Fake News – the last rhetorical refuge for scoundrels…

“Fake news” – a rhetorical “get out of jail free card” for liars and stupid politicians.

[Source: BBC News 12/22/17].

The new US ambassador to the Netherlands has been caught out on Dutch television after a journalist quizzed him about comments he had made about Islamic extremism in the country.

Pete Hoekstra denied he had ever said there were “no-go zones” in the Netherlands, calling it “fake news”.

But the Dutch journalist showed him a clip of the comments from 2015.

The Trump appointee then appeared to deny the “fake news” term he had used earlier in the interview.

The exchange left Wouter Zwart, US correspondent for Dutch broadcaster NOS, visibly confused in the short clip that has been widely shared on social media.

 

Zwart: Speaking of threat, at one point you mentioned in a debate that there are no-go zones in the Netherlands and that cars and politicians are being set on fire.

Mr Hoekstra: I didn’t say that. That is actually an incorrect statement. Yeah, we would call it fake news.

Zwart: Is that fake news? Because that’s what you really said.

Mr Hoekstra: No, it’s not what I said.

Mr Hoekstra (on archive video): The Islamic movement has now got to the point where they have put Europe into chaos. Chaos in the Netherlands, there are cars being burned, there are politicians that are being burned. And yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands.

Zwart: You called it fake news, obviously… (is interrupted)

Mr Hoekstra: I didn’t call that fake news, I didn’t use the words today.

Zwart: No?

Mr Hoekstra: No. I don’t think I did.

George Orwell is spinning in his grave.

The Truth about Lying

“With repeated lies, the brain becomes less and less sensitive to dishonesty, supporting ever larger acts of dishonesty. “

The state of our political discourse has been getting worse for years, but the Trump administration brought our nation’s political discourse to a new low, father from what the “community of inquirers agrees to be true.”

Here are three data points to help you assess the level of risk to our democracy in the current disregard for the truth.

  1. Definition: Lying
  2. Little Lies, Pave the Way to Big Lies
  3. Lies Ledger

Data Point #1: Merriam-Webster defines “lying”

Lying





 



 

 

Data Point #2:  Neuroscience Research on Small Lies Desensitizing Speaker to Bigger Lies

NPR’s Morning Edition “Hidden Brain” segment summarized recent research as follows:

“With repeated lies, the brain becomes less and less sensitive to dishonesty, supporting ever larger acts of dishonesty. “


Data Point #3: The New York Times Lies Ledger of our President:


We may be a step function farther away from truth, as it was maligned in the Bush Administration’s attempt to mask their failures in Afghanistan and Iraq with, what Steve Colbert called, “truthiness”, when KellyAnne Conway argues for “alternative facts”. 

(see the bottom of this post for a transcript).


This isn’t new, but a larger trend in western liberal democracies.  Politicians have long used appeals to voter emotions to short-circuit voter rationality.  Perhaps it is just the brazenness with which they admit to doing this that is shocking.

“Never apologize,” [Aaron Banks, Brexit leader] said he had told Mr. Trump. “Facts are white noise,” and “emotions rule.” – [Quoted in NY Times profile, “Godfather of ‘Brexit’ Takes Aim at the British Establishment, 1/21/17]

The issue is talking versus “speaking,” a more crucial distinction than we have reason to think about until someone as linguistically unpolished as President Trump brings talking into an arena usually reserved for at least an attempt at speaking.  [John McWhorter, “How to Listen to Donald Trump Every Day for Years” OpEd.]


Transcript of Kellyanne Conway’s “Alternative Facts” truth claim.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Don’t be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. What– You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that. But the point remains–

CHUCK TODD:

Wait a minute– Alternative facts?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

–that there’s–

CHUCK TODD:

Alternative facts? Four of the five facts he uttered, the one thing he got right–

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

–hey, Chuck, why– Hey Chuck–

CHUCK TODD:

–was Zeke Miller. Four of the five facts he uttered were just falsehoods.

[Source: NBC Meet the Press, transcript of 1/22/17 show, emphasis added.]