Other Voices: The Connexions Newsletter
December 20, 2016

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This Issue: Fake News

“Fake news” is the latest mania to convulse the mainstream media. All at once, we’re being subjected to an outbreak of hand-wringing articles and commentary about obscure websites which are supposedly poisoning public opinion and undermining democracy by spreading “fake news.”

Since we don’t like to be left out when a new fad comes on the scene, Other Voices is jumping on the bandwagon too, with this, our last issue of 2016, devoted to “fake news.”

Our focus, however, is not so much on the crackpots and trolls making mischief on the fringes, but on the dominant actors in the fake news business: governments and the corporate and state media. Turning a blind eye to their own role in producing fake news, which mainstream media commentaries invariably do, amounts to not just ignoring the elephant in the room, but ignoring a whole herd of trumpeting pachyderms running amuck.

Fake news? How about credulous coverage in the mainstream media of Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction,” an outright lie used as a pretext to justify an unjustified war of aggression, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths? Or the uncritical media coverage of Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons program, used to lend an air of legitimacy to the vicious sanctions and war threats against that country? Or the false reports about impending massacres by Muammar Gaddafi’s troops, used to justify NATO’s destruction of Libya, with results we are all too familiar with?

When it comes to war, “defense,” “national security,” and the interests of the state, the corporate and state media almost invariably act as propagandists, not as critical or independent seekers for truth.

So when the mainstream purveyors of fake news declare themselves aghast at the behaviour of fringe websites, it’s hard to see this as anything more than complaining about competitors and imitators moving onto their turf.

The truth is, the market for these fringe website has appeared because so many people have learned that they can’t trust what they read or see in the mainstream media.

Articles featured in this issue of Other Voices look at the media’s role as purveyors of disinformation, propaganda, and lies. Also included is a look at well-funded climate denial think tanks, who produce what is arguably the most dangerous fake news of all.

We also feature an interview with Noam Chomsky on what may face us when Donald Trump enters the White House, a report on what is happening to India’s poor as India moves to a so-called “cashless economy.” Drawing on the archives, we spotlight the legendary publication I.F. Stone’s Weekly (1953-1971), now archived online, and Dorothea Lange’s long-suppressed photographs documenting the expulsion and internment of Japanese-Americans in World War Two.

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Topic of the Week

Fake News

To learn more about what fake news is, where it comes from, and who spreads it, explore the Connexions Subject Index’s fake news page.

For related topics, see Media Bias, Disinformation, Propaganda, and Lying.

This Week on Connexions.org

Fake News About 'Fake News'

Following Brexit and Trump, mainstream media have focused on media bias and the implications of so-called fake news. The definition of fake news can be easily generalized to all corporate media, and applied to the recent focus on fake news itself. With perfect irony, the latest focus on 'fake news' is itself fake news because the corporate media never have discussed and never will discuss the framing conditions that make it a leading purveyor of 'hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation'. Read more

Keywords: Fake News - Media Bias

Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks

An expose revealing how anonymous billionaires donated $120m to more than 100 anti-climate groups working to discredit climate change science. Read more

Keywords: Climate Denial - Disinformation

Anatomy of a Propaganda Blitz

We live in a time when state-corporate interests are cooperating to produce propaganda blitzes intended to raise public support for the demonisation and destruction of establishment enemies. This article examines five key components of an effective propaganda campaign of this kind. Read more

Keywords: Media Propaganda - Propaganda

An Empire of Lies: Why Our Media Betray Us

Contrary to its avowed aim, mainstream journalism invariably diminishes the impact of new events when they threaten powerful elites. Read more

Keywords: Fake News - Iraq/Media Coverage

The cashless economy of Chikalthana

P. Sainath describes how the Indian government’s demonestisation has devastated farmers, landless labourers, pensioners, petty traders and many others. The situation he describes carries a warning about the impact of moves to a “cashless economy” on the poor and on ordinary working people whose savings can be wiped out. Read more

