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2020: The Year of Conspiracies

“If the purpose of the news is to deliver facts, are conspiracy theories even worth mentioning?”

Barrett News Media

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The world is flat, the deep state, pedophiles, cannibals, terrorists, how the hell did we get here?
In a year marked by the unprecedented, several major news outlets have found themselves
having to dedicate time to conspiracy theories and debunking them. They’re wild, disturbing,
distracting, meant to draw attention away from whatever was on your mind previously. In lieu of
reporting relevant information, it has become necessary, even essential to address these
theories. What is the role of news media in this era?

Over the past few months, for every headline, a conspiracy comes with it. The wildfires, the
COVID pandemic, nationwide protests, there seems to be a conspiracy behind everything and
outlets are trying to keep up. The rate of dissemination of these conspiracies has not slowed
despite the efforts of the news media to dispel them.

It doesn’t help that the White House parrots these theories on Fox News. It’s no secret that the
president supports the network and often uses it as a platform to promote himself and his party.
When a major news network allows people to make unsubstantiated claims you know there’s
trouble ahead.

If the purpose of the news is to deliver facts, are these conspiracy theories even worth
mentioning?

One of the conspiracies mentioned in an article by CNN is linked to Q-Anon, a theory of chain of
theories that poses the existence of a “Deep State” that is run by celebrities and politicians who
worship satan, drink blood, and are involved in a child sex-trafficking ring. The conspiracy paints
Trump as an outsider whose actions are part of an effort to defeat the blood-drinking
pedophiles.

Woah.

Most of you reading this are probably thinking, “how could anyone believe this crap?” and
indeed most people don’t, but the bits and pieces that people do believe leave us scratching our
heads. Where does this come from and why does the right find it so attractive?

People are problem-solving machines. When something in the world doesn’t make sense to
them they seek an explanation. 2020 defies logic and explanation. People are scared. They’re
experiencing job and food insecurity, protests are happening in every major city. They’ve had
the rug pulled out from under them, so it makes sense that the most vulnerable amongst us will
turn to whatever crazy theory they can find to explain what we’re going through.

The common thread here is that these conspiracies, rather than facts, rely on emotion. Conspiracy theories validate ideas that people feel are true but haven’t seen any evidence to support them, visceral fears about the unknown. Fears about the things normal people don’t understand. Q-Anon gives a voice to these fears.

Publications like Forbes and USA Today, politically neutral in their reporting, have published
articles that discuss Q-Anon and the people who believe in it. The rate of dissemination of these
conspiracies has hastened thanks to social media. Is there any way to combat this plague? The
way the news reports on these theories might be doing more harm than good.

One of the central drivers to these conspiracies is that mainstream news media cannot be
trusted, hence they are involved in the cover-up and will therefore dismiss theories related to
Q-Anon as untrue. Believers instead turn to Facebook and Youtube to get their “truth”. Mark
Zuckerberg resisting calls to regulate and slow the spread of misinformation on his platform, is
just as guilty as the ones who spread it.

“Experts who follow disinformation say nothing will change until Facebook and YouTube shift
their business model away from the algorithms that reward conspiracies.” (Time Magazine)
We can’t rely on the government to put pressure on social media companies when the president
refers to these conspiracy theorists as “people who love their country”. To discern what’s real,
average citizens will have to count on themselves.

There are some signs that the effects of conspiracy theories are bleeding into real life. As the
wildfires spread in Oregon theories about how they started to spread too. The Jackson County
Oregon sheriff’s department has had to pushback against claims that the wildfires were started
by Antifa arsonists and that a number of them were in custody. Local officials have had to plead
that the public refer to official channels for updates on the wildfires.

In Spokane Washington, a reporter named Daniel Walters tried to get to the bottom of why state
representative Jenny Graham posted on her social media links to articles claiming that missing
children were being kept in dungeons by demons. When he asked this representative about
them he was bombarded with expletive-filled messages. Even though Mr. Walters checked up
on his sources and kept his journalistic integrity, he was met with backlash.

It’s one thing for private citizens to spread false information to their friends and family, elected
officials however have a much broader audience and should be held to a higher standard.
Democracy cannot succeed without an informed electorate. If this problem can’t be solved by
good reporting and government oversight what can we do?

