08 May 2017

Fake News: How I Became Part of the Problem

Conspiracy 15 Comments

When I was doing research for an op ed on Venezuela, I came across a hilarious find and asked Natalie Danelishen to whip up a meme. Isn’t it perfect?

I posted this beautiful meme on Facebook and Twitter. People loved it. It was shared hundreds of times, the last I checked.

There’s just one problem. Bernie Sanders (almost certainly) didn’t write or say that.

How is this possible? Am I just a big fat liar?

Here’s what happened:

When I was doing research for my op ed, I knew that a lot of people had praised Hugo Chavez. So I googled something to that effect, and got some good hits. For example Joe Stiglitz said some awkward things (though go to the source to see exactly what he said).

But I also found a person who (somewhat recently) claimed that Bernie Sanders had praised Chavez’s policies back in 2011. I clicked on the link, and sure enough, it looked legit. It was hosted on Sanders’ official government website, and at the top of the article there was just a newspaper listed, with no author. So it certainly looked like it was an op ed that Senator Sanders had had published in the “Valley News” in 2011. I thought I had done my due diligence, and sent the text (with the year, to be fair to Bernie) and the link to Natalie to memefie.

And yet, my procedure wasn’t good enough. The “must read” section from Sanders’ website is clearly linking to other people’s stuff. And then when you find the original article, you see it is almost certainly an unsigned editorial from the Valley News, rather than something that a senator sent to the newspaper as an op ed piece.

So, my apologies for the wrong link I gave here at Free Advice back when I first stumbled upon the article, and my apologies to all internet users for unwittingly spreading fake news. (I took down the meme from my social media accounts and posted a follow-up warning once I realized it might be wrong.) Thanks to E. Harding who first warned me that Sanders probably didn’t write the article.

15 Responses to “Fake News: How I Became Part of the Problem”

  1. Tel says:

    I would argue that Sanders must have been endorsing this article, and the real author is unknown at this stage.

    Sanders has kept the article up on his website, while the original at Valley News has been taken down.

    All of the article contains the key points that Sanders has been banging the table over: envyology, wealth gap, government should spend more on blah blah. If he wanted to disown it, then he’s had plenty of opportunity.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Oh right Tel, that’s why I thought he wrote it. And yes, Sanders was clearly endorsing it.

      It’s possible that the Valley News didn’t take it down out of embarrassment, but that they don’t have archives going back that far. (I’m just speculating.) If you really wanted to find out you could see if you could dig up editorials from before then, still hosted at their site.

  2. Harold says:

    Well done- when we spot this stuff we should do what we reasonably can to remove it, not to justify it.

  3. Craw says:

    Good for you. I was just reading a Bernie loving site where the strong consensus was it’s wrong to even try to be fair and accurate about Trump.

  4. Harold says:

    I would not call this fake news. Fake news to me is where stuff is just made up. Everyone makes mistakes, and it is then the right thing to correct that if you find out about it. However, this was a real article – someone said those words, and it was on Bernie’s website. So for me this is just a mistake and a correction, not fake news.

    Wikipedia describes it thus:
    “Fake news is a type of yellow journalism that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via the traditional print, broadcasting news media, or via Internet-based social media. Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention”

    My question is, what is fake news? Is wikipedia behind the times, and fake news is now any news story that contains an error, however inadvertent?

    If we are to use that as a standard the term is almost valueless. It would not differentiate between deliberate lies and misinformation with no factual basis at all, and genuine news stories with a small error.

    Alternatively, if fake news is to mean deliberately fake stories with no factual basis, then can we stick to using the word that way?

    • Craw says:

      It is with trepidation I beard Mohammed on Islam but I think you are wrong about fake news Harold. I think it has to include slanted stuff published because it is too good to check. That really is the main engine for spreading fake news: people deciding not to check something that strokes their biases caressingly, but passing it along.

    • Craw says:

      It is with trepidation I beard Mohammed on Islam but I think you are wrong about fake news Harold. I think it has to include slanted stuff published because it is too good to check. That really is the main engine for spreading fake news: people deciding not to check something that strokes their biases caressingly, but passing it along.

      • Harold says:

        Craw, you may be right – it certainly seems to be the way it is used, but to me it diminishes the term by applying it to too broad a category.

        If we are to use it to mean any political story that turns out a bit wrong, do we not then need a new term for stuff that is totally fake news? Stuff just made up to get clicks with no basis in truth, like “Pope Dies in Three in a Bed Sex Romp Horror with Trump”?

        I see the problem though. Where does just made up morph into willful negligence? If bloke down the pub tells me a story and I spread it with no verification it is about as bad as if I had made it up myself. There is something of a spectrum and there must be some line we draw, somewhat arbitrarily.

        To me, fake news would never get a retraction, because it is never intended to stand up to any scrutiny. If the “fake news” comes from a source that will retract and correct the information. I am prepared to not class it as fake news.

