Podcast

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Melissa Zimdars: The Truth About Fake News

Discussing the 'fake news' list with its creator
Sunday, April 30, 2017, 9:54 AM

In the aftermath of the 2016 US Presidential election, "fake news" was blamed as a major reason for Donald Trump's upset victory over Hillary Clinton. A wide range of players, from Russian propagandists to paid partisan puppeteers, were accused of fabricating stories which were then widely circulated via social media to influence the hearts and minds of voters.

A national debate then raged -- and still does -- about whether "fake news" truly exists and, if so, should it be tolerated. And, immediately after the election, a number of major media outlets, including Google and Facebook, announced planned steps to block 'suspect' content sources on their platforms.

Amidst this tumult, a college professor compiled an aggregated list of "False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical “News” Sources", which quickly became known as the "fake news list". The mainstream media immediately latched on to this list of culprits, and circulated it heavily across the headlines of major outlets like CNN, The Washington Post, Fox News, The Boston Globe, New York Magazine, USA Today, Business Insider and The Dallas Morning News

(Full disclosure: this website, PeakProsperity.com, was initially included on the list. We've learned it has since been removed.)

So many questions have been raised by this list. Is naming these sources a public service? Or it is censorship? What criteria are used to declare content "fake"? Who comes up with those criteria, and who is making the decisions? What are their qualifications? Is it the media's job to "protect" the public from information? Or is it the reader's responsibility to judge for themselves what is and isn't a trustworthy source?

To explore answers to these -- and many more -- questions, on this week's podcast we discuss the "fake news list" with its creator, Dr. Melissa Zimdars, assistant professor of communications at Merrimack College.

Chris' line of inquiry is brutally direct. And many of Dr. Zimdars' answers are more nuanced then many of her critics will expect. Wherever you fall on this topic, you'll find this an exceptionally open, frank debate of the key issues at stake on the public's right to information in the modern age.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Dr. Melissa Zimdars (33m:57s).

Transcript: 

Chris Martenson: Hello, everyone. And welcome to this Peak Prosperity podcast. I am your host Chris Martenson and it is April 13, 2017. Fake news. Now, it hit the airwaves in the weeks especially after the election of 2016. And we’re gonna be talking about fake news today.

A website, opensources.co, assembled a list of fake news sites and was flooded with new entries in the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump. In November and December of 2016 news organizations extensively featured that list, with The Los Angeles Times headlining a story, “Want to Keep Fake News Out of Your News Feed? College Professor Creates List of Sites to Avoid.” News organizations such as CNN, The Washington Post, Boston Globe, New York Magazine, USA Today, Business Insider and The Dallas Morning News, all cited the list in their articles. Full disclosure, Peak Prosperity made it on that list for a brief period of time in what was called the unknown category but has since been removed. However, other websites you will know remain on the list.

Speaking with us is Dr. Melissa Zimdars, who is an assistant professor of communications at Merrimack College. Dr. Zimdars, welcome to the program.

Melissa Zimdars: Thanks for having me.

Chris Martenson: First, right at the top, what is fake news?

Melissa Zimdars: Yeah. So fake news, originally actually communication and media, referred mostly to satire or tabloid press, but through the election it became a term used to describe outright false information, sort of fabricated to circulate basically any kind of information online in order to generate profit. And, of course, we’ve seen the term fake news now expand to include a lot of different definitions, some more accurate than others.

Chris Martenson: Well, you mention the profit motive, but there’s also sometimes political motives, are there not? I’ve noted, in times past, political parties on both sides have circulated things that have proven to be untrue as part of campaign cycles. Are you – would that be included as well?

Melissa Zimdars: Yes. So I think when the fake news frenzy really took off, a lot of people, especially in mainstream news organizations, were focusing mostly on the Macedonian teenagers producing a lot of news, the St. Louis suburban dad who became famous for circulating news, but you’re right in that fake news can also be released by various political organizations or really far sort of information sources, often in the form of propaganda.

Chris Martenson: Okay. Great. So this list. First, what made one necessary, in your mind?

Melissa Zimdars: So, it wasn’t actually supposed to be a list originally. This all started as media literacy exercise in my Intro to Mass Communication course. I felt like my students were having a difficult time determining the credibility of sources.

Because most people now get their news on social media, and social media kind of democratizes information in the sense that it all looks the same as we see it coming through our news feeds. So, I created some tips, some that I thought of, some that I took from media literacy resources or elsewhere, and the goal of the original document I created was to have students try to figure out what these sources were. And then that took off, inaccurately actually, as a fake news list when it never was. And so that’s why OpenSources sort of developed, to try and delineate between different kinds of sources, ranging from outright fake news to political information that is still credible, because partisan information is inherently problematic, and just more neutral, credible sources.

Chris Martenson: All right. So we have a list and it consists of websites almost entirely. But they’re categorized in various ways. As you say, fake news was this catch-all bucket. But it was more granular than that. What are those categories?

Melissa Zimdars: So, the categories are: fakes news, and that can be any kind of political orientation. A lot of fake news does target different political parties. It can also be very – sort of more the click-bait style, sort of just outright fake, how to lose ten pounds in ten days for ten dollars type stuff.

Then it can also include conspiracy information. So, this normally encapsulates fairly well-known conspiracy theories, such as the flat earth theory or Ken Trails. And again, conspiracy can travel across the political spectrum.

And then junk science. So, this was mostly information that is contrary to established medicine or scientific knowledge. So, stuff like anti-vaccines or vaccines causing autism.

And then click-bait, which even reputable organizations sometimes use. So click-bait was to denote a kind of style or sensational reporting.

And then hate, which categorizes websites that are basically circulate news from organizations that are categorized by various organizations as being hate groups.

And then bias, which is politically motivated reporting that often uses very loaded language that can decontextualize information or circulate misleading information.

And then political, which is also political or partisan, but that doesn’t always do that. So they maybe sometimes sensational, but generally they’re credible. They maintain informational integrity.

And then the final is just credible. Generally neutral, striving for objectivity. They, of course, may make mistakes, but usually those mistakes become publicized, they’re retracted, apologies go out, et cetera.

So again, it’s a whole range of different kinds of information.

Chris Martenson: All right. So, within these categories then, I noticed some of them, like bias, is fairly often a subjective term, unless you’re really careful with it. I, myself, notice bias all the time in what basically are essentially editorial pieces masquerading as news articles. I see them come out all the time in my newspaper. Many of them you recognize. But I’m very sensitive to understanding when loaded, bias oriented language that’s facts-free and without context is up. Because this is something I study very carefully and I’m alert to. So you mention at OpenSources that there’s a research team that is helping to sort of collate and curate this list. Who’s on that team and how do you assure that there’s neutrality there?

Melissa Zimdars: Yeah. So, the team was basically a group of kind of kind of volunteer librarians. As this was sort of going viral, my original google doc, a few different librarians reached out to me, or to the creators of some browser plug-ins who were working – who were helping support OpenSources develop into a database. And so I haven’t asked permission to make those names public because I received a lot of hate mail. So, I kind of became the transparent lightening rod for any kind of criticism. But right now, actually, I am the only one, me and one other librarian, are the only ones actively analyzing.

And there’s transparency in the fact that if an outside source, for example, questions a labeling or if we internally questions something, it’s reviewed multiple times. So we have multiple spaces for people to debate and contest each other. Because textual analysis, or discourse analysis, which is basically what I’m doing on these websites, is open to a certain level of interpretation.

Most often we find agreement through discussion, but then I think that makes the list at least more reliable.

It’s also meant to be a guiding tool. We take snapshots of websites and the information they circulate and if the website substantially changes over time, or if we analyze it and we find that it’s not circulating the kind of news information that we’re interested in, it may be removed or altered. So, it’s meant to be somewhat dynamic and responsive to critique.

That being said, I agree with your comments about bias, especially – I think one of the major problems in general concerns for bias is that often times it’s not clear whether we’re dealing with opinion, punditry, or news. And this is a problem in credible mainstream journalism. When something isn’t labeled as opinion on Facebook all the way to partisan sources. So, I agree with you on that one for sure.

Chris Martenson: Well, and it’s a very dynamic, interesting field out there. And so this is my business is to be very deep into the information system on the web and understand what’s going on. I see it happen all over the place. One of the areas, for instance, that I track very closely is energy and energy policy and where it’s going. And there was this term that came out awhile ago where the United States is now energy independent. Now, I tracked that all the way back, and I’m pretty sure I can locate the month it was launched. It came out as a block of collateral. It hit op-eds all over the newspapers, and it was meant to achieve a certain design. And if I was gonna guess it came from the American Petroleum Institute or possibly a lobbying firm that they had put on their behalf. But they did a very good job of pushing it all across a variety of places. One of the things that they do, as well, is they set up websites and they promote certain things. So, I’ve watched this happen as a function of corporate policy

And so some of these websites that are on your list raise my alarm bells as fronts that are put out there spread disinformation on purpose, to achieve the opposite aim. It’s very complex sometimes, what’s actually happening. But the role of corporate fingers in shaping media is really strong, and friends of mine who are journalists say they will get collateral packages from Old Monsanto that help them understand how they can write stuff. But when you see the exact paragraphs that are in the collateral show up in article after article, allegedly by independent journalists, you get a sense of what’s happening here. Right?

