Media, recent

News, Pre-News, Fake News, and Statistics

I’ve taken three lengthy Uber trips in the past month. Eventually, each of my drivers got around to asking what I did for a living. When I replied, I teach journalism,ˮ two of the three reflexively exclaimed, Ahh, fake news!ˮ It took the third a few extra lines of conversation, but she got there too in the end.

For those of us engaged in showing young people how the media are supposed to work, there is no escaping the sturm und drang over fake news. Needless to say, the term has itself acquired a patina of inauthenticity, given its most celebrated user’s tendency to invoke it to mean, This news makes me look bad…so it’s fake.ˮ

In fairness, however, those of us who deal in the rules and rudiments of journalism understand that the fake-news meme cannot be dismissed simply as red meat that a pathologically insecure president tosses into his supporters’ den with discomfiting regularity. Actually, it’s an endemic issue in journalism, especially broadcast. The nature and baked-in presentation of news is such that its utility as a tool for understanding the world, let alone interpreting it, is almost nil.

Consider the familiar news-radio slogan, You give us 22 minutes, we’ll give you the world.ˮ


Newsworthiness, in its most elemental conception, is built on a foundation of anomaly, singularity, nonconformity: the clichéd man bites dogˮ paradigm. Or here’s a second newsroom aphorism: No one writes stories about the planes that landˮ (a line of particular resonance the past few weeks, for obvious reasons). It follows that, by definition, what the news business really gives you—with its unending parade of ugliness—is unreality. What you see each night on TV or hear from those all-news radio stations is not, in fact, your world. It is a negative image of your world, in both the photographic and tonal senses.

Put more directly, the news media provide you with a high-resolution snapshot of what life is not—a panoply of stories that, despite their disparate topics, resolve to a common theme: They are case after case in which, metaphorically speaking, men have bitten dogs.

In what follows, I give you your world, or at least your America…

Remember those planes? Our current Max 8 woes notwithstanding, they almost always land, at least in the United States. Each day, 23,911 out of 23,911 scheduled commercial flights take off and arrive safely. (The Economist pegs your odds of dying in a plane crash at one in 5.4 million. You are more likely to be hit by a meteorite.) Virtually no one who is unarmed, of any race, is killed by a cop or dies in a college hazing ritual, even when something goes awry. On any given day 50 million American children attend school without being shot. In much-maligned Chicago, the homicide rate is lower than that of various global destinations where we bankrupt ourselves to vacation. The employment rate hovers above 96 percent, and the average family living in federally defined poverty has a car, air conditioning, two TVs, and an Xbox; and in the category of no, this is not a  misprint,ˮ 43 percent of the poor own the homes in which they live. Plagues never emerge from forbidding third-world caves to blight the landscape. (Despite gloomy prognostications and any number of sensationalized “special reports,” HIV/AIDS never moved out of its core risk groups here in America. The Ebola outbreakˮ of late 2014 was a non-starter.) The Republic slogs on despite the diverting shenanigans of the figureheads at the top. Even the current helmsman hasn’t undone us yet and probably won’t. Probably.

This is not some Panglossian delusion. It is daily life for almost everyone, almost every day. So yes, the events put before us on World News Tonight With David Muir did and do happen. It’s just that by every meaningful statistical yardstick, the vast majority of such events are margin notes to reality. This real news conjures an impression of life that is altogether fake. And yet this is where the canonical McLuhanism about media and message comes into play: If it’s on the news, we assume it’s newsworthy. Ipso facto.

Nor do journalists leave such inferences to chance. Today’s highly compensated news-delivery establishment does not want to be seen—or to see itself—as an institution that trades in trivia. Skilled at heightening immediacy and drama, news anchors (the so-called evening stars) and marquee correspondents thus make everything sound momentous and part of some bigger storyˮ: as if all corporate executives are venal (but simply haven’t been caught yet), all schools warehouse legions of kids on the verge of erupting into the next Dylan Klebold (it’s just a matter of time), every new disease that slinks out of the rain-forest will inevitably kill us all (and if it doesn’t, the next Stephen Paddock will). Top journalists mainstream their marginalia, framing it as the zeitgeist. They also magnify the effect by connecting and contextualizing the dots, then surrounding the emerging diagram with piquant punditry bulwarked by other marginalia—pointedly selected, now, to bold-face the lines connecting those original dots.

The result is Narrative: the implied existence of significance where none necessarily exists. (Why necessarily? Well, some isolated events are destined to become part of bigger stories. But journalists have no inkling of this when they first begin flogging the original incidents.) Is the campus rape crisisˮ more about women being exploited or men being deprived of due process? Is #TakeAKnee another tear in the social fabric, or is it symbolic of the inalienable rights around which the social fabric is draped? The answer depends on which journalist decides to contextualize which dots with what other dots.

All of which raises another question: Of all those marginal dots that vie for elevation to media melodrama, which do journalists choose to highlight each day? The answer to that question is governed by a process known as news judgment, wherein media gatekeepers apply their own criteria in deciding what’s vital for you, the great unwashed, to know. Though there’s often unanimity on lead stories, various outlets will have different slants on the composition of the rest of the day’s must-know news. So these events are not only anomalous, but cherry-picked from a large orchard of anomalous stories based on subjective criteria. What was important enough to get three minutes on MSNBC may very well go uncovered by Fox. And vice versa. So we don’t really see must-watch news. We see some news team’s assessment of what they think is must-watch news.

What, after all, is the inherent significance of a single cop’s shooting of a single unarmed black man? For that matter, in any given year, what is the significance of the shooting of several unarmed black men? Yes, it could be what epidemiologists call a cluster, indicating that something is going on.ˮ Or it could be a mere aberration of the laws of chance, into which we inject extraneous meaning.

This much is certain: Rare is the week in which nightly newscasts fail to include some intimation of a police vendetta against Black America. Indeed, the victims’ names have been drilled into our national consciousness: Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Laquan McDonald. But our very familiarity with the names hints at a deeper truth: So infrequently does this occur that it’s possible to recite the names from memory. For this much is also certain: The math to support a pogrom against blacks simply isn’t there. According to a Washington Post database, police killed 19 unarmed black Americans in 2017. If you were one of the 29 million blacks age 18 and over, and unarmed, your odds of being killed by a cop were about one in 1.5 million. You were more likely to win $50,000 in the Powerball Lottery. Put another way, the 19 killings represented the death of .00000066 of all black citizens. Is something that befalls fewer than one ten-thousandth of 1 percent of citizens truly the crisis that feverish media coverage had us believing?

Nothing can be deduced from a sample that small. Across the spectrum of America, tragedies already acknowledged to be random and rare take a much higher toll than that. Each year, 75 of us die in lawnmower accidents, and on average, an American per day dies in his or her own bathtub. One does not expect to see CNN air one of its town hall specials on malevolent bathtubs—and if in a given year 40 of the 75 lawnmower victims happen to be black, we’d not likely investigate whether lawnmowers had developed racist tendencies. Even fatal lightning strikes, though trending downward, claim more lives than the shootings of young men that command the airwaves for weeks at a time.

Another gloomy trend in modern TV news’ continuing slide toward theater is what might be termed pre-news: extensive reporting on events that are sort of happeningˮ but the resolution and ultimate import of which are far from certain. In their frenzy to out-Nielsen one another on stories with the potential to be Big News (or so says that infernal news judgment), the media indulge in days or weeks or months of reporting on events that would surely be epochal, save for one minor detail: They haven’t happened yet. Some of them never happen.

We see this in the case of Trump’s Russia woes. There may be collusion. Or there may not be. If there is collusion, Trump may be impeached. Or he may not be. This has gone on, virtually uninterrupted, since the day of his election. As Dave Barry has joked, You can tune into CNN anytime, day or night, and you are virtually guaranteed to hear the word ‘Russians’ within 10 seconds, even if it’s during a Depends commercial.ˮ

Although this tendency toward hype has long existed in TV news, the media perfected the art form during the 1990 run-up to Desert Storm. With journalists coast to coast salivating over America’s first truly live war, we were treated to weeks of speculation about what would happen once that opening sortie was launched. A few sample prognostications:

  • We’d lose tons of planes.
  • The Arab coalition would crumble.
  • Israel was doomed.
  • The region would be contaminated with bio-weapons.
  • And God help us if we ever got involved in a ground campaign, which—we were informed by well-credentialed ex-Pentagon types now on retainer as analysts—could claim thousands of U.S. lives. Thousands!

Networks repeatedly quoted Saddam’s vow to mount the mother of all wars,ˮ as well as his ominous prognostication that American society cannot accept 10,000 dead in one battle.” Hell, even the unflappable Ted Koppel seemed…flapped.

Then the fighting started. A few days later it ended, and Saddam unceremoniously withdrew from Kuwait.

Since then, pre-news is most notable in the breathless coverage of looming hurricanes. The TV tempest commences as the actual tempest still lolls hundreds of miles offshore, with no one certain just how much of a threat it poses to the mainland. Soon the hypothetical storm engulfs the nightly news on all networks; indeed, as residents in the storm’s projected path evacuate, the other side of the highway will be glutted with news trucks on their way in. Next, parka-clad correspondents begin vying for the most blustery spot on desolate beaches, each one hoping to look wetter and more windblown than the next guy once the storm hits. (Hey, I found it first—go get your own damn vortex!ˮ) Enhancing this cinema-not-quite-verite are the requisite interviews with harried shopkeepers, insurance-company execs, and emergency functionaries right on up to FEMA. Lest anyone still miss the sledgehammer foreshadowing, interspersed is archival footage of Hurricane Katrina. All this—let us not forget—before the storm has dampened anyone with so much as a droplet.

Big Journalism tends to justify its obsessive coverage of maybe-tropical storms in terms of its mandate to provide public service.ˮ That is beyond disingenuous. People in the path of the storm know that it’s coming; local news keeps them in the loop and gets them as prepared as they’re ever gonna be. There is no journalistically honest reason why residents of Lincoln, Nebraska need to be subjected to this ersatz reportage for three or four solid days before the storm arrives (or fizzles out).

It would be easy to play all this for laughs if the implications for suggestible consumers weren’t as grave as they are. For one cannot remain unaffected by this ceaseless parade of chaos, corruption and carnage. Even the most discerning and/or cynical viewer is bound to internalize the morbidity, the nihilism. First, for all the reasons aforementioned, what ends up on the news is tantalizing and provocative, because ratings demand that sexyˮ stories crowd out all others. (A third newsroom aphorism: If it bleeds, it leads.ˮ) Just as a sharply angled, highly emotive based on a true storyˮ movie will stay with you, coloring your perception of the actual events, the sheer emotionalism of the news burrows in beneath one’s defenses. Second, when we consume the media’s offerings we are dealing with at least some phenomena, the actual prevalence of which is unknown to us; lacking the at-hand background knowledge to recognize when we’re being presented with relative minutiae (dog-biting menˮ), we’re inclined to take what we see at face value. When Dateline tells the story of gastric-bypass surgery—a procedure survived by 199 out of 200 patients—in terms of one man who died, that one death, a .5 percent exception, becomes the nation’s lens on the surgery, likely also affecting (or infecting) the viewer’s outlook on other aspects of healthcare.

The extent of this news-versus-reality distortion is easily legible in Gallup polling on crime in America. In 2017, for example, just 12 percent of respondents rated crime in their own neighborhoods as “very serious” or “extremely serious.”  Yet 59 percent deemed crime in America as a whole “very serious” or “extremely serious.”

The paradox should be evident: America is the sum of all neighborhoods. If national crime were as pervasive as the majority of respondents believed, wouldn’t it have to be occurring in a lot more than 12 percent of people’s “own neighborhoods”? Such an enigmatic skew can only be explained in terms of the global impressions people get from media. Viewers know firsthand that their neighborhoods are safe—the problem is everyone else’s neighborhood! Or so they deduce from what they see on the news.

Similarly, think of the belief among growing numbers of Americans that race relations are in precipitous decline, even as bad as they’ve ever been.ˮ (Perhaps people have forgotten, or are too young to remember, the KKK? Bull Connor’s police dogs and fire hoses? The church bombings of the 1960s? The Black Liberation Army’s early-70s guerrilla war against American cops? Or perhaps today’s grim wall-to-wall imagery simply overwhelms one’s perspective.) Think of how many young black men are traumatized if not enraged by the indefatigable slideshow of police malfeasance. And what is the reality at the heart of this trauma or rage? A phenomenon that occurs far less often than homeowners killing themselves with their own lawnmowers.

Outside of a 9/11 or a Katrina, only hindsight can tell us when a given random event or snippet of news was destined to transcend randomness and move into the realm of enduring consequence. No one can know this as it is happening—not me, not you, not Jake or Anderson or Sean or Tucker or any of them. To pretend otherwise is, well, fakery.


