Morning interview with US Congressman Barry Loudermilk

I got a chance to catch up with one of our local representatives today on Bartow’s Morning News. 11th Congressional district representative Barry Loudermilk joined us from D.C. to talk about several current items being discussed in our nation. We discussed President Trump’s order to make the transgender bathroom issue a states-rights issue and not a federal one. We also discussed the protection of the press under the first amendment, about the press choosing sides and dishonesty in general. Additionally, the topic of immigration law was discussed and that Congress has not passed any new laws, the Administration is only enforcing existing law and working on immigration reform.

Trump hopes for the Hollywood ending

trump-press-conferenceHollywood tells all kind of stories. One of the staples of the “Hollywood ending” is when the main character delivers a speech that changes the course of events of the tale. It’s the Aesop’s Fables morality moment where we all come to the same collective understanding that whatever had been happening up to that point was wrong. At the conclusion of the speech, nearly everyone has their road-to-Damascus conversion, admitting the error of their ways and vowing to make a change for the better.

Those moments make for some of the best stories, because we want to believe if the characters in the story can make a change for the best, we all can. Unfortunately, for many, art does not reflect reality.

trump-quote-on-mediaDuring his first press conference since the inauguration, Donald Trump verbally castigated the vast majority of the national press corps and the mainstream media for their creation of fake news. He called them out, right to their faces, vacillating between charismatic humor and stern scolding. He told them how disappointed he and fellow Americans are with their tone and willful obfuscation of the truth. He acknowledged that he will make mistakes and would expect the reporting to be bad; conversely, he said when he does something well, he would expect the media to report something good. Instead, as he noted, the press will take something good and make it sound bad and then take something bad and make it sound worse. He called that fake news.

Then, in a surprising moment of both sincerity and clarity, President Trump stated, “I want to see an honest press. I started off today by saying it’s so important to the public to get an honest press. The public doesn’t believe you people any more.” Had this been a Hollywood movie, the violins would have swelled and we would have been shown a montage of faces all coming to the realization they have been wrong. They would have turned to each other with reflective expressions, before standing and applauding the president for reminding them of who they are. What would follow, after a slow fade, would be a voice-over from one or more reporters, reading from their latest pieces, apologizing to their readers/listeners/viewers for abdicating their duties as dispassionate reporters of facts. They would beg for forgiveness, hoping to convey their sincere change of heart over how they had lost their way.

Sadly, this isn’t a Hollywood movie. The reporters, who would likely gush over a similar scene on the silver screen, were completely oblivious to the message. The hurt feelings and bruised egos were on display across the dial following the press conference. All they cared about was playing out the infantile schoolyard game of, “Oh, yeah, well I think you’re a big, stupid, poo-poo head!”

Am not. Are too!

Beyond the content discussed in President Trumps presser, what he told the media about their role and responsibility was a bulls-eye. The Founding Fathers understood the need to have a free and unfettered press to keep government honest. They toiled for months to craft the Constitution, built on the concept of three separate but co-equal branches of government. These three estates — Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches — were designed to have a specific set of checks and balances to ensure no branch could overrule the other.

But, in face of major concerns from several states about the need for greater constitutional protection for individual liberties, James Madison went to work on drafting the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. The Bill of Rights, as they are now known, lists specific prohibitions on governmental power, with the first protecting, among others, the freedom of the press. Many misinterpret this to mean, the press must publish whatever someone wants heard. This is absurd. There is no “right” to be heard. What the amendment secures is the protection of the press to be free from harm or imprisonment for saying/printing material that might be unfavorable to the government. None of the amendments are there to give people privileges; they are there to declare unalienable rights, which cannot be infringed upon by any part of the government.

As it relates to the press, the framers of our Constitution recognized, even with checks and balances in place, politicians could collude together to avoid following those enumerated rules for how our government should function. By granting the press immunity from government prosecution, they created, in effect, a fourth estate, which exists outside of government. They reasoned, when politicians might be tempted to act outside of the bounds of the Constitution, the press would shed light on those actions and the American public would be informed. Knowing the press is free from government persecution, the members of each branch of government would feel the weight of the all-seeing-eye of providence pressing down on them, helping to keep them on the straight and narrow.