Melissa Zimdars: Yeah. I completely agree.

Chris Martenson: There’s a degree of subtlety to what’s happening.

Melissa Zimdars: It’s blurring.

Chris Martenson: It’s blurring. Did you say –

Melissa Zimdars: Yeah, Well, I think part of the problem is with declining budgets in newsrooms, you have evidence that a local new station will play in full a video news release or a press release or like you’re saying, full paragraphs are lifted. There’s also a term in communication, or a theory, called information laundering. And so it’s when information might originate from a corporate source like you’re identifying, or it could be a hate group and it’s packaged and sort of filtered through multiple layers to just appear as if it’s neutral information. And then you can see the way that this is picked up and circulated throughout mainstream journalism.

And so, I think part of the reason we’re debating fake news and thinking about all these different kinds of news is because they really do stem, I think like you’re saying, from some of the worst practices that we do have in contemporary journalism. I mean, there is definitely a lot that needs to change and become more transparent in how we relay information to the public.

Chris Martenson: Well, I’m glad to hear that, not just as another example, everything that we do at Peak Prosperity, it has to be data, the data has to be sourced and we have to consider that the source is reliable. So, I won’t talk about energy without having all the databases myself.

I interview widely, and one of the people, groups, I interviewed had been actually measuring the degree of Roundup that shows up as trace residues in our foods. And, oops, guess what? They’re much higher than anybody thought and EPA doesn’t actually look at this stuff. And there’s this whole scandal that we could go down around that. But one of the ways this group was being targeted by, presumably, Monsanto, or somebody like them, was they were labeled, oh, a conspiracy group. Even though it’s hard data. Here’s some data. It comes from a reputable app. Here’s our sources. Here’s how we did it, with double blind, the whole nine yards, right? It was science, but they got targeted. And so I’m allergic to the idea of conspiracy because it’s a very loaded, emotional term. It carries – it’s kind of the modern version of calling somebody a witch, I think. Because I see the emotional response. It shuts down the rest of the conversation.

I was looking through your list. There’s a hundred and seventy-three out of seven hundred seventy plus that are listed as conspiracy. So, one of my questions then is how does a site get on your list like that? How would it get there and labeled?

Melissa Zimdars: Yeah. So, firstly, I do think you offer a very fair critique on conspiracy. For example, Watergate originated as a conspiracy, right? And it turned out to be a very true situation. And people who originally pushing it and following it were thought to be just really cynical and skeptical of what was happening. So, yeah, I think that’s very fair. And the way that sites get on the list is mostly through various suggestions. I originally made a list that contained almost two hundred sites. And that was from – I saw a random list circulating online. And I went through all of those websites on the list that I collected individually to determine are they active? Do I agree with this rational? So some of it was cultivated from other lists, trying to put it together in a master document. But the rest were from emails, people suggesting through various tech online social spaces; yeah, it’s sort of generating from everywhere.

I also am an avid reader of news from across the spectrum and from mainstream sources, so I was paying attention even to other websites or to stories that were being played in the media or by political sites. And I would analyze those, add them or reject them. So it’s mostly – the information is largely crowd-sourced. And then I, or if one of my active librarian volunteers is around, we will analyze it, and then hopefully someone else will analyze it again to determine whether or not we agree with that analysis.

So it’s – does that make sense? It’s crowd-sourced but then analyzed or removed as with the case with Peak Prosperity when I determined it to be beyond the scope of the project.

Chris Martenson: Well, sure. I’ll tell you, the – some of my process concern shows up - I was just interviewing a gentleman named J. Edward Griffin. He wrote a book called Creature from Jekyll Island, It’s a seven hundred seventy page tome, well researched, about the origin of the Federal Reserve. It’s in its fifth edition. He’s received exactly zero pieces of pushback from anybody saying, “Here’s where you got this wrong. This fact isn’t right. Here’s where the story's wrong.” And it tells a very credible tale of how the Federal Reserve came to be, which was somewhat of a conspiracy, as it were. And it’s all a matter of record at this point. Nothing controversial about what happened between the years 1910 and 1913 when it was finally passed as a bill.

However, you go to his Wikipedia page and the word conspiracy – he’s a noted American conspiracy theorist. Conspiracy. Conspiracy. Conspiracy. And that’s how he’s categorized and he found out that a couple of Wiki editors we trying to say, “Hey, that’s a label. Can you back that up?” and other Wiki editors said, “If you push on this too hard we’re gonna get you fired, that we’re keeping these labels.”

So, this is a label that I’ve seen used, and it gets applied in increasing numbers, I discovered, when the content is objectionable to somebody who holds some sort of power. That happens a lot. And there’s obvious things that I think if we’re gonna say that conspiracy is a – also applies to things where people have really unformed opinions like, “I think the leaves turn earlier this year because radio waves are coming from Moscow,” or something, right. There’s that. But there are people who have deeply researched stuff. They get branded, as well.

And so one of the sites on your list is the site oftwominds.com, which is run by Charles Hugh Smith. He’s a well-known contributor to our audience and there’s literally nothing I know about all of Charles body of work, which I know very well, is even remotely conspiracy oriented. He’s a nice – he’s the nicest guy you ever want to meet. He’s an author. He lives in Berkeley. Dozens of thoughtful, well-researched books. I’m interested. How did – how would his site have gotten on there and labeled, given that – I can’t – I know his work really well.

Melissa Zimdars: Yeah. So for that particular website – because I’ve analyzed almost a thousand at this point – I would have to dig through my files and footnotes and see why it was labeled that way, or if I was the primary labeler, or if one of the librarian volunteers was a primary labeler. But I do agree with your point about critical thought sometimes being labeled conspiracy erroneously. And I think there is a fine line between holding corporations and governments and institutions in power in check and in questioning and in being healthily skeptical of what’s happening. And so, I do agree. And I will definitely double-check that website if you are flagging it to me as being inaccurately errored.

Chris Martenson: And I’ll tell you why this matters a lot to me personally, is because my Ph.D. is in a science. It’s in toxicology, neurotoxicology is my background. Did a lot of basic research, post-doc, the whole nine yards. And so, one of the statements that I learned that was really scarily accurate was the statement by the physicist, Niels Bohr, which is, “Science advances one funeral at a time,” meaning those that hold entrenched beliefs often are blockages to advancing ourselves and our culture. And so, to the extent that powerful people can simply block legitimate inquiry that’s there to advance us, right, even though it may harm certain entrenched interests, I think we have to preserve that carefully. I think that the open spirit of really challenging authority, is essential, because we need accountability at all levels, and that’s been something that has been just been dreadfully lacking. The utter lack of accountability, for instance, under Eric Holder's Department of Justice with zero prosecutions for people who committed overt banking felonies, time after time after time.

That lack of accountability, I fear, elicits such a saying, these are unapproved sites – my concern is that somebody in power will think that that’s a great idea, not because it’s a great idea necessarily, but because they can find a way to use it to advance their interests and stifle the legitimate inquiry. Do you worry about that angle on this at all?

Melissa Zimdars: Well, I mean, I, firstly, completely agree with you in terms of a lack of transparency. I’ve spoken out against – and I even explicitly say on original google doc that I do not agree with any attempts to block information or to prevent it from showing up, because even outright fake news is a protected form of speech, of course within certain legal confines as determined by dockets of case law. But that doesn’t mean that it should be censored, right? That the government should step in and shut it down. I’ve never, ever believed anything like that. Because I agree that critical thought and often alternative ways of thinking about the world and challenging sedimented beliefs is how we advance as a society, as a country, as a world. And so, I agree. And that’s why I was very disheartened when a lot of the original take-up of my resources just labeled it a fake news list. And I remember speaking to reporters and being like, “Please do not use fake news list in the headline.” And they would be like, “Well, now I don’t really know what to call it because ‘Professor Makes Media Literacy Document with Sources Ranging from Credible to Fake Goes Viral’ isn’t really a snappy headline that’s gonna generate advertising revenue in a crowded market.

