Then Carter vs. The Pardoner… you get the idea.
Let’s settle on 1980 for argument’s sake. Given that voting age is 18 in most places that means that there are people in their 50’s who have never seen a real ideological election in this country they could participate in. Just caricatures of one. Now you might disagree with me but I asked my own son, who this year is old enough to vote in a presidential election for the first time.
Even before the rise of Trump he called this election a reality show gone bad. I’ve been involved in the political process since I was a child and have always felt a sense of engagement but we are a shrinking portion of the populace and I fear that as long as it looks like the people in power aren’t taking this seriously neither will those people who simply don’t vote.
It’s the real reason why Bernie matters you know, even if Ms. Clinton never loses her grip on the lead. Bernie Sanders has made people feel involved in a way that no one else has and we’re going to need that to smack Trump down.
Second is that we have to fight Trump EVERYWHERE. All 50 states, every district and territory and even overseas. Leave no contest uncontested. We’re not trying to elect a President of the winning party but the President that represents every American and we have to show it. I worry that the Democratic Party is so focused on electoral maps that they lose sight of the bigger picture – you can’t just win the White House but you have to say that you tried to get every human being in the country to support you, if for no other reason that in times of crisis they will want to. If the party apparatus can’t get behind this then they need to be replaced.
It’s expensive in today’s political world. The consequences of not fighting like this in EVERY SINGLE election are even more so. We are fighting for the very soul of our nation.
Third is to be educated. Know what you’re talking about when you talk issues and don’t be afraid to talk about them with people. Show that trickle-down has never worked. Show that gun control can work. Show what corporate taxes once were (especially under Eisenhower) and show why they worked. Show that people so adamant about the right to protect unborn children don’t want to spend any money to raise them. Show them Flint, Michigan. Show them the rate of earthquakes in Oklahoma. Show them the lack of ice in Greenland. Show them the Pacific Floating Pile of Trash. Show them the amount of water in California Reservoirs. Show them the salt water seeping into Florida. Show them Bernie’s speeches. Show them the state of our current transportation system and how much better it could be.
Show them that everything Trump says is about himself, no matter the topic. Do your research. Be able to point to multiple sources.
Fourth is to delegitimize Fox News. Most of us here don’t consider Fox to be anything close to a real news organization but we continue to discuss it. We have to make them irrelevant. We have to exclude Fox from the conversation altogether. Grant them no interviews. Dismiss them as pretenders. Fox News is the kind of bully that gets stronger as they are paid attention to, and get weaker if they are not. They need to be weaker.
I’m not saying it will be easy, but I think every single politician, talking head, media person, bundler – everyone who has a stake in this when asked to come on to Fox News needs to reply, “Whatever for? It’s not like you’re a real news organization.”
Fox News is NOT the press. Stop treating them like they are. Revoke their credentials. In my home Fox News and Fox Business are the only channels that are actually BLOCKED.
Fifth is to show RESPECT to the office of the President. In my own lifetime we have gone from the position where no matter who is in the White House one respected the position to not respecting the position anymore. Some Presidents, like Nixon, brought it on themselves. But our current President is disrespected for merely EXISTING. A person can disagree with the person and the policies but for goodness sake the President of the United States is the leader of this country, de facto leader of the free world, and is damned well allowed to act like it. People like Mitch McConnell aren’t just disrespecting the man, but the office he holds.
The appointment of Judges and many other issues that have come through our Senate of late initiated by the President have been dead in the water for no other reason than that the man who presently holds the office of President EXISTS. That’s just wrong. It didn’t happen when a Republican was in the job and Democrats held congress – this “both sides do it” is bullshit and it’s easy to demonstrate. I hated every single appointment Bush the Second made but he certainly had the right to make them.
Anyone who holds disrespect for the OFFICE of the President doesn’t belong in the halls of power and it is our duty to get them the hell out. Organize against them. Educate people in their districts. It’s not enough to win the Presidency – we must have people in congress who will support a President, even if they disagree with him. If that means we vote the current slate of bums out, then so be it – but we have to make it happen. It’s hard work. It’s expensive work, but it’s necessary.
Sixth, getting back into focus, we have to delegitimize anyone who would support Trump and his bullies. Although there are very notable exceptions, many Republicans are already saying that they will support Trump is he wins enough delegates to gain the nomination. These people are the bully’s enablers. If the person running for office – any office – is the type of person who would support the man then we need to throw everything we’ve got against them and more. I’m not just talking congress; I’m talking about Governors, local elected officials, regulatory boards, even elected judges in those places that have them. We have to not only squash the bully, but all of his supporters and enablers as well.
And lastly, assuming we can pull off the above tasks – which will not be easy by any stretch – we have to KEEP HIM DOWN. Napoleon was sent off to Elba and we need the modern-day equivalent of the same thing here. I’ll admit that I don’t know what that is. I don’t even know that in an age where people are this connected that this is even possible. But I do know that vanquished bullies ALWAYS try to regain what they’ve lost. We can’t just beat him, we have to humiliate him. We have to make him want to never try again.
Now admittedly, I have it easy. I live in California, in Nancy Pelosi’s District.  My congress-critter is a good one – agree or disagree with her, she’s very effective at her job and represents her district well. I live in a liberal/progressive town in a state the Democratic Party tends to carry easily. My real work comes in keeping the state’s open Senate seat and Governorship in the hands of Democrats. My work comes in convincing those of you who don’t live where I do to please keep the debate going long enough for my state to have a voice in choosing our nominee. I have it easier than a lot of you so I know the absurdity of what I am asking, but we as a nation need every single person to get out there and fight against this bully. Not just in my safely blue (and even green) part of the country but the red states, districts, and most right-wing places of the country. WE must take the fight to him and I am asking for you to jump in and do it right where you live. Put up a sign, even if it says “Anyone but Trump”. Talk to people. Get out the vote.
Whatever it takes.
Please – stop asking what your party, your country, your officials can do for you. Find out and COMMIT to doing what you can do for the sake and very soul of our country, our states, our cities, and the world we are raising our children in. We all have a hand in either stopping the greatest mistake our country can make, or submitting to it. Our kind of democracy is the kind you have to want real bad if you want it to maintain its shape.
I don’t like bullies. I believe in fighting them, sometimes to the point of even overstepping propriety – which I admit I’ve done (and have been called out for right in these pages). But sometimes it just MUST be done and this is one of those times.
Let’s kick Donald Trump’s ass.
(reposted from DailyKos)