Chicken Scratch: A Critical Media Reader’s Digest – How to Read the News, Propaganda Made in the USA, When Fake News is Not Fake News

Journalist Antonia Juhasz. Image courtesy of the War Resistors League.

Getting to the News that Matters, via journalist Antonia Juhasz, shared on Facebook:

There’s been a lot of breaking news lately about a lot of critically important things. And there’s been a lot of spreading of misinformation. As a writer, I’d like to offer a few friendly reminders to help you steer your way through the noise to the substance of critically important matters:
(1) Don’t Trust Headlines. Headlines, all love to them, are written by editors (all love to them as well), they are generally written as click-bait RATHER THAN an attempt to accurately summarize a story and as such they can very often MISREPRESENT a story and the information in it;

(2) That’s the good version. Headlines can also be intentionally created/generated by bots and those with bad intentions to intentionally rile you up, piss you off, and in other ways, ruin your day, week, and year;

(3) But there’s a solution: READ.

(4) READ articles before you share them;

(5) READ articles all the way to the END;

(5) doing so is great way to be sure you are not finding yourself susceptible to, nor spreading, fake news nor information generated by a fake bot, nor being influenced by a mere headline that might have all the information wrong, or influenced by a FB post or Tweet that might have all the information wrong, either intentionally or unintentionally;

(6) Reading is awesome and sexy and fun and enlightening and makes you smarter and cooler and more fabulous all at once. So, just Read and Enjoy!


Journalists generally do not choose the images which accompany their work. That task is often left to their editors to find something which further illuminates and captures the essence of their story, while attracting readers’ attention.

Collage of images from various media outlets, courtesy of FAIR

But editors’ reliance on stock imagery readily available to them, and their desire to attract as much attention as possible often leads to the use of blatantly misleading stereotypes, particularly when we’re talking about the people of other ethnicities and the official enemies of the United States, in what Adam Johnson at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting calls “a form of propaganda independent of any written context.”

Few nations have been demonized as much in the mainstream U.S. media market as Iran, since the Iranian Revolution of 1978-1979.

Read Johnson’s piece, Please Stop Using ‘Woman in Chador Walks by Anti-US Mural’ Stock Photo for Every Article About Iran, for insight on how stock imagery reinforces ethnic and political stereotypes.

Given the extensive reuse of the image in question by the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Financial Times, CNN, The Daily Beast, The Atlantic and many others, the image is quite likely to have an effect upon readers’ perception of Iran and its people, particularly if they have little other information about the country readily available.


When Journalists go off the rails on social media

Over at The Intercept, journalist Glenn Greenwald – the man whose very name can send intelligence agencies, Republicans and Hillary Democrats into fits of frenzied rage – once again illustrates the false shorthand leaps journalists often make in pushing stories on social media with his new piece, Four Viral Claims Spread by Journalists on Twitter in the Last Week Alone That are False.

The four false, viral claims spread by journalists on Twitter are below. Visit The Intercept for Greenwald’s detailed work and documentation behind the four falsities.

  1. The Clinton/DNC agreement cited by Brazile only applied to the General Election, not the primary.
  2. Sanders signed the same agreement with the DNC that Clinton did.
  3. Brazile stupidly thought she could unilaterally remove Clinton as the nominee.
  4. Evidence has emerged proving that the content of WikiLeaks documents and emails was doctored.


‘Fake News’ Hysteria’s Real Target: Articles Which Challenge the US Government’s Official Narratives

According to Austin, Texas writer and activist David P. Hamilton, “For the most part, “fake news” is a fake concept designed by the corporate news media to discredit those who challenge the official U.S. hegemonic narrative. The typical MSM fake news accusation starts with some egregious fictionalization and then morphs over to the real targets: the subversives, those who would dispute foundational elements of the official history or its recent approved updates.”

Hamilton’s provided a worthwhile list of 12 mandatory principles the U.S. mainstream media follows:

  1. The U.S. is never wrong in any conflict with other nations.
  2. If the U.S. ever happens to be wrong, it was a reasonable mistake.
  3. U.S. intentions are always benign and honorable.
  4. U.S. judgment is always objective and fair.
  5. The U.S. is a democracy and always supports democracy.
  6. Americans are a peaceful people.
  7. Americans are a superior people, so American lives matter more.
  8. Americans are always on the high moral ground because God is on our side.
  9. The word of our leaders is sufficient proof of any assertion.
  10. The U.S. is the greatest nation in history.
  11. Private is always better than public.
  12. Individualism is always better than collectivism

One must not forget that the U.S. is the exceptional, indispensable nation.

Test your own favorite media outlet: how often do they run afoul of these principles?

Understanding the ‘Fake News’ Hysteria


The attack on “fake news” is really an attack on alternative media

“As the author of an article labeled “pro-Russia propaganda,” I can testify that unorthodox views are under attack”

Writes Dave Lindorff at Salon,

The corporate media — The New York Times, The Washington Post, the network news programs and even National Public Radio — have all responded to being called liars and “fake news” fabricators of by promoting themselves as “the reality-based community” (NPR), or claiming they are fighting the good fight against ignorance, as demonstrated by the Post’s new masthead slogan “Democracy dies in darkness.” The Times has stuck with its hoary “All the news that’s fit to print”slogan, but has added a page-three daily feature listing “noteworthy facts from today’s paper” and has taken to calling out Trump administration whoppers as “lies.”

This might all seem laughable, but as a journalist who has worked in this field for 45 years, in both mainstream newspapers and television and in the alternative media, and as a long-time freelancer who has written for publications as widely varied as Business Week, the Nation, the Village Voice and a collectively run news site called, I have watched as this obsession with “fake news” has turned into an attack on alternative news and alternative news organizations. [Emphasis added – RR]

To get to the truth, we need to also check out alternative news sources, whether of the left, right or center — and we need to maintain the critical distinction between unpopular or unorthodox points of view and blatant lies or propaganda. Without such a distinction, and the freedom to make such decisions for ourselves, maintaining democracy will be impossible.




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