So, I do agree. But here’s where I’ll say why I still I have this resource, this list, out there is because I think all of these forms of information should exist, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t apply a critical lens to them in trying to understand them. So, it’s just another layer of checking and balancing, I guess, how information circulates. And so I don’t think every aspect of this that we have is perfect – not just talking about me but various fact-checking organizations or whatever. But I do think that it’s an important sort of part of the debate over being critical, over alternative sources of information and holding journalists accountable, as well as producers of partisan information. Does that make sense, hopefully?

Chris Martenson: It does. And so you mentioned sort of the legal edge of this. So hypothetical question. Let’s imagine a big name site on the list, maybe Drudge Report or Zero Hedge or something. They break a story. It’s using unnamed sources. It turned out it provided utterly bogus information, but that then was used and caused actual quantifiable harm, deaths, destruction, things like that. The story leads to harm. Should that site be trusted again? Or shut down? Or face consequences? Or is there anything here where you’re saying that you’re promoting an idea of how we might as a society begin to deal with sites that cause harm like that?

Melissa Zimdars: Yeah. I feel like I hope smarter people than me can figure out the best way to handle that, because of course, we can see examples. Turn back the clock to the beginning of our U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and looking at all the errors of reporting across media and we’ve seen many high-profile instances of this happening, and that can have major consequences. We can also see – I know you like the term conspiracy, but across a group of websites online propagating the Pizza Gate conspiracy lead to someone bringing a gun into an actual pizza shop. So, should those websites be held accountable? Should people who tweet alleged evidence that Newsweek was engaging in trying to rig the election because they produced a Hillary Clinton cover as President and Donald Trump to be the first on the newsstands? I don’t know.

So, at what point do we keep everyone accountable for the information they circulate? And I honestly don’t have the best answer for that.

Chris Martenson: Well, my own accountability is that if you lose my trust, it’s very hard to get it back. And I’m glad you brought up the early Iraq stuff, because in my mind always is the “Aluminum Tube Story,” by Judith Miller ran on September 8, 2002, and that one was entitled “U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies Quest for Avon Parts”. Now, it turned out to have been completely bogus information, supplied by Scooter Libby to Judith Miller. He was kept anonymous, of course. It was then used to justify a war against Iraq that turned out to be entirely based on lies and deception. Lies that were easily editorially catchable. Those particular aluminum tubes – your editor calls somebody up and knows something like, “Oh no, totally wrong size for a centrifuge.” That’s easy. But these were somehow overlooked. Purposely a war was sold. I lost trust in The New York Times and I will never regain from that. So, but that’s me. Is that an appropriate response, you think?

Melissa Zimdars: I think if that is – for you, maybe it is. For me, I think in other ways, they have regained my trust. I think say that only because I feel like the only way to ultimately trust what I'm consuming is to read as widely as possible. And so, no, I don’t think anyone should get all of their news from The New York Times nor Fox News, nor Politico or whatever, or National Review. I even read The Cato Institute information on their website. And no one should go to any one of those places. But I think in media literacy circles they call it triangulation. And so if you are reading multiple stories about these topics, hopefully you can get a sense of the way that there – they may be differently framed by different sources. And hopefully, you can get a fuller understanding of that picture.

And so, I won’t write off The New York Times even though I’m often disappointed in mistakes that they make or The Washington Post, and on and on and on. Just as I’m disappointed in sometimes local news stories that get it really, really wrong. But again, I feel like we have to – part of the functioning of our democracy is being able to trust skeptically. Right? So, not to believe everything in a foolish way but to have enough trust that you are willing to consider it one part of a larger and more complex story.

Chris Martenson: Well, certainly, I think that we’re raised and trained to trust authority. The person at the front of the classroom in the beginning, and so on. And I think it’s healthy to begin to understand, of course, of course. Everybody has their own motivations. Everything is biased, of course. Stuff I produce. We all have our lenses and frames we look through and that colors how we gather information and how we choose to frame it in the presenting. That’s just part of it. Learning to parse through that is important. It sounds exhausting, but it’s actually necessary, I think. And I agree.

I don’t trust any one source and I’ll be clear. I don’t trust The New York Times on their political reporting. I think far too many times, more times than I care to count, they proved to be just a conduit for talking points from the entrenched power structure for political stuff. I really trust their environmental reporting. I really trust – there’s certain areas. But it takes sophistication to get there. And so, beyond spending as much time being a news junkie as I am, how can somebody – or you, apparently – how can somebody go about beginning to go about beginning to cultivate that same awareness?

Melissa Zimdars: Yeah. I think some of it is also weirdly just very simple. So, it’s not about being a news junkie, but I think reading past the headline, very simple things like that, a lot of people increasingly do not do. So, we tend to share information without actually engaging with it or reading it. And so, very simply, if we actually were at least reading what we’re sharing through social media where so much information is circulated and found, I think that would go a long way to perhaps stymy some information that is unreliable.

I also think it’s up to journalists, for publishers of news information, to do their due diligence to try to prevent some of these mistakes that we are talking about. I do think it’s up to technologies – not to filter or shut down information, but when a very clearly fake news website shows up as a number one google news item - we’re talking about a website that still has WordPress in the domain and has no authors and it’s existed for only two weeks, that might be a problem. So, I think it’s a multi-layered issue and I think the best thing that individual can do is – even if they’re not reading all the time is just to read widely, expose yourself to different points of view and alternative points of view, and just be open to being challenged and debated. Too often when we’re challenged we just dig in further into those beliefs instead of being humble and having an open mind.

Chris Martenson: I totally agree with that. And I’ll just add one last thing to that list is I am completely allergic to any article from anybody that cites unnamed sources. It became de rigueur about 15 years ago. I don’t understand why, but now it’s just how people operate. I don’t trust any of that stuff now. Because again, it could be a political group. It could be a corporation. It could be an ex-general with a very deep interest in Raytheon's next quarter. I don’t know what’s going on. So these things are a real problem for me, but it seems to be something that I would love for us to challenge and push back and say, “Hey. No. We’re not gonna read this article. Unnamed sources. Not good. What else you got?”

Melissa Zimdars: Yeah. Or to definitely approach that as perhaps a story in its nascent form to not read too much into what something like that might indicate or mean.

Chris Martenson: Right. And I do interview widely, and so another group that I spend time with people who are ex-military, particularly special forces. And they say flat out their personal experience and what they read about in the newspaper couldn't be further apart. So there’s always a level of re-packaging that happens over here. So, particularly when it comes to geopolitics I got both eyes mostly closed. And I tilt my head sideways when I read this stuff. Very hard to figure out what actually happening. So, today, if I'm reading about Syria, I have to read Pravda, I have to read Haaretz. I have to read stuff coming out of Iraq, as well as Europe, as well as the U.S., and they all disagree wildly.

Melissa Zimdars: But I think you raise a good point about even stepping outside of information originating outside of the United States. So sometimes it’s important to see what is the lens that is separate from us? How do we understand information the way it’s being reported from quote, unquote, the outside?

Chris Martenson: Very good. Very good. So, all very reasonable. What are your plans for the list now? What happens with it from here, do you think?

Melissa Zimdars: Honestly, I'm not 100 percent sure because it really became sort of a secondary area of my sort of scholarly interests. But one thing I actually think – you bring up transparency and challenging the list, and that’s actually where I would want to improve it. And so, you bring up about bias and I'm very self-reflective about my own self-bias and creating it. And I have to think twice. Am I seeing a liberal website and not recognizing the ways in which it’s flawed as easily as I do others?

And so, my goal would be to specifically have people that identify across the political spectrum. Also more involved so it’s less about me and more about a range of people with analytical skills coming together to talk about these sources. I would also like to match sort of what I think with a transparent sort of crowd-sourced label or multiple labels where people could up or down vote whether agree or suggest other labels just to see how much does this match. Does the aggregate support what I’ve come up with? Does it differ? And what does that mean? So, to make those labels, this kind of analysis, even more transparent than I’ve tried to so far.

Chris Martenson: Well, excellent. I’m a big student of history so ever since I saw that picture of Abraham Lincoln that said, “You can’t believe everything you read on the internet,” I’ve been much more cautious.

Melissa Zimdars: I agree.

Chris Martenson: I raise that as a joke. That’s what I do with my kids though. There’s obviously false stuff and it just floods across Facebook with people just tagging stuff and putting stuff on there that’s completely wildly inappropriate. But you know what? Learning how to be – have discrimination abilities, discernment abilities, out to really understand, to develop that level – I won’t call it cynicism, but certain jadedness, but it’s important to understand everybody’s got an angle. And that’s not a bad thing. But understanding that is the first layer of maturity in saying, “Oh. They’re telling me this. Why?” Those are good questions to ask. Always.

Melissa Zimdars: Yup. I agree.

Chris Martenson: All right. Well, thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us today. Please tell people how they can follow your work as it progresses or interact with the list if they wanted to help you curate it.

