Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Why do I have to watch fake news shows to see actual reporting?

Being stuck in a motel for a few days does have some advantages. Among other things, we've been able to watch television when it's actually happening instead of dealing with the hassles of streaming stuff many days later. Last night we watched "Full Frontal" with Samantha Bee. It was. .  . enlightening.

One of the segments focused on Russia and Internet trolling. Russia is apparently the motherlode of Internet weirdness. Being an Internet troll is a civil service job there. People get paid by the state to go hang out on the Internet and push various memes and fake news and get comment threads going that in some way further Russia's interests.

At this point in time, those interests include disrupting the U.S. political process. It's pretty clear Wikileaks has been aided and abetted by the Russian government in releasing material detrimental to the Clinton campaign. Vladimir Putin would prefer that Donald Trump win the election next week, although he'll probably settle for enough crap being stirred up that a Clinton administration ends up being distracted by a gazillion bullshit investigations and faux controversies. Because let's face it -- Putin has no fear of Trump. Trump is so thin-skinned it's unreal, which would make him remarkably easy to manipulate. He freaks out when Saturday Night Live makes fun of him; I shudder to think of how he'd react if a foreign leader told him to shut up. Clinton, on the other hand, is a bitch with balls of steel. I disagree with a number of her positions on foreign policy -- she's much, much too hawkish (not a surprise considering she's taken advice from that toad in human form, Henry Kissinger) -- but for sure she's not likely to flinch in a crisis.

In any case, Samantha Bee's staff had done serious research on the subject of Russian meddling on the Internet. They even managed to track down a couple people who work as trolls. One fellow cheerfully admitted he's got something like 28 online identities, all supposedly American, that he uses while spreading various bits of propaganda and rumors. The woman Samantha Bee talked with poses as, among other identities, a housewife from Nebraska. From what the young man said and given his proficiency with English, I'm guessing the biggest hurdle he's had to jump in creating fake identities and getting involved in comment threads is dumbing down his vocabulary and ability to spell to match up with the typical American's lack of knowledge of standard English.

The big question I have (along with a lot of other people) is why are the fake news shows doing a better job of covering current events than the supposedly real ones? Time magazine ran a piece recently on some of the late night show hosts (Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert) and noted that the satirical shows like "Full Frontal" and "The Daily Show" are doing the in-depth investigative reporting we once assumed the straight news programs did. Instead, news networks like CNN, ABC, et al just serve as stenographers, breathlessly parroting whatever the latest rumors are and doing no fact-checking whatsoever -- it's apparently so much easier to speculate and toss out melodramatic headlines than it is to do a little background research. "Full Frontal" looking at who's actually putting what out on the Internet is a perfect example.

You know, I would hope that everyone who spends any time at all wandering around the Intertubes knows about sock puppets, the fake identities created to make it look like a site is generating more traffic than it actually is or to help gin up a controversy. A comment thread will look like there's a dozen or more people arguing back and forth when the reality it's maybe one real person and a whole lot of sock puppets. And sometimes it's 100% puppets. This is one of the many reasons why the best advice anyone can follow when it comes to the Intertubes is Never read the comments! It's just too easy to let yourself get sucked into a 100% faux argument. Then the next thing you know you're telling all your friends global warming is a conspiracy to make Al Gore rich and that Hillary Clinton personally ordered a hit on Antonin Scalia. Gullible people, Russian trolls. Definitely not a good combination.

The S.O. suggested that one reason the mainstream media, the straight news shows, do such a poor job of doing investigative reporting is they're owned by corporations that have a vested interest in keeping the sheeple ignorant. Well, so are the satirical news programs like "Full Frontal" and "John Oliver Last Week Tonight." Does tossing in some dark humor make the shows less threatening? Or do the corporate overlords just assume it doesn't matter because the target demographic for those shows (people in their 20s) are notoriously uninvolved in politics. Or they were. Bernie Sanders may have changed that.


  1. One can only hope that Bernie "changed that".

    I have only one news source I tend to believe and even they have succumbed somewhat to bullshit that surrounds this election. That would be NPR. They do a better than average job of presenting the often multi sides found in a newsworthy event.

    And you are spot on about Hillary. She is indeed a bitch with steel balls. And she does not flinch.

  2. So Russian trolling is making its way to US TV? That information has been on the internet for a couple years now.
    Latest poll say Trump is in the lead? Scary Halloween

  3. scary..Walter Cronkrite must be spinning in his grave

  4. One more bloody week. Will it ever end?
    the Ol'Buzzard

  5. There's an old tradition that the only person allowed to criticize the king is the court jester. Comics are for some reason (and than God they are) given a pass to talk about things the sponsors would never allow on the news. And many a truth is told in jest!


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