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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/24/21

How Does America Solve Its "Fake News" Crisis?

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Thom Hartmann
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America is now in the midst of a "truth crisis" that threats to tear us apart and end the American Experiment in democratic governance; Finland is implementing a solution to "fake news" that we should seriously consider. Back to that in a second.

Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter Patrick Condon notes, in a great deep-dive analysis article, that:

"National polls show large numbers of Republicans continue to believe Trump was the election's real winner. The staying power of this alternate history of recent events is driving a wave of restrictive new voting laws in Republican-led states around the country, and driving concerns about long-term damage to the U.S. democratic system."

That "damage" is massive, and it's an open question now whether America will remain a functioning democracy (and improve on that by strengthening our democratic institutions) or if we'll follow the path of Hungary, Russia, Turkey and other countries that have slid from democracy to oligarchy and autocracy.

And, to a large extent, that depends on having an engaged and accurately-informed populace.

Yesterday on my radio program, a caller laid some misinformation on my listeners and in the moment I didn't know if it was right or wrong (he said the Catholic Church owned residential rental property and was making money on it, tax-free; in fact, the Church pays taxes on such income). Today I'm correcting that on the air.

I reported the news on WITL in Lansing, Michigan in the early 1970s and learned "the truth" must be media's highest standard. Generally, "major" media outlets agree; they employ people who check stories for their accuracy before they get to air or in print, and when they get things wrong, they correct them on-air or in print.

Sadly, that's not the case with the rightwing media ecosystem that's resulted from Lewis Powell's infamous 1971 "Memo" urging big business and billionaires to get together and seize control of the institutions of America - including the media - to stop "socialism or some form of statism."

These outlets specifically and intentionally misinform their listeners, viewers and readers, all to increase the power and influence of billionaires and the industries that made them. "Truth" and "fair and balanced" are simply slogans for these folks, not realities.

Giant corporations that have allied themselves with rightwing extremists within the Republican Party own over 1500 radio stations across the nation that carry exclusively rightwing talk and "news" programming. One of the largest networks of television stations in the country with over 200 stations runs exclusively rightwing commentary.

Fox News has millions of viewers a day who believe things they hear on television. Literally thousands of websites disguising themselves as "news" pour rightwing propaganda poison into the bloodstream of the American part of the internet every day.

When a high school student working on a paper - or any other American - plugs virtually any topic into a search engine, from trade to medicine to history or Covid, the first 20 hits are dominated by rightwing sites.

Rightwingers relentlessly edit Wikipedia and other open-source information sites to give themselves an edge in the neofascist "information wars."

They've established a huge beachhead on Facebook.

And social media outlets' algorithms relentlessly drive people deeper and deeper into insane conspiracy theories after they nibble on a single hook like a somewhat-rightwing clip or article about Trump or any other topic that even remotely involves politics.

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Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle (more...)

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