Misinformation threatens our democracy

Jan 25, 2017

(The following is in response to a letter regarding Wareham Week's editorial guidelines and subsequent column by Publisher Anne Eisenmenger.)

To the Editor and Publisher:

As a regular reader of Wareham Week and Wareham Village Soup (among other publications), I have agreed with some writers and have frequently despaired at some of the public comments posted. This last year has been full of conversations and discussions that have torn apart families and ruined friendships. We need to come back to a place where we can have productive dialog about issues without name-calling (when did “liberal” take on the meaning of a know-nothing patsy and “conservative” become a small-minded bigot?”)

That’s not who we are – not on either side.

FREE SPEECH IS OUR RIGHT AND PRIVILEGE AS CITIZENS OF THIS COUNTRY. No censorship means taking the bad with the good. And there is a responsibility that goes along with our right. We must use our freedom responsibly.

We are in a terrible and dangerous situation right now. Not because the Republicans control Congress, not because the Democrats can’t agree on anything, not because the President is taking severe measures to disrupt governmental programs, but because there exists the very real concern that we are losing our ability to obtain information. This is the greatest threat to our democracy. Media outlets are being denied access to information, government websites are being changed to remove information, federal employees are being challenged and research is being curtailed into subjects that don’t fit in to a limited agenda. Every administration has the right to change the focus of the government. They do not have the right to change the facts.

The opposite of fact is fiction. Or Fantasy. It is not “Alternative Fact.”

Review facts. Investigate. Research sources. Question motives. Do this before you form an opinion, because you are not entitled to your opinion unless you can defend it with facts. Real facts, not the other kind.

 

Very truly yours,

Marilyn C. Donahue

Comments (33)
Posted by: Andrea Smith | Jan 25, 2017 16:51

Excellent letter Marilyn....and by the way, six reporters were arrested after covering Inauguration Day unrest in Washington, D.C.  According to an article online (see link below) they face "up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine if convicted." And according to the online article, "none of the arrest reports for the six journalists make any specific allegations about what any of them are supposed to have done wrong."

 

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/jan/24/journalists-charged-felonies-trump-inauguration-unrest



Posted by: MDonahue | Jan 25, 2017 17:04

Thanks Andrea.  I saw that in the Guardian shortly after I sent this letter, causing me even more distress. You and I have disagreed over the years over town matters, but you are always polite, rational and defend your comments with outside information. (and you sign your own name!)  Now we have to join in a common cause that is much bigger than Wareham.



Posted by: Hissing Cobra | Jan 25, 2017 19:25

This works both ways. When you're getting your news from CNN, CNBC, NBC, ABC, The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, or the Chicago Tribune, you're getting unfair biased news stories. In many instances, you're getting "non stories", fake stories, or stories that show only one side of the topic.

 

News media outlets across the country should all have stories that are similar but we do not get that. In those instances where they are the same, it was because the story was shared from one media outlet to another. These outlets and reporters should be reporting facts, and facts only. They should not be injecting their agendas, personal views, or writing stories that get the public in an uproar. They incite many of the problems that this great nation faces and they offer no solutions to make it better.

 

Late last week, our new President took his oath and instead of the media reporting faithful stories in the following days in an attempt to get behind him and unify this country, they instead posted fake pictures of "Donald's crowd" in Washington D.C. that were taken at 6:00 am, SIX hours before his inauguration and compared them to Obama's 2009 crowd pictures that were taken when he was on the podium and taking his oath. These news stations also had the word "LIVE" on the TV and they were in fact, NOT LIVE. Also top news coverage was given to the protestors who were smashing windows and destroying cars, as well as the statue at the White House that was supposedly "missing".

 

I'm at the point where I cannot read a newspaper or tune in to the TV news stations anymore because of the overwhelming crap that is reported today. It truly disgusts me that our media cannot report the facts of each story with 100% truth. 

 

To me, it's not misinformation that threatens our democracy, it's fake information that's reported as factual and is fed to us on a daily basis that threatens our democracy.



