Bear-faced lies

mw fake news

Media Watch returned to the airwaves last Monday and, if you could stomach fifteen minutes of compere Paul Barry’s smuggery, there would have been few surprises, least of all the segment’s chief topic, fake news. There is plenty of grist for that mill, yet somehow, in that special ABC way, all the fakery was discerned as coming only from the right side of politics. When a show quotes the Sydney Morning Herald (above) as a reliable source of accurate information, you just know that the summer break is over the ABC is up to its old tricks again.

Still, whether Media Watch chooses to acknowledge it or not, the fakery continues apace, as The Federalist website notes in an examination of 16 bogus reports of what the Trump administration has (not) been up to. Here’s just one little sample:

Betsy DeVos, Grizzly Fighter

During her confirmation hearing, education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos was asked whether schools should be able to have guns on their campuses. As NBC News reported, DeVos felt it was “best left to locales and states to decide.” She pointed out that one school in Wyoming had a fence around it to protect the students from wildlife. “I would imagine,” she said, “that there’s probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.”

This was an utterly noncontroversial stance to take. DeVos was simply pointing out that different states and localities have different needs, and attempting to mandate a nationwide one-size-fits-all policy for every American school is imprudent.

How did the media run with it? By lying through their teeth. “Betsy DeVos Says Guns Should Be Allowed in Schools. They Might Be Needed to Shoot Grizzlies” (Slate). “Betsy DeVos: Schools May Need Guns to Fight Off Bears” (The Daily Beast). “Citing grizzlies, education nominee says states should determine school gun policies” (CNN). “Betsy DeVos says guns in schools may be necessary to protect students from grizzly bears” (ThinkProgress.) “Betsy DeVos says guns shouldn’t be banned in schools … because grizzly bears” (Vox). “Betsy DeVos tells Senate hearing she supports guns in schools because of grizzly bears” (The Week). “Trump’s Education Pick Cites ‘Potential Grizzlies’ As A Reason To Have Guns In Schools” (BuzzFeed).

The intellectual dishonesty at play here is hard to overstate. DeVos never said or even intimated that every American school or even very many of them might need to shoot bears. She merely used one school as an example of the necessity of federalism and as-local-as-possible control of the education system.

Rather than report accurately on her stance, these media outlets created a fake news event to smear a reasonable woman’s perfectly reasonable opinion.

Which brings us to an item published just three days ago in the Fairfax press. Yes, those school-attacking bears are still roaming wild in the imagination of Age and SMH editors:

DeVos’ viral confirmation hearing — where she seemed unfamiliar with basic laws and suggested guns in schools could help protect students “from potential grizzlies” — did nothing to assuage those concerns. And it even added a few more, like whether she’d support students with disabilities.

The Federalist’s dismembering of those 16 howling furphies can be read in full via the link below. Fairfax hacks should avoid the link, however, as it might spoil the fun of simply making stuff up.

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