Melissa Zimdars: Yeah. So if you go to opensources.co there’s a get help page where you can log in and basically, you can suggest updates, or questions if you notice an error, etcetera, so that’s really the easiest way to sort of create feedback. Otherwise, I guess this all happened so quickly I don’t have a great way for people to track what I do. I do have a researchgate account. I’m on Twitter as Mishmc, M-I-S-H-M-C. You can follow me there, too.

Chris Martenson: All right. Well, Melissa. Thank you so much for your time today.

Melissa Zimdars: Thank you so much for having me.

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Uncletommy's picture
Uncletommy
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: May 3 2014
Posts: 424
And here, I thought it was just the flu

After muddling through a particularly uncomfortable bout of H3N2 strain influenza (confirmed by my local GP and her lab), I listened with a listless fatigue to your recent interview with Mellissa Zimdars on the subject of fake news. It is apparent to me that none of us are immune to fake news, no matter what our background.

However, it also occurred to me that perhaps I was suffering from what Patrick Keeney terms, Apocalypse fatigue. As a somewhat frequent visitor to the PP threads and in my immune compromised state, my lethargy was perhaps a combination of both. As Mr Keeney points out in his quote of Galileo:

 “In matters of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.”

When I use my head and reason to the best of my ability, I usually feel better. There is never a reason to get your knickers in a knot over the opinion of a questionable authority.

http://www.c2cjournal.ca/2016/10/apocalypse-fatigue/?gclid=COXrnP7bzNMCF...

Do you think it's safe to get a flu shot this year?

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very skilled interview

Superb interview Chris.  Your skills as an interviewer were exemplary and you made excellent points without offending the subject of your interview.  Perhaps you should enter the diplomatic corps.

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I was triggered!! I DEMAND a safe space from drivel like this!

You're a better man than me, Chris.  I could never have kept my composure interviewing this person.  I'm still probably too angry to respond even though 30 minutes have elapsed, but I'll do my best in bullet format to get it off my chest so as to not ruin the rest of my Sunday.

1. The worst thing about this person's "Fake News List" isn't that she produced such a list, but that so many allegedly reputable MSM sources blew it up and got behind it in a big way.  Our whole society was swayed by their use of this execrable material. The material and the person behind it would've lived forever in obscurity (where she and it deserve) had it not been for the shameful way the MSM used it and her.

2.  This person basically did one thing and one thing only: she labeled people and media sources (without documentation or reason), and she did it on the basis of her own personal biases (most of them political as best I can tell).  Labeling people and their work is at best lazy short-hand for what you really want to say, but aren't smart enough, self-aware enough, or brave enough to say any other way.  It helps no one and furthers no positive end.  You can see the same thing in relationships even more clearly.  If the husband bitterly labels his wife, "You're a bitch!" he has harmed the relationship and needs to make some other more honest and insightful comments, like "My feelings were hurt when you made fun of me in front of our dinner guests."  In the context of this interview, Chris showed the way to go when he discussed the aluminum tube MSM story from 2002 that helped take us into an unnecessary war.  He stated what he observed/read, his analysis of it, and how it affected him (he lost trust in the source).  If the person interviewed today would skip the list of fake news sites (an arrogant act of labeling), and stick to observations, data, analysis and personal reactions using the first person pronouns (I, me) should might have made an honest contribution to society.

3.  Here's a label for this person: she's a tool.  Probably without meaning to, this person has been used by powerful forces to promote their agenda.  I find the agenda of the MSM that promoted this list to b despicable, dangerous, unAmerican, and quite useful to totalitarians of any brand.  Dictators love tools like this person because they provide the dictators with some intelligent-sounding foundation for their evil plans.  Here's another label: pseudointellectual.  This person is not particularly bright but she has attempted to assume the language, mannerisms and values of true intellectuals.  A true intellectual would already know the things I'm saying here and would've presented facts, analysis, personal reactions and the like.

4.  I'm so enraged by this person, the best I can do is deal with it using humor ("You have to laugh to keep from crying.").  If you'll look closely in the following video clip, you'll see this little librarian lady from the esteemed Merrimack College in the back of the crowd, shouting about witches.  She's the one with the librarian eye glasses on and carrying a clipboard.

 

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Good to to see you back. ao

Good to to see you back.

 

 

ao wrote:

Superb interview Chris.  Your skills as an interviewer were exemplary and you made excellent points without offending the subject of your interview.  Perhaps you should enter the diplomatic corps.

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The organizing story around "the facts"

My take on real, fake and the admonition to "check the facts."

So there is the outside world, then there is our cognitive map of the outside world.  The cognitive map forms an organizing story based on:

  1. The "facts" we include
  2. The "facts" that we exclude (or don't know about)
  3. The organizing story

Two campers lie on the grass looking up at the sky.  One points and says "Do you see the big dipper?" 

The other one says "No, no, no.  That is NOT a big dipper, that is the Great Bear.  (pointing) There is the shoulder and the paw."

And there are LOTS of inputs on the story that "works" for us.  Suppose we come from a culture where our lives depend on hunting bears, evading bears, keeping bears away from our food stores, etc?  Suppose we come from a part of the world where there are no bears?  What if we don't like the way that it makes us feel when we think of a bear being up in the sky?

Another guy joins them later, torturing this metaphor, and says, "The Big Dipper is a part of the Great Bear."

Quercus bicolor mentioned this a few days ago:  Once we have a shattering experience of understanding that we are being lied to on a massive scale (such as: Jekyll Island, 9/11, peak oil, the reason for a war) we then are predisposed to reject ALL stories that seem to be intended to move towards central control.  We may throw out AGW with the bath water.

 

 

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flu shots

So there's something I ran across that doesn't prevent you from getting flu, but often prevents you from actually showing symptoms.  And even if you get symptoms, they are dramatically reduced in severity.

Stuff is called NAC.  Here's the flu-centered clinical trial done back in 1997.

http://erj.ersjournals.com/content/10/7/1535

NAC treatment was well tolerated and resulted in a significant decrease in the frequency of influenza-like episodes, severity, and length of time confined to bed. Both local and systemic symptoms were sharply and significantly reduced in the NAC group. Frequency of seroconversion towards A/H1N1 Singapore 6/86 influenza virus was similar in the two groups, but only 25% of virus-infected subjects under NAC treatment developed a symptomatic form, versus 79% in the placebo group. Evaluation of cell-mediated immunity showed a progressive, significant shift from anergy to normoergy following NAC treatment. Administration of N-acetylcysteine during the winter, thus, appears to provide a significant attenuation of influenza and influenza-like episodes, especially in elderly high-risk individuals. N-acetylcysteine did not prevent A/H1N1 virus influenza infection but significantly reduced the incidence of clinically apparent disease.

NAC is cheap, and its been around for decades.  As always, check the interactions with any drugs you might be taking.

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fake news detector

So I have an idea.

If we could provide examples of bias, and then use those examples to train one of my neural networks, it might be interesting to apply it to all the news sources out there.

See, to me that's science.  Come up with criteria that everyone can agree on, code it up, and then see what pops out the other end.  Just how biased does the code say your news sources are?  How biased a given article is?

If this became more popular, we could even give articles a "bias rating".

While natural language processing isn't my main skill (right now I'm just about market data), this task might be arguably more interesting - and perhaps more societally useful - than what I'm doing right now.

And it shouldn't be all THAT difficult.  I say this prior to actually trying to make it work, of course.

The key would be coming up with the training data.  What exactly is bias?  How does it show up?

One example Chris gave was "unnamed sources", or words to that effect.

How useful do you all think this would be?

 

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Unnamed Sources

One example Chris gave was "unnamed sources", or words to that effect.

Well, Deep Throat turned out to be a real source. So unless you preload data into the system rating a seasoned reporter for previous use of unnamed sources, you may be down-grading a lot of useful articles. Of course, I don't work with AI. Maybe it could rate the reporters on its own by analyzing whether the facts from the unnamed sources were later verified as correct.

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OMG

What Ms. Zimdars is doing by creating this list and updating it is harming people.  Behind each website in question are people.  People she "labels" and her labels diminish, create doubt and take away credibility of each website she puts on her list.  It's like saying let me introduce you to my child, and explaining that your child is unique and this person says "oh your child is a Retard". The label is meant to diminish, to shame and confirm that the child/website in question isn't as worthy as others.  And what gives Ms. Zimdars the right to decide whom to hurt and whom to leave alone?  

Analysis sounds like "group think" I seriously doubt there are real "business owners" in the evaluation circle, rather all the same cohort.  Right?  It's just plain arrogance to feel entitled to "label" people's work like Charles Hugh Smith.  You see he has a business he doesn't just reside in academia.  It appears easy to just sit in academia and judge, try being a business owner where everything is stacked against you like taxes, insurance, statutes, codes etc. and now people in academia as well. Dang the little guy is pushing the ball up the hill and it gets real heavy after a while!  Me thinks it would be easier to just sit and judge.