Posted by: Society for Suppression of Noise | Jan 25, 2017 20:12

I agree with the Cobra.  Just the other night I turned to my wife and said, "You can't believe ANYthing!  It's ALL crap!"  Must have been after yet another "fake news" revelation.  Fake news is simply fiction, too, isn't it?

 

Far from losing our ability to obtain information, the internet has given us access to more than most of us can assimilate.  And yes, we have to sort through it carefully.  My fear is not that we're losing access; it's that purveyors of that information lie to me.

 

"As explained in a pre-election blog post now available at the Obama White House website, all digital properties were started fresh for the Trump administration.


"Similar to the Clinton and Bush White House websites, President Obama's WhiteHouse.gov will be preserved on the web and frozen after January 20th and made available at ObamaWhiteHouse.gov," former White House digital staffer Kori Schulman wrote.

 

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/20/politics/obama-white-house-website/



Posted by: Chaka | Jan 25, 2017 20:20

I'm horrified that you consider The Boston Globe, The New York Times, NBC and ABC to be fake news, unfair, biased and non stories. Are you a breitbart fan? Where do you get your real news!



Posted by: WantToSeeChange | Jan 25, 2017 20:33

Probably FOX.  :)



Posted by: Hissing Cobra | Jan 25, 2017 20:34

No need to be horrified. It's the truth. All of those news outlets that I listed are so far to the left, they have no shot at getting back to the middle. Breitbart is too far to the right to ever get back to the middle too. I get my "news" from many different places and I do not watch nor read any one news outlet.

 

I do however, compare headlines and news articles from many different sources so I came to know during the campaign that CNN is a left wing democratic news outlet when I would see 10 stories on their front page every day and 7 of them would feature Donald Trump in a negative light while none of them focused one single story on Hillary despite her serious indiscretions in the two years leading up to the election. The rest of 'em were just as bad!

 

How about the numerous fake stories of Donald and his mistreatment and rape accusations with numerous women? How about the fake story two weeks ago of him hiring strippers in hotel that were urinating on him? ALL OF THESE HAVE PROVEN TO BE UNTRUE!

 

You call that fair and unbiased reporting?



Posted by: WantToSeeChange | Jan 25, 2017 21:14

Have they been proven to be untrue or were they paid to shut up?  Perhaps the media was threatened by him?  #thingswewillneverknow.



Posted by: Hissing Cobra | Jan 25, 2017 21:40

There's been no evidence, no arrests, or no trials. Come to your own conclusion.



Posted by: WWareham resident | Jan 26, 2017 10:46

In this comment string lies one of the issues, Hissing Cobra makes very good points and I agree with them about CNN, CNBC, NBC, ABC, The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, or the Chicago Tribune all being very one sided but WANTTOSEECHANGE felt the need to say if HC doesn't listen to the far left leaning outlets that they only listen to FOX News. Sorry but this crap is getting really old and I am surprised WTSC didn't start to call HC a racist or sexist or any other ist that the left throws out when you don't agree with them.

 

Bottom line is all of our, supposed news outlets, do not report unbiased fact and I don't know about you but I could care less what Lester Holt, David Muir or any of the other talking heads, personal political opinions are. Let's add I could care less who Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Jay Z and the like say either. These people are entertainers and aren't to be blindly followed but they think their opinions matter more than anyone else, I could not disagree with them more. As I said they are entertainers so shut up and dance for me monkey, I don't want to hear you spewing hate toward either side.

 

It is very sad that it's come to this and another example is that airport shooting in Florida, what, 2 weeks ago now? I happened to be home that day turned on the TV to see the carnage and the talking heads reporting. At one point they had no new information so they started to interject their own version of what MIGHT have happened. That isn't good mainly because they don't know what they are talking about but also, if you could imagine, someone hearing just their made up stories in a quick glance and taking that as it's what really happened. This is how misinformation spreads.

