How To Tell When The News Is Lying.

Libel and slander laws are wonderful things.  If someone says something bad about you that isn’t true, you can nail their ass to the wall with a lawsuit.  This though has the added benefit of not just protecting individuals from being smeared, but it also protects you from misinformation.  Pundits often make claims they know people won’t check up on or can’t disprove.  For instance fox news, rush limbaugh, sarah palin etc are suggesting over and over again that the new healthcare legislation being proposed would mandate forced euthanasia of the elderly or disabled, forced sterilization and various other atrocities.  But how specific are they about it?

If you were a pundit or news reporter or anyone with a megaphone, and you knew someone in congress had proposed such a thing, wouldn’t you give their name?  Wouldn’t you quote specifically what part of the legislation says these things?  Wouldn’t you give actual facts and figures?

But they can’t, because of those wonderful slander and libel laws.  If  they said congressman so n’ so proposed forced euthanasia of your grandma, they’d get hit with a lawsuit so hard they would wake up next Tuesday.  So they don’t, they keep it nice and vague.

In news and punditry specificity translates into credibility.  Specific facts can be checked for accuracy where vague insinuations about 1000+ page legislation cannot.  And if any politician or pundit or would-be news anchor makes suggestions so vague they cannot be verified and carry no consequences if untrue, whatever their political leaning or party affiliation, do everyone a favor and change the channel.

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About agnophilo

Nerd.
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37 Responses to How To Tell When The News Is Lying.

  1. A beautiful point. I’ve called into Glenn Beck once to call him out on something he was saying about Obama’s tax plan to ask where or when he specifically stated that he would raise everyone’s taxes. They screened my ass.

  2. agnophilo says:

    @GodlessLiberal – Of course.  Shoulda lied to get on the air, then asked.

  3. What bothers me is not what I expect out of Fox news, stupid asses like Beck or Coultergeist, but that people ACTUALLY take them serious. People buy into this nonsense and worry that government is trying to run health care, they’re going to micromanage the whole thing, they’re going to kill old people, etc. They paint this picture that is just ridiculous, and they should rightfully be laughed at … but they’re not! At least not by everyone. Some people hear it and are CONVINCED that it is true because enough people are saying it. It makes me lose all hope in America, and hope everything does crumble in the end, because I’m sick of this society run by stupid people. 

  4. trunthepaige says:

    Well actually public figures can be slandered with only the slightest limitations.http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/comm/free_speech/nytvsullivan.html The Supreme Court recognized that the First Amendment, which protects an individual’s freedom of speech and expression, protects even speech and expression that is defamatory. To lose a libel suit against a public figure it is not only necessary to prove it was not true you needed to know it wasn’t true and bad intentions need to be proved.Then we have the Hustler Magazine v. Falwell case which pretty much made public ricule and untrue accusations against pulic figures protected free speech

  5. agnophilo says:

    @bryangoodrich – Thought you might appreciate this quote:”When the Know-Nothings get control, it [the Declaration of Independence] will read: “All men are created equal except negroes, foreigners and Catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.”- Abraham Lincoln@trunthepaige – Yeah, bummer.  I know oreilly has been sued a number of times and they couldn’t get him because they couldn’t prove he knew he was lying at the time.Still most pundits will avoid outright slander.@In_Reason_I_Trust – Yes, I saw that.  No need to drag that into this blog which has nothing to do with it though.

  6. Anonymous says:

    interesting post. I’d never bother to challenge beck on anything. he’s such a radical right zealot that logic means nothing to the man

  7. agnophilo says:

    @Loonsounds – I’m pretty good at arguing against crazy people like him actually.  I debated fundamentalists for years, some of them on the radio.  It’s good practice at quick thinking, they throw you so many curveballs.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Great posting. Very true.

  9. The news is almost always lying when they’re not reporting about the hundreds of people that died today. You’re better off if you just don’t turn the TV on at all. @In_Reason_I_Trust –  Don’t try to argue/make discussion with turntherage; it’s like picking a fight with a blind cripple.Which might be hilarious but really doesn’t serve any useful purpose or lead to any sense of fulfillment.

