Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Disinformation of the Right-Wing Media

Center for Media and Democracy has information about The Right Wing Media's Lie Machine.

In a video posted on YouTube on February 3, House Representative Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) explains how the right wing media machine creates and spreads disinformation in an effort to smear the left. "Disinformation" should not be confused with "misinformation," the unintentional form of wrong information. Disinformation is produced by people who intend to mislead their audience.

Step 1: Fabricate the Lie

Frank tells how John Fund, an editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal, told a lie about him in November of last year: In a speech at a conservative function in Florida called "Restoration Weekend," Fund claimed that, after losing the special election in Massachusetts, Democrats Chuck Schumer and Barney Frank were going to propose a bill to create universal voter registration. Fund further stated that Democrats were going to add all welfare recipients and unemployed people to the voter rolls, and he called it "felon re-enfranchisement."

In reality, Frank explains, there was no such bill.

Step 2: Activate the Right Wing Media Echo Chamber

Despite that there was no such bill, the Washington Times ran an article proclaiming "Schumer and Frank have plans to ram through legislation that will produce universal voter registration," and saying, "It'll be on the floor of the house in two weeks." Next, conservative TV host Glenn Beck picked up the lie and repeated it on his show, and then Rush Limbaugh did the same. Soon after, the Situation Room, a CNN political program, contacted Frank to ask him why he was bringing the universal voter registration bill. Frank told them there was no such bill, and inquired about the source of their information. He discovered the source was Mr. Fund's statement in his November speech at the "Restoration Weekend."

Thus Fund's disinformation provided fuel for the right-wing media's echo chamber, wherein more and more media outlets pick up the disinformation and repeat it across the country, with the intent of generating anger and outrage against Democrats.

Step 3: Zero Fact Checking

Not one of these broadcast figures or entities took the time to check the facts of what they were talking about, Frank said. After discovering the source of the quickly-spreading disinformation, Frank wrote to Mr. Fund to tell him that his assertion about the bill was factually incorrect. Rep. Frank asked Fund to publicly acknowledge that there was, in fact, no bill. Fund did not comply. Fund later admitted privately to one of Rep. Frank's staffers that he had made a mistake, and when the staffer asked whether Fund had issued a retraction, Fund said, "Oh, yeah." But when the staffer asked for a copy, Fund said, "Oh, I, uh, told a couple of people." Fund he never issued a formal retraction of his misstatement.

Voila': A Disinformed Public, in the Dark About Policy

Creating and disseminating lies through the media this way creates a disinformed, confused public. It breeds mistrust and contempt for the press and media, and complicates the lives of Americans immeasurably, as they try to figure out what their government is doing. No wonder politics in recent years has given rise to a fearful, angry cadre of teabaggers who believe in "death panels" and that the President is a socialist Bolshevik from Kenya.

Are you appalled yet?

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