Keywords: Inequality - Money

Trump in the White House: An Interview with Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky shares his thoughts on the aftermath of this election in an interview. He says that Trump it too unpredictable to make it possible to foresee how he will act on climate change, or whether he will be more or less militaristic than Presidents Obama or Bush. But, says Chomsky, what we can say is that popular mobilization and activism, properly organized and conducted, can make a big difference. Read more

Keywords: Climate Change - U.S. Politics

Website of the Week

FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting)

FAIR.org is a U.S. media watch group that for the past 30 years has been documenting and criticizing media bias and censorship, scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority, and dissenting viewpoints, and advocating for greater diversity in the press. FAIR tries to work with both activists and journalists, maintaining a regular dialogue with reporters at news outlets across the country, providing constructive critiques when called for and applauding exceptional, hard-hitting journalism. They also encourage the public to contact media with their concerns, to become media activists rather than passive consumers of news. Find them here

Keywords: Journalism - Media Analysis & Criticism

Book of the Week

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media

By Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky

Herman and Chomsky debunk the myth that the news media are cantankerous, obstinate, and ubiquitous in their search for truth. They depict how an underlying elite consensus largely structures all facets of the news and analyze how issues are framed and topics chosen, and the way in which the marketplace and the economics of publishing significantly shape the news. They argue that the mass media participate in providing the public with propaganda, contrary to the democratic notion that the media is professionally independent and committed to reporting the unbiased and objective truth. In reality, the media function to serve the interests and needs of powerful private firms and organizations of the state by adopting patterns of censorship and suppression campaigns under a "guided market system." Read more

Keywords: Corporate Media - News management/control

Film of the Week

All governments lie: Truth, deception, and the spirit of I. F. Stone

A documentary created by a team of filmmakers who in their youth were inspired by I. F. Stone’s newsletter, I. F. Stone’s Weekly [http://ifstone.org/weekly.php]. The film depicts the mainstream media as increasingly unwilling to question, investigate, or challenge government or corporate policies, especially in the realms of defense, security, and intelligence issues. However, independent journalists, working with small budgets but immense dedication, are following in I.F. Stone’s footsteps and investigating and telling the stories that the mainstream media ignore or suppress. The film’s title refers to I.F. Stone’s dictum that “all government lie.” See the film

Keywords: Independent Media - Lying


Against Activism

"Activism" stands in contrast to organizing. Organizing aims to bring people together to build and exercise power, informed by a strategic vision for acquiring power and changing society. To be an "activist" now merely means to advocate for change, and the hows and whys of that advocacy are unclear. Activist is a generic category associated with oddly specific stereotypes: today, the term signals not so much a certain set of political opinions or behaviours as a certain temperament. Worse, many activists seem to relish their marginalization, interpreting their small numbers as evidence of their specialness, their membership in an exclusive and righteous clique, effectiveness be damned. Read more

Keywords: Activism vs. Organizing - Organizing for Social Change

People's History

Dorothea Lange’s Censored Photographs of FDR’s Japanese Concentration Camps

Dorothea Lange, a photographer best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration, was hired by the U.S. government to make a photographic record of the 'evacuation' and 'relocation' of Japanese-Americans in 1942. She took the commission, despite being opposed to what was being done, because she believed "a true record of the evacuation would be valuable in the future."

She covered the internment of Japanese Americans and their subsequent incarceration, traveling throughout urban and rural California to photograph families preparing to leave, visiting several temporary assembly centers as they opened, and eventually highlighting Manzanar, the first of the permanent internment camps. Much of her work focused on the waiting and uncertainty involved in the removal: piles of luggage waiting to be sorted, families wearing identification tags and waiting for transport.