Steve Salerno is a widely published essayist and professor of journalism. His 2005 book, SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless, explored the self-improvement industry’s wider footprint in society. You can follow him on Twitter @iwrotesham


  1. E. Olson says

    An interesting article that figuratively and literally misses the elephant in the Fake newsroom – Leftist bias among the journalists. For example, the author is correct that no citizen of Lincoln, Nebraska needs to get 3 day of stories about the potential dangers of a possible Florida hurricane, but they certainly do need to get 3 days of lectures about how the hurricane is almost certainly caused by climate change, and that President Trump’s failure to ratify the Paris Climate Agreement will be directly responsible for all the death and mayhem that may occur on Florida beaches. And amazingly enough, the people of Florida will also get 3 days of lectures about how the 2 feet of snow and the -30 degree polar vortex in Lincoln, Nebraska is also caused by climate change and is Trump’s fault.

    On the economic front, higher unemployment or slow economic growth under Obama was invariably blamed by journalists on the policies of Bush. On the other hand, the positive economic news during the Trump administration is either ignored, focuses on the the inequality of the recovery (i.e. yes employment is slightly lower, but 98% of the tax cuts went the rich), or is somehow linked to the lingering effects of the Obama economic mastery. To do otherwise might cause the citizens to believe that cutting taxes and regulations, and encouraging lower energy prices are actually responsible for the 3% economic growth that Democrats said is impossible to achieve.

    Black lives matter is a news story only when the victim is black and the perpetrator is white (or white Hispanic) or a cop (or a racist black cop), and the cause can be attributed to Trump’s climate of hate and racist Republican cutbacks in social welfare system. White shooters are invariably right wing extremists who are a growing threat under Trump, while black, Hispanic, Muslim, or illegal immigrant shooters are ignored (if black) or simply noted as a rare/unfortunate case of “work-place” violence that is in no way representative of Islam (a religion of peace), or Hispanics and hard working immigrants who have much lower crime rates than natural born citizens.

    The author also conveniently forgets to note the Leftist origins of the “Fake News” term, which was designed and orchestrated by the mainstream media to delegitimize and promote the deplatforming of alternative news channels that inconveniently questioned and critiqued the Leftist narrative of mainstream media. Banning these these “fake news” outlets was important, because they were likely to be the only sources where citizens might might find out that blacks actually commit a vastly disproportionate share of crime, or that heavy influxes of illegal immigrants are associated with upsurges in violent crime and welfare fraud, or that mainstream media coverage of Republicans versus Democrats is always heavily unbalanced in favor of Democrats, or “common sense” gun control doesn’t work, or Islam is not a religion of peace (and in fact advocates the killing of homosexuals, the subjugation of women and infidels, and marriage between 1st cousins), the gender pay gap is fake, or that global warming science is highly speculative and uncertain and that mitigation costs will certainly bankrupt and destroy modern society. The fact that Trump sabotaged the Left’s fake news narrative is simply another facet of the media’s Trump derangement disorder.

    • K. Dershem says

      E., I have to give you credit for being remarkably consistent. You interpret any and every article on Quillette through the same one-sided, hard-right ideological lens. To correct the record on one point, the “fake news” label was originally applied to fabricated stories like the claim that the Pope had endorsed Donald Trump.

      • @K. Dershem, i totally disagree with you. Please point to a single example E. Olsen has stated here that is “hard right.” All I see are valid point-by-point refutations. If you disagree with any of them, explain why, without ad hominem attacks.

        As for “fake news”– As far as I can tell from researching it (and from my memory) the term “fake news” was first used by Left-leaning sources as a way to try to delegitimize Trump. It appears First Draft was first to use ‘fake news’ as it is used today; Eric Schmidt was one of its founders and a strong supporter of Hillary. My memory of it was at first as a term of attack by mainstream media against Trump and his supporters, when they found social media was rising in influence. Imagine their dismay when Trump then used it against them.

        • K. Dershem says

          @d, your research skills are apparently as poor as your memory; I simply Googled “origin of fake news” and found this result:

          Correctly identifying someone’s bias is not an ad hominem attack. If someone continually makes demonstrably false claims that reflect the same ideological perspective, it’s legitimate to point that out. For example, the comment above is jam-packed with falsehoods: he misunderstands and misrepresents climate science, pretends that controversial and complicated economic claims about the efficacy of supply-side economics are obviously true and being suppressed, lies about the media ignoring or misreporting mass shootings committed by non-whites, repeats the long debunked myth that illegal immigrants are responsible for higher levels of violent crime, massively oversimplifies the truth about media coverage of Republican and Democratic politicians, responds to one overgeneralization about Islam with another overgeneralization which distorts reality in the opposite direction, and dismisses accurate coverage of the President’s lying and incompetence as a reflection of “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” Responding to every one of these mistruths would take more time than I’m willing to spend, and wouldn’t persuade any readers (like you) who share his ideology. I could provide links to legitimate news sources like the BBC; you would dismiss them as hopelessly biased and either make assertions without evidence or provide links to right-wing sources that confirm your views. What’s the point?

          • E. Olson says

            K – so your judgments about my “lying” and “debunked” statements should be taken as “facts” because the BBC can back you up? What amazing self-confidence you have in you apparently complete knowledge on all matters and totally unbiased opinion. And of course if I provide links to back up every one of my statements we should just trust your superior knowledge that they are all wrong because they differ from BBC and CNN.

            Yes only 25 to 40% of Western Muslims want to ban/kill homosexuals, treat women like 2nd class citizens, and think jihad against infidels is justified, so we should be happy that the remaining 60% of somewhat more tolerant? And despite attempts by law enforcement to cover up the crimes of illegals, the best estimates do find they are much more likely to commit crimes ranging from identity theft to murder than citizens of the same age (see link), and its even worse in Sweden, Denmark, and Germany (2nd Link). Trump has received the most negative coverage of any president in recent history, and never received any honeymoon as has historically been accorded a new president. But of course you know better.


          • @K. Dershem, you are either very young or very foolish or both.

            That’s not ad hominem! Oh no, not at all! I’ve just “correctly identified your bias.”

            By your own admission, you “googled BBc” –which itself is partisan; in an of itself, not damning, but you can’t Google a partisan news outlet that is not even American and expect to easily and quickly find the source of the term, Fake News. But I’m guessing you’re young, as you sound like one of my students–“But I Googled it! It’s true!”

            As far as the ‘mistruths” you assert, E. Olsen refutes. I’d urge you to have a more open mind and not reflexively dismiss people with labels of being ‘hard right’ or “hard left” for that matter. All that does is make you prone to misrepresentation and misunderstanding, as you do here, misrepresenting what E. Olsen is arguing, although I can’t tell if that’s a deliberate strawman strategy or if you truly don’t understand E.’s arguments.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @E. Olson

            “Trump has received the most negative coverage of any president in recent history”

            Altho I loathe the man, I have to agree. I could almost buy into the ‘fake news’ trope if it were not for the fact that he does tell so many transparent lies. But even then, the coverage he gets is simply not fair, and it has me running to his defense when I’d really rather not. A socialist friend of mine is simply unable to welcome good news if that news has anything to do with Trump. He’d prefer disaster if those disasters could be blamed on Trump. It is pathological.

          • Kevin Herman says

            If the New York Times or BBC tells you something it must be true. The fact that they are both 99% leftwing doesnt color there opinions at all. Got it.

          • K. Dershem says

            My prediction has, indeed, been fulfilled: “I could provide links to legitimate news sources like the BBC; you would dismiss them as hopelessly biased and either make assertions without evidence or provide links to right-wing sources that confirm your views.”

            @D., I do have an open mind and don’t reflexively dismiss anyone. My opinion that E. is a far-right ideologue is based on reading hundreds of comments he’s posted over the past several months. For some reason he feels the need to respond to virtually every post that’s made, so he’s pretty much unavoidable. His arguments aren’t difficult to understand since they’re boilerplate right-wing talking points. They are, however, difficult to adequately address because E.’s a master of the debating trick known as the “Gish gallup”: he strings together a dozen different claims, each of which would require a lengthy response to properly unpack and refute.

            It makes me very sad that you’re a teacher when you dismiss the BBC as “a partisan news outlet that is not even American.” Sigh.

          • Hugh Mann says

            I really don’t think you should use the BBC as an impartial judge of fake news, when the organisation is a huge provider of “fake narrative”. It rarely tells actual lies (although it still cites Mathew Shephard as a victim of “gay-bashing” when the truth is a lot more ‘nuanced’), but by what it chooses to report and what not to report, what to play up and what to downplay. You won’t find Christopher Newsome and Channon Christian on the BBC news site, put it that way. If I got all my news from the BBC I would sincerely believe that the biggest threats to the lives of black men in America are racist police officers and white men with guns.

            Here’s the BBC recalling the night Tony Blair was elected, ten years on in 2007.

            Jane Garvey: I do remember I walked back in – we were broadcasting then from Broadcasting House in the centre of London, all very upmarket in those days – and the corridors of Broadcasting House were strewn with empty champagne bottles. I’ll always remember that. Er… not that the BBC were celebrating in any way, shape or form…

            Peter Allen (laughing): No no no, not at all…

            Jane Garvey: …and actually I think it’s fair to say that in the intervening years… er… the BBC, if it ever was in love with Labour has probably fallen out of love with Labour, or learnt to fall back in, or basically just learnt to be in the middle somewhere which is how it should be. Um, but there was always the suggestion that the BBC was full of pinkos who couldn’t wait for Labour to get back into power. That may have been the case – who knows? – but as I say there have been a few problems along the way over the last ten years. Wish I hadn’t started this now….

        • Tome708 says

          That is correct sir. I watched it happen and was thrilled when Trump co opted the term used by Hillary and Obama etc, always implied that fake on line stories got Trump elected. Trump stole it right out from under them. I love it.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @K. Dershem

        It seems to me that the Right have been very zealously lying of late, but it also seems to me that they learned this from the Left, who have made the lies of PC part of their catechism for 50 or 60 years. I’d say that Donald Trump is the biggest liar in the history of politics, yet his off the cuff whoppers seem less malevolent than the carefully engineered lies of someone like Hillary. The left have be lying for so long that they no longer know they are lying. And they have engineered it so that one risks arrest and/or fine if one dares to question their doctrinal lies (that would be Hate).

        • K. Dershem says

          @Ray, do you think Obama lied as much as Trump? That seems like a more apt comparison since Hillary is a failed candidate and he actually served as President.

          • Sean says

            “do you think Obama lied as much as Trump?” One of the biggest differences between Trump and pretty much any US president is the politician’s answer. Trump says what comes to mind. I think he has his own version of Turrets (Trumpets?). Obama, like most politicians, spoke a lot and said very little. Consider this, Obama’s whole pitch was “Change”, and “we can do better”. Under his watch the country became more divided than ever (not that he started it, but he certainly fanned the flames). The thing is, he didn’t really change anything and ultimately, after 8 years in power, he fostered the conditions that allowed Trump to be elected.

            In my opinion his whole change mandate was one huge lie.

          • K. Dershem says

            Saying what comes to mind isn’t necessarily a virtue when you’re pathological liar and a malignant narcissist who’s completely gets his “information” from cable news and is completely ignorant about policy. During his first two years in office — when the Democrats held a majority of seats in Congress — Obama had numerous legislative achievements. After that, Republicans refused to negotiate with him and attempted to obstruct everything he proposed. During his first two years in office when the Congress was under Republican control, Trump was unable to repeal the ACA or secure funding to build his “wall.”

        • Craig Willms says


          Great point.
          Trumps lies remind me of my little brother when we were kids. Mostly braggadocio, trying to pump himself up in his own mind, not necessarily to fool anyone but himself. The Left has for my whole adult life failed to tell the truth (lied) about damn near everything until just lately. Now they don’t even care that they lie constantly.

      • I kind of have to agree with d. This guy might complain on every article but while I don’t like Trump and he seems to be a fan, he’s not wrong on most of the points he made, if not all of them.

        • E. Olson says

          Thanks for the video link Truthseeker – very interesting.

      • Kauf Buch says

        TO E. Olsen – Yep! As the saying goes…”if they didn’t have double standards…”!

        TO K.D. – Way to go AD HOMINEM! You worthless yammer was most amusing…thanks for playing. yawn

        • G. Blunk says

          Your nick name “Kauf Buch” is German and means buy a book. How come? By the way, I agree with you on the topic. Gut gemacht.

          • Kauf Buch says

            TO GBlunk – it’s the handle I used when I lived over there and ran a bookstore. Danke.
            TO KDershbag – your sarcasm is duly noted…and flushed to where it belongs.

        • K. Dershem says

          @Kauf: thanks for providing such a substantive and constructive comment — you’ve set an example for us all.

