Sunday, January 09, 2011

War is peace

This is about as close to a direct, out-and-out lie -- to taking publicly available evidence and standing it on its head -- as it's possible to get and still look sort of like journalism. Even the Fair 'n' Balanced Network usually manages to keep the pivot foot down when the ref is looking. I think this one's a genuine departure.

The frontpage presence (it was the No. 2 story Saturday afternoon, behind the Arizona shooting) is a pretty faithful representation of the article inside:

President Obama is putting plans in motion to give the Commerce Department authority to create an Internet ID for all Americans, a White House official told

... it just doesn't have anything to do with the article it's drawn from, to which Fox kindly provides a reefer (text from CNET's articles is set in Courier to cut down on the confusion):

President Obama is planning to hand the U.S. Commerce Department authority over a forthcoming cybersecurity effort to create an Internet ID for Americans, a White House official said here today.

There are some subtle and not-so-subtle changes in wording (always nice not to commit plagiarism while you're bearing that false witness): "putting plans in motion" vs. "planning" and "give" vs. "hand." I get the impression, though I can't diagram it and you might get a different one, that one sounds more like a new plot and the other more like an ongoing one. But the big tweak -- the one that makes the frontpage hed ring -- is "for all Americans" instead of "for Americans." Back to Fox:

White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt told the website it is "the absolute perfect spot in the U.S. government" to centralize efforts toward creating an "identity ecosystem" for the Internet.

The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace is currently being drafted by the Obama administration and will be released by the president in a few months.

All pretty much a straight rewrite of someone elses's work so far, so let's get back to the scary part -- better yet, let's get to the part where the Obama Politburo denies it:

"We are not talking about a national ID card. We are not talking about a government-controlled system. What we are talking about is enhancing online security and privacy, and reducing and perhaps even eliminating the need to memorize a dozen passwords, through creation and use of more trusted digital identities," Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said at an event Friday at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, according to

We're not going to fall for that, are we?

... The move has raised eyebrows about privacy issues.

"The government cannot create that identity infrastructure," Jim Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology told the website. "If I tried to, I wouldn't be trusted."

Hmm. I wonder if the original might shed any more light on the plot:

That news, first reported by CNET, effectively pushes the department to the forefront of the issue, beating out other potential candidates, including the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
But ... but ...  isn't it still raising eyebrows among right-thinking people?

The move also is likely to please privacy and civil-liberties groups that have raised concerns in the past over the dual roles of police and intelligence agencies.

"Raised concerns in the past"? I wonder what people were saying about this plot six months ago!

The goal, as described in a blog post by White House cybersecurity chief Howard Schmidt, is to secure and protect transactions in cyberspace through use of a special ID--a smart card or digital certificate--that would prove that people are who they say they are. These digital IDs would be offered to consumers by online vendors for financial transactions.

So rather than actually putting the bar codes on the foreheads of your children, this is sort of a plot to let you ... get some sort of certified ID to make online transactions go smoother for all parties? And rather than letting Homeland Security (a current favorite in the Two-Minute Hate) coordinate things, it's going to end up with Commerce? Perhaps the quote that supports the concerns about "privacy issues" should be looked at in the context Fox lifted it from:

Schmidt stressed today that anonymity and pseudonymity will remain possible on the Internet. "I don't have to get a credential, if I don't want to," he said. There's no chance that "a centralized database will emerge," and "we need the private sector to lead the implementation of this," he said.

Jim Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology, who spoke later at the event, said any Internet ID must be created by the private sector--and also voluntary and competitive.

"The government cannot create that identity infrastructure," Dempsey said. "If it tried to, it wouldn't be trusted."

Sound a little different than it did earlier? It isn't just the patent doctoring of the quote; it's a whole different discourse structure. Fox's story is a lie from top to bottom, and a baked quote is just the cherry on top.

You can do a lot to cook a story without saying anything directly false, and if you're Fox, you do. You can quote a made-up story from the redtops because, after all, it's true that "published reports say." You can ignore holes in a story that a fairly smart 9-year-old would have noticed; there's nothing false about not being a smart 9-year-old. You can interpret survey data in ways that make the poor data scream with pain, because there are no false interpretations. But even Fox usually draws the line at inventing stuff out of thin air.

Change gears for a moment: Did Fox (or the repellent Sarah Palin) actually push an unhinged loser so far over the edge that he killed half a dozen people at a political gathering in Arizona on Saturday? No. That isn't how media effects work. Media effects are tangential, incremental, and cumulative. News stories (and movies, campaign ads, and Saturday morning cartoons) don't tend to make people do things they wouldn't do otherwise. What they do is help people fit events into categories they understand. So when the topic of the Arizona shooting came up in the comments on Fox's Internet story, it got this response:

how conveinient, another crisis...another reason to encroach on personal freedoms. random act, or orchestrated plan? I'm truely sorry for the families of those who lost today, but that doesn't justify using it as a weapon to take more freedoms.

Fox doesn't actually make people into moral zombies. It makes moral zombiehood seem like a rational, self-interested choice.



Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

SHeesh. Are these people still accredited?

7:51 AM, January 09, 2011  

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