However, when military commanders reviewed her work, they realized that Lange's photographs undermined the story the government was trying to tell. They seized and suppressed her photographs, even writing "Impounded" across some of the prints. Eventually the photos were quietly deposited into the National Archives, where they remained largely unseen until 2006. Now they are being made available to a wider public. Read more

Keywords: Concentration Camps - Ethnic Cleansing

From the Archives

I. F. Stone’s Weekly

Published from 1953 to 1971, I.F. Stone’s Weekly was an important and influential source of independent reporting and critical analysis in the United States. Working on his own, and without access to government insiders, Stone exposed the lies and distortions of the U.S. government and reported on news that other media either ignored or were incapable of seeing. Stone was the only journalist to challenge the “Gulf of Tonkin incident,” a lie concocted by the U.S. government in order to justify a massive escalation of its war against Vietnam. I.F. Stone’s Weekly has been digitized and all issues are available online. Find them here

Keywords: Independent media - Investigative journalism

Connexions Calendar

December 18
International Migrants Day

Throughout human history, migration has been a courageous expression of the individual’s will to overcome adversity and to live a better life. Today, globalization, together with advances in communications and transportation, has greatly increased the number of people who have the desire and the capacity to move to other places.
This new era has created challenges and opportunities for societies throughout the world. It also has served to underscore the clear linkage between migration and development, as well as the opportunities it provides for co-development, that is, the concerted improvement of economic and social conditions at both origin and destination.
Migration draws increasing attention in the world nowadays. Mixed with elements of unforeseeability, emergency, and complexity, the challenges and difficulties of international migration require enhanced cooperation and collective action among countries and regions. The United Nations has declared International Migrants Day with the aim of creating more dialogues and interactions within countries and regions, as well as propelling experience exchange and collaboration opportunities.

December 20
International Human Solidarity Day

Human Solidarity Day supports an inclusive development agenda to eradicate poverty, protect the planet and ensure dignity for all. This agenda is centred on people and planet, underpinned by human rights and supported by a global partnership determined to lift people out of poverty, hunger and disease.

The Connexions Calendar is an online calendar that exists to advertise events that support social justice, democracy, human rights, ecology, and other causes. We invite you to use it to promote your events. Adding events to the Connexions Calendar is FREE. We'll give you a username and password which you use to log on. Use the contact form to arrange for a username and password. Read more →

Seeds of Fire

December 21, 1907
Strikers and families massacred in Chile

Chilean soldiers massacre striking workers, along with their wives and children. More than 2,000 are killed.

December 21, 1919
U.S. expels radicals

Some 250 foreign-born radicals, including Emma Goldman, are deported from the United States and sent to Russia.

December 24, 1907
Birth of I. F. Stone

Birth of I.F. Stone (1907-1989), radical investigative journalist, whose publication I.F. Stone’s Weekly (published 1953-1971) specializes in challenging the lies and distortions of government, the military, and the mainstream media.

December 25, 1914
The Christmas Truce

On Christmas Day, in the first year of World War I, German, British and French soldiers disobey their superiors and fraternize with “the enemy” along two-thirds of the Western Front. German troops hold Christmas trees up out of the trenches with signs, “Merry Christmas.” “You no shoot, we no shoot.” Thousands of troops stream across the no-man’s land strewn with rotting corpses. Soldiers embrace men they had been trying to kill a few short hours before. Afterwards, a shudder runs through the high command on both sides. Here is the ultimate disaster in the making: soldiers declaring their brotherhood with each other and refusing to fight.

December 29, 1890
Massacre at Wounded Knee

U.S. troops surround and start firing on a Lakota encampment, killing somewhere between 150 and 300 men, women, and children.

December 30, 1936
Start of the Flint Sit-Down Strike

Workers at General Motors Fisher Body plant in Flint, Michigan, go out on strike. At lunchtime, word is received that GM plans to move key production equipment out of the Fisher #1 plant, intending to defeat the strike by moving production to another plant. Workers respond by physically occupying the plant and keeping management out. Outside supporters keep up a regular supply of food to the strikers inside while sympathizers march in support outside. The company uses both violence and legal measures to try to defeat the strikers. The company finally signs an agreement with the recently formed United Auto Workers Union on February 11, 1937. The strike leads to a surge of support for the UAW: in the nextyear, its membership grows from 30,000 to 500,000.

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Other Voices: The Connexions Newsletter, is available online here

This issue was edited by Ulli Diemer.

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