Fake News for the Week Ending June 12, 2020

Fake news marches on…

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  • Last week police in Buffalo shoved a 75 year-old protester to the ground, knocking him unconscious and sending him to the hospital with serious head injuries. It was all captured on video. A few days later, President Donald J. Trump sent a tweet that suggested, without any evidence whatsoever, that the protester was a member of Antifa out to cause some sort of trouble.

    Here’s what Trump tweeted: “Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN. I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?

    That statement is total nonsense, apparently picked up by Trump from a false report by the One America News Network (OANN), a right-wing news agency known for spreading baseless conspiracy theories. It shows how fake news spreads from disreputable sources all the way up to the president of the United States, and then through him out to his millions of followers. It’s disconcerting and disturbing and despicable and worthy of more descriptors than I can muster at the moment.

    Trump’s tweet was met with the usual shock and disdain. New York governor Andrew Cuomo said, “How reckless. How irresponsible. How mean. How crude.” Kathy Hochul, the state’s lieutenant governor, called it “sick.” Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski said simply, “Oh, lord. Ugh.”

    As to why the president continues to do this sort of thing, Trump only knows. Read more about the situation in Politico.

  • This is just the latest example of how President Trump keeps spreading baseless conspiracy theories about just about everything under the sun. His continuing disinformative tweets are putting pressure on Twitter to change its policies regarding false and misleading posts. Trump tends to frame his most insidious accusations in terms of questions — is this true? — which enables him to wiggle out of Twitter’s rules and regulations while still spreading false news. (It was just a question — he didn’t really say it happened!) Should Twitter change the way it regulates the contents of tweets on its site in response? The Washington Post Technology 202 blog examines the issue.
  • Speaking of how social media polices itself, former VP and current presidential candidate Joe Biden is calling on Facebook to come down harder on lies and misinformation on its platform. While Twitter has been increasingly doing so, Facebook has been reluctant to serve as an arbiter of what’s true and what isn’t on its site. (For what it’s worth, I think that Facebook needs to crack down on the lies and rumors its users are spreading; all social media need to be aware that they’re responsible for the increasing disinforming of the populace.) Forbes has the story of Biden’s move to “fix Facebook.”
  • It isn’t just Trump spreading lies and conspiracy theories. Lara Logan, former CBS News reporter and now an “investigative journalist” for Fox News, is making a name for herself spreading all sorts of disinformation about Antifa, which is more of a movement than an organized group and not very big at all, despite what Logan is telling her viewers. (I wrote about Antifa in my Exposing Hate book, and they’re about as big a threat as the old guys who get together for coffee every morning at my local Bruegger’s Bagels.) What caused Logan to turn from a somewhat respected journalist into a spreader of lies and fake news is unknown, but she’s turned into a fairly unreliable source. The Daily Beast has the story.

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