Fortunately, the popularity of Q-Anon is still on the fringes, most Americans haven’t even heard
of it.

“But despite QAnon’s spread, about three-quarters of U.S. adults (76%) say they have heard or
read nothing at all about it, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in February
and March. Around a quarter (23%) say they have heard or read a lot or a little, with 3% saying
they’ve heard or read a lot. The data was gathered as part of the Center’s Election News
Pathways project.” (pewresearch.org)

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver offered some helpful suggestions; look to voices people
trust, dig deeper to find the sources of information spread on Facebook, and use common
sense. These theorists live in a “non-reality” and will refute any factual argument, actually talking
to these people, their evidence for these beliefs are flimsy at best. They act evasively with
comments like “do your research” or “look it up”.

As a writer myself, I rely on the suspension of disbelief. To immerse the reader into the world of
a story, we insert a bit of reality into the world so part of it remains grounded. The force, magic,
superheroes, the point is not to take these things literally, they add a bit of fantasy and wonder
to keep your attention while the writers get their point of view across.

Not only is “Q” a bad writer, but their methods are completely unethical. Using deceptive tactics,
headlines, fonts, videos, photoshop, deep-fakes, and devices used to make fake things look
real, they prey on people who can’t tell the difference. Q whoever they are wants to divide us.
They want us at each other’s throats for views, likes, and worst of all profit.

News media shouldn’t be based on emotion, but perhaps news outlets should display how facts
are a benefit to humanity. Facts are what connect us. Without provable, universal facts the
world would look very different. We still use calculations a thousand years old to reach
breakthroughs in science today. Archimedes, Pythagoras, Copernicus despite the popular
beliefs of the times they lived, produced methods and equations that let humanity reach the
stars.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Elizabeth Johnson

    September 29, 2020 at 3:46 pm

    You make very valid points here, Kyle. The truth is that many trusted media outlets have allowed themselves to be played. Your suggestion to stick to facts and not give voice to wild conspiracy theories is one that would be very worth their consideration.

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BNM Writers

Kraig Kitchin Knows and Values the Importance of the Radio Hall of Fame

“I am first and foremost somebody who likes to shine a spotlight on the … brilliance of others. I don’t stop to think about if there’s a place for me in the Radio Hall of Fame.”

Garrett Searight

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A photo of Kraig T. Kitchin
(Photo: Kraig T. Kitchin)

When the 2024 Radio Hall of Fame class was announced earlier this month, Kraig Kitchin was surprised by one name on the list: his own.

Kitchin — the co-founder of Premiere Networks — is the co-chair of the Radio Hall of Fame and said he was surprised to receive the honor.

“I was pleasantly shocked,” Kitchin said. “Incredibly humbled by the gesture. Very grateful to be recognized. I am first and foremost somebody who likes to shine the spotlight on the talent, and hard work, and creativity, and brilliance of others.

“I don’t stop to think about ‘Is there a place for me in the Radio Hall of Fame?’ as much as I think about ‘How do we best showcase and reward people who have really, truly made a forever impact on our industry?” I really didn’t put myself into that consideration set, but I’m humbled that others might have felt that was appropriate.”

Usually on the other side of the phone call informing someone they’ll be inducted into the next Hall of Fame class, Kitchin called finding out he would join the list of this year’s inductees surreal.

“I have spent the better part of the last 10 years doing everything I can to make sure that the Radio Hall of Fame is truly a destination for everybody in our industry, regardless of whether or not they’re in front of the microphone or behind the microphone,” he shared. “So, to have the opportunity to experience the sensation that I am really working hard to provide for so many others, it’s a sensation that actually immediately captures you in such a way that you are without words.”

Obviously, as the co-chair of the Hall, Kraig Kitchin holds it in high esteem. But there’s a deeper connection with the history of the medium and chronicling that history for future generations for the longtime radio executive.

“I think it is most important for our industry to have a vibrant Radio Hall of Fame and meaningful one that is just full of integrity in it’s decision-making process and the way in which they recognize and choose inductees,” he said. “We’re blessed to work in such an industry to begin with. You and I both know how special it is to be in a medium that you can connect with individuals on an everyday basis that you can develop a relationship that is so deeply interpersonal and does so much for different communities. And an industry that has sustained more than 100 years those kinds of relationships.