      • Craig Willms says

        @K. Dershem

        If you would please clear our eyes of E.Olson’s hard right lens. I found his view quite clear and found nothing jarring or unappealing. This ‘fake news’ term in and of itself means little to me since what E Olson’s asserts has been going on since I was a young man during the Reagan years. It was one of the things that drove me rightward.

        Nice job E.!!!!

      • Nestor Alexander says

        Hispanic liberal from NYC… and many of us see it too.

    • Amfortas says

      Well articulated E. Olsen. From a lit perspective, Murakami has interesting musings on media coverage of distant natural disasters and detached empathy (while also touching on our human desire to attach blame to some cause, e.g. climate change)

      • E. Olson says

        TS – good article – thanks for the link.

    • S. Derr says

      It is unfortunate that most sources of news are not consistently reliable. Because of this we are required to cross reference statements of fact in order to judge the validity of opinions. This piece, while generally thoughtful, falls into absurdity with respect to BLM. Comparing intentional shootings to a type of accident makes no logical sense. Further, the writer’s count of victims is grossly inaccurate. There are over 1100 people killed by police every year. 33% of these dead people are African-American, or Black, as in Black Lives Matter. Only 13% of the population is African-American. In some of the 100 largest cities in the United States, the rate of African-American deaths by police exceeds the national murder rate. These statistics suggest a serious problem. Comparing this to lawn mower deaths suggests a lack of seriousness, which weakens the strength of the writer’s overall message.

      • Bill says

        You may have unintentionally conflated statistics, i’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Yes, 1100 people killed by police. 1/3rd of those are Black…the “17” total is the number of unarmed. So, using your own statistics, ~ 350 blacks were shot and killed by police. 17 were unarmed, so the other 333 were armed confrontations. Does a police officer shooting and killing an armed black person engaged in a crime (or a fleeing suspect) reflect evidence of some sort of open season for police officers (of all ethnicities and genders) against blacks?

      • Derr, how can you not realize that the reason so many black got shot is not because the cops like to shoot black. It is because the black committed disproportional rate of crimes. It is a serious problem indeed. An article I read not long ago explained this well. Cops went to the inner city to deal with crimes. Shoot out occurred and the police found the other side were dis-proportionally black. I am sure if black committed less crime, their “shot at” rate will decrease, proportionally.

    • Tom Shultz says


      Fake news is unable to understand fake news.

      It’s like the blind talking about color.

    • Micha Casazza says

      Nice try, Olson. Your diatribe is equal parts reality and bullshit distortions. For instance, that climate change mitigation will cost more than the damage the change will inflict.

    • scubajim says

      Yes, I agree.

      Part of the positive of this piece is that he does give insights into the workings of the “news” cycle.

      We need more actual journalists not hypsters.

    • S. Cheung says

      I think you’re going a bit overboard with the tribalism and identity flagging of left/right and white/black. For instance, where do you demarcate the outer limit of “journalists”? Where’s Fox…Or Breitbart….or Daily Wire. And of course, there’s Buzzfeed and Vox etc on the other side. But to insinuate that bias occurs only on one side is fairly removed from reality, IMO.
      Trump does get rained on a fair bit…but Trump also rains on reality and facts a fair bit as well. I would say that President Trump is not particularly more idiotic than candidate Trump, but that “media” has changed its approach to him. Of course, Fox etc is fawning as always, but whereas “media” were far too easy on him pre 2016, they are perhaps a bit over-reactionary now. It’s the crying wolf syndrome. Don’t nit-pick him on every little inconsequential thing, so that when he really craps the bed, people will actually take notice.
      BLM is a story because it happens more than it should, even if it is rare on a population level as the author suggests. What is the rate on unarmed non-black adult men being killed by police? Is there a reason those events would be suppressed, or under-reported as “news”? Or is it simply because it hardly ever happens? And if the rates are different, why is that so? Racism among cops seems like a plausible reason; can you suggest another?
      Gun control doesn’t work here because 2a removes common sense from the equation. But we have the highest per capita gun deaths in the western world. And all other western countries have greater restrictions than we do. Even in NZ, where there are relatively quite a few guns, they have licensing and registration requirements that appear to dwarf ours. That’s only correlation, to be sure, but it’s hardly an indictment that common sense gun control doesn’t work. A more apt interpretation would be that we lack the common sense to apply it.

      • E. Olson says

        S. Cheung – according the analysis by Heather MacDonald and others, blacks are not disproportionately stopped, arrested, or hurt/killed in confrontations with police out of proportion to their criminal activity (i.e. blacks make up 12% of the US population, but commit between 40 and 60% of most crimes and particularly violent crimes). “Common sense” guns laws such as weapon registration, background checks before purchase, banning automatic weapons, and handgun permit requirements have not had any impact on gun violence for a variety of reasons. For example, murder and armed robbery are already serious crimes, so, and why would a murderer or robber be worried about complying with gun laws? Because blacks and Hispanics commit a disproportionate share of gun law violations and gun crimes, enforcement of existing laws is often weak because of police and prosecutor fears of being labeled racist for arresting and jailing “too many” black and Hispanic violators. Most mass-shootings are committed by people with well-known mental health issues, but mental health advocates are reluctant to institutionalize or discriminate against the dangerously ill. Almost all gun crime is committed with “everyday” handguns and hunting rifles, not “assault rifles”, furthermore concern about “military grade weapons” is a misnomer because all types of weapons from muskets to revolvers to shotguns have or are used as military weapons. Finally, analysis of mass-shootings and most gun crime finds that “common sense” gun laws would not have prevented the shootings/crime because the shooter purchased the guns legally in a place with “common sense” gun laws already in place, or existing guns laws have been ignored or incompetently enforced by law enforcement. Furthermore, areas with the most gun friendly regulations and high gun ownership tend to have the lowest levels of gun crime and death, perhaps because shooters prefer to shoot where they believe they will be the only person with a gun (see first link).

        Finally, the US does not have the highest gun death rates in the world (see 2nd link).

        • S. Cheung says

          Thanks for the links.
          On the gun point, I’ll rephrase to “we have the highest per capita gun deaths in the western [FIRST] world”. I think “”It is a little surprising that a country like ours should have this level of gun violence,” says Ali Mokdad, a professor of global health and epidemiology at the IHME. “If you compare us to other well-off countries, we really stand out.”” better captures the gist of my point. We are doing better than El Salvador(!!), South Africa (!!!), and Iraq (!!!!)…which is fantastic if you’re satisfied with the bigotry of low expectations. Better than horrific is still not very good, especially when you look at our socioeconomic peers. When it comes to gun death rates, I don’t think our usual motto of “we’re number 1”, or even MAGA, should serve as guiding principles.
          I believe you’re referencing “common sense” internally to the US; I’m referencing it to a global scale amongst our socioeconomic peers. So sure, gun free zones are idiotic…because each such zone is surrounded by the “well armed militia”. But clearly, gun control concepts work in all other comparable jurisdictions in the world. Are we just a genetically more murderous and violent people? WHo knows…maybe 250 years of 2a is enough to cause epigenetic changes. More likely though, IMO, 2a has simply created the sociological and cultural conditions that render “common sense” ineffective in this realm. We are the only ones with a 2a, and we have the highest gun death rate in the western first world. Mere correlation, perhaps…but it sure makes me go hmmmm. And yes, we have criminals, but we are also not unique in that way. And no kidding, people committing mass murders aren’t concerned about breaking gun laws, which is why you need to control the supply itself. AFter all, “gun criminal” is a duality that offers two potential targets for intervention.
          On the mental health issue, I agree with you that better enforcement of current laws would be helpful, and that tribalism (in this case mental health) once again gets in the way.
          As for mass shooters being in legal possession of their guns, your response is that “common sense” didn’t work; my response is that not enough common sense had been applied.

          On the race and violent crime point, what you are describing is classic racial profiling. It is fact that blacks constitute a disproportionately high proportion of the prison population, I imagine there are historical and socioeconomic reasons for that disparity, and do not suggest that they are disproportionately convicted or sentenced based on race. But are you suggesting that because blacks are more likely to have committed crime, that the next black person you see is more likely to be a criminal than the next white person you see? Cuz when you try to justify police action based on “proportionality”, that is racial profiling pure and simple, which seems to fly in the face of presumption of innocence which even among conservatives had been a bedrock of society in days of yore.
          If some bad cops weren’t racist, there should be no racial difference in the rate per capita of unarmed individuals dying at the hands of police (and i use unarmed in this case to mean they were not engaged in criminal activity). I don’t expect the rate to be zero, because police are human, and they make mistakes sometimes with tragic consequences without nefarious motives. But if the racial rate is different, then feel free to offer an alternative explanation than racism.

          • E. Olson says

            S. Cheung – generally speaking, the US has always been more violent that other developed countries, which is likely due in large part to the curse of “tribal” diversity. If you look at the list of most violent countries in the developing world, and the demographics of the most violent groups in the US, you will also find some very big similarities, which would suggest that people from violent cultures do not become peaceful when they enter the USA. On the other hand, if you look at gun deaths among Swedish-Americans or Dutch-Americans or Japanese-Americans and gun violence in Japan, Sweden and the Netherlands you will find both groups with similarly low death rates, with any difference almost certainly due to the greater use of guns for suicide in the US (whereas in the Netherlands you can simply ask your doctor to kill you). So the higher gun violence in the US is mostly attributable to inherent conflict that comes from being a multicultural society, particularly when some of the cultures involved in the mix have well-above average tendencies towards violence. It is also important to note that as the UK is becoming more “multi-cultural” the rate of violent crime is increasing, but with stricter gun control the assailants resort to knives, machetes, and acid, which has led to calls for “common sense” knife control. Meanwhile Sweden is trying to figure out “common sense” hand grenade and Molotov cocktail control with its recent move towards multi-culturalism.

            As for your concerns about racial profiling, it is much more likely a result of policies to police where the crime is rather than racism. In fact, high police presence in black neighborhoods has usually been at the request of black residents of those neighborhoods who grow tired of dealing with criminality and violence. Furthermore, the cities with the most violent crime in the US are all controlled by Democrats, and very frequently majorities of the police and police leadership are people of color, as well as other senior leadership roles such as mayor and DA. So it isn’t exactly Aryan Nazis in police uniforms out rounding up innocent blacks and Hispanics to put in jail.

            More drastic gun control (i.e. confiscating and banning guns) in the US will never be legally possible because of the 2nd amendment, and always be practically impossible because their are something in the neighborhood of 400 million guns in private hands.


          • Mec B says

            @ S. Cheung
            I agree with your first paragraph regarding the metric of gun violence in America as an issue that is not in line with any other First world nation (hope I don’t trigger anyone!). However I cannot understand how you suggest that racism is the core issue to violence perpetrated by cops.
            First, it is regularly the case that cops in high level black areas are predominately black or representative of the men who live in that area(still a mostly high level occupation of men). So it is normal to see a high level of black cops in downtown Baltimore and white cops in Portland. It strikes me as unlikely then that the black cops in Baltimore are prejudiced against blacks. In that sense I could say that Portland cops would be prejudiced against whites as the primary calls would be from white folks in that community)
            Could it be that rather than colour of skin tone, it is a sign of more destitute(low income) areas and the accompanying levels of crime that follow with it. Take for example in the studies regarding the levels of cops killing citizens, there is always a really really small graph of Asian/ Pacific Islanders who are killed by cops. Pair that demographic with the higher levels of income from Asians and it is pretty clear that skin tone has much less to do with cop kiiling and much more to do with income, not class mind you, but income.

          • S. Cheung, Yes, in my mind because blacks are more likely to have committed crime, that the next black person I see is more likely to be a criminal than the next white person I see. That is a true statistic and a fact. And I can only go with the facts I gathered. That is obviously not PC for you. But it is just common sense. I am not a racist. But “profiling” shouldn’t be a dirty word. All animals including human have being doing the profiling since creatures came to exist. It is a fundamental survival instinct. We sense “danger” by profiling everything and manage to avoid it. In fact, the most effective way of dealing with crime is to do the profiling. That is how they deal with terrorists in Israel effectively. But under the PC climate, profiling is banned, at least on the surface. That partially explained why our crime rate remains high, because we forfeit one of the most effective tools. No, racial profiling, or any profiling does not violate the presumption of innocence at all. Why do you think police were sent to the streets in the inner city in NY and how were they able to reduce the crime rate effectively? The criminals “profile” the police and sense “danger”, they ran away. And the police “profile” the streets, the environment and the people to “sense problems” so that they can respond timely. See how the profiling works beautifully? We just won’t admit it is happening and we just cannot use the dirty word because it is politically incorrect.
            Sensible gun control should work, to a degree. But as long as criminals can get guns, people will demand guns for self-defense, no matter how “ineffective” that might be you can argue. The most tragic mistake we make as a society is to mix gun ownership with racism. Under that false narrative, the white are racists, the gun owners are racists, people on the “right” are racists, white police are racists (black police less so.) The gun and crime debate is hijacked by ideological fights and the solutions are never found. Many pointed out how gun ban works wonders in many countries. Do they have the kind of nasty ideological fights we have here in the U.S.?

