Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Imitation Political News: Progressive Edition

Let’s talk a little about imitation political news.  It’s not fake news.  Imitation political news is the presentation of verifiable events, exaggerated out of proportion to their importance, through formats intended to look like authentic news sources.   

Fake political news is crafted out of whole cloth, or bare smidgens of truth, and not all of it is Russian made.  Fake political news is usually fed into the media mainstream in hopes that some gullible reporter or editor will pick it up.  It’s hard core propaganda, and, if done right, very effective.  

Imitation political news is, for lack of a better term, soft propaganda.  It’s not often fed into the media mainstream, but prefers its own outlets made to look like mainstream media.  It takes real events, often of little importance, and manipulates them to look like something of great importance as a way to influence someone’s thinking.  

There are hybrids.  Think of the magazine rack at super market checkout counters.   Or consider a well known television channel that can give you five minutes of solid news reporting followed by an hour of imitation news, with a few fake news thrown in from time to time.

It isn’t a right wing phenomena only, and that’s what concerns me.   Imitation political news in support of progressive interests is increasingly popular, but it cheapens and jeopardizes serious solutions to serious public policy issues. Some of it comes from well meaning FB ‘friends’ who blithely repost “news” reports without the slightest effort to cite sources or fact-check.  People, listen up, we’re facing issues far too important to mess around with sloppy thinking, and unthinking distribution of misinformation!

Ill informed FB ‘friends’ are one thing, professionally calculated imitation political news campaigns supporting progressive viewpoints are another, and I find them repulsive.  I follow them anyway to see what hurdles they are creating for the rest of us to overcome if sensible solutions to national problems are to be achieved.  Based on the proven format of respected wire service feeds, and old time television infomercials, imitation political news outlets try to look and sound like genuine news sources.  Some have the look of quality online newspaper articles.  Others try to look like big city news channels complete with crawling banners, breaking news, anchors, reporters, and serious images projected in the background.

Three come to mind.  I suppose they think they’re stoking their left wing base, but what base would that be?  I’m vain enough to think most progressives are not inclined to knee jerk reactions, but want solid verification on matters of genuine importance.  There aren’t enough hard core left wingers to stuff in a phone booth, if there were any phone booths.  I do have a couple of acquaintances who live in liberal la-la land, but as naive as they are, they’re serious about their sources of news.  But I digress.  

The three sites  that come to mind are: Opposition Report, Daily KOS, and The Washington Journal.  The last one is a doozy because there is a long running, highly respected public television show called Washington Journal.  This isn’t it.  Going by the name of The Washington Journal, it tries to look like an online newspaper.  It’s articles are generally a day out of sync with mainstream news sources, and are thinly veiled opinion pieces exaggerating some facts, ignoring others, and often focusing on something that can be sensationalized, the more salacious the better.  

Opposition Report posts videos that are intended to look like segments from a real broadcast news show.  Breaking News is their favorite schtick, frequently about something mildly, scandalously conspiratorial that mainline news sources have failed to note.  Stripped down to the basics, it bears a strong resemblance to middle school gossip about who likes who as the foundation for seismic changes in the world order. 

Daily KOS is a collective blog site that looks a bit like a wire feed.  It features opinion pieces dressed up to look like news articles.  Some of them are quite well done, and do take a hard look at real issues.  Most seem to border on the trivial, into which they dive with gusto.


In the unlikely event someone from any of them read this article, I would expect a response of deeply offended, feigned indignation.   And who knows?  Maybe there is a base out there of tea party type liberals who can be incited to vote against anything that can be made to look like a right wing threat.  We shall see.  It’s equally possible that the right wing can use their products as ammunition against progressive candidates and causes.   We can do better.

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