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Barrack Hussein Obama … (1) Holds an Active Estonian Passport! (2) Covertly Dates Britney Spears! (3) Cheats at Lawn Croquet! … and Now, You Can Too!

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The tide of news swill from the US presidential race becomes weirder and more pervasive as falsehoods and media stunts are passed off as truth and gain a life of their own
Jim Gabour
11 March 2012

I seem so confused of late.  The tide of False News Information is almost too much to dissect and digest.  And now, now the active dissemination of this FNI has become so universally systemized and efficient as to create living alternate realities, physical worlds that exist independently in the minds of constituencies, people already so weakened as to be completely dependent on news outlets for the very air they breathe. 

Draw in a breath, Putin says there is an assassin after him, and that is why he should be elected.  Exhale and Rick Santorum says women are hurt by their not producing more free-range babies, and that is why he should be elected.

It is all true!  It is… all… true.

Odd isn’t it?  My own rather salacious street reality is no longer weirder than the mindless political cartoon misadventures I see posted to the e-verse daily, minutely, as in minute-by-minute.  The gobbed-up bubbling swill of centuries of invented negative reaction and complete PR falsehoods, once confined to festering at the bottom of some newspaper-covered, polished-wood-and-brass lobbyists’ birdcage on K Street in D.C., is now every second set a-swirling about all our individual and collective heads in electrons and on inky paper sheets.  Passing itself off as facts.

In this new world of honesty, supposedly reputable politicos use morality-impaired quasi-governmental entertainers like Rush Limbaugh as their attack dogs, then quickly disavow the connection to any repugnant statement.  Life in politics is all about immediate and complete damage control.   The perpetrators say most humbly that they are sorry for any misunderstanding about what that Other Guy said, no harm done, and, since we’ve nothing else to do… couldn’t we just run your lives instead?  

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This last bit has been over-examined I understand, but please bear with me:  just one more look at the Limbaugh hand puppet in this last snafu.   (1)  In personally repugnant terms the commentator questions the morality of a young woman who simply wanted to control her own life with contraception.  (2)  As a matter of record, he tells The Palm Beach Post  "Marriage is about raising children. That's the purpose of the institution."  (3)  Meanwhile, Limbaugh himself goes through four wives, relationships spanning a period of thirty-five years, with nary an offspring.   No children.  Lots of adultery.  And (4)  finally, to ensure that his credibility as a moral lighthouse is secure, Rush Limbaugh writes a book entitled The Way Things Ought To Be.

All faintly reminiscent of a self-righteous Newt Gingrich’s hyper-inflated condemnation of  Bill Clinton’s affair with a White House intern.   While at the same time he was petitioning his soon-to-be- ex-wife for an “open marriage” and asking her to give the OK to his proposal of sex-on-the-side with the woman he would next marry.

This is every conservative’s perfect FNI source.  Dishonesty and a complex multiplicity of standards is expected.  And delivered.

Interestingly enough the lead candidate for the Republican presidential nomination is a man who will say absolutely anything to get elected.  If it profited Mitt Romney to be pro-choice and pro-healthcare a decade ago, he was pro-choice and pro-healthcare.  If it suits his possible new constituencies in this election year to be anti-abortion and anti-healthcare, so be it.  No issue is too big or small for a change of position.   Whatever works.

In any case, all the perpetrators of the FNI world need for success is to get that one lever pulled by enough people, get the public to vote them into office just the first time, to validate their version of the truth.  So everyone can live the lie.  It is a tried and true method:  hold up a statement, however utterly false, before the public for just a split second, labeled by its makers as Truth. Proclaim its Truth that once, before it is inevitably and immediately disproved and dismissed.  Then claim to have honorably backed off of a false statement, and that are yourself clean of its taint. 

However the falsehood now has a life of its own.  The lie holds on to just the smallest badge of the now-proven-false Truth label, and continues to burrow into the nooks and crannies of the collective illogic, passing itself off as real evidence by using that barely-remembered first falsehood as a credential.

Rick Santorum delivered much similar questionable material in his term as a Senator from Pennsylvania, but some of his statements and ideas were so blatantly off the mark that the public finally revolted, and booted him out of office by the largest margin in modern history.  Reuters reported that Alan Novak, a former Republican Party leader in Pennsylvania  said on the phenomenon:  “Every so often, Rick throws the pass you don't need to throw, to use a football analogy. And he threw a couple he didn't need to throw.  I always call them unforced errors."  According to the same Reuters report, even Santorum’s staunch ally Senator Arlen Specter offered him a frank bit of advice:  “Just stop talking."

But how can one make judgments about such matters, when the stories the candidates tell about themselves are so blatantly outrageous?  When Mitt Romney admits to having driven twelve hours to Canada with a dog strapped to the roof of his car, what can we expect, except misdirection?  According to MSNBC;Romney spun that it is animal lovers who are to blame:  "You know, PETA has not been my fan over the years… PETA has been after me for having a rodeo at the Olympics and were very, very upset about that. PETA was after me when I went quail hunting in Georgia. And PETA is not happy that my dog likes fresh air."

Historically, media-maligned quail-hunting among Republicans seems something of a theme.  George W. Bush’s own personal attack-dog Dick Cheney was merely paid a Vice-President’s salary to do sniping at enemies.  Though even Cheney himself had a bit of a spin control problem after he gunned down Harry Whittington, an Austin lawyer noted as among his staunchest supporters, on a South Texas quail hunt. 

Maybe that’s the way modern day gun-toting Republicans handle matters when they get sticky.  They nervously search for small birds to shoot.  Or embalmers.

The New York Times reported that “In 1999, George W. Bush, then governor of Texas, named Mr. Whittington to head the Texas Funeral Service Commission, which licenses and regulates funeral directors and embalmers in the state. When he was named, a former executive director of the commission, Eliza May, was suing the state, saying that she had been fired because she investigated a funeral home chain that was owned by a friend of Mr. Bush.” 

Another maybe:  Cheney’s Secret Service briefing that morning was off the mark, and his targeting askew.  He was supposed to shoot the Democrat.

The elder George H.W. Bush had a weakness for small game, too.  After all, whom did he pick for his own Vice-President but Dan Quayle?  A man who shot himself in the foot every time he opened his mouth.

The National Rifle Association and loaded guns are essential to the ongoing conservative, tea-party-stoked thesis:  maintain fear, maintain guns.  Possibly fear of The Feathered Menace? 

In his book "Freedom Under Siege: The U.S. Constitution after 200-Plus Years," Ron Paul defended the rights of gun owners to bang about with their weapons, and when the text was re-issued in  2007 during Paul's last presidential bid it carried a cover photograph of an ominous SWAT Team, firepower celebrated.  Relevance of the (again) cartoonish and violent illustration to his overall spiritual message was not questioned.

Recently though, CNN has reported that the politician disavowed many of the blatant misstatements and inaccuracies contained in that learned volume:  “Paul has blamed the writings on ghostwriters,” said CNN. “He said he was not aware of the ‘bad stuff,’ as he described it.”

There is a lot of “bad stuff” out there in 2012.  All this FNI is both mightily confusing and severely depressing.  Especially that so much of it is being accepted at face value as the truth.  Today, after another round of broadcast/cablecast network news and half an hour reading web headlines and following multiple hyperlinks, I myself am finding it hard to breathe this misquote-ripened  21st century air.

But it is spring, and I am considering falling in love as a diversionary tactic.   I really am.  I’d be a liar if I told you differently.

How can Americans fight dark money and disinformation?

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Emily Bell Leonard Tow Professor of Journalism and director, Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia Journalism School

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