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The Noise Machine churns out more crap

“Truthiness” swamps truth again, with lots of help from its friends. Of course, fact-free “journalism” wouldn’t survive it if it wasn’t so effective…in a sick way. But major props to Ryan Chittum at Columbia Journalism Review for showcasing a remarkable yet horrifying example of The Noise Machine at work.

Here is how it unfolds:

  1. Some “independent” outfit makes a controversial claim (the claim is not true)
  2. Some cable news channel trumpets the claim uncritically (it’s still not true)
  3. Talk shows and “news” outlets start shouting about it (even though it’s been called out as false)
  4. People think if so many media are telling them something, it must be true.

Let’s go through the process step by step.
First, an unknown investment firm put out a study that purports to show that “welfare handouts make up one-third of U.S. wages.” Even Glenn Beck must have thought this was too good to be true…and it is. It relies on questionable definitions, misrepresented data, and basic math errors. In short, it’s a lie.

Second, a CNBC “Fast Money” producer eagerly picks up the story, ignoring all the unanswered questions, misrepresentations, and bad math. (We owe the “Giant Full Moon Coming – Danger for Stocks?” story to the same guy, Chittum notes.)

Interlude: CJR fact-checks the story and finds it wanting. But its reporter warns, “This one will presumably be bouncing around the message boards and chain e-mails for years.” In fact, Idiot America gobbles it up.

Third, prominent media outlets ignore the fact-check and spread the lie, including: CNN, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, Investors Business Daily, Rush Limbaugh, Newsmax, Pajamas Media, and…last but far from least, Fox News.

You may notice that a lot of those outlets lean right in their news and editorial coverage. When a story like this comes along, they don’t try to find out if it is true, because they want to believe it — it fits perfectly into their preferred political narrative about non-productive people who live off what the government takes from productive people.

The worst offender of all, it appears, is James Taranto in the Wall St Journal. He knows the report isn’t true — “This doesn’t give a full picture,” he wrote — but he goes with it anyway. It’s as if he said: Hey rubes, this is a lie, I know it’s a lie, but I’ll repeat it so you will believe it anyway. Shameless.

Bill Sez: the original study said Social Security is welfare — but workers pay in while they’re employed and collect benefits after they retire. It also said Medicare and Medicaid are welfare — but if that’s true, the ones with their snouts in the trough are doctors, hospital administrators, drug-makers and device-makers.

That’s who collects most of the payments from Medicare and Medicaid. And I’ll bet you would find more than a few of these “welfare queens” driving BMWs and Mercedes.

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