But this blog negotiates a landscape that is more often marred by bad news than brightened by good. And there's more bad news to report (granted, it's also amusing news, but bad news nevertheless): the fact-free press, led by cynical conspiracy monger, frauduct peddler and Trumpian rabble-rouser Mike "The Health Ranger" Adams, has stepped up to "defend the legitimacy" of the Trump presidency, calling upon the conspiracy-theorist-in-chief to use his presidential power to "blockade" the "lying mainstream media."
You'll notice that the last link in the paragraph above leads to the aforementioned Not-Doktor Stoopid's "blog," which rarely contains original content but is mostly a curation of misinformation from other sites. In this case, LoonyC curated a post from Mike Adams' Natural "News" site. Both the re-post and the original post on Adams' site were published on December 2.
In an "open letter" to His Unholy Orangeness, Adams urges Trump to refuse to let the mainstream press corps into his (ultra)White House at all. After all, declares Adams (repeating by rote what every faithful Trumpian knows), the mainstream media are Drumpf's enemy and "they will do anything and everything to destroy you." Says he:
It's time to deprive those lying, deceptive media outlets of all the oxygen in the room. Blockade them from all White House announcements and presidential events. Bring in the real media... the independent publishers, radio hosts and bloggers who are truly the only remaining free press in America.
We all have teams of writers, video editors, bloggers and researchers ready to report the real news about the successes of your new administration. We will defend your legitimacy as President and help defend the Republic against the assaults of the Fidel Castro-worshipping lunatic fringe left.He forgot to mention "in terms of the utter-disrespect-for-inconvenient-facts factor." They've got it all over the "lying" mainstream media on that one.
My own network of online sites includes Trump.news, WhiteHouse.news and hundreds of others. Combined with Infowars.com, PrisonPlanet.com, DrudgeReport.com and others, we already dwarf most of the mainstream media outlets in terms of reach. We absolutely dwarf all mainstream media in terms of the public trust factor.
Adams also uses his post as an opportunity to boast to Trump about his own search engine, GoodGopher, which, he writes without any apparent irony, "excludes all the mainstream media liars and news fabrication propagandists working for CNN, WashPost, NYT, MSNBC and so on. We already have an authoritative list of who's who in the independent media. Compiling a contact list would only take a day or two."
"What good is a totally censored search engine?" you may be asking. All the good in the world, it seems, if you feel a need to lower a cone of ignorance over yourself every time you do an Internet search. It's sort of like the cone of silence in the old Get Smart TV series, except instead of preventing the escape of secret information, it prevents the infiltration of facts. Or maybe it's more like parental block, except instead of protecting kids from online exploitation it protects willfully stupid adults from learning real facts.
Facts may be stubborn things, but they're not nearly as stubborn as those who like to make up their own "facts."
Adams, like everyone else in the conspiracy biz (not to mention the basket of gullibles who embrace and spread phony conspiracies on social media), seems to have a very casual relationship with the truth, and that is putting it charitably. To advance his own agendas he isn't above perpetuating distortions and libelous falsehoods (e.g., his recent smear campaign against Dr. David Gorski, aka "Orac," as I wrote about in April of this year). Nor is he above casually posting complete misinformation that doesn't libel anyone but is simply, ludicrously inaccurate.
If Adams were just another blog-fodder blowhard there wouldn't be much cause for concern. But there are larger and more serious issues that stretch far beyond cranky little blogs like this.
For Adams is both riding the crest of an enormous wave of disinformation and making that wave bigger. He's part of the "alternative" press/"independent" media that are the vanguard of the
"post-truth" era. These are the media that are tailor-made for Trump, and he for them. It's a match made in infotainment (with the emphasis on "tainment") heaven.
Granted, the mainstream media have made serious missteps themselves, and we shouldn't let them off the hook. And I'm not just talking about the insane amount of non-critical attention and free promotion the media have consistently handed to Trump on a silver platter, or the way they embraced the "Crooked Hillary" narrative and made a huge deal about the non-issue of her emails. I'm also talking about the way major news outlets such as Washington Post may have lent undeserved legitimacy to a questionable group, PropOrNot, in their own reporting about "fake news." The conspiracy lunatics and the alt-right and the Trumpians are all over that one, but Rolling Stone and Fortune also weighed in critically. Even so, it would be folly to discount the possible roles played by Russian operatives in influencing the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and certainly foolish to dismiss the influence of fake-news sites and the under-informed voters who take these sites seriously.
Apart from the dumbing-down issues there are more serious matters of public safety at stake. On Sunday, December 4, 2016, Edgar M. Welch, a 28-year-old white gunman from North Carolina, apparently fueled by the ludicrous and debunked "Pizzagate" conspiracy narrative, walked into Comet Ping Pong, a pizza restaurant in northwest Washington D.C., and fired from an AR-15 rifle. He had driven six hours from his home to "investigate" rumors that the pizzeria was harboring young children as sex slaves, as part of a child-abuse ring led by Hillary Clinton. Yes, there are idiots who truly believe that; Ron and I just got scolded by a couple of them on Facebook within the past few days. If you ask me there are far too many people who seem to be unhealthily obsessed with pedophilia, and it's not the Clintons and their cronies.
Fortunately Welch was arrested before anyone was hurt, but what about the next angry nutcake who walks in? Comet Ping Pong has reported that they have received lots of disturbing threats in the wake of Pizzagate, and even some of the neighboring businesses have received threats as well.
Pizzagate is far from the only blatantly false conspiracy tale making the rounds, and what is disturbing is that Donald Trump himself seems to be a big believer in conspiracy theories and conspiracy web sites, and is stocking his administration with others who have a fondness for fake news sites and conspiracy stories. And if that doesn't worry you, just a little bit... then what are you doing on this blog?
Once again without irony, Mike Adams concludes his December 2 post thusly:
It’s time to #TakeDownCNN once and for all. The network doesn’t deserve to operate in any free society (but they might feel right at home in North Korea). And it’s time to support the rise of the new, independent media in America.Uh-huh. Freedom of the press is an inalienable right in America, but only freedom of certain types of press: the fact-free, totally self-serving-to-cynical-scammers-and-hatriarchs variety.
But if you care about actual freedom of the press, and about responsible journalism, there's plenty you can do. Start with becoming a fact-checker yourself. Read with a critical eye, especially if the content seems to fit too neatly into someone's preferred narrative (even or especially your own). And hold the mainstream media's feet to the fire, but don't dismiss them just because they're mainstream. This isn't to say that you should automatically dismiss a source just because it's "alternative" or "independent," but keep your eyes open and your b.s. detector active, always.
Otherwise, Trump and his cynical champions and surrogates may lead all of us around a corner from which there will be no turning back.
PS added on 19 December 2016: Here is some background information about the traditions of irrationality and hysteria that ultimately gave rise to Pizzagate. Waves of hysteria have been part of American history, not just for decades but for centuries. The problem is that today, the popularity of social media makes it easier than ever to spread the hysteria, and fake news sites make the irrationality much more difficult to battle.