      • Harold says:

        Craw, one more thing about this story – since it is 2011 it is not really news, so I guess that makes it more like fake news.

  5. guest says:

    At least you provided a link.

    During the 2012 Presidential run, some group put out a TV ad claiming Ron Paul said this or that about racism, and I couldn’t check the context because they didn’t link to all of their claims.

    I’m sure Sanders has something else you could use.

    I was thinking about making an issue out of one of his skits on SNL where he was absolutely not going to be told that he couldn’t have whole milk, when all they had was 2%.

    Here’s the skit:

    Bern Your Enthusiasm – SNL

    Oh, it must be nice to have the freedom to choose whole milk, and not be told what you will or will not be able to buy, huh, Sanders?


  6. Tel says:

    Bob, I hate to tell you but someone else was cranking out the same meme a year ago.


    Server claims Last-Modified: Tue, 31 May 2016 00:51:44 GMT

    • Harold says:

      You can pick between smiley Bernie or serious Bernie! Nice to have a choice.

  7. Silas Barta says:

    Incorrect, Fake News, “everything that’s wrong with the internet today”:

    — Bernie Sanders


    — Bernie Sanders’s website

  8. 2hdkgm26yzans says:

    “In our Nonviolent and Violent Campaigns and Outcomes (NAVCO) data set, we analyze 323 violent and nonviolent resistance campaigns between 1900 and 2006. Among them are over one hundred major nonviolent campaigns since 1900, whose frequency has increased over time. In addition to their growing frequency, the success rates of nonviolent campaigns have increased. How does this compare with violent insurgencies? One might assume that the success rates may have increased among both nonviolent and violent insurgencies. But in our data, we find the opposite: although they persist, the success rates of violent insurgencies have declined.”

    “The most striking finding is that between 1900 and 2006, nonviolent resistance campaigns were nearly twice as likely to achieve full or partial success as their violent counterparts.”

    “Our central contention is that nonviolent campaigns have a participation advantage over violent insurgencies, which is an important factor in determining campaign outcomes. The moral, physical, informational, and commitment barriers to participation are much lower for nonviolent resistance than for violent insurgency. Higher levels of participation contribute to a number of mechanisms necessary for success, including enhanced resilience, higher probabilities of tactical innovation, expanded civic disruption (thereby raising the costs to the regime of maintaining the status quo), and loyalty shifts involving the opponent’s erstwhile supporters, including members of the security forces. Mobilization among local supporters is a more reliable source of power than the support of external allies, which many violent campaigns must obtain to compensate for their lack of participants.”

    “Moreover, we find that the transitions that occur in the wake of successful nonviolent resistance movements create much more durable and internally peaceful democracies than transitions provoked by violent insurgencies. On the whole, nonviolent resistance campaigns are more effective in getting results and, once they have succeeded, more likely to establish democratic regimes with a lower probability of a relapse into civil war.”

    “Nestling our argument between literatures on asymmetrical warfare, contentious politics, and strategic nonviolent action, we explain the relative effectiveness of nonviolent resistance in the following way: nonviolent campaigns facilitate the active participation of many more people than violent campaigns, thereby broadening the base of resistance and raising the costs to opponents of maintaining the status quo. The mass civilian participation in a nonviolent campaign is more likely to backfire in the face of repression, encourage loyalty shifts among regime supporters, and provide resistance leaders with a more diverse menu of tactical and strategic choices. To regime elites, those engaged in civil resistance are more likely to appear as credible negotiating partners than are violent insurgents, thereby increasing the chance of winning concessions.”

    “However, we also know that resistance campaigns are not guaranteed to succeed simply because they are nonviolent. One in four nonviolent campaigns since 1900 was a total failure. In short, we argue that nonviolent campaigns fail to achieve their objectives when they are unable to overcome the challenge of participation, when they fail to recruit a robust, diverse, and broad-based membership that can erode the power base of the adversary and maintain resilience in the face of repression.”

    “Moreover, more than one in four violent campaigns has succeeded. We briefly investigate the question of why violent campaigns sometimes succeed. Whereas the success of nonviolent campaigns tends to rely more heavily on local factors, violent insurgencies tend to succeed when they achieve external support or when they feature a central characteristic of successful nonviolent campaigns, which is mass popular support. The presence of an external sponsor combined with a weak or predatory regime adversary may enhance the credibility of violent insurgencies, which may threaten the opponent regime. The credibility gained through external support may also increase the appeal to potential recruits, thereby allowing insurgencies to mobilize more participants against the opponent. International support is, however, a double-edged sword. Foreign-state sponsors can be fickle and unreliable allies, and state sponsorship can produce a lack of discipline among insurgents and exacerbate free rider problems (Bob 2005; Byman 2005).”

    – Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict

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