And as far as fake news and conspiracy theories go - Remember, the rich and powerful have conspired to keep their power and riches since the beginning of civilization, that's not conspiracy that's a fact.  No need to analyze that just look over your shoulder to the past!

AKGrannyWGrit

 

 

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Truth

I scanned a few of her lists. I didn't recognize many of the sites, but the few I did I agreed with her brief indicators.

If people wish to go into the business of blogging they really need to be scrupulous with the truth or they deserve the consequences of their deception. Lying is a strong indication of the commentator's poor reasoning, philosophy and/or reliability.

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thanks

Good to see you here too. I still lurk here from time to time but, ahem ... moderation restricts my ability to post. I sent up a trial balloon because I thought Chris did such a good job with that interview and the post went through. Like Tom, I would've wanted to verbally dismantle her ... which is why I am moderated, lol ... but that wouldn't have done much good. I admire Chris's restrained diplomacy and his ability to politely educate her without evoking defensiveness on her part..

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"Fake News" is a fake concept

There are very few absolute truths in this world.  

There has been "fake news" since the beginning of time.  It's from a variety of sources:  ignorance, malicious or nefarious intent, etc.  The sun once orbited the earth, the earth was once flat, and gastric ulcers were caused by stress.  How many scientists, reporters, investigators, explorers, etc. had their works ridiculed by their peers and society before they were ultimately proven correct?

Having a few people judge who's works are "fake", and who's are "real" is beyond absurd.   

It's not an accident freedom of speech is the first amendment.

BTW, here's how the MSM tries to cover up their propaganda.  They try to use a small percentage of the air time for propaganda, and mix in a lot of real/non-agenda topics to give the appearance of "real news".  A small % of air time on a prime time MSM outlet can go a long way as far as public perception.  Try watching ABC (or any of the big networks) national news every night with a critical eye & ear.

In some ways the internet has allowed the government to gain a lot of control over society, but it has also greatly decentralized "news" and information.  The latter has greatly lessened the government's control over the people.  Thus, there has been the creation of the fake concept of "fake news".

 

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Is the link to Melissa's list on her list as fake news?

I can't think of anyone I trust enough to let them decide for me what is unbiased and truthful news.  That's my job.  

It's never occurred to me to pull up one of the lists of fake new sites.

Sadly, I don't run across unbiased news all that often.  As mentioned in the interview, I sample multiple sources to try to let the competing biases cancel each other out.  Unlike Melissa, I don't seek news outside the US as a last resort.  Overseas is one of the first places I look.

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Questions for Chris Martenson

Chris Martenson, loved the interview and really all the work you do especially on energy and geo-politics. Your Crash Course is nothing short of amazing and really hits home. I don't know if there is a better way of asking this question or contacting you, but since you mentioned it in the interview... You mentioned that your PhD is in Neuro Toxicology and I've never seen your thoughts on vaccines. Have you ever done a video on the subject and if not, what is your take on the subject? Also, have you ever watched the backtoedenmovie.com documentary on growing food? I think it would be right up your alley on preparedness and keeping as much Roundup out of your food as possible.

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unsourced

efarmer-

Well, Deep Throat turned out to be a real source.

Yes that's a great point.

Limitations of the approach I'm using is that it wouldn't recognize individual reporters, or facts.  All it does is analyze the style of writing.

Hmm.  Maybe the right thing isn't to label something as "fake", but rather to assess the different attributes of the article itself.  So while it can't figure out if something is fake, it might be able to tell:

  • does it look like an opinion piece?
  • does it have sourcing?
  • is it attempting to persuade?
  • is the content "emotional" vs "factual"?
  • is it attempting to motivate?

These are more attributes of a piece of text rather than looking for truth or falsity.  But if you saw that a given source was always trying to persuade you in their news section - and the code could identify just how "severe" the rating was - it might be helpful to put you on your guard.

It might even be able to detect common logical fallacies.  "Oh, this article triggered the 'appeal to authority' fallacy detector."

One other nice thing is that it could easily assess a body of work and come up with an overall rating for the organization.

Boy.  I'd be fascinated to see what it would spit out about the stuff I write.

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Arbitrary Thought

For many years I thought the purpose of higher learning was to teach people to explore, create, and how to think.  It appears to me that by creating a list of "Fake News" academia is teaching people "what" to think.  No need for independent evaluation the websites in question have been selected, tried and found GUILTY, it certainly makes a students learning experience easy knowing what they should think and who they should have contempt for.  Guess the students don't need to do the evaluating for themselves, how utterly odd!

A number of websites on the list are among my favorites.  I choose to think for myself, perhaps that's a trait of a curmudgeon!

AKGrannyWGrit

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AKGrannyWGrit said: A number

AKGrannyWGrit said:

A number of websites on the list are among my favorites.  I choose to think for myself, perhaps that's a trait of a curmudgeon!

Yes, but  a curmudgeon with critical thinking skills! :)

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fake news

The vaccine debate is a favorite topic of fake health news sites IMHO. I had measles at the age of 15 due to an ineffective vaccine and it was the worse illness of my  youth.  

If you choose to talk people out of routine vaccinations I hope you, within your conscience, hold yourself accountable to those you influence one way or another regarding vaccination. 

There is a measles outbreak in Minnesota attributed to unvaccinated refugee/migrants. Unvaccinated people get other people ill it is a hard fact. Granted some vaccines are more important than others and marketing is a factor these days. Still, think smallpox and how important vaccinations were.

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6121a1.htm 

According to WHO http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs286/en/

  • Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.

 

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Melissa IS a critical thinker if you look at what she is doing

Thanks for a great interview, Chris.

There is a lot of indignance in the comment thread and I am not really sure why it is directed at Prof. Zimdars , though perhaps she has learned more about global mass media circulations through this list’s viral ascent than her doctoral studies could have possibly taught her! In this case, I believe we should direct our ire to the messenger rather than her message.

Its pretty clear that she never set out to create a blacklist, censor anything or tell people what to read/believe and what not to. She decisively states that this list was meant to represent a continuum of credibility based on 2-3 professionals’ and various students’ analysis using techniques of triangulation, recognizing charged language, and source-checking. If she had her druthers, I would estimate that she would prefer a more diverse set of reviewers and more time/resources. I don’t think she overstates what the document is, and requested that others not overstate its breadth or depth.

Moreover, the genesis of the document in question seems to have been in the service of the critical thought that we all value here. Again, teaching techniques of triangulation, the basics of charged language and source-checking is what she should be teaching. Having students try out these techniques by co-creating a document seems like good pedagogy (as long as she didn’t shut down dissident voices in her classroom). Sure, some students are going to trust the NYT if she does, but some will take the techniques and run with them…maybe straight to PP.com.

It’s worth mentioning that a source that is correct is not necessarily reliable. For example, while peak cheap oil might be a real phenomenon, not every article written about it is reliable or unbiased. An article on peak cheap oil that tries to manipulate the reader through emotional language, would not rate high on the reliability scale despite being true in terms of its content. I happen to agree with many unreliable sources everyday while disagreeing with some reliable ones. That is my prerogative—and it forces me to contemplate why some unreliable sources might appeal to me. Usually it is because I believe something that is being challenged.

Thought experiment: How did PP end up in the “Unknown” category before being removed? Let’s subject PP to the criteria she mentions:

· Triangulation: mmmm . . . not quick or easy considering how many mainstream outlets are saying things contrary to PP.

· Charged Language: No. Chris and Adam avoid this like the plague.

· Citations: Copious, well-respected and themselves well cited.

Result: Unknown requiring further digging. After further digging for triangulating sources, it checks out.

I kind of think the process worked well here.

A caveat, as I am certainly not Ms. Zindars apologist--I’ll say is that many NYT articles do not pass her own test, but Melissa continues to consider it to be trustworthy. She probably can’t afford to hold another view, however, because she is still untenured (her Ph.D. was conferred in 2015) and the last thing she needs is the conspiracy theorist label.

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Digital Collective or Hive Mind?

You might want to check to see if this comes from an "approved source" racy info here, viewer beware!

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Re: Manufactured Reality

Anyone else starting to get the impression that the system won't allow a reset because those "running" it now realize that a reset (at this point) will destroy the system?

Going to be interesting to see how those mentally/emotionally/spiritually embedded the in the current manufactured narrative handle the cognitive discontinuity when the physical break occurs.

Psychosis indeed.