    • Heath says

      E. Olsen, The first sentence of your original comment reflected what I was thinking through this entire article.

      • S. Cheung says

        E. Olson – The US is a melting pot to be sure. But that’s not unique compared with some of our comparator countries in the same socioeconomic sphere…like Canada for instance. Perhaps the ingredients in that pot are a bit different. If we look at the US and Canada as somewhat akin to a twin study (using very broad strokes here, but both initially started as British settlements/colonies, give or take a French component), and consider the difference in nurture, the biggest divergence I think would arguably be slavery and the constitution/2a insofar as pertains to the topic at hand. So does the much larger black population here compared to some other first-world countries explain the much larger rate of per capita gun deaths here? I don’t know the answer…but it seems necessary in order to sustain your argument.
        The fallback for some who fear gun control is that people prone to such things will simply resort to other methods in the absence of guns. Perhaps…but that’s a hypothetical. I would rather address, and ideally solve, an actual problem at hand, then deal with potential knock-on theoretical problems if they occur, rather than ignore a clear-and-present problem, because oh-well-it’s-just-gonna-lead-to-other-problems. And yes, there are knives, trucks, and rocks even, but I’d be interested to see how much damage the guy in Vegas would’ve wrought using those alternative instruments. i don’t think it’s really debatable that guns cause more damage with less effort per unit time than most alternatives. Can we make society completely safe? Of course not. But I don’t think nihilism is the proper aspirational alternative.

        There are more cops where there is more crime, as there should be. And I’m not referencing blacks shot while armed and/or during the commission of crimes as an indicator of racism. As I said earlier, the disproportionately high black population in prisons is a fact, and speaks to far more complex socioeconomic issues than racist cops. But I’m talking about deaths of unarmed people who are not committing crimes. If race played no role, and we are dealing simply with honest and tragic human error, than there should be no racial disparity in the rate on such deaths at the hands of cops. If there is such disparity, as there seems to be, then who the DA or mayor is, blue or red state, yada yada is beside the point. I’m not even suggesting that police departments are racist. But you haven’t offered a viable alternative to racist cops to account for such disparities. And no, racist cops needn’t wear Swastika armbands, branding tiki torches, and flashing “ok” signs, to do their thing. They would have to be racist AND morons to openly declare their racism. But closet racism is racism all the same.

        Gun control will never work? Why so defeatist? Yes, 2a is a major impediment, as I’ve said. But Australia started a ban after a particularly egregious event at Port Arthur, and that’s worked pretty well. Different situations, to be sure. But we are talking about human law, and not Newtonian physics or quantum mechanics. What we lack as a society is the will…although from what I’ve read, that may be changing, albeit at a glacial pace. Perhaps some day…

        • S. Cheung, “So does the much larger black population here compared to some other first-world countries explain the much larger rate of per capita gun deaths here?” Well, if black committed a large percentage of violent crimes, then the answer to that question seems to be YES. But let’s set aside “black” for a moment. If there is a large “green” population here that committed a large percentage of crimes, then yes, they will be shot at in a greater number. This demonstrates that it is NOT about the races, but about the fact that the “group” that committed the most crimes got shot at most. There is no denial that there are some racists cops, but to pin the problem generally on police racism against black is not very convincing. In stead of asking why many white (and black) polices shot at blacks, why don’t we ask why so many blacks were shot at? Well, the reason is simple, because they committed more crimes. In other words, “committing crimes” is the very issue and not the race. If that is agreeable, then the solution is for the blacks to commit less crime, and their being “shot at” rate will definitely come down. Why don’t police shoot at the Asians? It is because as a “group”, they committed less crimes and their confrontation with the police is far less. Nothing to do with race. The distinction is important as only when we can pinpoint where the problems are we are able to address them effectively.
          For those who are interested in the statistics of police/black/racism, this is a helpful article. It answers many questions raised.

          • S. Cheung says

            PW – “Well, if black committed a large percentage of violent crimes, then the answer to that question seems to be YES.”
            It’s actually not nearly that simple. Your answer addresses the most superficial correlative aspect. But what you need to show is causality…recognizing that it is statistically impossible to do with retrospective population based observational data. But you can get closer to it by narrowing down the correlation. So in the per capita gun death rate, what are the raw numbers of fatalities in different groups – race, gender, age. Then there’s suicide vs homicide vs accidental. Then you have to look at who did the shooting. Then you have to control for confounders, like social circumstances eg poverty, abuse, home environment. That’s all just off the top of my head…if you want to show that our sky high per capita gun death rate can be attributable to one cohort of our population. And then you still have to look at other first world nations to see why that same cohort in their countries seems to not propel a sky high gun death rate. And you would have to do all that while being willfully blind to the fact that the single commonality among all gun deaths in our country is…you guessed it…the gun. What I proposed earlier would take a ton of work. My guess is that the per capita gun death rate simply follows the per capita number of guns. Every western first world nation has a lower per capita gun owner rate than we do, and they have fewer gun death rates too. Correlation instead of causation? Absolutely. But I’d rather go with guns being the root cause of our gun death rate, than blaming black or green people.

            “why don’t we ask why so many blacks were shot at? Well, the reason is simple, because they committed more crimes.”
            You’re comparing apples and oranges. This is literally what I said above to E. Olson (“But I’m talking about deaths of unarmed people who are not committing crimes.”). I’m not sure who you intended that point for, but certainly couldn’t have been me. If people committing crime get shot by police, I have no objection to that (well, I’d be curious about the extent of justifiable force that cops used based on race- like whether a white bank robber gets shot once while a black one gets shot 10 times – but that would be a much trickier realm to demonstrate race-based malfeasance).

            Your attempt to distinguish “group” from “race” is bizarre. A grouping of black people based on their skin color is in fact what the black race is. And in your line of argument, there would always be justification to shoot an unarmed black person, anywhere, anytime, because other black folks have “committed more crimes”. Did you say earlier that you are not a racist? Me’thinks you need to reconsider, pal.

      • S. Cheung says

        Mec B – I’m not suggesting that racism is a “core issue”. What I’m saying is it seems racism would explain the racial disparity in the rate of unarmed adult males being killed by cops. It certainly seems plausible. And I’ve yet to see a more plausible alternative explanation.
        As I said elsewhere, crime is an entirely different story, and the explanation likely tracks toward history and socioeconomic issues, like poverty as you suggest, and not to racist cops. But that’s unrelated to unarmed people getting killed, when no crime is being perpetrated.

        • prometheus says

          S. Cheung — something you are leaving out of the analysis is why those unarmed black men were killed. Maybe they were resisting arrest. Maybe they were trying to take the cop’s gun. Maybe they were behaving in a violent and erratic manner. Just because they were unarmed does not absolve them of criminality or mean they pose no danger to police or bystanders. Until you show clear and compelling evidence that cops (as a group) are racists, out to get black people, I will reject your hypothesis that racism is the cause of disparate outcomes.

          • S. Cheung says

            Prometheus – there have been many highly publicized cases of unarmed black men being shot and killed by police. Your “excuses” could have made those acts justifiable. And as such, I would think investigators would have looked high and low for such evidence, to help to make those uses of force seem less egregious. Have you heard of any such evidence? Cuz I haven’t. And for reasons mentioned above, i would think we would have heard them long ago. So your “excuses” MIGHT justify why an unarmed black man WOULD get shot and killed by police, but they certainly DON’T just why multiple unarmed black men HAVE been shot and killed by police just in recent years.

            Where did I suggest that cops as a group are racists? I think everyone realizes we are not talking about the Gestapo here…except you perhaps? Let me spell it out for you. Not all racists are cops (thankfully), and not all cops are racists (naturally), but some racists are cops (sadly), and some cops are racists (obviously). It seems so self evident as to render spelling it out redundant, yet here we are.

            “Until you show clear and compelling evidence that cops (as a group) are racists, out to get black people, I will reject your hypothesis that racism is the cause of disparate outcomes.”
            What on god’s green earth are you talking about? You don’t need institutional racism (ie the entire police department to be racists) for there to be disparate outcomes based on racism….cuz you only need individual racist cops to effect those disparate outcomes. You don’t need entire police departments to shoot those individual unarmed black men to death, do you? Your point is utterly and mindblowingly stupid.

        • Mec B says

          @ S. Cheung
          I would a fool to say that no racism exists and as such I could plausibly entertain that a a fraction of these cases could be reflected in racism. But the very large disparity between whites, blacks, and Asian descent leads me to conclude that the overwhelming amount of cases are based on the fact that more “boots on the ground” in low income areas due to higher incidents of violent crime is probably a better explanation. If for example you were the commissioner and one area had a larger amount of violent crime, you’d be more inclined to have more cops in those areas. I’d bet that with more cops searching for violent criminals, they end up finding more and thus more incidents. That being said, there are obviously better options of training to apprehend people than using a gun even in high crime areas. My only concern when using a term like racist cops is that it provides no context to other issues (ie poverty, environmental issues etc…) and it invariably blankets all other critical issues specific to each community. I would prefer that training for police officers focus on the social issues of each community rather than getting some useless anti-racist training that provides no real on the ground reality.

          • S. Cheung says

            Mec B – “I would a fool to say that no racism exists and as such I could plausibly entertain that a a fraction of these cases could be reflected in racism.”
            You would think so…but then you should read what PW and Prometheus said to me above.

            I completely agree with you. “racist cops” (or maybe I should say “bad apple cops” so there is no confusion, cuz somehow some people took what i had said so far as some global indictment that “all cops are racists”) is a symptom of a much bigger ailment, and all those factors you listed would be causes for that ailment.

            But the root of that socioeconomic disparity goes back 250ish years, and has been and remains a daily reality. That’s not the type of thing that gets certain people to coalesce, at least not on its own. I think this line of discussion arose from a BLM reference. What happened to those unarmed black men was so egregious as to start this phenomenon, but the underlying causes, and ultimately the solutions, will take much more than getting rid of “bad apple cops”.

      • S. Cheung says

        PW – so you say you are “not a racist”. Hmmm. Well, racism as a current construct seems to represent a duality. There is the aspect of race-based prejudice and discrimination. And the aspect of racial superiority. You’ve definitely given no indication you are a white supremacist, so I would not accuse you of that. But you are balls deep in the prejudice and discrimination realm.
        So…there are also plenty of white folk in prison. There are certainly far more white folk in prison than there are East Asian descent folk like me. Perhaps i should simply assume that the next white guy I see is more likely to be a criminal than the next Asian person I see. Would that be kosher? Cuz this is what the tribalism and identity politic game you play gets you. Your mode of thinking is no different than the regressive left…just on a different point on the spectrum. Sounds like you’re as PC as the rest of them.
        Or maybe, just maybe, you do it up like MLK instead, and judge by content of character rather than color of skin. Just sayin’. And sure, do profiling. But profile the stuff like physical movement and behavior, which is a better predictor of whether you’re up to no good, rather than just skin color. And guess what, that’s what the IDF does. And that way, you target black, white, Asian, and all other criminals. Unless your version of “profiling is beautiful” means to round up black folks (criminals or not) and let white folk roam free (criminals or not). Based on your proclivities thus far, I wouldn’t put that past you.

        “Sensible gun control should work, to a degree.” — it does work, the whole western first world over. Literally look at the rest of the world in our socioeconomic neck of the woods. We simply lack the good sense, and the will. I admit that the current number of guns already in circulation is a major barrier, which is why I speak of control of supply (which is what works in other countries), but even that would take a long time to render a meaningful effect. But we are the country that does stuff not because it is easy, but because it is hard. Well, at least we used to be that country. Perhaps not so much anymore.

    • El Uro says

      @E. Olson The problem is not that leftists are idiots. The problem is that they are dangerous idiots.

    • News that contains partial truth but pretends to be the whole truth is fake news still.
      News reporters spent the entire segment talking about something that has not yet happened, then with 10 seconds left, they said IF TRUE.. That is pre-news.

    • Paul says

      The article acknowledged the ability of journalists to hand select the news we see. We all know Fox chooses one way, MSNBC another. The more general point the article makes is better made without the ideological bias.

    • michael g. says

      Journalists and academics are usually liberals.
      Put another way:
      Those who have first hand access to the most information–and those who are most highly trained and experienced at analyzing information–are usually liberal.
      Perhaps the liberal view is the one that understands reality best!

    • OleK says


      I listened to this podcast a couple weeks and it is excellent. Eric has said other similar things in past podcasts as well. The best simple statement I’d say from him was when said the MSM is Gaslighting us. Exactly.

