Fake News

News & SocietyPolitics

  • Author Larry Farmer
  • Published May 4, 2022
  • Word count 827

Fake News

We hear a great deal these days about misinformation, disinformation, and fake news. It is leading some people to question the first amendment guarantee on freedom of expression. This is understandable; after all, it’s only a small step from hate crimes to hate speech. The above mentioned terms are difficult to define, however, I can think of some concrete historical examples which may give us some insight into understanding the larger concepts. Let’s start with Ukraine in the 1930’s.

Upton Sinclair, a famous progressive writer in the early part of the 20th Century, visited Russia in the 1920’s. Upon his return to the United States, he stated, “I have seen the future, and it works.” Sinclair may have been honestly duped, but Walter Duranty knew better. Duranty was a writer for the famed New York Times who was sent to Russia in 1922 and stayed until 1936. What we knew about what was happening in Russia during those years, we got from Duranty. First, let’s take a look at a few facts. There was a massive famine in the early 1930’s, mainly in Ukraine but also in Russia itself. There is general agreement that the horrors were brought on by the policies of communist dictator Joseph Stalin. Three to four million died of starvation in Ukraine and two to three million in Russia. It was so bad in Ukraine that cannibalism was a common occurrence. According to the reporting of Duranty, everything was fine. He absolutely denied there was any problem whatsoever. His articles, more or less, maintained that there is nothing to see here. To make matter worse, he heaped scorn on another reporter who had directly witnessed what was taking place. To add insult to injury, Duranty received a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 during the height of the famine.

Herbert Matthews, another Times reporter, did a Duranty imitation of his own in 1957 when he interviewed guerilla leader Fidel Castro of Cuba. In his article Matthews portrayed Castro in the best possible light. He said Castro had a massive army, the majority of the people were on his side, and he was not a communist. He went so far as to say that Castro was actually an anti-Communist. After Castro took over Cuba in 1959, Matthews continued to proclaim the noncommunist nature of the new government. He was still holding to this position into 1960 when Castro himself put an end to the nonsense by coming out of the closet and declaring himself a proud communist.

Many people alive today remember the energy crisis of the 1970’s. It was a time of gas shortages, long lines at the pump, and surging prices. To conserve energy President Nixon instituted day light savings time the year around (it only lasted one year) and set the speed limit at 55. President Carter told Americans to shiver in the winter and sweat profusely in the summer. Looking back, it seems fairly obvious that the problem was instability in the Middle East and government control over the price of oil. However, we were told by the government, the media, and academia that the world was running out of oil. I personally bought in to this line of reasoning; it seemed entirely logical. Demand for oil across the board was through the roof, and there is a limited amount of fossil fuel. I remember a conversation I had with a friend during the 70’s in which I stated that oil was running out. She said, “There’s plenty of oil!” I thought she sounded ignorant, but I was the one who was uninformed. It’s been almost 50 since that conversation, and we still have plenty of oil. Regardless of how one feels about climate change and other related issues regarding fossil fuels, we were not running out of oil in the 1970’s.

George W. Bush, for whatever reason, was determined to get rid of Saddam Hussein in 2003. At first the government through Vice President Dick Cheney tried to tie Hussein to Al Qaeda. That didn’t work; there was simply no evidence. Then, they fell back on weapons of mass destruction. Bush and the CIA claimed that Iraq had chemical weapons and was pursuing a nuclear capability. The intellectual community was convinced, and the rest is history. There was no investigative reporting on the part of the media as they bought the argument hook, line, and sinker. Of course, it was all a lie. The only thing relating to weapons of mass destruction the U. S. Army found when it invaded Iraq was a mobile lab which contained a few high school type solutions and materials.

There is and always has been an abundance of fake news. It’s the public’s job to sort things out, and it usually can. We most always say, “Hey that sounds silly.” The problem comes in when the fake news is supported by the media and the government. When that happens, it can have catastrophic consequences.

I received a bachelors degree in 1967 and a masters degree in 1971 from Western Kentucky University. I taught school for 44 years. One year was spent at Fordsville High School, 17 at Ohio County High School, and 26 at Trinity High School in Whitesville. The subjects I taught were government, history, and English. At Trinity I also served as coach, athletic director, and dean of students. I fancy myself a fairly good writer, and my main interests are sports and politics.

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