Welcome back to Can’t Handle the Truth, our Saturday column looking at the past seven days of fake news and hoaxes that have spread thanks to the internet.
On Friday, a website run by notorious blogger Chuck C. Johnson posted a copt of a formal request from the Senate Intelligence Committee, requesting that Johnson participate in a closed interview related to the Russia investigation. I find this a little funny on one hand, and a little worrisome on the other, because if there were a Fake News Hall of Fame, and I were its curator, Johnson, a longtime purveyor of journalism-flavored character assassinations (and failed assassination attempts) would be one of my first inductees.
Johnson’s reputation, not just as a sloppy right-wing muckraker, but as The Most Hated Man on the (Pre-Martin Shkreli) Internet is, as far as I can tell, well-earned. In 2013, he made a fuss for no reason by claiming that Cory Booker never lived in Newark while Booker was mayor of Newark, when Booker actually did live in Newark, and could easily prove it. Much more famously, in an attempt to out “Jackie” the accuser in the 2014 Rolling Stone college sexual assault story fiasco, Johnson posted a photo of the wrong woman, putting that woman in real danger of being harassed. And those two reasons for Johnson’s bad reputation barely scratch the surface.
Anyway, a headline on Johnson’s website claims that he’s going to “To Testify On #Russia #FakeNews” and he clarified to The Daily Caller Thursday that he thinks he’s being summoned to Capitol Hill to explain his work during the presidential campaign with Republican operative Peter W. Smith. Smith died by suicide in May just after talking to the Wall Street Journal about contacting Russian hackers in pursuit of damning information about Hillary Clinton during campaign season. Naturally, the degree to which Smith coordinated or didn’t coordinate with the Trump campaign may be of importance to the Senate inquiry. So what worries me is that Johnson’s past work doesn’t make him seem like a forthcoming person with oodles of integrity.
But don’t read too much into any of that! A better plan is to just let the Russia investigation play out, and not jump to hasty conclusions, or make any false claims about people. Otherwise we’ll be just like these people:
Jared Kushner Loves Turkish President Recep Erdogan
President Trump’s son-in-law and political advisor Jared Kushner got accosted by an overeager Turkish reporter named Yavuz Atalay this week. Kushner politely paused for a selfie, and gamely answered a couple of rushed questions. And then on Thursday, a story came out in a Turkish newspaper quoting Kushner as having said Turkish President Recep Erdogan “is making Turkey bigger again like [the] US,” and “We watch his efforts with appreciation.” Trump himself has had kind words for Erdogan, but such overt praise for someone with Erdogan’s autocratic ambitions probably isn’t a good idea.
On Thursday, The Daily Caller hunted down the reporter, who admitted that the interview was rushed, and the quote was essentially fabricated.
Admittedly, the Trump Administration has much bigger messaging problems this week than a misquote in a Turkish newspaper. (Trump hired an Andrew “Dice” Clay impersonator to manage White House communications last week, and that communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, now seems to have successfully pressured the president to fire his chief of staff). But it’s still a fascinating cross-over between two countries with very troubled news media environments.
Midi-chlorians are real
If you get your science news from the late Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, midi-chlorians are symbiotic organisms living inside all living things that, among other things, give the Jedi their powers. But Midi-chlorians aren’t just a dreary, overly literal science fiction conceit that dragged down the otherwise fun mythos of the Star Wars movies, they’re also real, according to three science journals that published findings about them recently.
The papers were pretty much just a rewriting of the Wikipedia article about mitochondria, with the word “midi-chlorians” in place of “mitochondria.” Then in each, there was a long section on a guy named Darth Plagueis, who was so powerful he could induce midi-chlorians to resurrect the dead.
Midi-cholrians are fake of course, but the science gadfly known as Neuroskeptic had some obviously fake reports about them published in science journals recently, in as part of an ongoing effort to expose “predatory journals,” which publish for a fee, ostensibly after vetting their findings, but in reality after no review whatsoever. Neuroskeptic told Gizmodo on Saturday, “I didn’t want to just submit nonsense (like a computer-generated text), or a bad paper, but rather something that was verifiably based on fiction (i.e. Star Wars).”
The liberal media buried the Justine Damond story
A popular meme this week implies that CNN and the Democrats have an interest in covering up the horrifying, tragic story of a woman named Justine Damond who was shot to death by a Somali-American Minneapolis police officer on July 15. The top comment on the above Facebook post claims that the “fucking libtards really want nothing but a total meltdown of the American Standard just to get [their] fucking way,” and says liberals are “fucking stupid to believe this nation was destined to bow down total government control.”
A less hysterical, but similarly troubling response comes from The Daily Caller’s Jim Treacher, who takes issue with the Minneapolis mayor’s attempt to dissuade the public from turning on Minneapolis’ large Somali community. Treacher mocked that sort of rhetoric, writing sarcastically, “Her death doesn’t matter, and the suffering of her loved ones is irrelevant, because it does nothing to further the cause of ‘social justice.’ Hey, it’s just one less affluent, middle-aged lady walking around with her white privilege, right?” adding, “Identity politics is poison.”
Well, for my part, I did see the story on CNN. A lot. It was even fodder for more overtly liberal publications like The Huffington Post, The Daily Kos, Mother Jones, all of whom seemed pretty disturbed by Damond’s death. That’s not to say there weren’t any well-trafficked articles that danced on Damond’s grave. I did see one, and I’m sure there were some very inadvisable tweets mixed in with the outpourings of sympathy and grief.
But for what it’s worth, the knee-jerk response much of the conservative internet seemed to expect from liberals did not resemble the actual liberal media’s coverage of this story.
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