      And Eric is LEFT of center!

  2. This is easily the most intelligent piece I’ve seen on the modern mass media. Truly there is fake news and Fake news and the author brilliantly explicates the latter. But my question is, what does he teach his journalism students other that to advise them to get into another field? Armed with these insights and and the structural inertia of mass media, can they hope to last more than a week at the NYT, Fox News, or MSNBC?

    • K. Dershem says

      I agree, although I take issue with your implied equivalence between the NYT and Fox News/MSNBC. I think that cable news is less than worthless in terms of understanding the world — it’s almost all sensationalism and speculation, almost all of the time. I think Neil Postman correctly identified the problem in his classic Amusing Ourselves to Death. In totalitarian societies (like China and North Korea), dissent is actively suppressed via censorship and direct control over the media. In contrast, people in the West can find accurate information (if they take the time to seek it out), but most of us don’t bother — we’re too busy mindlessly consuming entertainment and/or becoming apoplectic about the latest “outrage” being spread on social media. Cable “news” is ultimately intended to keep us engaged (and often enraged), not provide information; the same is true of “news feeds” on Facebook. It may be true, as the Washington Post declares, that “democracy dies in darkness”; it can also be drowned in drivel.

      • Marty Le Renard says

        China is “1984” the West is “Brave New World”. China bans books. Westerners don’t read.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Marty Le Renard

          Ha! Best post so far on this article.

      • Marty Le Renard says

        China is “1984”, the West is “Brave New World”. China bans books. Westerners don’t read.

      • Tome708 says

        K D has found news that he likes. The “other” news is bad. My news is good, and real, and true. And darn it I know that because it confirms my bias.

      • Well, 90% of my posts were blocked by NYT because of my (moderate) conservative views. I see that as “dissent is actively suppressed via censorship and direct control.” Not?
        Personally I think Fox in general (excluding a few extreme right wing hosts) is middle to the right whereas NYT and MSNBC are near extreme left. Not?

    • Yes, we see this with reported crimes long before any investigation has taken place, and the “believe the X” chants start immediately, as if “belief” is any way to run a country, a business, or a technology. Jussie Smollett? 2 years of Russian collusion investigations by top law enforcement without a single charge yet about it, as if the FBI is okay with a known Russian agent to be president for years?

  3. Farris says

    Excellent article.

    The author leaves out two disconcerting regular features of the news coverage:
    1. The continual use of polling data. This is not news or even evidence of anything. Anyone can contrive a poll to produce the results one desires. This is not to say that all polls are contrived but it is sufficient to cast doubt on the viability of their reliability. One would think that Brexit and the 2016 Presidential election would have curtailed using polling data.
    2. What I refer to as the use of talking heads. Some issue or event arises and persons from opposite ends of the political spectrum appear to give his or her take on the issue. This spin always boils down to we are on the side of the angels and they are evil. It may be interesting and entertaining but it is not news. These talking heads are the best example of dog bites man (not the reverse). Nothing is beneath these talking heads (who is the cause of irritable bowel syndrome Liberals or Trump?) as they are simply promoting themselves and their point of view, they seek publicity and often produce a book.

    • E. Olson says

      Farris – polls are used to move public opinion to the Left, and discourage voters on the Right. The mainstream media loved polls showing that Trump was way behind Clinton so that they could discourage Trump voters from going to polls, and they love to report his low approval ratings to show he has no chance in 2020. The mainstream media also loves to use polls to show high public support for Leftist policies such as single payer healthcare (where they always “forget” to tell respondents that single payer will increase their taxes substantially), or stopping climate change (where they always “forget” to tell respondents that their electricity bills will triple and gasoline will be $10 per gallon), or immigration (where they always “forget” to distinguish between legal and illegal immigration). They do lots of polls, carefully word the questions to push respondents towards the Leftist position, over-sample Democrats, and don’t report polls or individual question results that don’t support the Leftist narratives.

      • Farris says


        Well said and I agree. Like I said not news. If it were honest the reporting it would be the 140 urban democrats we polled saw it this way while the 100 republicans saw it that way. Not quite as sexy though.

      • David of Kirkland says

        @E.Olson — Because “the right” never does a poll? Or because the results rarely match what the GOP claims to be what Americans want/think?

        • E. Olson says

          The only major news organization that isn’t Left of center is Fox, and their polls tend to be more accurate and less biased, but of course they use polls “as news” also.

    • Shawn T says

      I would add a 3rd: reporting a news story from another source, unconfirmed by their own reporting, as news. How many headlines run: “XYZ is reporting…” Each broadcast/publication is so afraid of missing out on the “scoop” they fall all over themselves to amplify it, true or no. This is rediculously compounded by social media re-circulating the original story and the stories about the stories, giving it the fraudulent appearance of credibility.

      • Farris says

        @Shawn T

        “Buffers. Yeah the family’s got a lot of buffers.”
        Willie Cicci

  4. Vox says

    I cut cable about 10 years ago. I stopped listening to NPR a year ago. Cancelled subscriptions to NYT and WP maybe 10 months ago. My mental hygiene has improved dramatically. Mass media is “the light” from Poltergeist.

    “Stay away from the light. The light is dangerous. Don’t go near it. Don’t even look at the light.”

    • Me too. Stopped listening to NPR 5 years ago. Stopped reading their articles when they disabled comments (cowardly move). Cancelled my Atlantic subscription about 10 years ago. All hopelessly rife with ideological possession.

    • Anonymous says

      @Vox : NPR accused Sarah Palin of inciting the shooting of Gabby Giffords. I listened to them regularly the week following this shooting.
      NPR repeated this lie several times a day for an entire week – until President Obama finally went on the air and asked the media to stop doing that ( to his credit ).

    • david of Kirkland says

      @Robert Hadley – You see no mental issues with this president? Observation works for most others, and you don’t need to receive a credential to tell if someone is nutty, a liar, a narcissist, a con, etc…

  5. Fake news: Facts sacrificed on the altar of narrative. What passes for “news” these days is just narrative and counter narrative. Here in the UK the Guardain and the Mail will go to hysterically outrageous lengths to counter the others opinions just because they feel that is their “role”. There is no fundamental or ideological underpinning; If one side says ‘black, the other MUST say ‘white’ , regardless of the subject or however extreme or preposterous a position that puts them in. Hence you get the absurd spectacle of the self-righteously ‘pro-immigrant’ Guardian defending the rapists at Cologne station a few years ago. They were obliged to peruse their narrative – they had no choice.

  6. Fr334A11 says

    @Vox I am with you there.
    When I still had cable, years ago, I had blocked ALL the cable “news” channels.
    Sadly, I ALSO stopped listening to NPR. Once upon a time, they had a balanced ( left-leaning, but balanced ) perspective, but that is no more.
    I cancelled my subscription to the Economist, which used to be my favorite magazine, when EVERY LAST ARTICLE became a Trump bashing meme.
    The subscriptions to the other rags I still get, until they run out, go right in the trash.
    I use the internet now to consume media of my choice, or no media at all.
    It makes for a much brighter day.
    Have a happy one yourself. 🙂

    • K. Dershem says

      It sounds like you’ve constructed a hermetically-sealed echo chamber for yourself. That might make you happier, but it won’t make you better informed.

      • Shawn T says

        K, I agree with Fr in that I subscribe to nothing – my lone subscription, years ago, was a local paper which I eventually quit taking. I also pursue what I choose, but not to necessarily look for what confirms my own bias. I began years ago “quadrangulating” the news. I get news online from Fox, CNN, Drudge, Buzzfeed, Breitbart, NPR, RealClear (which generally sources both sides of issues from a lot of sites). I try to find at least 2 takes on each side of an issue (the quad part) in an attempt to balance the arguments myself. I also enjoy a lot of articles in The Atlantic – typically shooting for less overtly political fare. I enjoy long form, and Atlantic can do it well on a lot of topics. Which brings me to Quillette. I really enjoy articles where reasoning is laid out in full. This exposes a much more complete picture and allows me to evaluate a point of view more critically. This article, in particular, is great to keep in mind as a consumer because when we read news from any source we should understand the broader context or lack of it. We should also always be aware that any news source is selling a product and every story a pitch for that product packaged as information about the world.

        • Mec B says

          It should be noted that the news historically has been about as cutthroat and competitive as it is now for the eyes and ears of the readers. The difference was in the golden age of newspapers(late 19th-early 20th), if you rolled out an article that was caught in a lie (a fake story) by being called out by the victim or by the other press your paper was likely to suffer in the circulation purchases. It ironically made the news more likely to hustle to find the real truthful scope as quickly as possible and get it out hot rather than lie to get it out earlier.

          Our news organizations now no longer have proper competition as they are either owned by a small handful and thus face no real consequences of a false claim.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @K. Dershem

        Yabut they hermetically seal you whether you want that or not. I like Quillette because I can find both you and E here. Trying to be informed isn’t easy and gets harder all the time. I’m to the point where I believe what I see and not very much else.

        • Lydia says

          “Yabut they hermetically seal you whether you want that or not.

          So true.

  7. Lightning Rose says

    Best article I’ve seen yet on Quillette–and one that deserves a much larger audience. A worthy reminder that what most people interpret as “reality” is in fact a series of “narratives.” Begging the questions not only, “Is this for real?” but “Who wants me to believe it is, and why?” Superb!

  8. Everett Brunson says

    There was an incident portrayed in one of Jane Goodall’s books that struck a strong cord with me. I believe it was The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behavior;1986. A synopsis: The troop she followed in Gombe had plenty of resources in terms of territory, food, and water. Each morning members of the troop–before feeding–would go to the border they shared with another Chimpanzee troop and proceed to hurl rocks, sticks, and Chimpanzee insults at the Chimps on the other side. Thirty to forty-five minutes later, having convinced the “other” to stay on their side of the creek, the Gombe Chimps would go about their daily rituals of eating, playing, and fighting among each other.

    That chapter struck me as so profound that it has become an integral part of my own weltanschauung. Salerno’s article reinforces that long ago discovery–that, no matter how safe, well fed, or prosperous–the tribal part of us MUST spend at least a portion of the day screaming invectives at the tribe on the other side of the creek.

    Back in the days of three major news networks and access limited to one’s own local paper it was difficult to find reasons to shout at the “other” tribe as all information was carefully controlled by the select few. In other words, the selection of rocks and sticks were relatively few. And the ability to scream invective even less–and was usually limited to that retired guy who wrote his daily letter to the editor.

    Today, the amount of rocks and sticks are virtually unlimited. And the news services (print, cable, or internet) happily provide all the projectile ammunition their particular tribe members could ever hope for. And the ability to scream? Thank you commentary sections. Now all of us are the old retired guy with an ax to grind.

    The for profit news and internet services are only too happy to supply rocks and sticks. And as Salerno so perfectly points out–gives us a very skewed and unreasonably paranoid view of humanity, risks, and rewards.

    • Everett Brunson

      I once visited Gombe Stream a number of years ago and what I found interesting was the relationship between the chimps and the baboons. The chimps and baboons more or less overlap but the chimps are quite arrogant and condescending to the baboons. I once saw a chimp ruthlessly break up a squabble between two baboons apparently because the noise was disturbing.

      The researchers at Gombe Stream generally admired the aristocratic chimps (who even appeared condescending toward humans), but they thought of the baboons as sneaky and avaricious – more than once I heard baboons referred to as “white trash”.

      I imagine if chimps and baboons were found to be interested in “news” the chimps would be listening to NPR and the baboons would be listening to talk radio.

      • Everett Brunson says

        I imagine if chimps and baboons were found to be interested in “news” the chimps would be listening to NPR and the baboons would be listening to talk radio.

        How utterly simianist of you! Chuckle. I envy you your trip.

  9. @everett, well said. Successful ventures rely on predictable human response. The outrage merchants of cable news, national newspapers and magazines, and (sadly) NPR bank on us coming back for another hit.

  10. Over the years of reading literature and philosophy I’ve made a little notation every time an author – Emerson, Nietzsche, Ortega y Gasset, etc etc – makes a comment about “newspaper reading”. These comments are always disparaging usually suggesting that the very concept of “news” is a kind of modern delusion (off hand if I recall correctly, Emerson called newspaper reading “a recipe for oblivion”).

    The question we might ask is whether what we think of as news tells us anything of significance about reality. Steve Salerno does raise this issue suggesting that sometimes the reporting of an anomaly indicates a larger trend. But the more interesting issue is how news reporting can shape the political and economic behavior of news consumers. And how the psychological needs of news consumers shapes reporting.