 

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faked up news

or something that sounds like that

I have to agree with our earlier comments, Chris kept his cool - which is one of the things that helps cement his legitimacy. His interview skills reminds me of a good cross examination, especially in criminal law. The prosecutors, for the most part, love it when "the defendant" takes the stand. Often the best things to do is just "let em talk." Often It won't take long till they hang themselves. Was it just me or the more she spoke, the less "legitimate" both she and the entire "list process" became. Not that it was legitimate to begin with. But to hear her try to keep up with Chris and demonstrate, sadly, that not only did she do very little real "research" into these sites, she never sought the actual information or experts in that information to do any meaningful analysis of the subject or accuracy of any of these sites. She had to agree with every point Chris made but somehow tired desperately to claim the list is still legitimate. She referenced librarians but a librarian is an information collector, not an expert in that information area. They would never qualify as "an expert witness" in any trial unless they demonstrated they both studied and had real life experience in the very specialized subject in which they were going to give an opinion. And her master list took on some pretty grand and complex subject areas to say the least...not just "mainstream" news.  Chris reminded her that, at heart, he is just an honest hard working scientist, trying to figure out what we do know and what we don't what may work and what may not and then to deliver it to the public in an honest, open, discoursed way. For that reason alone, it would have been nice to hear her apologize for making the list. Or did I miss that?

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Clarification

Just to clarify my post above....

I suspect many people who pass on "Fake News", or who are attempting to give critical thought towards the concept of "Fake News" have pure & good intentions.  I get the impression that the interviewee in this podcast has pure intent in her work with "Fake News".  However, work like this perpetuates the false and fake concept of "Fake News".  The originators of the fake concept would like nothing more than for it to become legitimized almost to the level being a science.  "Fake News" doesn't even come close to being a pseudoscience let alone a science.  IMO, scientifically minded people should not just be disagreeable to fake concept of "Fake News", they should livid.

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I rest my case

cgolias wrote:

A caveat, as I am certainly not Ms. Zindars apologist--I’ll say is that many NYT articles do not pass her own test, but Melissa continues to consider it to be trustworthy. She probably can’t afford to hold another view, however, because she is still untenured (her Ph.D. was conferred in 2015) and the last thing she needs is the conspiracy theorist label.

This is a fine definition of bias!  Ms. Zindars, the list lady, demonstrates by this very fact that she is unreliable, as is her list.  But my main point in post #3 was that the impulse to produce a list of credible and non-credible news sources is itself doomed on several counts. 1. Like everyone else, the evaluators (librarians? WTF?!) have biases and those biases will come out in their lists.  2.  Assertions of fact and conclusions can quite easily be debated and should be, but how can you assign a label to a person or a group of people as being so consistently uncredible as to be labeled fake news?  You can't, because no one but purely fraudulent hucksters are right or wrong all the time.  See dryam2000's two posts above (12+23).  An interesting assignment for Ms. Zindars' students would be to give them the list and ask them to see what they could conclude about the makers of the list purely on the basis of who's on the list and who's not.  I think they'd conclude the list makers are biased, lean strongly left, and ally with the MSM.

So you assume that Ms. Zindars might keep the NYT on her credible list in spite of them failing her own tests because she could reasonably fear that listing them as fake news might delay or derail her quest for tenure. I share with you that reasonable suspicion.  But look at what that means.  That is based on the assumption that the NYT would notice that a heretofore unknown person at obscure little Merrimack College has listed them as fake news AND they would attempt to use their power and influence to silence and punish her, AND that the faculty and administration of the College would possibly knuckle under to such pressure.  WOW!  Apparently, Ms. Zindars did not have that same fear about all the people and media sources she lists as fake news either because they wouldn't strike back like that or even if they wanted to wouldn't have the influence or actual power to succeed.  That's quite an indictment of the NYT, Merrimack College and American higher education in general (and I find it reasonable along with you).  Does that make Ms. Zindars a "sell-out," and not credible?  Yes, it does, in my mind.  And what's more, here all along I thought only people in my profession (law enforcement) were prone to fudging the truth and erecting a wall of silence to protect our peers (sarc/off).  At least that's the impression I got from the MSM.

We could also debate the appropriateness of using so called "charged language" as grounds for labeling someone as fake news/not credible.  I wouldn't use that as a criteria.  How would these users of charged language fare in Ms. Zindars' system?

"Give me liberty or give me death!"  Patrick Henry

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."    Thomas Jefferson

Those are some pretty charged words; fighting words actually!  And might I add neither speech/document has ANY CITATIONS.

I rest my case.

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Meh

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She's in over her head

One thing I've learned in my quest to find reliable news is that you almost have to become an authority yourself on a topic, to be educated enough to figure out what is fake and real, if you want to learn further.  And one thing I know about is the subject of vaccines.  Zimdars scoffs at the concept of vaccines causing autism.  I can tell she is uninformed.  Now, how hard it is to consider the possibility that any news organization that depends on Big Pharma support might not publish content that would offend its chief patron?  Anyone who looks into the hard science of the neuro-toxicity of organic mercury, for example, will see there is absolutely no scientific proof of safety (huge evidence to the contrary), and no justification, other than profit, for its use in vaccines.  And then you go from there- where's the efficacy of the influenza shot- there's essentially none, if you look at unbiased sources.  Chris' litmus test about the NYTimes is about the run up to the Iraq war.  My litmus test has been formed by years of reading overt propaganda in the Times about vaccines.  One headline in the Times years ago said "On Autism's Cause, It's Parents vs. Research."  The article went downhill from there.  ALL the Times coverage on the topic of vaccines is completely biased, ie Fake.

I would submit that if a news medium stoops to censorship of comments that present a contradictory view to the newspiece, that would be one indication of Fake News.  Another characteristic would be if there are armies of paid industry employees posting agreeing commentary after the article.  A third characteristic would be a news blackout on a key development on the subject- for example, the (lack of) coverage on CDC whistleblower William Thompson revealing the agency's fraudulent research, which covered up their own data showing Merck's MMR vaccine caused autism in black boys.  I see all these strategies at work on this topic, at the Times and elsewhere, but only because I am educated about it and have been following it for years.  Most casual readers won't realize what is going on, and will remain in the dark, just as intended by Industry.  A list like Zimdars' can't possibly adequately vet news sites for truth unless the librarians already have significant knowledge on certain topics.  Barring that, they seem to be using sources like Wikipedia as the arbiter of unbiased information, and we know where that will get us.

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Killing the Messenger Instead (and a note on Patrick Henry)

@thc Again, I am not sure why a case needs to be rested. I am just trying to consider what is going on by trying to bracket emotions and take a look at what's going on here.

If I was going to distil the one thing I wanted convey before, its that considering Ms. Zimdars as the problem here misses the point. To my knowledge, she never called her list "fake news". That was the click-bait media machine, which is also very much party to our current social polarity. They are really good at making us see a fighting partner in all discussants. This is a good case to "kill the messenger"--the media. Seems like you agree:

The worst thing about this person's "Fake News List" isn't that she produced such a list, but that so many allegedly reputable MSM sources blew it up and got behind it in a big way. 

There is plenty of blame to go around. The media is tops, imo. The university system deserves a lot of it. Ms. Zimdars deserves some. Higher Ed was previously my industry, so I know how even failure to cite the wrong obscure French social theorist can ruffle feathers sufficiently to not just delay tenure but cause one to have to leave a college or university. This is definitely on her mind, not bc the NYT will reach out, but bc her Dean wouldn't want to deal with such a problem. It is a single step leveling mechanism. I think she was critically thinking to the extebt that she can. I have watched careers be destroyed over critical thinking (sadly, one of these was one of the best teachers of critical thinking I ever had. He was too good at it). You nailed it here:

thc0655 says:

But look at what that means.  That is based on the assumption that the NYT would notice that a heretofore unknown person at obscure little Merrimack College has listed them as fake news AND they would attempt to use their power and influence to silence and punish her, AND that the faculty and administration of the College would possibly knuckle under to such pressure.  WOW!  Apparently, Ms. Zindars did not have that same fear about all the people and media sources she lists as fake news either because they wouldn't strike back like that or even if they wanted to wouldn't have the influence or actual power to succeed.  That's quite an indictment of the NYT, Merrimack College and American higher education in general (and I find it reasonable along with you).  Does that make Ms. Zindars a "sell-out," and not credible?  Yes, it does, in my mind. 

And your conclusion is fair, for sure. I am a little bit more empathic, given that we all have deep biases woven into our psyches through enculturation and personal experiences. We are also all products of the incentive structures we operate within, and I think that she is no different. Just a tool--like you said--who had a project she put a few hours a week behind get turned into a media frenzy. That is lose lose situation--if she closes up shop, she looks bad and when she talks about her methodology she also looks bad.

