Sunday, April 16, 2017

Fake News

If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who aren't here yet) -- the Stickies -- to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.

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Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Stars
Marie-Louise -- My beautiful muse (right shoulder) and back scratcher 
Iggy -- Designated Sticky
Dana -- Designated gentlereader (left shoulder)

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies and Great-Grandstickies (and gentlereaders), 

The subject of this week's column was supposed to be courage, the last of the four cardinal virtues. It's done, but needs to be drastically revised and will be published next week. 

See, one of the members of my (still) freakishly large household decided to take a (hopefully temporary) sabbatical and is now living in West (by God) Virginia. Long story short (and no, I'm not gonna' bore you with the details) this has rendered me a very unhappy camper. That's all I have to say about that.

When I pulled up the column you're supposed to be reading for the usual last minute check (after ignoring it for the mandatory minimum marinating cycle of at least 24 hours) before hitting the publish button I found it to be somewhat snarky, and bitchy.

[You? snarky and bitchy... shocking! Dana, my imaginary gentlereader, speaks. Marie-Louise, my gorgeous, and somewhat more sympathetic muse is gently scratching my back with her world-class, award-winning fingernails. Iggy, imaginary grandsticky, is nowhere to be found.]  

Promoting the practice of one of the cardinal virtues in a snarky and bitchy tone is, to put it mildly, a somewhat counterproductive exercise. 

So, I've graciously decided to give myself a 24-hour extension, which is why I find myself writing a column on Easter Sunday when I should be downstairs violating my low-carb eating regimen with abandon. Yes gentlereaders, I'm that dedicated (and besides, they know down there that if someone doesn't save me some chocolate there will be hell to pay.)

In the midst of my morning routine (slurping down a large mug, or two, of Cafe' Bustelo Espresso Ground Coffee while skimming a selection of carefully/efficiently/logically arranged websites that serve to provide me with what I call a zeitgeist snapshot, seven days a week) I found something I wanted to write about.

[It's not you, it's me. In my defense, the process described above includes comic strips.]

My preferred local paper had an article about "... more than 100 protesters..." (101 or 999? and this is the better local paper) who were participating in a rally to demand that the Donald release his tax returns.

While they were at it, "Several... speakers...," that is, an unnamed local "economics professor" and unnamed "members of the local " _______ County Young Democrats discussed how the nation's income inequalities are hurting education, mental-health services and job growth; the damaging effects of cutting funding to PBS, the arts, Meals on Wheels and many other vital social programs; and the president's low approval rating."

The article's (written by a local reporter) last line is, "The Associated Press contributed to this report." This is because the author breathlessly leaps back and forth between the local rally and national coverage, presumably provided by the AP, of rallies all over the country for people that want the Donald to release his tax returns.

Quotes from nationally known anti-Trumpers (Democrats all) are intermingled with local quotes and the vaguely attributed diatribe quoted above. The effect, surely unintentional, is that without a careful reading, one would assume that unless the Donald releases his tax returns ASAP, civil war, and perhaps the collapse of Western civilization as we know it, is imminent.

A local reporter, who probably has a degree in journalism, submitted an article to an editor, who probably has a degree in journalism, and both work for an editor-in-chief (who, by the way, probably has a degree in journalism).

"Several... speakers...," that is, an unnamed local "economics professor and <unnamed> members of the ______ CountyYoung Democrats discussed how the nation's income inequalities are hurting education, mental-health services and job growth; the damaging effects of cutting funding to PBS, the arts, Meals on Wheels and many other vital social programs; and the president's low approval rating."

I don't have a degree in journalism (though I do have 39 certified college credits), but can easily envision myself as a widower (because I am) who inherited a newspaper from my late wife (which I didn't) and am much more comfortably situated than I actually am (because though I'm already 39 I wake up every day assuming the life I'm clearly entitled to is just around the corner).

[The preceding paragraph is a beard for some actual details which could get me killed.]

Now, were I the fortunate individual described above, I would call a meeting of all the relevant parties and ask some questions.

What's the name of the local economics professor? surely a phone call or two could unravel this mystery.

Which members of the _______ County Young Democrats spoke at the rally? I'm sure they would like to get their names in a democratic-leaning newspaper that publishes in an overwhelmingly democratic region

Did we actually have someone there or did you guys just piece this story together afterward?

You're aware that the funding cuts referred to are only proposed cuts right? You're aware the republicans have proposed cutting off the Public Broadcasting System people for decades and that it never actually happens, right?

You realize that the phrase "and many other vital social programs" turned this front page story into an editorial, right? Why did we not point out that the local rally was a local non-event, and instead make it sound like it was a vital part of a national protest? A national protest whose theme seemed to be since he won't release his tax returns, he must be guilty of something, that is, he's guilty until proven innocent.

My wealthy widower persona only scratches the surface. The article is a biased, unprofessionally written, and a hit piece from beginning to end. I'd love to give you more details, gentlereaders, but I was only half kidding about how the details could get me killed. Piss off the wrong people here in our happy little valley and your life can suddenly become very unhappy, and me and mine are stuck here for the moment. And for the record, I didn't vote for the orange dude, I'm a libertarian.

What have we learned, Dorothies?

Pay attention. "Fake news" is usually too good/crazy to be true news and often easily debunked via your favorite search engine/dutch uncle (or auntie, of course) of choice. It's the alleged real news you gotta watch out for. Poppa loves you.

Have an OK day.

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©2017 Mark Mehlmauer   (The Flyoverland Crank)

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