    People who think reality consists of news are relatively incapable of or disinterested in discriminating between anomaly from trend. This is almost always the case for those possessed by ideology. What is called news is simply that which confirms an ideology I have in my head. It turns out there’s big money in fulfilling that need. The shifting definition of “fake news” reflects this reality: Fake news is any news which essentially serves some ideological narrative to which I don’t subscribe

  11. Saw file says

    @Everett B.
    A poignant comment, to a excellent article.
    My wife (too) often comes into my study asking, “who are you yelling at?”. I point my finger at the radio and say, ” those ideological idiots on the CBC (Canada).”
    She then goes over and changes the station to CKUA; pat’s me on the head;asks if I want a snack.
    Everyone needs a sanity anchor, but I often think that the chimps are on the right course in their rituals.

    • Everett Brunson says

      @ Saw File. Like the angry old man writing his daily diatribe, I didn’t have the time to become immersed in the news until I retired in December 2015. I didn’t register for Disqus until after the November 2016 election.

      To educate myself I spent as much time at places like Salon, HuffPo, the NYT, and WaPo as I did at places like PJ Media, the Daily Caller, and the Washington Times. I soon found that the readers/commentators at the Left Wing sites had no time or charity for a Deplorable such as myself. Though I had spent the last 20 years of my working life as a teacher and principal in a public secondary school I was obviously a Nazi, White Supremacist for daring to support Donald J Trump.
      (INSERT THE Ad Hom of the day here ________)

      I found out quickly which side of the creek I stood on–and was expected to remain on.

      Anyway, my Canadian brother, my wife sometimes give me an affectionate pat on the head too.

  12. SommeVerdun says

    While I generally agree both with what Salerno says above and with what Lehmann said in the posting about Christchurch, I think that this quote from the Lehmann article is an example of what Salerno bemoans:

    “We do not yet know what will be the long-term impact of the internet—obviously, it will be both good and bad, and most likely the upside will vastly outweigh the downside—but we must also be prepared for a fragmenting of our societies, and continual fracturing along ideological and tribal lines.”

    Are our societies really fragmenting and fracturing? Or maybe something less dramatic is happening, a continual adaptation of society to new technologies, and perhaps some sort of political realignment. By political realignment I mean something like some group which used to reliably vote R is now voting D and some other group which used to reliably vote D is now voting R and the political parties are still adjusting to this.

    Perhaps we too should de-outrage ourselves the way Salerno wishes the media would.

  13. OWG says

    The biggest problem I have with the various “news” organizations of all media types is the continuing deterioration in their coverage of things that matter to me in my daily life versus all of the crap noted in the article and comments.

  14. Major1 says

    I take it that reporters used to gather facts, organize them in a logical and concise manner, and then present them to consumers. Sounds pretty boring and workmanlike. Then Walter Cronkite out of nowhere claims that the U.S. had lost the war in Vietnam. Btw the Tet Offensive didn’t turn the war in favor of the Communists. It was a debacle for them and essentially destroyed the VC as an effective military force. But Cronkite abandoned facts and fed his audience his “analysis” instead. Noting this must have sent a thrill up many a nascent journalist’s leg. Following that, Watergate. Woodward and Bernstein weren’t reporters, they were rock stars. Sexy men of action. Hollywood had to get the sexiest man alive, Robert Redford, just to portray one of ‘em in a movie, for Chrissake’s! The sexiness was off the charts and the leg thrills were coming in unrelenting salvos. Now no one wanted to be a reporter. That’s basically like a stenographer, right? Bo-ring! They all became “journalists”…analyzing, interpreting, framing, contextualizing and opining up a storm.
    A massive, violent Black criminal bum-rushes a cop and gets shot for his trouble? Yawn. How ordinary. But a gentle mocha giant pleading hands up/don’t shoot? And this is a pattern of racist police Whiteness? Damn that’s sexy as hell. The editorials and opinion pieces masquerading as news stories write themselves.
    I used to subscribe to a dozen or more magazines and a great day was when I got two or three magazines in my mailbox on the same day. I also subscribed to both local papers. Now? I subscribe to zero magazines and newspapers and wouldn’t open a copy of the New Yorker if you hand delivered it to me for free.
    Journalists abdicated their obligations to truth and objectivity long ago. Fuck ‘em.

  15. bumble bee says

    Well it’s nice to hear from someone learned in journalism speaking to what a lot of us already know. The term fake news is not just limited to actual fake news one would have found in the Weekly World News, but it is fake for all the reason mentioned.

    What I thought was missing is while the author is a professor of journalism, who if evaluated by this article, teaches his students true integrity and journalistic integrity, he fails to mention that all that he and hopefully others have passed on are thwarted by the machinery of the news industry. In preparing for the real world, these shiny new journalists will have to betray all they were taught just to get a job. It is the corruption of news empires, editors, sponsors, that turn well educated journalists into the news whores we see today.

    There are true journalists still doing the reporting if you can find them. Those that uncovered the Panama Papers is a prime example of what journalism was revered for doing. Wikileaks was in its infancy suppose to be that voice of true journalism, by exposing issues no one would have known.

    I no longer believe the news because it has become so manipulating and biased. I only watch the local news in the morning. Even print papers have fallen from grace. I hope people in the news industry can claw back from this current farce. Too many people still take the news at face value, and that can be very dangerous for all concerned.

    • Lydia says

      Like Sharyl Atkinsson of Full Measure. Her story is interesting. Real reporters get surveilled by totalitarian regimes like Obama’s .

  16. Sydney says

    What a disappointing post for such a critical subject.

    It’s shallow and facile, and delivered with so many ‘gotcha,’ vervey, I’m-too-clever-for-myself, and click-baitey turns of phrase (beginning with the ultra-clever title) that I feel the author wrote it more with his first-year students in mind (“Hey, kiddies, catch my piece in Quillette! Am I hip or what?”) than with actual, grown-up, longtime media-consumers.

    @E. Olsen did a better job with the whole subject in the first comment than the author did with the whole post.

    There are lessons in the headlines each and every day that should motivate anyone to ask the old, “In whose interest…?” query. ‘Fake news’ is nothing new. The ‘in whose interest’ question alone delivers more information than the pre-digested pablum that follows, which has certainly been delivered via press release from some government agency or policy organ and copied verbatim by a random intern whose left-lib education never taught them how to think at all.

    Here in Canada, as someone already noted, all of the mainstream media has been bought and paid for by the current government. Nothing we’re fed is actual journalism at all, no matter the subject. Other nations face similar issues. At least the United States, with a huge population, has a range of media that do manage to reflect a range of opinions (with a few gaping holes of issues that nobody will touch).

    Huge and fascinating subject, and I’m still waiting for Quillette to do it justice. This post didn’t touch it.

    • Mec B says

      @ Sydney
      “Here in Canada, as someone already noted, all of the mainstream media has been bought and paid for by the current government”.
      What a load of garbage. Only someone who isn’t in Canada couldn’t identify some of the better newspapers that frankly are out to harrass the government as they should(National Post for one).
      When you throw down a lie like that, everything else you’ve written has shade thrown on…kinda like what the article was written about.

  17. Sean Leith says

    “The Republic slogs on despite the diverting shenanigans of the figureheads at the top.”

    What the hell do you mean by that? put up this outrageous statement without explanation?. Shame on you.

  18. Now do Quillette’s fascination with the rare instances of right wing voices being silenced in academia or online social media. Or the uncommoness of illegal border crossings or crime by illegal immigrants. Or any other right-wing obsession with rare bad things that they love to blow up into great issues of the day. You can play this game all day and night. And it ends up just as meaningless.

    • Anonymous says

      brokenyogi : “rare instance of right wing voices being silenced in academia”

      Bullshit. There are hundreds of documented cases of this. And thousands of in-the-closet conservatives who are too fearful too speak out after getting the very clear message that the target is on their backs.

      • Hundreds, you say? And yet there are millions of cases where this doesn’t happen. Isn’t that the point of the article? That the media focuses on the small number of cases that support some political agenda of grievance, and yet ignores the vast number of ordinary life situations in which that doesn’t occur? So I guess you reject the premise of the article? Or, only when it doesn’t support your particular grievance agenda?

        • Ned Viper says

          You are not worth talking too, blinded by your own delusions and bias.

    • Stephanie says

      Brokenyogi, the disenfranchisement of right-leaning voices on campus is apparent to anyone with self-awareness who has attended university. Same with social media. It is not one-offs, it actually is systematic. Have you not heard the CEO of YouTube last week saying she wished she could remove Ben Shapiro from her platform entirely? Do you honestly believe that hatred for right-wing ideas can be so pervasive in an institution without ramifications?

      Illegal border crossings are not uncommon, there are thousands a year. Between 40-60% of illegal aliens arrive this way, totalling tens of millions. That is not a rare event. As for crime, the statistics do show greater rates of criminality among illegals, and every crime committed by an illegal is one that wouldn’t have happened in the US if they hadn’t been there.

      This article is about how atypical, nonsystemic events are misrepresented by highlighting the extremely rare exceptions. Right-wing othering, iIllegal entry and higher criminality by illegals are problems worth discussing because honest statistics and not atypical events demonstrate they are a problem.

      • Cameron says

        I believe it was Kara Swisher not Susan Wojcicki who said that she would like to ban Ben Shapiro.

      • I guess you missed my point by a mile.

        I’m not suggesting there’s no problems or incidents of conservative voices being silenced on college campuses. I’m pointing out that by the logic of this article, one shouldn’t be so obsessed with them, when there are millions of examples of conservatives NOT being silenced on campuses. So if you think those represent a real problem worth talking about, you’re rejecting the point the article is trying to make. Which is good, because it’s a stupid point.

  19. The pursuit of sensation and the selection of the exceptional and shocking as news is not new but has always been with us.

    The speed and ubiquity of news collection has increased so any shocking incdent anywhere in the world has a good chance of being filmed and presented all within a matter of hours. What does seem to me to have changed is the organised groups intent on both creating and interpretting news which favours their own agenda. We get endless surveys with deep methodological flaws which create shocking and deeply implausible numbers for the prevelance of one problem or another. We get single incidents presented as evidence of a worldwide problem. .

    The supposedly unbiased and presitgous media outlets have retereated from filtering out and gatekeeping what is unreasonable or unevidenced and have retreated into simply presenting two opposed views for almost everything as ‘balance’.

    In the end we cannot trust these reports so end up using outr intuition and exisiting biases and opinions to filter out those we believe and those we don’t. The news ends up as a mechanism by which we became more dogmatic, less likely to listen to opposing views and more polarised.

    The “campus rape criss” is perhaps the ultimate example of the problem. Rapes generally are down throughout society. There are a tiny number of rapes committed on campus. Society that has never been more supportive of women and those claiming to be victims yet the number of rapes reported to the police is orders of magnitude less than those claimed from surveys. Those exposed ot this information either decide that we live in a rape culture where rape is almost ubiquitous and that those who claim to be victims should always be believed or decide that it is a fabrication and almost all rape claims are false.

    Polarisation is an inevitable consequence of the search for sensation and that is driven by economics, sensation sells, sober judgement and caution does not.

  20. Quillette is late to the game here, and the analysis is a little shallow.
    The author tries to make something of the point that factually true news can compose a lie, but the only insight he provides is the oft repeated ‘news stories are anomalies, and are negative’.
    Not considered, are the following:
    Why does the news on average have a leftist bias, not just a negativity bias?
    How is leftism related to the nature of news itself?
    If the news narrative is fake, what should the typical consumer of news actually do about it, while still staying informed about current events?
    How do you actually get closer to the truth, if reading and watching more news will simply add lies to lies?

    These questions are answered here:

    • Stephanie says

      Time and Silence, thank you for the recommendation, that was a great article.

  21. Carter Duchesney says

    Very interesting and yet even in an article written about the issue of presenting selective or incomplete information (fake news), incomplete information is provided. It is stated that police killed 19 unarmed black men in 2017. Being unarmed doesn’t mean you are not a deadly threat. The whole “hands up don’t shoot” thing was exposed to be false as Brown’s DNA was found on the police officer’s weapon (gun grab). How many of these 19 deaths were a result of the officer fighting to remain alive in the course of his or her duties? Anything outside of that number is the real stat.

    • Cameron says

      He made no claim about the merits of the shootings. Whether the shootings were justified or not was not the point.

  22. Anonymous says

    Here are some other exaggerated fake news media hype scare stories :

    1) Man-made global warming catastrophe. “Alexandra Ocasio Cortez says that nobody should have children – since we are all doomed in 12 years !”

    Go to the NASA website and see “97 % consensus among scientific studies”.
    Except that the study itself is bogus and discredited. Fake science.

    2) President Obama declared “One fifth of all women have been sexually assaulted”. Fake social science, spread on fake news.

    3) The NY Times declares “President Trump calls immigrants animals”. Uhhh… the President was responding to a question about the MS-13 crime gang – he called THEM animals, not immigrants generally.

    4) “The Covington High School kids racially bully an innocent native American “- says CNN and the Washington Post.

    uhhh…the actual evidence showed that kids were actually minding their own business, and they were themselves being bullied by a group of black nationalists PLUS a leftist Native American was bullying THEM.