We more or less agree until then. However, I think that teaching a method for applying critical thinking skills is an appropriate thing for a mass media course. Based on the way PP articles are structured, Chris seems to understand that the knowledge he creates must check out for presence of thorough citations and absence of charged language. The tools are obviously different when dealing with speech transcripts from the 1700's -information dissemination norms have changed. When giving an impassioned political rally cry (as opposed to an article intended to be an attempt at portraying reality in a neutral manner), most people expect persuasion more like a sermon (interestingly, Patrick Henry gave his speech at a St. John's Church in Richmond on Mar 23, 1775). I also do not expect any documents from the 1700's to have citations (as a great deal of information was taken as general knowledge)--neither declaration of any sort or the transcript of a speech.

We need (imo) people like her engaging students and teaching them tools for critical thinking. Without people like her, many young people might believe the contents of their newsfeed without realizing that it is designed to be a comfortable blanket of confirmation bias. (as an aside, this is amazing: http://graphics.wsj.com/blue-feed-red-feed

What we don't need the media making mountains out of assistant professors class projects to further obscure reality.

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LesPhelps
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Fake Lists

Curiosity finally forced me to spend five minutes looking at the list.

I spotted some sites I'm familiar with.  For example SputnickNews.com was sited for bias, state and fake.

So, I'm guessing that Sputnick is biased in favor of Russia?  Since none of the major news sources in the United States is on the list, that must mean that none of them are biased in favor of the US?

Sputnick is identified as "state," implying, I guess, that powerful people in the Russian government have editorial control of the website content?  Does anyone believe that major news sources in the US are independent of control by powerful people?

Sputnick is also classified as fake?  That must mean that Sputnick reports fake news like perhaps fabricated economic data for Russia?  Shame on them.  The US would never do that.

Chris hit the nail on the head when he tied the word subjective to bias. 

I could have picked an example other than Sputnick, but the Sputnick example is so rediculiously easy to poke holes in.

Sputnick was one of the sources I went to when I wanted to find out what was going on with the Dakota pipeline protest.  I was finding little information on the protest from US and European news sources.

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Yep
Nice work Chris I would have lost my cool before the interview.  To many people in my eyes fall under the "no good do Gooder" category.  I trust most peoples sincerity but rarely their wisdom.  It is rather vexing.  I have very little patients for it.  Some vaccine questions.
 
National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986.  It would be time well spent looking into this. In my opinion this is a lot like most government programs.  It passes the liability that could be held to the vaccine manufacturers to the U.S. Debt money system and by extension tax payers. This is done with the best of do gooding intentions.  Why?  Are vaccines safe?  Define safe.  I have 1000 questions.  I'm sure to make her list.  You be carful too can't ask questions like this might put fear into folks an reduce vaccine herd immunity.  The push back just makes me ask more no no questions. When do I get to make a informed decision?  
 
There are probably a wide variety of views on the subject.  I just want have the freedom to make my own mind up.  A primary concern in any decision I make is how does the money work?  I'm going to throw my ball into the hornets nest and state my opinion.  We are never going to get a link to autism and vaccines.  Not because of Science facts or data.  Just one reason, it can't be paid for.  So there will never be a link.  It's one of those problems it is a all in poker bet.  We can't back off from it.  I will be the conspiracy theorist I suppose.  I just don't see the math working.  We can't be honest with ourselves about certain things. Not when no means no change in policy and yes maybe or we don't know would bankrupt yet another system.  
 
I'm comfortable with no link. Great just a nothing burger.  But the problem I have is, it has to be a nothing burger. There is no other play.  The violent opposition, is evidence enough for me.  Things that aren't true just aren't.  Nothing to get emotional about.  This stinks I doubt there will be official CDC double blind as in (vaccine and non vaccine) study done ever.  There hasn't yet to my knowledge and I'm not holding my breath.
 
Have a great day.
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Curmudgeonly advise on Apocalypse fatigue

Thanks, everyone, for your contributions. It has helped in answering my questions regarding this topic.

I think I'll be spending a bit more time in day-cares, preschools, on the farm, eating vegetables right out of  the garden,  more time in the sun  and, DEFINITELY, stop over-consuming large amounts of MSM.

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Uncletommy wrote:Thanks,
Uncletommy wrote:

Thanks, everyone, for your contributions. It has helped in answering my questions regarding this topic.

I think I'll be spending a bit more time in day-cares, preschools, on the farm, eating vegetables right out of  the garden,  more time in the sun  and, DEFINITELY, stop over-consuming large amounts of MSM.

What doesn't kill us makes us stronger?  

This quote is easy to refute and yet it doesn't go away.  It probably has traction, not because of validity, but because it motivates or inspires.

How about a rattlesnake bite that doesn't kill you?  Does it make you stronger?

How about lymes disease, does that make you stronger?

Perhaps a list of fake quotes is in order?  I certainly have a list of frequent sayings that I would never pass on.

I never new this was a Nietzsche quote.  He is not my favorite philosopher.

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Overcoming

The quote relates to overcoming (as does most Nietzschean philosophy) and appears to be taken out of context (as does most of his work). The point of it all is that set-backs are viewed as an opportunity to learn and improve one's future responses to similar scenarios. I don't recall Nietzsche saying anything about snakebites or lymes disease...

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All the Plenary's Men

Here's what I consider to be real news. The latest video from John Titus on bank regulation (or lack thereof);

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Thanks for posting the new Titus video Luke...

John Titus has emerged as, in my view, one of the most important new commentators in the truth movement.  The subversion of our US legal system is a big, big deal.  Understanding this is one primary component in getting a clear picture of what's actually going on.... and to be frank it's not well covered in the 3E's. 

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I'm glad Chris did this interview.

Lest we become ensconced in our own echo chamber, we need to regularly have our "common" views here at PP challenged. I'm glad we regularly have examples of the predominant cultural memes appear here, if for no reason than to sharpen our own viewpoints, but also because we need to keep our eyes on the humanity of those who still embrace what we consider a false narrative. We need to challenge them, as well, but we won't get much of a chance to even engage in conversations with people if we just call them names or compare them to natural phenomenon in an intentional effort to categorize and demean them. cgolias, I admire your post for its ability to refute the ideas without refuting the individual holding them.

 

Attack ideas. Not people.

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Chem Trails not Ken Trails!

The person who transcribed this interview misheard Chem Trails as Ken Trails - but maybe there are Ken Trails somewhere?

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The Ugly Truth

My pleasure, Jim

One of the most striking aspects for me was when Senator Warren (28:30) asks Cohen if the Justice Department checks with the Department of Treasury before prosecuting a major financial institution to determine if criminal prosecution will cause financial contagion. Cohen then responds that the Department of Treasury was approached by the Justice Department to undertake such an assessment for HSBC. That is simply astonishing. Effectively they are asking 'what is the cost of justice?'

The second ramification is even more damning - namely that by providing banks with legal immunity ends the Constitutional Republic of the United States of America. I'm guessing most of us here had reached the same conclusion beforehand but now it's out in the open for all to see (or at least those who can be bothered).

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Global rules and their compliance

Something to ponder, Luke. After taking the time to fully digest the implications of this particular video on the workings of the international financial cartel, I couldn't help wondering how our language is, increasingly, being "morphed" into meaningless phonemes that continue to envelope our thought processes. Words are becoming "connotations" rather than explanations or what is meant. 

As an example are the words immunity and impunity. Where the financial crisis resulted in a systematic procedure to limit prosecution (immunity), once established, leads to actions free from repercussions (impunity). It is hard not to think of George Orwell, given the current state of MSM and the discussion around "Fake News".  The actions of the Obama administration followed by the Trump cabal seem to parallel what is actually happening. Did Mr. Orwell see the future coming? Undoubtedly.

"In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
"If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever."
"Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."
"In our age there is no such thing as 'keeping out of politics.' All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia."
George Orwell

 

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NYT exploring algorithms to eliminate fake news

https://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2017/05/03/robert-parry-warns-the-new-york-times-is-cheering-on-censorship-algorithms/

The 2016 Presidential election was a gigantic wakeup call for the corporate press in the U.S. not so much because Hillary Clinton lost, but because it represented the end of mainstream media’s ability to seamlessly force feed narratives down the throats of a gullible and pliant American public. The marketplace of ideas had been flooded by the internet and the people made a decision. The media wars came and went, and the corporate press lost, badly.

The election of Donald Trump was as much a middle finger to the U.S. corporate press as anything else, and the corporate media didn’t take too kindly to that. Rather than admit failure, refocus and compete within the freewheeling information age, the corporate media has resorted to endless whining and support for tech-overlord censorship. It simply knows it can’t win a fair fight, so it has decided to cheat.

As Robert Parry of Consortium News explains in his recent post, NYT Cheers the Rise of Censorship Algorithms:

 

Just days after sporting First Amendment pins at the White House Correspondents Dinner – to celebrate freedom of the press – the mainstream U.S. media is back to celebrating a very different idea: how to use algorithms to purge the Internet of what is deemed “fake news,” i.e. what the mainstream judges to be “misinformation.”