Unfortunately, we have been witness to the slow erosion of the line separating the press and government. It’s become more important to curry favor and keep getting the invites to the social events, rather than being objective with the facts. News is no longer reported. It’s crafted. It’s honed. Impressions can be made by leaving certain facts out while embellishing others. The purveyors of news have, for the most part, become mouthpieces for the sides they like. When members of the press choose the party they like over the party they do not, it is impossible to expect an objective reporting of facts. For all intents and purposes, the majority of the national press corps and the mainstream media has morphed into a propaganda wing for “their” side — the majority of which leans Left.

There is nothing wrong with writing opinion pieces, but that is not the role of the press. I do not classify myself as a “reporter” or a “journalist.” I am not just giving a chronology of events as they occurred. I do look at the facts, then I filter them through knowledge and experience. Once I have had a chance to digest the context, I provide my own thoughts and ideas, tempered with logic and reason, on the news of the day. Like a skilled debater, I am trying to convince my audience, through explanation and illustration, that my point-of-view is solid and above reproach.

This is the problem with the mainstream media. Too many have become covert op-ed writers, not interested in just laying out facts, but instead, creating a narrative, disguised as news, meant to sway the audience. The moment a journalist moves in that direction, they have willfully abdicated their role as reporters of the truth.

It’s not too late to hope for the Hollywood ending. But, as long as the press corps believes their role is to shape the news rather than report on it, they will continue to be manipulated into defending their egos when their machinations are revealed. The more the press loses their mind over the actions of Donald Trump, the less the public will believe anything they have to say.

President Trump challenged them to provide the truth to the American public. If it were a movie, that’s all it would take.

First there was Twitter and then came Spicer

spicer-and-trumpWhen I wrote a few weeks back that I believe then President-elect Trump was intentionally using Twitter to take up all of the oxygen in the 24 hour news cycle, I had no idea others would also jump on that same thought-train. Even after pointing out this strategy, I knew the mainstream media and opponents to President Trump would not take it to heart. They are so programmed to attack and flood social media with the latest controversial hashtag, they cannot help themselves. Like the tweet a Time’s reporter in the White House press pool falsely put out, stating that the bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. had been removed from the Oval Office. The fire storm over that #fakenews tweet ran rampant for hours before the truth came to light — the reporter was wrong. The bust had never been moved, but the narrative in the minds of so many in the mainstream media is that Trump is a racist, so it made sense to them he would do something so insensitive. Even though forced to apologize, the damage was already done. That lie lived up to the old saying about making it halfway around the world before the truth got its pants on.

The media and forces opposed to Donald Trump live in a constant heightened state, waiting to pounce on the slightest piece of negativity with which to run. Instead of following even the most basic rules of journalistic ethics, to question sources, vet information and look for corroborating details, they want to be first to hit the airwaves and the internet. And if you don’t think Donald Trump doesn’t know this, you are a bigger fool than you think he is.

So, I have no problem at all pointing out that his strategy of using Twitter to put out tweets designed to tweak the media is only the beginning. Enter White House spokesperson, Sean Spicer. Prior to taking office, Trump only had the power of social media. Now he’s got the bully pulpit as well and he’s not afraid to use it.

In the very first press conference, while the media began foaming at the mouth with the phrase, “alternative facts” and a discussion over numbers watching/attending the inauguration, President Trump went to work, signing an executive order to begin reducing the burden Obamacare has been putting on families. In the two following pressers, Sean Spicer scolded the media for their #fakenews tweet about the MLK bust and then, introduced the idea that millions of illegals may have voted in the election. While the media has been going rabid, President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, imposed a federal hiring freeze and reinstated the “Mexico City policy” on defunding international abortion-related services. He also signed orders to fast-track the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. Add to these orders the confirmation of some of Trump’s cabinet members, including Marine General James Mattis (who spent his first day authorizing 31 bombings on ISIS positions) and new CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Expected to make it through are just about every other nominee, thanks to rules the Democrats, under the leadership of Harry Reid, put in place during the prior administration.

While we all sit back and roll our eyes or get angry at the posts on social media regarding #illegalvoting, there just isn’t enough air left to cover anything else of substance taking place. This is not the fault of anything other than a complicit media more interested in a sexy “gotcha” sound bite instead of doing their jobs. President Trump is aware of this, and as long as they let him, he will continue to use both Twitter and Spicer to keep the media chasing his laser pointer light like a herd of cats.