    • Ted Talks says

      Fake news isnt even new. Walter Durranty won a friggin Pulitzer for denying Soviet famines.

      The news has always been fake and biased, we only now have a better means to uncover when they are bullshiting us.

    • E. Olson says

      Good post Anonymous, but you forgot the Obama “if you like your plan/doctor you can keep your plan/doctor and save $2500”. Then you have the reports that Trump took the bust of MLK out of the oval office, and that Trump is clearly a Fascist and Hitler. Of course the media also reported that Reagan and Bush 43 were Hitler and that actual war hero Bush 41 was a wimp.

      • K. Dershem says

        So the MSM is completely in the tank for Democrats? Is that why the media was obsessed with Bill Clinton’s scandals (from Whitewater to Lewinsky) during the 1990s, portrayed Gore as an uptight know-it-all in the 2000 election, provided uncritical support for W.’s war in Iraq until public opinion finally turned against it, provided massive amounts of free media coverage for Trump even before he become the Republican nominee, was completely fixated on Hillary Clinton’s e-mail “scandal” to the virtual exclusion of covering her policy proposals, etc.? It’s true that most reporters are liberal on social issues — that’s because they’re educated urbanites and reflect those demographics. But the MSM ultimately cares about profit, not ideology, and its deepest bias is toward sensationalism. Obama received far less negative media coverage than other presidents in part because he warranted less: compared to previous administrations (both Republican and Democratic), his was relatively free of scandal. In contrast, Trump lies continually and his administration has been in a constant state of disarray. For the record, Obama’s false claim that Americans would be able to keep their health care policies under the ACA was widely reported (and criticized) in the MSM; Politifact named it their “lie of the year.”

        • E. Olson says

          K – you are blind because you only see the mainstream Fake news. The media was full of apologists for Clinton – i.e. what he does in private has nothing to do with his ability to govern, and the infamous Burleigh quote “happy to give [Bill Clinton] a blowjob just to thank him for keeping abortion legal.” Clinton only got hammered on late night by Leno and Letterman. And yes Trump got lots of free media coverage, but 90+% was negative, which was far, far, far higher than Hillary received even though she clearly broke the law with the e-mail scandal and had clear health issues that the media totally ignored. Just one example – the media went out of their way to not show the dismal crowds at Hillary events, and cover up the huge crowds at Trump events.

          And Obama had no scandals? First of all, how does a man run for president and not have any friends, colleagues, former students who had any memories of him? Where were the interviews with former students saying he was their best classmate or the best professor they had? What were his grades in school? Why did his book publicist say for years that he was born in Kenya? Yet the media never touched any of these stories during the campaign. And Trump is the narcissist? When did Trump ever claim that he was the person everyone was waiting for, or that he would stop the oceans from rising? No scandals? How about the IRS scandal, how about Benghazi scandal, how about you can keep your health care scandal, how about the Fast and Furious scandal, how about spying on the Trump campaign scandal? How about 8 years without a single year of 3+% growth (first since Hoover). There was plenty of scandals and poor performances in the Obama administration, but the media and even late night comedians weren’t interested in being called racist or covering anything that might hurt the Ds. Do you honestly think the mainstream (fake) media would cover Trump the same way as Obama if there was even a rumor that Trump was using the IRS to hurt Leftist organizations, or that he was selling guns to Mexican drug cartels, or promising to save everyone $2,500 on health care but then have things go the other way?

          K – you have no leg to stand on when it comes to denying the extreme Leftism of the mainstream media – a BBC link just won’t cut it.

          • K. Dershem says

            E., you’ve proven time and time again that you’re balls-deep inside the right-wing echo chamber. You accuse something of “Leftist bias” if it doesn’t comport with your far-right ideology. For the record, the BBC link was only intended to provide an explanation of the origin of the term “fake news.” (That said, I think the BBC is slightly more reliable than the “conservative tree house”!) This site provides an interesting analysis of media bias:

            I would find your breathless rants more amusing if you would simply admit that you’re a far-right ideologue. Of course, it’s abundantly obvious to anyone who doesn’t share your black-and-white view of the world, so I suppose the fact that you’re oblivious to your own bias is immaterial.

          • E. Olson says

            K – Of course I lean heavily right – your pointing it out isn’t really necessary for the commenters here, except when I occasionally make a sarcastic comment that accurately imitates common Leftist positions. Unfortunately, your main line of argument against my comment content is that I am a right wing, but that doesn’t make me wrong in my “breathless rants” of the Left.

          • E. Olson says

            K – thanks for the link – according to their survey questions on bias – I’m in the center. It also confirms my statements about media bias, as there are 27 Leftist biased sources listed (including all the most prominent mainstream sources except Fox) versus only 17 Rightist biased sources listed.

          • K. Dershem says

            E., you’re confusing cause and effect. I don’t think your rants are wrong because you’re right-wing (an ad hominem attack), I think you believe and make false claims because your perspective is distorted by right-wing confirmation bias. (I don’t think there are many Birthers in the “center.”) If you’re actually interested in engaging in conversation, I would recommend moderating your use of the Gish gallop. Post a comment with one or two claims backed up by argument and evidence instead of stringing together a dozen different right-wing talking points, each of which would require a paragraph to unpack and adequately address.

          • E. Olson says

            K – Again you distort my comments based on your Leftist perspective. I never said that Obama was born in Kenya, but his book publicist said he was for many years, which I assume was to help boost book sales of an otherwise unaccomplished young black man. I also wouldn’t be surprised if he tried to claim foreign status to enhance his chances of getting into good schools with apparently mediocre grades, which may be why his academic records are sealed up so tight.


          • K. Dershem says

            No conspiracy. Just an error by a fact-checker that was picked up by a conspiracy-mongering anti-Obama website.

            Miriam Goderich edited the text of the bio; she is now a partner at the Dystel & Goderich agency, which lists Obama as one of its current clients.

            “You’re undoubtedly aware of the brouhaha stirred up by Breitbart about the erroneous statement in a client list Acton & Dystel published in 1991 (for circulation within the publishing industry only) that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. This was nothing more than a fact checking error by me — an agency assistant at the time,” Goderich wrote. “There was never any information given to us by Obama in any of his correspondence or other communications suggesting in any way that he was born in Kenya and not Hawaii. I hope you can communicate to your readers that this was a simple mistake and nothing more.”


            The idea that his grades have been “suppressed” is also a conspiracy theory.


            Presumably you’re a Trump supporter. It’s astonishing (but not surprising) that you question Obama’s intelligence and academic accomplishments compared to the current occupant of the White House. I know from other comments that you hold racist views regarding IQ, so perhaps you can only believe that affirmative action is the only possible explanation for a black man reaching the White House.

            Ugh, I can’t believe I’ve wasted this much time exchanging comments with you. How many times do I have to learn the lesson that you’re a close-minded ideologue who’s only interested in scoring partisan points, not in having an actual exchange of ideas?

  23. Kauf Buch says

    Good Lord, this guy keeps blathering on and on and on, only to prove how his academic prison has shielded him from reality and professional ethics of his field. Sue, he gets an inkling that there’s something amiss in the “Trump-Russia collusion” scam, but can’t do the basic journalistic research to understand what SEDITION that “insurance policy” is made of.

    It’s sad to see such a creature trying to justify a once-honored, much-justly-discredited profession with so many words; he ends up only dancing around the intractable problem it has created for itself…ZERO TRUSTWORTHINESS.

    • Lydia says

      “…but can’t do the basic journalistic research to understand what SEDITION that “insurance policy” is made of.”

      Biggest story of the century that proves our representative Republic is in peril, our top law enforcement institutions are not trustworthy and act as a sort of Admin State Stasi. Yet they won’t touch it because of their left-wing bias and they like it when the Stasi is going after their enemy. They can’t think past their own dystopian noses.

  24. Lydia says

    “Needless to say, the term has itself acquired a patina of inauthenticity, given its most celebrated user’s tendency to invoke it to mean, ‟This news makes me look bad…so it’s fake.ˮ

    Nah. I knew most of you guys were fake news 25 years ago. You guys just love the power you had as influencers but it’s waning so you have to blame somebody. and there is always the obligatory blame on Trump so you can be accepted by your peers. It’s old.

    Btw, Hillary first used the term for news reported that made her look bad.

  25. Richard Fagin says

    All the author’s examples and evidence are correct about relative risk and ow reporting shapes opinion, but his lack of self awareness is obvious. “Even the current helmsman hasn’t undone us yet and probably won’t. Probably.” The rest of you can argue all you want. The author himself gave the game away with that statement. The implication is clear that he thinks the current President is a unique threat despite little evidence of him being a “unique threat.” That is not to say anyone needs to agree with any of Trump’s policies, think he is a nice person or do anything but hate the man, but he is most certainly not a unique threat. So much “news” is researched, written and reported in the same manner: using the reporter’s subjective opinion about a subject to decide whether something about the subject is newsworthy. In choosing to create, however modest, the impression that Donald Trump is uniquely off his rocker is exactly what is meant by “fake news.” You want more Trump? Because this is now you get more Trump!

  26. JDJD says

    The article was thoughtful, as I previously said, but it is not authority for the idea that all news is fake or left leaning. When one hears FOX, Limbaugh, the White House and Russian trolls all saying the exact same words within minutes of one another, one may rest assured one is hearing fake news. Other outlets may report on the same incident, but rarely in exactly the same words.

    • Cameron says

      “When one hears FOX, Limbaugh, the White House and Russian trolls all saying the exact same words within minutes of one another, one may rest assured one is hearing fake news.” People of similar world views discussing something in a similar manner does not prove that what they are discussing is fake. If you wish to see just how similar many “news” outlets are just YouTube it. There are many examples from all world views.

      P.S. Disagreeing with you online does not make someone a Russian troll automatically.

      • K. Dershem says

        E., are you joking?

        The White House and Fox interact so seamlessly that it can be hard to determine, during a particular news cycle, which one is following the other’s lead. All day long, Trump retweets claims made on the network; his press secretary, Sarah Sanders, has largely stopped holding press conferences, but she has made some thirty appearances on such shows as “Fox & Friends” and “Hannity.” Trump, Hemmer says, has “almost become a programmer.”

        [M]any people who have watched and worked with Fox over the years, including some leading conservatives, regard Fox’s deepening Trump orthodoxy with alarm. Bill Kristol, who was a paid contributor to Fox News until 2012 and is a prominent Never Trumper, said of the network, “It’s changed a lot. Before, it was conservative, but it wasn’t crazy. Now it’s just propaganda.” Joe Peyronnin, a professor of journalism at N.Y.U., was an early president of Fox News, in the mid-nineties. “I’ve never seen anything like it before,” he says of Fox. “It’s as if the President had his own press organization. It’s not healthy.”

        Nothing has formalized the partnership between Fox and Trump more than the appointment, in July, 2018, of Bill Shine, the former co-president of Fox News, as director of communications and deputy chief of staff at the White House.

        • E. Olson says

          K – surely you aren’t so Left biased that you fail to see the difference between your “collusion” and what my links describe. Fox is one network, and the only one that makes any attempt to treat the Trump administration fairly, and their interaction with Trump staff makes their positive coverage of Trump collusion?

          In contrast, my links show clear evidence of organized collusion between multiple “reporters” across multiple news sources to coordinate supportive messages about Leftist issues, which even lead to use of the exact same wording.

          • K. Dershem says

            Nope. JournoList is long since defunct, and the claim of organized collusion is another right-wing conspiracy theory. In contrast, Fox News has served as a propaganda outlet for the Republican Party since W.’s administration.

            JournoList member Jonathan Chait says that “the group as a whole did not jointly participate” in any particular discussion thread. “Almost every discussion was limited to a small percentage of the group that was interested in the topic. Most people ignored most of the topics.”[17]

            Kathleen Parker, writing in The Washington Post, argued that “perspective is needed here.” She stated that comments had “been presented out of context and, besides, were offered as part of an ongoing argument among colleagues who believed they were acting in good faith that theirs was a private conversation.” She also referred to JournoList writings as “the private comments of people who, for the most part, have no significant power” and had an expectation not to be ‘outed’.[18]

            List member Joe Klein wrote at his Time blog, “The views I expressed on Journolist were the views I express here.” He identified himself as moderate compared to most leftist members, who subjected his ideas to “onslaughts”. He stated that allegations that list members colluded to produce talking points or plan activities with each other are simply false and the group debated with each with members valuing their individuality. He recounted that the only time list members could agree on “joint actions” was “meeting up at some bar.”[19]

            Foster Kamer of The Village Voice, who was not a JournoList member, has remarked that, emphasis in original, “off-the-record means off-the-record, and an assault on a journalist’s right to express him or herself in private is an assault on both the freedom of the fourth estate and free speech in general”.[20] Greg Sargent of The Washington Post, a list member, criticized Carlson for not posting JournoList threads in their entirety. He wrote that “publishing them would make it tougher to paint J-Listers as a secretive and omnipotent political cabal, rather than just a bunch of geeks and eggheads venting and arguing about politics”


          • E. Olson says

            K – I supposed you believe Bill Clinton and Loretta Lynch only discussed grandkids at their airport meeting in Arizona days before Comey made his “no charges” announcement about Hillary? Giving me quotes from people involved in collusion that there was no collusion is not very strong evidence.

