Sunday, December 18, 2016

Was Horton story first fake news item?

Everybody is late to the game - again.

Much as it took until 2011 (!!!) for modern America to start taking income inequality seriously again, it's taken until now for fake news to be called out as much as it is. Who are we kidding? Fake news has been a pox on modern America for decades. Worse than useless.

When I studied mass media in college, I read about the yellow journalism of old. But in a modern context, I think America's first fake news story involved William Horton during the 1988 presidential campaign.

Horton was convicted of a Massachusetts murder and terrorized a Maryland couple while on furlough from prison. Press reports always referred to him as William Horton - until they started calling him Willie Horton in 1988. Nobody had called him that before. This was a propaganda technique by the right-wing media to make Horton appear more familiar, and thus a greater threat to the average listener even though he had been captured. It was propagandistic, but was it fake news? I believe Horton's crimes were real. But the claim that Michael Dukakis had implemented the furlough program was fake. That aspect of the story was indeed fake news.

These are the facts: The furloughs were begun way back in 1972 by a Republican governor who served prior to Dukakis. Dukakis actually ended the furloughs. That is a fact!

Meanwhile, drug kingpin George H.W. Bush supported a federal program that allowed convicted heroin dealer Angel Medrano to escape and to rape and murder a woman. Bush then falsely accused the Dukakis campaign of racism for bringing up Bush's incompetence.

I was alive in 1988. I don't think I had a mullet, but I was around. I was certainly old enough to read. So I remember the fake news item about Dukakis and the furloughs. I knew it was fake. The Media back then wasn't all Fox News and Facebook, so I learned the facts pretty quickly. Thank you, Power 94½.

I dealt with a lot of liars on a personal level in 1988, but the right-wing media's gaslighting, fake news, and race-baiting encouraged violence in the community - much as Donald Trump's ill-gotten victory has recently. Trumpism and fake news aren't new to me.

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