 

Maybe #fakenews represents lies Leftists tell themselves

fakenewscartoon

I’m already tired of the phrase. Fake news.

Hillary Clinton began spouting it nearly non-stop following her concession after the November presidential election cycle. That phrase was gobbled up by the brainless fowl in the mainstream media who were all too willing to parrot the latest talking point meant to deride deplorables. It has been uttered by professors, students, elected officials, government spokespeople and even the president of the United States of America. And, as usual, Leftists are fantastic at propaganda and misleading terminology.

Think about the construction of the phrase:

Fake – A thing that is not genuine; a forgery or sham.

News – Newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent or important events.

Butt them together and the impression it creates in the head of the listener is of an effort by some to forge or invent stories that pass themselves off as factual about current events. Thus, Hillary Clinton desperately wants her supporters to believe there was a concerted effort to create false stories in the media to derail her campaign and that’s why she lost.

So, let’s see if we can document some of the more glaring instances of “news” stories that I believe fall into the category of fake news:

  • It starts with Dan Rather reporting about physical evidence, showing then candidate George W. Bush had misled the public about his service records from his time in the military. It wasn’t until someone realized the font and spacing in those documents could have never been made by any typewriter that existed at the time, that the story fell apart. Dan Rather was forced to resign, but has made a slow come back, going so far as to now lecture us about fake news.
  • What about Hillary Clinton’s story about that time she landed in Bosnia under sniper fire? Only, that never happened, even though it was widely reported in the mainstream media.
  • Did you know Hillary said she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary for his exploits? The mainstream media was enthralled with the imagery conjured by that relation. Unfortunately, Hillary was a toddler before Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mount Everest.
  • Brian Williams had to resign as the anchor of NBC Nightly News after he was caught in not just one lie about being under fire in Iraq, but a history of lying, embellishing and fabricating “facts” to go along with a narrative in which he believed.
  • Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton told the world that the attack in Benghazi, that left our Ambassador and three other patriots dead, was the result of a badly produced YouTube video, which appeared to mock the prophet Mohammad. The mainstream media reported that line for months.
  • The death of Trayvon Martin was sold as a racist attack by a “white” hispanic. The mainstream media was caught editing the 911 call, photoshopping images and repeating a false narrative over and over. A jury, when presented with all of the facts, acquitted defendant Zimmerman.
  • Hands up; don’t shoot! Remember that one? The gentle giant who was just minding his own business when a diminutive white cop decided it was his turn to randomly shoot and kill a defenseless black man? Unfortunately, once again, when the facts were presented in a court of law, a jury realized the media had been spinning a yarn as thick and long as any told around a campfire.
  • Rolling Stone magazine got themselves in hot water with their report on rape on the campus of the University of Virginia? Even after the reporter was caught in a deceitful story, her excuse was just because this one event wasn’t true, didn’t mean a rape culture did not exist on campus. Again…the narrative and the belief was more important than actual facts.
  • Remember Hillary’s incident this past September when she had to leave a 9/11 memorial? At first the media (taking the talking points from her campaign) said she was just over-heated from the weather — until the weather reports didn’t jive with that line. Then the video surfaced of her stumbling and falling head-long into her vehicle and the story shifted to pneumonia. But, just a couple hours later, Hillary emerges from her daughter’s apartment, playing with her grandchild, leading many to ask why anyone with something as infectious and debilitating as pneumonia would be up and about playing with a child? That’s when it shifted yet again to just a mild case of the flu. So many shifts and the mainstream media was okay reporting it as fact every step of the way.

These are all just a handful of stories I have recalled off the top of my head. It barely scratches the surfaces of stories that had been reported from actual news media outlets — not from blogs, podcasts, social media posts or memes. I have not even started down the road of man-made climate change stories that have been found repeatedly false, misleading or reliant on flawed computer modeling or altered data!

Let’s fast-forward to the election cycle where pollsters, news agencies, talking-heads, radio personalities, bloggers and social media mavens put forth data, charts and interviews proving that Hillary was going to win the presidency and Trump was a lost cause. Many (not all) in the #NeverTrump movement relished in their daily, non-stop, lambasting of Donald Trump and any of his supporters.