  27. GregS says

    Ever notice how precisely the network evening news follows the exact same script? It is not unusual to flick between ABC, CBS and NBC as the same story is being covered in the exact same way.

    This is not by chance, because I have found the script: Here it is and all network news follows this basic outline:

    Something bad about Trump
    Weather in New York, okay possibly maybe parts of Connecticut and New Jersey.
    Pharmaceutical Commercial
    Pharmaceutical Commercial
    Pharmaceutical Commercial
    A dog gets trapped in a sewer in Texas
    Pharmaceutical Commercial
    Pharmaceutical Commercial
    Pharmaceutical Commercial
    A young scrappy girl does something amazing
    Pharmaceutical Commercial
    Pharmaceutical Commercial
    Pharmaceutical Commercial
    Person of the week: A young scrappy girls does something for an old vet.
    Pharmaceutical Commercial
    Pharmaceutical Commercial
    Pharmaceutical Commercial

    On to PBS

    How the weather in New York, okay, maybe possibly parts of Connecticut and New Jersey is affects RACE, GENDER and LGBT issues.

    • Sydney says


      You only forgot one story in-between the 15 pharma ads: That delusional and dangerous ‘anti-vaxxers’ are destroying civilization; that you need to run out this minute to top up your family’s 150 vaccinations; and that any MD or PhD who has critical, peer-reviewed evidence that disagrees with pharma’s narrative should be immediately jailed.

  28. GregS says

    The tragedy behind the Michael Brown and Philandro Castile cases is that the media missed the heart of the story in their quest for The Narrative.

    First let’s get this out of the way, Michael Brown is why we have police and Micheal Brown is why police carry guns.

    However the most interesting aspect of this case is that the town of Ferguson was using the police to raise revenue by levying fines on people they encountered – and because poor black neighborhoods are mostly heavily patrolled, poor black folks were being taxed to support the spending habits of a city that did not want to pass a tax levy.

    Is this going on in your community? How do you know or not know?

    Sound like a great idea of NEWS AT 5:00?

    As for Philandro Castile, the guy was a 30 year old male with no felonious criminal history and a concealed-carry permit.

    Should I repeat that?

    Let’s do it just for effect, a 30 year old male with no felonious criminal history and a concealed-carry permit.

    He was stopped by an officer who thought he “looked like” a grainy photograph of a gas station robber – and a tragedy occurred.

    So if I was a cop with a brain, and most are, why would I stop a 30 year old black male with no felonious criminal history and a concealed-carry permit? How would I know that about the guy in the car in front of me? Because my computer would tell me that. It gives the officer the criminal record of the owner and flags if they have a permit to carry a weapon. I can attest to this.

    But here is the kicker, Philandro Castile, a guy with no felonious criminal record was pulled over in excess of 50 times.


    There is a story there.

    A story that perhaps could speak to the upside of profiling based on objective information rather than a gut feeling.

    How about profiling that says FOR GOD SAKE, QUITE BUGGING THIS GUY!!

  29. S. Cheung says

    Interesting perspective in the article of what might justifiably constitute “news”, and the various statistical examples of same. However, it misses the fact that “news” usually means something that is actually new, or at least unusual. So it is to be expected that the incredible overall safety of modern air travel is not newsworthy, whereas the latest Max 8 is, precisely because a plane plummeting out of the sky almost never happens. The author spends considerable time describing how newsworthy events tend to be statistically rare. But I would submit that’s precisely why they’re being reported. Would a report capture many eyeballs or clicks if it merely described, in full and professional detail, exactly how absolutely nothing untoward happened?
    Of course, that leads to the underlying issue of current news. It’s clickbait and/or a vehicle for peddling ads, and everything is a competition for eyeballs, and attention. It’s a business model that lends itself to sensationalism and exaggeration. In an era of hot takes, and soundbites, and twitter raging from oval offices, being first to report has taken precedence over accuracy of reporting.
    Screen shots of tweets has replaced fact-checking. There should also be a distinction between news, and opinion (and for god’s sake, the random twitter musings of bloody nobodies). And this is one area where talking heads blur that line, and viewers begin to lose perception of the distinction. That distinction seems to be lost even among some of the commentators on this thread.
    Furthermore, as has often been said, people can be entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts. THe problem with not being able to agree even on a set of facts is that any subsequent conversation isn’t even rooted in a shared reality. I don’t think it’s too useful painting that as a left or right problem, simply because it’s pot vs kettle. It’s a byproduct of SoMe, and various algorithms that encourage silos and echo-chambers to the point where the jackass in Christchurch probably found solace on 8chan with a group of like-minded neanderthals.
    But I think the author really loses the plot when he speaks of BLM. Yes, the rate of unarmed black adult men being killed by police is very low…..but it is in no way comparable to the low likelihood based solely on chance of winning a lottery, or to the low likelihood of a natural event like a lightning strike. One armed human in position of authority killing another unarmed human is not just bad luck or chance. Yet it’s newsworthy because it’s indeed rare, but it’s also newsworthy cuz it shouldn’t be happening even at the rate that it is. It is at best disingenuous of the author to reference BLM in the same article, or even headspace, as “lawnmower accidents” and “malevolent bathtubs”. A much more relevant and meaningful comparator would be the rate of death among non-black unarmed adult men at the hands of police. I suspect that rate would be much much lower. And then I’d enjoy watching the author try to justify that difference.

    • Kauf Buch says

      Sad you don’t see the HIGH PROBABILITY of Christchurch being a False Flag event to justify eliminating/controlling 8chan and such. Leftist narratives and all, I suspect….

      • S. Cheung says

        There are reasons why sane people equate rabid conspiracy theorists with wingnuts. There is a HIGH PROBABILITY you are one of them.

    • K. Dershem says

      No, Trump is an idiot and a liar on climate change because he’s wrong. If Patrick Moore denies the reality of AGW, he’s wrong too — regardless of the role he played (or didn’t play) in founding Greenpeace.

      • GregS says

        If Patrick Moore denies the reality of AGW, he’s wrong too

        Right on, Mann.

        We only have 10 years before Manhattan will be under twenty feet of water and what once was Florida will be under a boiling sea of green tea. We know this because 99.9% of “science journalists” tell us it is so.

        The only way we can avert this calamity is to institute Socialism and force everyone who lives in a city to march out and raise their own organic vegetables. We know this will work because 99.9% of Socialists tell us it worked so well in Cambodia.

        • K. Dershem says

          Not sure who you’re arguing with here, but it certainly isn’t me.

          • GregS says

            K. Dershem,

            I was arguing with your characterization that Trump and Moore are wrong on the reality of AGW. They are absolutely correct to counteract the moral panic of climate change by downplaying the risks.

            It is like a parent who finds their child crying in the night:

            “What is the matter?”
            “A kid in my class died from cancer.”
            “That is horrible.”
            “I don’t want to die of cancer.”

            Here the parent can go one of two way:

            1) “The odd of you dying of cancer are remote, but I cannot assure you that you will not die a long and painful death.”
            2) “Don’t worry, I won’t let that happen to you.”

            A good parent recognizes that panic is worse than the risk.

            So what are the risks of climate change? We certainly cannot rely on climate scientists to give us a dispassionate, accurate assessment in public, because their community is too polarized and radicalized. We can only trust what they say in private and for this, we must thank Exxon.

            You see, Exxon was sued by several states and a number of municipalities who claimed future harm due to rising sea levels, flooding infrastructure, wind damage, heat fatalities and so on. This is what San Francisco, San Mateo and several other government entities claimed in their Exxon lawsuit complaints.

            But when those same cities stated their climate risks when they sold municipal bonds, it came out very quite different. To satisfy their fiduciary responsibility to inform their investors of all their risks, suddenly the climate risks were uncertain, unknowable and not all that bad – and climate scientists backed them up.

            So which “reality” of climate change is real? The one where you get money for exaggerating the risks or the one where you don’t get sued if you tell the truth?

  30. Walter says

    Fantastic article, especially this:

    “Top journalists mainstream their marginalia, framing it as the zeitgeist. They also magnify the effect by connecting and contextualizing the dots, then surrounding the emerging diagram with piquant punditry bulwarked by other marginalia—pointedly selected, now, to bold-face the lines connecting those original dots.”

    The first sentence was perfect. The second sentence, however, is a muddled mess. What “dots”? The point is one worth ferreting out, but you would have hit a home run if stated more clearly. As it is, I’m still not sure I precisely get the point.

    Anyway, one small complaint about a great article.

  31. Missing from this whole analysis and the thoroughly and predictably boring back-and-forth here in the comments is that ALL “journalism” chases clicks. It’s “if it bleeds, it leads” writ large. People will click on stories that they hate seemingly in order to be outraged. It’s insane, but it happens and none of us are immune.

    Here’s a fun example of click-skewing I noticed recently. Drudge Report loves to crow about how popular his site is (and I myself look at it because he drives news and has a kooky kind of tabloid-ish quality, obsessed apparently with sex robots, etc). Well, he’s being sneaky — links in Google News will open in a new tab whereas links in Drudge will put the linked source in the same tab. Therefore, if/when you go back to Drudge, he now has two hits while Google News only has one. Tricksy!

    It’s depressing to see how ideologically blinded people are about journalism. MSNBC, CNN, HuffPo, NPR, etc. do their thing for their crowd because it sells. Fox, Drudge, Breitbart likewise. How in the heck can right-leaning sites NOT be considered “mainstream” when it’s obvious to anyone with a half a brain that they are massively popular? (Just ask Matt Drudge!) What is the definition of MSM? I’m guessing from seeing the right-leaning commenters on here that it’s “media I don’t like.”

    If you are consuming media only from sources you agree with and not looking critically at the narratives behind the stories you consume, you’re a sucker. They have you. If you believe that the media that sells to the “other side” is lying to everyone about everything, you are equally deluded. Everyone should view everything they read with a healthy dose of skepticism. Everyone should also try to understand viewpoints outside of their tribal bubble. It’s one of the reasons I find Quillette to be one of the better sites. Most of their stories are good, some aren’t. I’d say the same for The Atlantic which is a completely different animal.

    The world is a complicated place. If you’re not constantly challenging your own biases, you’re doing it wrong.

    • S. Cheung says

      Well said. I made some similar points earlier. I think SoMe deserves some fundamental blame. It’s created a generation with short attention spans that eschews nuance for soundbites and instant gratification. And then the natural environment of FB and Twitter creates algorithmically designed and self-selected silos respectively. So you get echo-chambers full of morons barking amongst themselves. It’s hilarious, but also dangerous.
      The result is narrow-mindedness, and fragility of ideas. It’s culminated in the idiotic alt-right, and the regressive left. As a centrist, I’m left with going to the IDW for some clarity of thought and ideas. That’s allowed me to discover this site, which, as you say, seems better than most.
      I also agree that reflexive cries of “bias” are for the intellectually weak and lazy. Of course there is bias, but it starts with the individual. Pretty silly to freak about bias without first looking within.
      My current solution is similar to what you suggest. Gain exposure to contrarian ideas. Fox News in on my Flipboard. And it’s hilarious. If nothing else it is good for my health. THough I’m not sure I’m quite ready for the Breitbarts and Drudges. But I have started listening to Ben Shapiro. A smart well-educated and principled conservative, who mocked the regressive left for making him defend Chelsea Clinton a few days ago on principle. It was good stuff.
      I think a way out is to adopt an anti-fragility mindset, like that espoused by the Jonathan Haidts and Gad Saads of the world. If your ideas aren’t good enough to withstand examination and challenge, they’re really not worth having.

  32. Jack says

    I wish the term “fake news” was never adopted. A more accurate term would be “ half truth news” as that is just about all we get. And yes, the media is the problem. Most of the time ,I have to go to government data, etc for facts and perspective. You don’t get it on the news.

  33. Gary Gavegan says

    Yep, the article definitely misses the Elephant in the room. Not Quillete standard for mine.

  34. Hugh Mann says

    I can remember from the Telegraph comment days that one of the easiest ways to trash a comment thread is to have a huge to-and-fro between two people who each HAVE to have the last word. If you wanted to ruin one, that’s what you’d do.

  35. Pingback: Headline Rhymes - Quillette

Comments are closed.