Monday, February 6, 2017

Who is the grandfather of fake news?

I recently wrote an entry about Walter Lippmann, in which I made the case that his book "Public Opinion" makes him the founding father of fake news. It's important to understand, "fake news" does not end with "journalistic objectivity", fake news begins with "journalistic objectivity". It has to, because if "fake news" doesn't begin with "We are objective, you can trust us" then you'll get lost in the quagmire of thousands of years of people who, while they did report things inaccurately, did not do so because it was their ideological drive. They either lied because they were told to do so by the king, or they lied because they wanted to sell more papers.(which doesn't make it right, but neither helps us understand journalistic ideology)

With that very important fact laid out, there is another critical name to understand when it comes to using news as a source of manipulation. That's William Thomas Stead, he is the grandfather, or godfather if you will, of fake news. Now, Stead was a tabloid man. He didn't proclaim objectivity, he was honest that he was manipulating people. That's a hugely important distinction to enunciate and understand. Manipulating people through the news was his deeply held ideological belief. Still, Stead authored a piece called "Government by Journalism", which, unlike "Public Opinion", it's not a 400 page book. It's only an essay,(22 pages long) which means that its easy to read, and also quick to listen to.

Now, Stead's work "Government by Journalism" is full of mind-blowing quotes, such as this one:

They decide what their readers shall know, or what they shall not know.

Yes, he means journalists. Journalists decide what their readers shall know, or what they shall not know. I told you he was honest about his ideology.

But why would I care about a tabloid man, the sensationalist? He's not proclaiming objectivity! The tabloid man is only important, because of who his protege was. William Thomas Stead's protege was William Randolph Hearst, and Stead was very proud of this. Stead wrote that: (alt)

I have been long on the look out for a man to appear who will carry out my ideal of government by journalism I am certain that such a man will come to the front some day, and I wonder if you are to be that man.

Stead writes that after his discussions with Hearst:

It was almost immediately after that midnight talk that Mr. Hearst began to realise the ideal of a journalism that does things. He took up the question of municipal ownership. He engaged Arthur Brisbane, the son of Brisbane the Fourierist, to write editorials. He began the battle against the Trusts; he made the Spanish-American war. For weal or for woe Mr. Hearst had found his soul; for weal or for woe he had discovered his chart and engaged his pilot, and from that day to this he has steered a straight course, with no more tackings than were necessary to avoid the fury of the storm.

The final crucial point to understand, is that "Objective journalism" was a reaction to Hearstism, which really didn't exist. Hearst was merely implementing Steadism, and Hearst spread Steadism around the globe. But if you read Walter Lippmann, here's the one thing you won't read:

"We realize that Hearst is manipulating, and we want the manipulation to stop".

Instead, Lippmann spends 400 pages obsessing over stereotypes, and obsessing over how to manipulate people without them realizing that they're being manipulated, how to employ those stereotypes to profound effect.

The "why" is important. That, I believe, is a reasonable and fact-based reason as to why "fake news" begins with "journalistic objectivity". Or else, if we do not nail down journalistic ideology, we'll be chasing our tails and discussing John Norvell or any others who, while again, they got plenty of things wrong, they didn't set out to manipulate people and they certainly didn't claim to be objective in the process. And that's the point.

When it comes to today's "objective journalists", we need to nail these S.O.B.s down and use their own history against them. As you can see, they are very adept at using their institutions to spread lies and propaganda. Notice how they omit "objective journalism"? The ideology must be protected at all costs.

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