Fake news! Alternative facts! Corrupt media bias!
Although these notions are anything but new, they have become a topic of focus in our current political and media discourse. Perhaps this is because strategic “untruths” have been resurrected under a new banner: fake news. It’s a sticky catchphrase that recently has been littering our media consciousness like a soon-to-be outmoded piece of fashion apparel.
Americans seem to be obsessed with vehemently promoting or debunking questionable claims, particularly on social media. How many Facebook friends have you lost over sour political debates (I use this term somewhat cynically)? But most Americans don’t seem to realize that such contests of ideological will (minus reason) often occur on the mere surface of real hazard.
Sure, sensational news of the contestable type is brash, loud, and emotionally-charged. People love--as much as they love to “hate”--any disputable news that taps a nerve! Sensationalism sell, and so media is more than pleased to give people what they want. But real misinformation is of an entirely different nature. And guess what, if you are like most Americans, you have already bought into it!
The most dangerous fake news comes in the form of facts--often extremely boring facts--whose validity goes unquestioned.
The US Government uses “alternative facts” to support the claim that the soaring stock market reflects the real economy and not the Fed’s machinations.
Just last March, the government reported that 98,000 new payroll jobs were created--a figure barely large enough to reduce unemployment. Yet the unemployment rate was reported to have declined from 4.7 to 4.5%!
How was such a decline possible? Simple. The government doesn’t count all of the unemployed people who didn’t look for jobs or who gave up looking for jobs. Rewind: the government reduced the unemployment rate by not counting the unemployed.
Should we call this:
- The REAL unemployment rate?
- The PARTIALLY REAL unemployment rate?
- The ALTERNATIVE unemployment rate?
- The FAKE unemployment rate?
Most Americans have never questioned the figures behind this rate. If you took the time to fully investigate these manipulated “facts,” you’d figure out right away that they are highly disputable. Unfortunately, they don’t scream fake news. They are subtle, authoritative, and boring enough to slip into the categories of truth, and with little or no detection.
Government also doesn’t report the real inflation rate--another instance of fake news.
The government has been spinning a narrative that GDP growth has been positive since the declared recovery of 2009. However, when adjusted for real inflation, as opposed to government’s “understated” inflation figures, as demonstrated by economist John Williams, real GDP growth from 2009 to the present has been underwhelmingly flat.
Government spins fake news to create an economic illusion that most Americans think is real.
Why? It diverts people’s attention from the Fed’s manipulations. It also diverts attention from corporations that borrow money for stock buybacks, driving up their own stock prices and “earning” performance bonuses for their executives. Do you really think that stocks are soaring due to massive business investment? Think again.
The financial press never reports or questions inconsistencies in these economic figures--such reporting doesn’t “sell”...it’s a boring story that, sadly, has devastating consequences.
Such a story wouldn’t be sensational enough to inspire passionate debating or ranting on social media. People want to be outraged by scandal, corruption, terror, etc.! But this kind of fake news--unemployment and inflation calculations--well, it doesn’t really crank up the nerve meter for most people. It certainly will never go “viral” no matter how you dress it up.
And that’s what makes it so dangerous: it is the perfect fake news: subtle, factual, boring, and authoritative.
If government can easily create narratives from inconsistent facts, doesn’t it make you wonder what other fake narratives government might be spinning as truths?