During all of this, millions of Americans, tired of being labeled, shouted down, called all manner of horrible names and accused of siding with the worst possible hate-groups in our nation’s history, decided to keep quiet. Exasperated at trying to engage in conversation, they opted instead for silence or passive agreement just to avoid confrontation. And while the silence became deafening to those who were paying attention, the WikiLeaks emails began to pervade social media, eventually getting into the mainstream media newscasts, albeit begrudgingly.

At no time did the DNC say the information contained in those emails was untrue, save for Donna Brazille, who was caught sharing debate questions with Hillary Clinton, only to resign her position at CNN in shame. Instead, democrats and the campaign chose to blame “Russian hackers”, trying to get everyone to look at the shiny object across the room instead of the glaring black and white facts staring them in the face. The experts told us it would not affect Hillary’s coronation. She was going to be the next president of the United States of American. Even President Obama admitted he was made aware of potential hacks from outside entities (still yet to be proven), but wasn’t worried enough to do or say anything about it. We can surmise, by his own words when he said he would leave it for Hillary to address, he believed her election was a foregone conclusion. Makes you wonder if it was that negligible prior to the election, why is worth blaming today?

Now, in the weeks since the election of Donald J. Trump, the chorus of sore losers continues to yell FAKE NEWS from the rooftops, rather than deal with reality. It has to be some nefarious foreign government who changed the course of the election. The polls and pollsters convinced them of a win. The talking heads on television confirmed it nightly. Social media was the only place where the whisper of the truth could be heard if one wanted to listen. But, hey, social media isn’t news, right? It’s all fake there.

The whining, stomping, tantrum throwers still refuse to accept reality. They tried protesting, violence, recounts, threatening electors and produced Hollywood videos in an effort to change the results of November 8th. In the end, in a display of wonderful irony, it was a handful of Hillary electors who changed, or wanted to change, their votes.

It seems to me, given all we know and all we have experienced, there is something else afoot here. In every instance of false reporting documented above, at the root was a reporter (or news agency) who so wanted to believe the narrative of their story, objectivity was kicked to the curb. The story line fit their world view, therefore it had to be true. The idea it was they, themselves, putting out a “fake” story still has yet to cross their minds. The fake news has to be elsewhere.

It makes me wonder if, at some point, Leftists will come to realize the fake news they keep talking about is the lies they keep telling themselves?

Trust No One

The last time a kid came out of Macedonia and took over the world and changed governments was Alexander the Great. Today, it’s Fake News. Teenagers making it rich by making shit up. Isn’t that what kids do? Make believe? Yeah, and lots of people all over the world are falling for their stories. In fact, some are saying it’s what caused Donald Trump to win the election. I doubt it. I think comedian Jonathan Pie is probably more on the mark. But people are passing these stories around on the Facebooks and Googles, so much to the dislike of these companies that they are taking steps to block them outright.

Now, these companies have the right to block whoever, whatever they want. The First Amendment isn’t the issue here (let’s also understand these companies serve the entire globe and the First Amendment only applies in the United States). These companies are trying to serve their customers or, at least, a vocal enough section for the companies to take action. They’ve got Terms of Service agreements and if you don’t follow them, you can lose access to their service.

At any rate, blocking fake news is a bad idea and here is why:

1) The companies are going to be playing Whack-a-Mole forever with this. Garbage is fluent on the Internet. And when you block a site or user, they come back under different domains and names. Seems like a waste of resources to be constantly banning.

2) The block-Net could end up catching non-fake news sites thereby forcing the owners to plead their case to be unblocked. And what about fake news sites like The Onion that everyone loves? There’s tons of other fake news, satire sites. Mistakes can happen.

3) Blocking reduces reader’s choice. If you’re going to block fake news sites, why not block reports on spell casting, astrology, demonology, alchemy, spirit photography? I could post a picture of a flying saucer every day and say this was over my house and social media wouldn’t do anything about it. But if I create a website which looks like the New York Times and report that Donald Trump reports seeing a flying saucer while aboard his jet plane, well…

4) News that readers report as fake may just be news they don’t agree with. Where’s the fine line? Should we also block 9/11 Truther websites too? How about Who Killed JFK websites? Or websites dedicated to demonizing or pledging allegiance to Israel?

5) What actually counts as “fake news”? Erick Erickson penned a good piece showing that the mainstream media sometimes fails to tell the truth too. Sometimes it’s a mistake in the material the journalist is working with. Sometimes out right lies.

