Guest essay by Charles G. Battig
Like mesmerized butterflies in a field of flowers, the internet-based media flits from hot-topic to hot-topic. Carefully crafted news items are released as powerful behavioral pheromones onto the information super-highway with the intention of shaping public opinion without the target audience’s awareness of the source of their new-found opinion. Think of that unfortunate frog being incrementally heated in a pan of cold water as it is raised to the boiling point.
No better example of “false news” is that of the scientific wasteland now known as “climate change.” A creation of the United Nations in1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted the “false news” that the viability of the earth and human existence was threatened by a minor trace gas, CO2, itself essential to plant and mammalian life processes.
“False news” has become the hot button issue of the moment…the meme of the moment. If there is “false news” does that imply countervailing “true news”? Are some statements so blatantly false that they are obviously false? Or is falsity a characteristic of ones memes…a characteristic of cultural indoctrination rather than of traditional scientific experiment and falsification reasoning? Truths of the physical world are more likely to be resolved in this manner than those of the emotionally based social justice world. The progressive media is expert in exploiting the public in this gray area of feel-good news casting.
News chatter does not deal with such deep philosophical conundrums. It deals at the “he said, she said” level of claiming what is true or not in the media. It deals with rumor, un-identified news sources, and unquestioning reportage as the basis for claims of falsehood. Beyond this simplistic level of mere right-or-wrong shouting matches, there is the cultural indoctrination game-plan of establishing right-or-wrong, falsity-or-truthfulness by edict. “Is true because the ruling class says it is so.” Progressive ideology assumes an intellectually gifted elite ruling class, the technocrats, who alone are equipped to make such determinations. Europeans have the unelected bureaucrats huddled in Brussels at the European Union to do their difficult thinking for them. Americans have recently learned of how the ruling class categorizes them as “despicables.”
There is nothing new in all of this. The current meme is just the latest version of “It is so because I say it is,” “It is so because I want it to be so,” or the most direct “It’s good to be king.”
In 1999, economist Julian Simon’s last book was published. “Hoodwinking the Nation” was Julian’s effort to document how the media selectively slants reported news events. He covered such topics as the “vanishing farmland” scam of the 1970’s, and natural climate change being reported as an environmental disaster in the making. In his terminology, these were examples of “false bad news.” Humans seem to have a predisposition to believe bad news over good news. The enduring ability of Paul Ehrlich and Paul Krugman to continue to make a living by promoting fears of population explosions and natural resource exhaustion in spite of being perpetually on the wrong side of history is a testament to that truth.
Is there any help for the public to make independent value judgements as to “false news” legitimacy? Progressive educational goals set in motion by John Dewey in the 1930’s have successfully produced generations of citizens with diminished ability or desire to reason rationally from first principles. They now occupy posts at all levels of education, government bureaucracies, and span all fields of endeavor. They will not concede the “swamp” of D.C. willingly.
For the internet-mesmerized public, there is hope for resolution of “false news” quandaries. Mother Google has recognized the need. In reference to “false news” items making it onto Google, Andrea Faville, a Google spokeswoman, is quoted: “In this case, we clearly didn’t get it right, but we are continually working to improve our algorithms.” Yes, truth is now just whatever a team at an all-knowing internet behemoth says it is via its latest algorithm. Social media will know it is true because Google says so.
Nothing new there either; remember President Ronald Reagan’s quip: “I am from the Government we’re here to help”? God help us all.