  10. Anonymous says:

    @agnophilo – oh yea, curve balls. I saw him “interviewing” a rep from AARP the other day…poor AARP guy must have felt so trapped and tricked. And when he’s done with his curve balls, he resorts to talking over the person, loud sarcastic laughing and etc.

  11. agnophilo says:

    @Loonsounds – Yes, talking over the other person, condescending as a form of argument.  One evangelist guy I debated with was especially good at pretending not to have lost a point, I would shred his arguments one after another and he would reply by saying something like “no, you don’t understand, what I’m saying is-” and launch into a totally new argument.  So to anyone paying close attention he’s losing badly, but to his listeners with a confirmation bias he’s giving me what-for.

  12. agnophilo says:

    @trunthepaige – Take it somewhere else.  Any more of this stuff on my blog after I’ve warned you too and I’m nuking these comments.

  13. I like this post, very succinct. I tend to avoid believing what is said on TV or on the internet until I see it from multiple sources and am told their sources for what they are claiming. Unless it’s on the Daily Show, then I believe it all (I jest, but I do love that show).

  14. agnophilo says:

    @TheRiverIsEverywhere – Haha.  Yeah, the DS is fun, but it’s a good comedy source, not news source.  When it came out that more people trust the DS for their news that said more about the mainstream media than it did comedy central.And thanks for the compliment.  I actually couldn’t get the first part to worked so I just lopped the first paragraph off entirely and it was perfect. : D

  15. Reasons like this is why I just read the newspaper.

  16. FastingFrogs says:

    It is ridiculous to listen to any talking head with out checking the facts for yourself.***SO MANY*** things are pushed on people as one size fits all fixes, with out ever taking into consideration that every body is different.Socialization is so important that parents should turn over the raising of their children to professionals for eight hours a day … bull shit.  Immunizations are safe, unless, like my children, they have food allergies.  College is the shot in the arm your life needs for success.  Yes, there is no statement on the healthcare bill about forced euthanasia.  Yes, there are piles of other reasons to be concerned about government mandated healthcare.  A lot of people who need aid in this area ALREADY have government funded health care, and it is poor quality care, at least this is so in our case…. all the good doctors have dropped accepting their coverage because they don’t pay their bills.  I love being on a good over priced plan through an employeer.My mother is a reporter and is very careful about keeping journalistic integrity, however, there are also lots of ways to cover a story, make a statement or submit a point of view, that may be skew the facts while not compromising integrity.  The most important thing is to gather information for the sources for yourself.  In this case, READ THE FUCKING BILL and form an original thought of your own.

  17. agnophilo says:

    @mynameisblueskye – There’s a quote from mark twain, if you don’t read the paper you’re uninformed.  If you do read the paper, you’re misinformed.Just thought I’d mention that.

  18. hmmcclish says:

    This makes sense. Thanks for making this obvious enough for me to notice it. >.>

  19. agnophilo says:

    @hmmcclish – You’re welcome : D

  20. LydJaGillers says:

    Thank you!!! I wish I could hug you right now! I’ve been changing the channel so much that I now just turn off the tv. Or watch comedy central instead.

  21. agnophilo says:

    @LydJaGillers – : D  You’re welcome.  And yeah, there’s a sea of bullshit out there.I’d steer clear of fox news in general, they outright make shit up.  The other networks usually just display bias and slant things one way or the other.

  22. epiginoskete says:

    So simple, in’t it?