6) If Facebook and Google swear to block fakes, the users may fall into a sense of false protection and start figuring if they’re seeing it, the services must have determined it’s real and if the service is allowing it, it must be true. Again, it takes away reader’s choice and most of all, a reader’s use of judgement, for better or worse.

These are just six reasons off the top of my head for not blocking anything called fake news. But the critic of my reasoning might point to PizzaGate or the Sandy Hook conspiracy victim threats and note that false information can result in very dangerous actions. Yep, that is very true. People believe lots of stupid things and end up injuring or killing others. Parents who believe vaccines cause autism come to mind.

Why should it be up to Facebook and Google and those who follow their lead to ban things? Should, say, bookstores follow their lead? Booksellers, big and small, they carry all kinds of literature. They carry books on alien abductions and government conspiracies, astrology, spell books, self-help (most of which is nonsense, garbage psychology), Dianetics, and more. And yet despite the nonsense, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million and others continue to sell them. In fact, some bookstores specifically exist for New Age material. They’re not responsible for the content, they have chosen to give their customer’s choices. In fact, Barnes and Noble celebrates every year this freedom with Banned Book week.

I have a better solution that social media companies could implement instead of blocking and banning. Here it is: An education on critical, skeptical thinking. These tools, if properly used, combat all forms of nonsense. Social media companies or otherwise could offer advice on how to treat everything their customers see. Here’s what I do with everything I see that these services could dedicate a page to:

1) Look for obvious falsehoods. When I read a headline that Barack Obama was going to refuse to leave the White House on January 20, 2017, I knew it was an instant fraud. Just applying what I know about him was enough to know that isn’t going to happen.

2) Corroborate the information. If Obama really wasn’t going to step down on January 20th, other sources would be reporting this. In fact, this would be the front page of the New York Times and every other news source in the entire world.

3) What do the experts say? Expert doesn’t mean authority. Leave authority for the Pope. No, I mean people who major in the sort of thing you’re looking into. If you, like me, are a cancer survivor, don’t get excited about the latest cure in the tabloids. Talk to your oncologist or two or three.

4) If you can, ask that person directly. I love Twitter for this and am usually pretty good about getting responses. If I hear someone said something, I go to Twitter (or occasionally email still) and ask that person if the quote is real.

5) If you believe something, ask WHY. This can’t be stressed enough. You must challenge your own beliefs much more than what you don’t believe. Always be asking yourself why you think something is true. Make a graph, if necessary. I’m betting Trump supporters more easily bought fake news about Clinton than Clinton supporters and vice versa. I’ve been spending some time lately with socialist articles and conversation because I feel if I can defend libertarianism over it, then I’m in the right camp. You strengthen (or change) your own stance by engaging with the other.

6) Do Gut-Reaction-Mathematics. Ask yourself what is the likelihood this would happen? Size up the claim to history and what we know. If you read that there’s a mother who keeps bringing her child to the hospital with fresh wounds because she’s suffering from attacks from a poltergeist, what do you do with that? Conclude there’s awful poltergeists? Or figure more rationally the mother suffers from Munchausen Syndrome?

These are just six things from the top of my head anyone can do when they read something or hear it reported on the nightly news. In the end, no matter who’s trying to save you from bad information, it’s up to you and you alone.

When my own children ask me questions about whether Santa Claus or mermaids or god exists, or if it’s true that we live on a planet in space, I always tell them that’s an interesting question. How about we examine the evidence? This has led to a lot of good conversations with my kids and book purchases for study. Because in the end, I won’t always be able to censor what they read or hear, now or in the future when they’re adults. They’re already bringing home misinformation from other kids at school. It’s better if I give them the tools to think for themselves than give them direct answers whenever I can. And it’s always very possible I’m wrong on something. So if I provide the tools, they can question me. We all get to learn something.

In closing, I can’t recommend highly enough some publications worth investing in regardless of how good you think you are at skepticism and logic. I subscribe to the Skeptical Inquirer and Skeptic magazine. Both excellent publications and rather cheap for digital subscriptions. I also recommend using Snopes.com for everything. I mean every rumor or story or otherwise. And for United States politics, I recommend PolitiFact.com.

The Truth is Out There.