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Fake News: A Menace to a Free Society

The U.S. Military Academy's Honor Code states, "Cadets violate the Honor Code by lying if they deliberately deceive another by stating an untruth or by any direct form of communication to include the telling of a partial truth and the vague or ambiguous use of information or language with the intent to deceive or mislead." The headline "Trump declines to condemn 17-year-old who shot protesters" is an excellent example. The three men whom Kyle Rittenhouse shot may indeed have been protesting before they attacked him (as stipulated by the prosecutor who charged him) but that is not why they were shot. The headline is therefore dishonest because it suggests that they were shot for holding up signs with which Rittenhouse disagreed as opposed to trying to rob him (Rosenbaum and Huber tried to take his rifle from him, thus bringing a weapon into the confrontations they started) and assault him with a deadly weapon (Huber's skateboard) while he was on the ground.

Government regulation of the press is antithetical to American values and the Constitution, so the consequences for publishing fake news, including misleading headlines and half-truths, should be similar to those for Aesop's boy who cried wolf when there was no wolf. The boy was free to continue yelling "Wolf!" but nobody believed him even when one showed up. The correct course of action is for citizens to expose purveyors of fake news as the frauds and liars (as defined by the USMA Honor Code) they are, as opposed to any form of government intervention. Let the objective facts speak for themselves.

Here is a history of fake news and its devastating effects on societies, including the incitement of unnecessary wars. The images shown below are in the public domain due to age (1922 or earlier).
  • 1898: The mainstream media (Joseph Pulitzer's New York World and William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal) published unfounded allegations that Spaniards blew up the USS Maine in Havana, thus causing a war that killed thousands of American and Spanish soldiers and sailors.
    • Propaganda picture by the famous artist Frederic Remington, of leering Spaniards (identifiable as such from their Panama hats) strip searching an American woman
    • The World states as a fact that the Maine was destroyed by a mine or a torpedo, cites a "suppressed dispatch" to the State Department that says the accident was made possible by an enemy, and cites "overheard talk" of a plot to blow up the ship.
    • Grant Hamilton's The Spanish Brute states as a fact that American sailors were murdered by Spain. This, and similar pictures, is how yellow journalists incited a war so they could sell newspapers. Hearst purportedly told a photographer who said there wasn't a war to cover, "You furnish the pictures, I'll furnish the war."
  • 1915: The mainstream media published accurately that a German submarine sank the Lusitania, but left out the fact that the Lusitania was carrying munitions whose sole purpose was to kill German soldiers. This half-truth drew the United States into the war at a cost of 115,000 lives plus far more men disfigured or maimed for life. Adolf Hitler was unfortunately the German who learned the most from Germany's propaganda failures during the First World War, and he used the lessons to gain control of Germany and start the Second World War.
    • The Atlanta Constitution (1915, public domain due to age) proclaims "Many Women and Children Among 1198 Lusitania Dead," adds "One dead mother still is clasping in her rigid arms body of her baby," and adds material about "Death-dealing German Missiles Entered Upon Work of Destruction." All of this may be true, but remember that a truth told out of context, or a truth that is only part of the whole story that the reader needs to make an informed decision, constitutes a lie. The Lusitania was also carrying 0.303 caliber rifle ammunition of the kind used by the British Short Magazine Lee-Enfield Rifle and Vickers machine gun, a cargo whose sole identifiable purpose was to kill German soldiers. The British, therefore, put civilians in harm's way by carrying this cargo in a passenger ship and were therefore responsible for the American and other deaths. This fake news therefore drew the United States into somebody else's war.
    • William A. Rogers' "Remember the Little Lost Children of the Lusitania" (1915, public domain due to age). Images of dead children are always useful for whipping up hatred of another country and pulling the United States into a senseless bloodfest in which French and British generals had already thrown millions of men headlong into barbed wire and machine gun fire, and with corresponding stupidity on the other side as well. Informed societies must beware of manipulative propaganda.
  • 1920-1922: A Tsarist émigré named Boris Brasol (also named in Upton Sinclair's The Flivver King) gave Henry Ford a copy of the anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion which Ford read, believed, and re-published as The International Jew. This is what happens when you believe an outrageous story from a Tsarist propagandist (or Facebook, Twitter, and so on) and share, retweet, or "send to all" without fact-checking.

