Fake News: The Era of Cherry-Picked Content

While I am mostly going to discuss this under the time of the Trump Presidency, let me be clear, this is an issue with both sides of the political spectrum. Regardless, this form of news reporting highlights the issue with a free press ruled by the political ideologies of their executives. The irony is that while Fox News is most often highlighted as the example of political bias in the media, MSNBC and CNN are also just as culpable.

There is a lot of issues with the media; relying on anonymous sources without corroboration, rushing to report a story first without verifying facts, making themselves a part of the new, etc. And I’ll briefly discuss each of them in some fashion, but one of the biggest problems I have is cherry picking comments of an individual to drive a specific opinion that meets their agenda. And we have seen so much of it during the Trump Presidency. And the problem is that some of these comments stick around to become major issues even after they have been proven as false. These false narratives are used to smear Trump in liberal media sources to show him as a racist or xenophobic or as incompetent. Its an unfair practice that was even recently called out by Dr. Fauci during a presser.

When it comes to reporting, we have seen that the most inaccurate sources for news comes from two people; “anonymous” and “unnamed” officials. In many cases, the information they provide is incomplete or third hand knowledge and when the truth comes out, we find that they are inaccurate or complete fabrications. And yet, those individuals are never called to task when the information they provide is wrong. Even worse, news media continue to use those sources and never actually provide any corroboration. The media continues to report the story as fact until it is proven otherwise. Then, in most cases, the story just dies with no apology or retraction with that information still being in the ether to be discovered by a naive person to pass along as a meme on Facebook. This was a serious issue that came up often during the Russian Collusion investigation. During which, multiple news outlets reported on inaccurate information regarding the Mueller investigation that came from anonymous sources . Sources which were wrong. The promise of criminal charges that never came. While anonymous sources are important, rules must be in place to prevent their abuse to slander people, especially political officials. Unfortunately, too many organizations are lax on their rules and allow more opinions and third party testimony instead of proven and reliable facts to influence their stories.

There is also the issue to rush and be the first to report a story. During 9/11, CNN was reporting that a car bomb occurred at the Pentagon. They could have just stopped with saying there was an explosion, but a car bomb explosion would have sensationalized the moment even more. They only corrected themselves when it became evident that they were wrong. We have seen this over and over again, reporting inaccurate information solely to be the first and not the most accurate. As a result, it becomes hard for the public to believe the news. It creates a rush to judgment in criminal cases. Every time a black suspect gets shot by the police, they automatically go towards the racist cop rhetoric instead of waiting to report the news accurately. The media helped perpetuate the false “hands up, don’t shoot” narrative because they failed to wait to find out the facts. Had they waited, they would have known that eyewitnesses reported that not only did he never raise his hands, he actually had his hands in front of him as he charged Officer Wilson. Yet, to this day, the hands up narrative is still used against police officers.

And then you got those who want to be a part of the story. Those are people like the White House reporters who spend more time asking loaded questions to try and catch Trump in a “gotcha” moment. A perfect example of this is the Chris Cuomo COVID-19 infection. Cuomo announced to the world that he got infected and had these episodes of his show about him coping with quarantine and isolation. This week, he had a show with him leaving his lavished basement like a castaway finally coming home. He had his film crew there and him saying that after weeks of quarantine and isolation, he was finally free. Except it wasn’t true. In fact, a week earlier, Cuomo had stated on a podcast that after he violated his quarantine to go to one of his properties, he was confronted by a bicyclist who he called a “jackass, fat tire biker”. He doesn’t work for the Onion or some kind of satire news organization, he works for a world wide news organization that is supposed to be respectable. Yet, here he is doing an obviously dramatized end to a quarantine he violated over a week earlier. And instead of addressing the faux recovery, CNN has been silent which hurts their credibility.

