Alternative facts and the politics of obfuscation

It didn’t take long for Americans to witness a major Gaslighting moment from the administration. There was Sean Spicer, blustering from the WH podium that the inaugural crowds were YUGE! The dishonest media just didn’t photo(shop)graph the scene correctly.  There are a couple of serious points to consider about this performance.

First, there’s the obvious lie. Easily debunked, easily dismissed. The crowd wasn’t historic, the ratings weren’t all that impressive. That the crowd size and the ratings are of primary interest says more about the personality deficits of the incumbent than about the politics of the nation.  Even if infotainment from the press room can be categorized as “alternative facts.” (Lies)

Secondly,  we’re seeing clues here about both the media and the administration.

E.J. Dionne opined this morning that we should be concerned about the continual tendency of the administration to propound those “alternative facts,” lest we start to fall for the Gaslighting and start doubting our own knowledge and experience.  He’s right, because obfuscation is an exceptionally effective tool to move masses.

Consider the example of the tobacco industry.  When it was perfectly clear from the science that smoking and cancer were definitely related, the corporations first denied the correlation and when that failed the focus shifted to the “need for more study” to eliminate all doubt.  This playbook informs the current debate about climate change.  In both instances the object of the game was to sow doubt where none should have existed, and thereby protect corporate interests and place profits before people.

Lies make an effective smoke screen.   An administration spokesperson may announce that there is, for example, an epidemic of abortions for female foetuses.  There isn’t, but that doesn’t really matter.  The game, as Sherlock said, is afoot.

The comment, if left unchallenged will enter the civil discourse and become a talking point. The talking point becomes magnified by social and press media, leaving those who would want a rational discussion scrambling to debunk lies before they can make space for their own public arguments.

The challenge element is essential.  Creating a challenge friendly environment is necessarily a cooperative effort.  Broadcast and print media must function based on standards of ethical journalism.  To do less is to reduce the press to stenographers and mouthpieces.  There’s a role for the public as well.

There are station managers who periodically need to be reminded that some biases may be inevitable but the retailing of lies and  their cousin falsehoods serves no one’s interest in a democracy.  Newspaper editors should be reminded as well.  Talking back to your television set is never as effective as talking to an editor or station manager.

Ultimate truth might be difficult to discern, but discerning accuracy is much simpler.  Simply demand accuracy.

So, while we’re compiling phone contacts for our members of the Congress we might want to add a couple of station managers and editors to the list?

** 202-224-3121 for your Congressional Representatives and Senators. #resist

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