  23. nephyo says:

    libel and slander laws are actually pretty damned weak in the US and as much as I despise the talk shows you are talking about I think that’s probably a good thing overall. Freedom to lie is freedom of speech too. However, the real reason why these pundits use vague language is not to avoid lawsuit, it’s because it’s MUCH more effective.  If I say vaguely that so and so “might” have been involved in murdering babies not only can I claim ignorance, but those predisposed to dislike the person I’m talking about can have just another reason to hate that person.It’s very hard to counter a vague insinuation. Take the health care bill. I can say I don’t think there’s any provision that does “blah blah blah” that republicans say is in there, but they can just say “yes there is! I’ve read it! You can’t prove that it’s not in there!” And then if I say “I read it too” they’ll say “well you must have read it wrong or you didn’t understand it like *I* understand it.”  And what do I say against that?  It just becomes he said she said.  Doesn’t matter if I just happened to turn out to be the world renowned expert on health care and the pundit is just some guy with a big mouth. As far as your average distrustful audience member is concerned his word is as good as mine.Do you see? Most people WON’T read it. Which of us they believe depends entirely on who they WANT to believe and which of us is most credible to them. To a conservative who gets all their news from conservative sources a conservative news persona is far more credible than any liberal. So they will take their word over mine every single time.The only way to defeat them is to PROVE how non-credible these people are as sources of information by calling them on every single bold faced lie they’ve made over the last decade. And then asking people, are you really going to continue believe someone who has lied to you that much?

  24. @bryangoodrich – I go to National Review for analysis, since they provide actual sources for their info. http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=N2M0ODk0OTNkZjkwNGM4OGMyYTEwYWY3ODUzMzFiOTc=http://healthcare.nationalreview.com/I watch Dick Morris and Karl Rove on Fox since they always provide excellent political analysis.  There’s a Dem there who also does accurate analysis.I like Beck for the humor. When will I get my bomb-shelter kit? Oreilly sometimes has interesting points and guests.  Don’t much care for Hannity, Greta, or Huckabee. Hannity’s a predictable shill. Huckabee’s just too smarmy. Greta is off way too often.CNN has really improved and aren’t shills for Obama like MSNBC is.  Sometimes I watch them.

  25. agnophilo says:

    @nephyo – I agree.  And the only answer to the suggestion that some orwellian statute exists in the proposed legislation is to call them on it, tell them to quote it, tell exactly where it is, give a word for word reference for it etc.

  26. agnophilo says:

    @soccerdadforlife – All of those sources routinely make shit up, including the site you linked to.The first claim on the webpage is that 40-something percent of breast cancer patients in england die.  In 2008 45,947 people in england got breast cancer, 12,392 of them died, which works out to 26.9%, or almost the exact same as in america.They just make shit up to promote whatever bullshit the republicans are selling this week, and you believe them blindly.Every single source you listed is militantly republican, many bordering on total lunacy.  You might want to diversify your sources of information…

  27. a12906 says:

    @agnophilo – AAAAHAHAHAHAH YES!!!!!!

  28. stump says:

    Obama wants to slaughter the unborn.  He never said that, but he does.  And that’s a fact.

  29. agnophilo says:

    @gabrielpeter – Oh yeah, I’m sure he jerks off at night just thinking about it.Seriously though, wtf does this have to do with my blog?

  30. stump says:

    @agnophilo – Just that your reason doesn’t follow.  Plenty of pundits will say that about Obama specifically.  By your response, I’m guessing you don’t consider that a credible claim.

  31. FoliageDecay says:

    Important point made concisely. 

  32. agnophilo says:

    @gabrielpeter – What are you even saying?  Thinking that abortion should be legal and enjoying the fact that it is are two different things.  I think alcohol should be legal to consume even though I don’t enjoy alcoholism, drunk driving, people rotting their livers and shrinking their brains and the weekly screaming matches outside my apartment by my red kneck neighbors “having a few brews” after work.I think it should be legal because making it illegal doesn’t stop people from manufacturing, buying or selling alcohol and actually makes the problem worse.The pro-life position is a moral and ideological one more than anything, the pro-choice position is about the role of government and the consequences of outlawing abortion.If you think the president is some kind of batman villain who rubs his mits together and shouts “hee hee hee hee, I will kill all the babies in the world” then you’re just not a serious person.

  33. soy_esteban says:

    @agnophilo – Thanks for the Lincoln quote you left for bryangoodrich. I don’t know why I’ve never seen that.

  34. agnophilo says:

    @soy_esteban – The founding fathers and early presidents said a lot of things nobody’s ever heard about.  History books are kind of bullshit a lot of the time.

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