Monday, December 19, 2016

Make America glow again

Is it just me, or is the warm orange-pink glow from those cooling towers just a little too cheerful, in light of the Heritage Foundation's plea to get the gummint jackboot off the necks of America's energy industries? Take it away, Sen. Mike Lee:

For the past eight years, President Barack Obama and his allies in Congress have feverishly worked to centralize energy regulatory power in Washington, empowering federal bureaucrats to micromanage how energy producers operate their facilities and run their businesses.

...  But starting in January 2017, we can begin to move all that decision-making power closer to the people.

The incoming Congress and new administration give us the best opportunity in recent memory to put Washington—especially federal energy policy—back on the side of hardworking Americans.

This isn't technically "fake news" (for which we're still awaiting a definition); it's a commentary, and as we all learned in J-school or somewhere, opinions aren't statements of fact. But it does point to some of the important changes in the news ecosystem that help  bait-and-switch journalism work the way it does. 

Pretty much anybody can have a reasonably professional-looking website and a mailing list. Heritage looks respectable, because it's been around a long time and has a lot of money, but that doesn't mean all its fact claims are valid (or that its opinions are anything you couldn't get for free at a bar). A lot of the newcomers -- Heat Street, which is sort of like Todd Starnes without the bless-your-heart pop-Southernism, and EAGNews, which specializes in making up stories about how Michelle Obama is coming after your poppets' school lunches, to name two -- also pump stuff into the news stream just upriver from where Fox and folks like Fox draw their news supply.* The fact barrier is a lot lower when something has already been reported, because being reported creates a fact -- THIS JUST IN! -- by itself.

For lots of good and deeply embedded reasons, news isn't subject to gummint regulation, but the traditional model had a lot of built-in skepticism that worked fairly well much of the time to keep the product reasonably safe. Not everything you see from the new apostles of free speech is toxic, but even if you read the label carefully, you don't entirely know what mix of tormented fact, outright fiction and teabilly paranoia you're ingesting.

Dressing up your illustrations with tiny nuclear plants all aglow, on the other hand, is just fun.

* Needless to say, this problem is not limited to the partisan press. Judicial Watch, the self-anointed watchdog group that never tired of fanning the Clinton email flames, can also make McClatchy jump by releasing an "analysis" of Obama's vacation spending.

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