The New York Times, one of the top promoters of this new Orwellian model for censorship, devoted two-thirds of a page in its Tuesday editions to a laudatory pieceabout high-tech entrepreneurs refining artificial intelligence that can hunt down and eradicate supposedly “fake news.”

Since the Times is a member of the Google-funded First Draft Coalition – along with other mainstream outlets such as The Washington Post and the pro-NATO propaganda site Bellingcat – this idea of eliminating information that counters what the group asserts is true may seem quite appealing to the Times and the other insiders. After all, it might seem cool to have some high-tech tool that silences your critics automatically?

But you don’t need a huge amount of imagination to see how this combination of mainstream groupthink and artificial intelligence could create an Orwellian future in which only one side of a story gets told and the other side simply disappears from view.

As much as the Times, the Post, Bellingcat and the others see themselves as the fount of all wisdom, the reality is that they have all made significant journalistic errors, sometimes contributing to horrific international crises.

For instance, in 2002, the Times reported that Iraq’s purchase of aluminum tubes revealed a secret nuclear weapons program (when the tubes were really for artillery); the Post wrote as flat-fact that Saddam Hussein was hiding stockpiles of WMD (which in reality didn’t exist); Bellingcat misrepresented the range of a Syrian rocket that delivered sarin on a neighborhood near Damascus in 2013 (creating the impression that the Syrian government was at fault when the rocket apparently came from rebel-controlled territory).

These false accounts – and many others from the mainstream media – were countered in real time by experts who published contrary information on the Internet. But if the First Draft Coalition and these algorithms were in control, the information scrubbers might have purged the dissident assessments as “fake news” or “misinformation.”

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sand_puppy
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Grab a Hard Copy of the Video "Great Deception"

Seeing the growing trend of censoring speech under the guise of "protecting us" from misinformation, I purchased hard copies of the video "Anatomy of a Great Deception" and gave it to each of my children, cousins, nieces and nephews.

They are completely uninterested.  For now.

I expect that the day will come when they suddenly want to know very badly what actually happened.  Perhaps the trigger will be when one of their children are arrested as "a terrorist" when demonstration against some aspect of the oligarchy.  Or maybe when a DHS team breaks down their front door to destroy a subversive vegetable garden, rain barrel and confiscate collection of silver maples.

How was the great terrorist threat meme developed, spread and utilized so that TPTB could solidify control?  Where did it come from?  Who started it?  Why couldn't I see it?

At that point it will not be possible to live stream the video.

For now, we are incredibly lucky that we can still see and hear the calm words of physics teacher David Chandler narrating videos of the building failures pointing out the features of demolition.

And David Chandler's collection of talks.

And David Ray Griffin's collection.  And the Myth and Reality talk

 

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Vader's Leash

Luke,

Thanks for posting this video. 

Right you are that the dots connected here reveal the steps that enable in the complete subordination of the Constitution, at least for the banking cartel.

A documented presentation lays out why no bankers went to jail for obvious, provable fraud.

It helps to know who holds Lord Vader's leash, surprise !  

"Doing god's work" continues to take on new meaning for me.

Tim.  

 

 

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Agreed Uncletommy

Hi Uncletommy,

Yep, an important distinction to make. To me, impunity means indefinite protection from criminal prosecution which is exactly what we are seeing (and what you stated above). When the history book is written on the decline and fall of the Anglo-American Empire I have no doubt that evidence such as this will form the cornerstone of the literature. This is corruption at the highest levels of power. Judging by Roman standards, civilisations can endure barbarians and conflict, what they cannot survive is corruption and decadence.

All the best,

Luke

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Conspiracy Theorist

Great job of interviewing this suspect, Chris.   I know that like many others here I would not have the patience.

She can call me a conspiracy theorist, if she'll allow me to call her a "coincidence theorist". 

She trusts the NYT again?  Really?   How about the CIA?   How many times does she need to be tricked, lied to, before she gets it?   As G.W. Bush said, "fool me twice - 'won't get fooled again."     Some people seem to have an infinite capacity for being gullible.   That is why it is so important to read history.   It is all there in black and white to remind us of who and why.      If you don't study history, the world is a mystery.

Very enlightening interview - regarding the sorry state of modern education and epistemology in our current culture.    Thanks, Chris.

 

 

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Cornelius999
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" Fools rush in where angels

" Fools rush in where angels fear to thread ," but I've just watched a Ch. 4 programe on vaccines and Dr. Andrew Wakefield. I got the distinct impression that Wakefield was shifty, unreliable, interested in money and was justifiedly struck off the medical register. I had wanted to believe otherwise. Programe also made the point that measels is on the rise in Texas because parents are too frightened to vaccinate. 

However I accept that the issue may be more complex and I have only rudimentary knowledge. Unaccountably ( I hope! ) Ch. 4 introduced the programe by a thowaway line about conspiracy theorists" such as Infowars and the 9/11 theorists " ...I gave them the benefit of the doubt and a fools pardon. 

I'm cutting back on the internet.  I find it makes you paranoid about everything!

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False Flag Operation?

ZImdars' process? She finds a questionable news source, and if a volunteer librarian is available she'll ask them to research it, then hopefully someone else will look at it....sounds scientific.

Also, she casually uses intentionally marginalizing labels like "conspiracy, hate, anti-vaccine group" to refer to sites that she has determined produce fake news.  These are classic, MSM generated word bombs used to destroy the reputations of non-mainstream thinkers.  She also didn't seem to understand the difference between conspiracy and  conspiracy theory. She didn't come across as all that smart and her list, if followed, would lead you directly into the gaping maw of the MSM.  A casual internet search of Ms. Zimdars will lead you to conclude that she has little to no academic standing and no credibility. In fact, she appears to be a virulent Leftist (which is not to be confused with Liberal).  She seems like a perfect Antifa recruit. The beautiful irony is that her fake news list is fake news.

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thc0655
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Hey, Doug, what do you think about this?

https://www.infowars.com/alt-left-demonstrators-at-fcc-support-obama-era-net-neutrality-censorship-rules-with-ban-drudge-and-ban-infowars-and-ban-breitbart/

Progressive, Marxist protesters demand Drudge, Infowars and Breitbart be banned from the internet. 

What do you think?

thc0655's picture
thc0655
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"Everyone I don't like is Hitler"

thc0655's picture
thc0655
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Posts: 1465
"Objective" non-profit tracker smears dozens of groups as "HATE"

The impulse Melissa Zimdars gave in to to label groups she doesn't like as "bad" (i.e. fake) is shared by many people and organizations.  This organization is now labeling Christian organizations as "hate groups."

http://dailysignal.com/2017/06/21/nonprofit-tracker-smears-dozens-of-conservative-organizations-as-hate-groups/

The nation’s leading source of information on U.S. charities faces mounting criticism for using a controversial “hate group” designation in listings for some well-known and broadly supported conservative nonprofits. 

GuideStar, which calls itself a “neutral” aggregator of tax data on charities, recently incorporated “hate group” labels produced by the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center. 

The decision by the tracker of nonprofits prompted 41 conservative leaders to protest the move in a letter provided exclusively to The Daily Signal. The letter, dated June 21, asks the website to drop the “hate group” labels put on 46 organizations. (Read the full letter below.)

GuideStar’s use of the “hate group” designation for certain organizations, many of them Christian, unfairly and inaccurately adopts the “aggressive political agenda” of Southern Poverty Law Center, the leaders write...

Family Research Council’s Boykin said GuideStar has two options. 

“I think their choices are either take this label [down] that you have put on these different organizations, all of which are conservative Christian organizations, or acknowledge that you are a politically active arm of the liberal progressive movement in America,” he said...

Organizations such as the Family Research Council are well aware of the implications of the messaging that GuideStar is perpetrating, Staver said.

Floyd Corkins, the man convicted of a 2012 attempt to massacre employees at the Family Research Council, was inspired by SPLC’s description of the Christian pro-family research organization as a hate group, he noted.

In an interview with the FBI, Corkins said a list on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website motivated his attack. SPLC has acknowledged the connection.

The letter notes that James T. Hodgkinson, the man who police say tried to gun down Republican lawmakers last week, liked the Southern Poverty Law Center on Facebook.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., was gravely wounded in the gunman’s attack June 14 during practice for a congressional baseball game just outside Washington in Alexandria, Virginia. 

“Does it not concern you that within the past five years, the SPLC has been linked to gunmen who carried out two terrorist shootings in the D.C. area?”...

Isn't it interesting that there are NO Muslim charities on this list.  Muslim Brotherhood?  CAIR?  Fascinating.

 

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