According to Paul LePage, Republican Governor of Maine, the media publishes a lot of lies. A lot of Republicans make this claim lately, but LePage's source on this is firsthand experience. "I just love to sit in my office and make up ways so they'll write these stupid stories because they are just so stupid, it's awful," LePage told reporters from the radio station WGAN-AM on Thursday. In other words, he seems to be saying that he lies to journalists in order to get them to print his lies, and therefore they are bad. "The sooner the print press goes away, the better society will be," LePage also told WGAN-AM.
I don't know what to say to conservatives who think the media is just a bunch of lies—it's not like there's a reliable alternative. Last week for instance, a claim from Facebook back in May that AntiFa were planning to protest at Gettysburg this past weekend, somehow transmogrified into a plot by the lefties to show up and desecrate memorials, according to Fox News. Armed militiamen showed up on Saturday to protect the memorials with guns, but no evil lefties ever appeared. However, while the patriots were waiting around, one of them accidentally shot himself in the leg. In the end, I bet that guy wished he had better intel.
I'm not saying there's someone out there we can all trust to get it right every time. In fact, below are a few more fake stories from the past week. If you're the kind of person who longs to purge the media environment of inaccuracies and lies, you might want to start with these:
Nancy Pelosi and Her Daughters Are Cocaine Traffickers
This is a completely made-up story dredged up from the internet's taint, but there's a lot to unpack in it.
According to at least three half-assed articles that I can find on various blogs resembling news sites, two of Democratic House Minority Leader* Nancy Pelosi's daughters, who are sometimes named "Julie Marie" and "Nicole Lynn," and sometimes named "Louanne" and "Marissa," (Pelosi's four real daughters are named Nancy, Christine, Jacqueline and Alexandra) were recently picked up for running a cocaine smuggling operation. The nature of the operation varies, but it seems to rely on the use of diplomatic satchels to conceal hundreds of pounds of drugs as the Pelosi Girls cross state lines. In one story, the daughters turn state's evidence against the bigger fish: Pelosi herself.
Judging from this story's impressive Facebook reach, I thought maybe Narco Pelosi was an obvious fiction people just wanted to believe in, like dirtbag Joe Biden from The Onion, or Batboy from Weekly World News. But just like my late grandmother actually believed in Batboy, people believe this stuff. "Did #CNN cover this very important news item? I missed it," asks a Facebook user named Mario A. Estrada. A reply says, "So much #fakenews to report, there's no time for the REAL stuff…"
To believers, the absence of mainstream coverage for this story is an indictment of the mainstream news. Speaking of which…
CNN Doxxed a 15-Year-Old
As you're no doubt aware, on Sunday, President Trump tweeted a .gif that (to make a long story short) showed him beating the shit out of a person with a CNN logo for a head just outside a WWE ring—CNN being a TV news outlet that Trump does not like. CNN's Andrew Kaczynski tracked down the person who made the .gif—a Reddit user named HanAssholeSolo. And while he didn't reveal the creator's identity, Kaczynski implied that he might do so if HanAssholeSolo didn't stop making .gifs about them. In response, the Trump-supporting corners of the internet accused CNN of doxxing and blackmail—and I'll leave it up to you to judge Kaczynski's ethics.
"So I guess they weren't effective threatening the admin so they go after & bully a 15 y/o? Seems in line w their 'standards'," Donald Trump Jr. tweeted on Wednesday. On #MAGA Twitter this remains the canonical version of what happened: CNN's investigation had targeted a teenager. Teenagers are young and full of potential. Tsk tsk, CNN!
HanAssholeSolo's shitposts resemble those of a 15-year-old, but nope: all the actual evidence points to him being middle aged. Before he deleted his Reddit account, HanAssholeSolo claimed to be a teenager in the 90s. Also, Kaczynski, the loathed CNN reporter, says HanAssholeSolo is middle aged. "Why should I trust him?" I hear you saying. Well, for one thing, if you're accusing Kaczynski of threatening to doxx this person, you have to admit it he would really be undermining his own doxxing effort by lying about the guy's age.
Touching Fentanyl Made a Cop Overdose
In May a cop in East Liverpool, Ohio said he brushed some powdered fentanyl off his clothes, and almost fatally overdosed. The story from local news station WKBN has been blowing up for months, but this week, the tide of unchecked credulity for this impossible story started turning, even on cop blogs.
Patrolman Chris Green says he participated in the bust of an alleged drug dealer, and then arrived at the station with white powder on his clothes, which he wiped off with his bare hand. Then he supposedly passed out from an overdose, and had to be given a whopping four doses of naloxone. "The drug can get into the body just through contact with the skin," the WKTBN story continues.
But while that seems to be law enforcement's take, the medical community doesn't agree. Last week, ER doctor Jeremy Samuel Faust investigated the matter for an article published on Slate, and finds the odds that Green's account is what happened "infinitesimally small—if not strictly impossible." A toxicologist he spoke to who specializes in opioids says it's "hard to imagine someone would need multiple doses of naloxone after transient skin contact with powdered fentanyl."
"Credible sourcing is what distinguishes real from fake news, whether about medicine or not. In this case, the real news got faked out," Faust wrote.
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*Correction 11/4/17: An earlier version of this story referred to Pelosi as House Majority Leader, but in fact she is House Minority Leader. We regret the error.