 

The news people are out for ratings not to report the proper news so they make things up, strike the fear of God in to people when there is nothing there of any substance so they need to create the "SHOCK VALUE" to get their ratings. So sad and the worst part is truly uninformed people believe this garbage.



Posted by: Spherebreaker | Jan 26, 2017 11:25

What's threatening and dangerous is the left protesting and mayors knowingly violating the laws of this country with zero regard for the safety and pursuit of happiness of others.



Posted by: WWareham resident | Jan 26, 2017 11:49

SPHEREBREAKER I agree 100% with and Boston Mayor and quite frankly our governor, Charlie Baker, both show complete disrespect for the office of the President of the United States only because Trump is in office. For Marty "one term" Walsh to go on TV and openly defy the POTUS is just unacceptable.



Posted by: Spherebreaker | Jan 26, 2017 12:52

Alternative facts do exist and this letter is an example, your alternative facts exist in your mind and my facts exist in mine. Unless you are the all knowing and can with gods certainty prove your facts are correct there is room for alternative facts unless you are in fact god which is improbable unless you can give us evidence. Please sell the Tremont Nail factory at a profit and make Rosie ODonnell grow curly tail and hooves as proof. 



Posted by: WantToSeeChange | Jan 26, 2017 19:53

All I said is that they probably watch FOX.  Really.  What other news organization did they leave out?  Take your anger out on someone else, WR.  Not needed here.

I get my news from the Onion.  Only reliable source out there nowadays.



Posted by: Hissing Cobra | Jan 26, 2017 19:57

I should have mentioned that I'm not a lover of Fox either. In fact, I am not exclusively tied down to any one news outlet. I look at them all, compare the stories, and try to decipher what is real and what is not. I then come to my own conclusions. I'm tired of the news stories that come out that could be in the National Enquirer.



Posted by: Fortywhat2 | Jan 27, 2017 08:16

Why doesn't everyone "agree to disagree" and move forward.  There are many issues going on right now in the world that could turn into a pissing war...  it seems every time I start to read posts in this paper it becomes a war.  Maybe society would be better off if everyone would stop trying to out do the next guy and move on.  Not all TV News and newspapers are crooked.  There is always that one that exaggerates... read something else.  There will always be someone that doesn't think like you do... accept it and get along.  I'm just tired of all the BS and pissing wars.  My rant, my opinion. Thank you for reading... now move on!  Have a great day.



Posted by: PMB | Jan 27, 2017 10:44

Sphere, are you serious?  "Alternative Facts do exist"?  No they don't, facts are facts, period.  You may not agree with the facts, but any "alternative facts" as you say, are not facts, but rather opinions.  We are entering a very dangerous area when anyone, especially someone in power, can make a statement that is false, and pass it off as an "alternative fact".  You don't get to chose what is a fact in "your mind", facts are based on evidence.  Here's a little primer you should copy down and keep handy for future reference:  Alternative Facts = LIES!



Posted by: Spherebreaker | Jan 27, 2017 11:25

Wareham Town hall is at 54 Marion Rd

Wareham Town Hall is at 41 45 33 n   70 43 27w

Which fact is incorrect?  Which one could be considered an Alternate fact?

Alternate facts do not exist in closed minded people but they do elsewhere.



Posted by: Uptohere | Jan 27, 2017 11:28

Considering all the lies from the past 8 years it's no wonder people have a hard time deal with "fact".



Posted by: PMB | Jan 27, 2017 11:39

There is no such thing as "Alternative Facts".  It is a term, recently coined by a master spin artist to explain away inconsistencies in statements made by our new administration.  It has nothing to do with whether one has a closed mind or open mind.  No matter how you try to spin your response, a fact will always be, by definition a fact.  Any thing else is either an opinion or a lie.  By the way, your example above proves no point.  The examples you gave simply use two methods to describe the location of the Town Hall. Regardless of which method you use, the FACT is the town hall is located in one place, not some "alternative location" because you use two different methods.