Yet, even after all those issues, I think the worst act that they do is to take a cherry picked comment or statement and use it out of context to create a narrative to meet their agenda. I am constantly telling people to actually listen to the source of the comment to get the full understanding of what was said. And this has been an ongoing issue for years. One of the most famous examples if when the media said that Trump said Neo-Nazis were very fine people during a press release about the Charlottesville attack. The stations all repeated that Trump praised racists and Nazi’s in his speech and that was proof that he was racist. But that was not what he actually said. The media took one line and ran with it to hurt Trump. Here is Trumps actual transcript:

“Excuse me, they didn’t put themselves down as neo-Nazis, and you had some very bad people in that group.  But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.  You had people in that group – excuse me, excuse me, I saw the same pictures you did.  You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.”

His next statement:

“I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and white nationalists because they should be condemned totally.” 

And when the media tried to double-down on their selected cherry picked statement by saying Trump never condemned white supremacists, it was because they ignored when he said:

“Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

In another example, Trump is criticized for making a comments towards Japanese automakers:

“Try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over. Is that possible to ask? That’s not rude. Is that rude? I don’t think so.”

The statement was worded to show that Trump was clueless to the fact that Japanese companies do build cars in the US. It was designed to question his intelligence and to make him look inept. But look at his actual statement:

“I also want to recognize the business leaders in the room whose confidence in the United States — they’ve been creating jobs — you have such confidence in the United States, and you’ve been creating jobs for our country for a long, long time. Several Japanese automobile industry firms have been really doing a job. And we love it when you build cars — if you’re a Japanese firm, we love it — try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over. Is that possible to ask? That’s not rude. Is that rude? I don’t think so. (Laughter.) If you could build them. But I must say, Toyota and Mazda — where are you? Are you here, anybody? Toyota? Mazda? I thought so. Oh, I thought that was you. That’s big stuff. Congratulations. Come on, let me shake your hand. (Applause.) They’re going to invest $1.6 billion in building a new manufacturing plant, which will create as many as 4,000 new jobs in the United States. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

As you can clearly see, Trump knew that Japan built cars in the US. But this is the type of game the media plays. And its unfortunate because we expect them to provide as much accurate information as possible, but they look for the headline that can drum up as much sensationalism as they can get. A more recent example applies to a Trump comment about the coronavirus as a hoax. They have said that Trump called the Coronavirus a hoax and have even create attack ads repeating that claim. But here is what he really said:

“Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. You know that, right? Coronavirus. They’re politicizing it. We did one of the great jobs. You say, ‘How’s President Trump doing?’ They go, ‘Oh, not good, not good.’ They have no clue. They don’t have any clue. They can’t even count their votes in Iowa, they can’t even count. No they can’t. They can’t count their votes.

One of my people came up to me and said, ‘Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia. That didn’t work out too well. They couldn’t do it. They tried the impeachment hoax. That was on a perfect conversation. They tried anything, they tried it over and over, they’ve been doing it since you got in. It’s all turning, they lost, it’s all turning. Think of it. Think of it. And this is their new hoax….

…So a number that nobody heard of that I heard of recently and I was shocked to hear it, 35,000 people on average die each year from the flu. Did anyone know that? 35,000. That’s a lot of people. It could go to 100,000, it could be 27,000, they say usually a minimum of 27, it goes up to 100,000 people a year who die, and so far we have lost nobody to coronavirus in the United States. Nobody. And it doesn’t mean we won’t, and we are totally prepared, it doesn’t mean we won’t.”

As you can see, Trump acknowledged that there was potential to lose lives to the virus (at the time, there had been none) which completely shows he did not think the virus was a hoax. But this highlights the dangers of cherry picking comments, which also feeds into the Trump false news narrative. because he is right. The media falsely portrays comments to bash Trump, yet they often ignore comments or gaffs by other candidates. They did this by saying Trump calling immigrants animals or claiming Trump said immigrants would carve people up with knives when he clearly was referencing MS-13 who did in fact brutally use knives to kill people.

Cherry picking the comments of people degrades the public trust for knowledgeable followers and it pollutes the minds of the naive people unable to process information or think for themselves. Its a practice that needs to end, because the next intellectual war may be between the public and the media that is supposed to supply them with the information needed to make solid political decisions. And if we cannot trust the media who is supposed to help defend the freedom of this nation and protect it from tyranny, then whats the point of having a free press?