A few days ago, Hillary Clinton gave a speech on Capitol Hill to pay homage to outgoing Senator Harry Reid. It should have been a happy occasion; Senator Reid’s tenure in congress has been a blight on our nation for decades, we should celebrate his departure from government. But instead, Mrs. Clinton took it as an opportunity to condemn an outbreak of “fake news” sweeping the nation and she was careful to characterize her concerns as being solely humanitarian. Lives are at risk, she says.
Admonitions about humanity aside, Mrs. Clinton and the Democratic Party are, in truth, particularly outraged by fake news for having allegedly cost her the presidency. She and many others claim that the Russian government is directly responsible for the dissemination of fictitious stories that resulted in an undue benefit for Donald Trump. The sources of this bad information are a number of hastily thrown together websites, often with URLs that imitate existing sites, such as Drudge or ABC News. The fake stories produced by these sites are more often than not laughably absurd, such as this example from bigamericannews.com. More laughable than any particular story is the idea that any of this mundane hogwash could sway a general election from left to right.
Several times during the 2016 presidential campaign, Mrs. Clinton asserted that seventeen different US intelligence agencies confirmed the Kremlin was behind the e-mail hacking of the DNC, in addition to the epidemic of fake news. The irony of this assertion is that it is itself, fake news. There never was any such confirmation from our intelligence community and what’s more, any tenuous link between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump is one prominently promoted by James Clapper, chief of US intelligence, a man notorious for having perjured himself. In Clapper’s own words US intelligence cannot “attribute this activity to the Russian Government.” He’s confident it was the Kremlin but has no proof and no evidence; his sources are anonymous, the CIA assessment is a secret. Clapper is operating in the realm of conjecture and Mrs. Clinton, and the media at large, ran with it under the specious guise of “fact”.
The irony and hypocrisy do not end there.
For years, Mrs. Clinton and President Obama have been at the forefront of spreading abject fictions: Mrs. Clinton landed in Bosnia under sniper fire. A youtube video was responsible for the assassination of our ambassador in Benghazi. Donald Trump didn’t stand a chance of winning. If we like our healthcare and doctors we can keep them. There have been no major scandals in the Obama White House. The economy is thriving and unemployment is down. 97% of scientists agree on anthropogenic climate change. ISIS was a JV team.
But it’s not only our president and a failed pretender to the throne who deal in tall tales and double-speak. The preening pawns of the professional pundit class are happy to do their fair share of the dirty work. In a stunning demonstration of unadulterated and apparently oblivious chutzpah, serial liar Brian Williams mustered the gall to condemn fake news. CNN must have been overjoyed at the opportunity to bust ABC staging a fake crime scene but their delight was no doubt cut short by revelations of their own impropriety. The “hands up, don’t shoot” account of Ferguson, MO is a well documented lie that, to this day, has been spread far and wide by any and all outlets of the mainstream media. CBS has the temerity to lecture its website visitors about avoiding fake news which is rich considering their embarrassing history employing career-conman Dan Rather.
And on top of this one-two punch from the perverse state-media partnership is the fact that the ban on domestic propaganda was quietly lifted back in 2013. Good luck getting any real information from our press and government.
Thankfully not everyone in the media is a stooge.
Amber Lyon, a courageous whistle-blower, has gone to great lengths to explain how CNN is little more than a platform for foreign governments to deliver propaganda. Ben Swann has done fantastic work unveiling the multi-million dollar relationship between the Pentagon and Bell Pottinger, a British PR firm that created fake news for the US government to bolster the hyper-choreographed War on Terror narrative. Additionally, Glenn Greenwald has single-handedly destroyed the mainstream fiction that Russia was behind the DNC hacks and outbreak of fake news. Unfortunately, Lyon, Swann, and Greenwald are the exceptions to the rule.
There are a few things at work behind the circulation of fake news by our politicians and media. First, they can’t admit Mrs. Clinton and numerous Democrats down ballot lost their elections fair and square. They’re grasping for any excuse to justify their humiliating losses, even if it means attempting to delegitimize a President-elect who won the contest clean; even if it means taking on the hypocrisy of challenging election results after chastising Trump for threatening to do exactly what they’re doing now.
Second, the Democratic Party is collapsing. Our intelligence community can find no evidence of Russian tampering which makes manifest a catastrophic truth for the Democrats: This was not a foreign hack, it was an insider leak. This party can’t afford any more bad news, especially proof of spies infiltrating their ranks, a contention supported by Julian Assange and others.
Third, and most important, there is a very real, very active assault underway against freedom of speech in our country. This assault was on full display two years ago when Senate Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to rewrite the first amendment to regulate political speech that could influence elections. It continues presently as evidenced by the Senate’s passage of the Portman-Murphy Counter Propaganda bill which is aimed at fighting back against the fake news bogeyman. (Keep in mind, Senators Portman and Murphy introduced this legislation in March, long before the fake news hysteria exploded into the zeitgeist. The emergence of the fake news epidemic and measures to use it as a cudgel against free speech have been in the works for some time; it is not some new, spontaneous event that took our ruling class by surprise.)
How exactly is fake news to be filtered out from the real news? Who decides what’s fake and what’s real? The same government that brought us the Gulf of Tonkin and WMDs in Iraq? Implicit to the freedom of speech is the freedom to be wrong and without the freedom to err in our words and writing there can be no free speech. Mistakes will be made and can be used as opportunities to learn. Liars and perpetrators of hoaxes may be ferreted out and often only with a little due diligence. But when government, an inherently politicized institution, takes on the task of censorship, the search for truth becomes exponentially more difficult, if not impossible.
And of course the sales pitch will be that government must be the chief arbiter of fact and truth in the interest of protecting the people, but ultimately censorship is designed only to protect and empower the authoritarians behind the apparatus of the state. As Camus put it, “The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants.” A government that controls what we read, see, and hear is a government that controls what we think. There can be no worse tyranny than this.
Original artwork by Jesse Comeau