Posted by: Society for Suppression of Noise | Jan 27, 2017 12:45

I think obsessing over awkward terminology (I'm sure she regretted it as soon as it came out of her mouth) distracts us from the big picture.  I was once married to Satan's sister who taught me that when an adversary has little ground to stand on, they'll try to turn minor mistakes into the new major crisis.

 

Alternative facts.  --Kellyanne Conway

 

Fifty-seven states.  Corpseman.  My Muslim faith.  --Baraq Obama

 

Simply unfortunate slips of the tongue.



Posted by: Spherebreaker | Jan 27, 2017 13:04

I see there is no pleasing you PMB.



Posted by: PMB | Jan 27, 2017 15:26

Let's spin this some more.  Now according to Society, Ms. Conway's "alternative facts" have become your "awkward terminology".  No, I submitt once again....facts are facts, period.  Any attempt to justify using false information to make a point is simply lying.  When Sphere gives his example of the town hall being at 54 Marion Rd, and the Lat. and Long. coordinates, that is an example of TWO FACTS.  One can describe the location of the town hall either way, and BOTH would be TRUE.  If I claimed that the town hall was at 54 Marion Road, and it is also in Onset, that would be an example of an "alternate fact".  A statement that isn't true.  Maybe it would be using "awkward terminology" to you, but to most people it would be a false statement.

Doubling down on these false statements by the incoming administration should give all Americans pause.  Are we going to be fed a constant stream of obvious falsehoods for the next four years?  Are we going to be expected to live in some kind of "alternative universe" where there is no reliance on facts?  Anyone can have a slip of the tongue, but to defend obvious falsehoods as "alternative facts" is very unsettling.  And by the way, Kellyanne Conway has not to this point, called her statement an unfortunate slip of the tongue, she has stuck by her statement.



Posted by: Andrea Smith | Jan 27, 2017 16:02

PMB - In this time when so many seem to disagree on so many issues, I just want you to know that I agree with  you."Facts are facts."



Posted by: greycat | Jan 27, 2017 20:33

WOW!



Posted by: Spherebreaker | Jan 28, 2017 09:50

Facts are Facts , this is true but thats all they are. It does not negate the fact that many facts are relevent. Back in the day, the world was flat and OJ was an innocent man. It was not until later that the ultimate truth was known and those with the facts were proven wrong by those with alternate facts. Thats a fact Jack.



Posted by: Spherebreaker | Jan 28, 2017 09:53

Like the late great Quatto once said `Open your Mind`.



Posted by: Knocked for six | Jan 28, 2017 16:56

Said like a true liberal... Your letter has no merit!!!



Posted by: Society for Suppression of Noise | Jan 28, 2017 23:50

"And by the way, Kellyanne Conway has not to this point, called her statement an unfortunate slip of the tongue..."

 

Nor has the Kenyan Candidate disavowed his.  Oops, did I suggest Baraq may have been born where he once said he was?  Hawaii must be an alternative fact.  Hahahahahaha!



Posted by: bob | Jan 29, 2017 07:10

Gee,and we cant forget our own U.S. Senator ,who claims that she is half  American Indian........



Posted by: PMB | Jan 29, 2017 11:37

Thank you Bob for you fine example.  The controversy over the heritage of our U. S. Senator was based on a college application that stated she was 1/32 Cherokee, not "half American Indian" as you stated.  She has stated on numerous occasions that this information was passed down as family lore, and she had no reason to doubt it's truthfulness.  Now with your "alternative fact", she is claiming to be 1/2 American Indian, which has NEVER been the case.  As to the comment by the Noise person, above, that foolishness doesn't deserve a response.



Posted by: Archangel | Jan 29, 2017 16:58

PMB, I give you a tremendous amount or credit for keeping your composure while responding to this nonsense.



Posted by: Uptohere | Feb 01, 2017 09:59

Warren is a joke in so many ways.  Yes, high cheeks bones has always determined ancestry. Every elit college professor knows this. And Ms Conway did mention it was an unfortunate error in words. But, only the conservatives had this problem. Seems the other side keep their feet dry while walking on water.



If you wish to comment, please login.