  • 1945: Richard Lauterbach's These are the Russians convinced me, when I read it much later as a teenager, that Finns were Nazis who murdered Russian prisoners, and the Nazis perpetrated the Katyn Forest massacre of Polish prisoners. While, given Nazi racial attitudes toward Poles, this is something the Nazis would have probably done given the opportunity, our "ally" Joseph Stalin was actually the perpetrator. The Soviets were also the aggressors in their wars with Finland, which compeled Finland to ally with Germany. The Finnish commander Mannerheim, however, refused to deport Jews for extermination.
  • 2000: The Million Mom March, as supported by Hillary Clinton, Barbara Mikulsky (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Nita Lowey (D-NY), and other prominent Democrats, lied to its donors and volunteers about handgun violence killing 12 or 13 children a day.
    • The organization's Form 990 tax return also said it made no efforts to lobby or influence legislation in 2000 even though it obviously did.
  • More recent examples:
    • Unfounded rumors that Barack Obama was born in Kenya (he wasn't)
    • Obama's pastor Jeremiah Wright published blood libels (some actually written by others, however) of the United States and Israel that accused them respectively of spreading the AIDS virus and developing an "ethnic bomb" to kill Arabs and Black people (the latter was South Africa's purported role under white rule).
    • Donald Trump was accused of telling people to inject themselves with disinfectants to fight Covid-19 (he didn't). I recall that Joe Biden repeated this false accusation during his debate with Trump.
    • Hunter Biden's discharge was apparently not honorable, but it was not dishonorable either.
    • Squad member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Donald Trump forced detainees to drink from toilets. The detainees actually drink from potable water fixtures that are attached to toilets.
    • I am aware of no credible evidence that the 2020 election was stolen, although I believe there were two improprieties:
      • A group led by Michael Bloomberg paid fines for people in Florida to restore their voting rights with the expectation that they would vote Democratic. This is moot as Biden/Harris did not win Florida.
      • Black Lives Matter Global Networks campaigned against President Trump while under the fiscal sponsorship of 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations and before forming a separate political action committee in September or October 2020. The Republicans should have made this issue front and center to turn public sentiment against BLM and the Biden-Harris ticket.
    • Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren libeled (on Twitter) an identifiable police officer by saying a named Black man had been murdered, i.e. they did not name the officer but he can be easily identified from the context. A false accusation of a crime like murder is libelous. Harris and Warren are attorneys, and they know or ought to know this.
    • QAnon is spreading rumors that children are being killed so their adrenal glands can be harvested to make adrenochrome, a chemical that can be purchased legally from chemical supply houses. This idea apparently comes from Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; needless to say, people who get their ideas from fiction novels are not very credible. I recall a similar story (The Leech Woman) in which the villainess murdered people for their pineal glands.
    • Marjorie Taylor Greene's "Jewish space lasers" is another urban legend for which there is a very entertaining explanation. "Blofeld" might sound Jewish (e.g. Feldman, German for "field man," and Feldstein (perhaps "field stone") but "Blofeld" is "blue field" of Anglo-Saxon and old Norse origin, and has nothing to do with Jews. In addition, Ernst Stavro Blofeld is purportedly of German-Polish-Greek ancestry and is modeled after the "Merchant of Death," Basil Zaharoff. In any event, Diamonds Are Forever is a fictional story and not reality.
    • The rumors that the Covid-19 vaccination contains nanochips could meanwhile be traceable to the Bond movie Spectre (2015) in which Bond is injected with nanochips to allow him to be tracked by his own intelligence agency.
Our job as citizens is to fact-check everything we are told, and expose fake news for what it is so our society can make informed decisions instead of acting on what dishonest manipulators want us to believe.


Bill "at" levinson4nepa.com

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