“So to me I’m really committed to making sure that our industry has a forever history of recognizing individuals who are just really making a difference and listeners minds and hearts, whether or not it’s one person at a time or decades and decades or service, whatever that might be, depending on the inductees that’s chosen.”

When asked what qualities currently define the radio industry, it didn’t take Kraig Kitchin long to rattle off his viewpoints.

“Resilience is one. Innovation is a second. Optimism in the face of a very tough economic circumstance is a third. Creativity amongst all else is a fourth,” Kitchin shared in rapid-fire succession.

“An innate commitment from an on-air personality to make a relationship — to set a date at the exact same time, day-in and day-out for five or six days a week for a forever period of time, knowing full well that if they make a date with a listener, there’s a very good likelihood that a listener is going to make a similar date with that on-air personality and maintain that relationship. I can’t think of another place in all of media where that implicit trust — without saying as much — lives on today.”

Joining Kraig Kitchin in the 2024 Radio Hall of Fame class are:

  • Lorianne Crook and Charlie Chase (The Crook & Chase Countdown)
  • Lee Harris (Former 1010 WINS anchor)
  • Phil Hendrie (former comedy talk show host)
  • Jaime Jarrin (former Spanish radio play-by-play voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers)
  • Kraig Kitchin (Co-founder of Premiere Networks and Co-Chair of Radio Hall of Fame)
  • Barry Mayo (former GM of 98.7 WRKS in New York)
  • Mary McCoy (longest female radio career, began in 1951)
  • Matt Siegel (former Matty in the Morning host in Boston)

Kitchin was incredibly complimentary of his fellow inductees, each by name and listing off their accomplishments off the cuff.

“It’s gonna shape up to be a great induction class,” said Kitchin. “I’m thrilled to see those individuals receive their induction this year, regardless of whether or not I’m fortunate enough to be in their class. I’m proud and very much looking forward to spending time in person with this fellow inductee class.”

The Radio Hall of Fame class of 2024 will be inducted in a ceremony on Thursday, September 19th at the Omni Nashville.

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BNM Writers

The Real Reson Why the CNN Debate is Coveted By Every Network

“This debate will answer more than enough questions as to where the candidates really are in this race.”

Bill Zito

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A photo of the CNN logo on a tablet

Everybody wants in. It doesn’t really matter who is actually hosting Thursday’s Presidential Debate, (It’s CNN, if you care) you won’t have to look very hard to find it on TV, radio, live stream, social media, or perhaps even on the stage, performed artistically in real-time by interpretive dance troupes across the nation.

Some platforms will do it better than others, of course. TV and livestream coverage will fare most triumphantly, I expect as who wants to miss the facial expressions, the visible acrimony, and the overall frustration of two old men whose belligerent commentary and interruptions of each other will be mostly lost on an audience without visual reference. I still say radio should be permitted to utilize play-by-play and color commentary for their listeners.

“A crimson-faced former President Trump is repeatedly parroting the words, ‘Crooked Joe, Crooked Joe’0 over a muted microphone as a stoic, almost undemonstrative President Biden enters minute four of his rambling claims that Abraham Lincoln created the NASA program.”

I would listen to that and just watch the TV broadcast with the sound off.

There are differing opinions across the political arenas and perhaps a few pockets of voters, but I am comfortable holding the idea that this debate will answer more than enough questions as to where the candidates really are in this race.

The first face-off is likely to be the only one that matters and the smart news outlets know it and they are not going to let competition stand in their way.

News coverage, no matter where you find it offers carefully crafted, artfully edited, and strategically presented soundbites, video segments, and bits of sit-down interviews with the current and former presidents so this will be the first and most important chance for voters of all kinds to look, analyze and decide for themselves if one, or either of these men have enough left to do the job.

The parties and their lemmings already know who they want so they won’t care what they see, the undecided voter, who is often inaccurately pegged as the uninformed voter, will be scrutinized intently as really, this is their only opportunity to make the decision solely by themselves, without the buzzing of chronic zealots or intense political marketing.

Yes, there is a second debate scheduled (hosted by ABC, if you care) on September 10, but really, if you think about it, it could all be a moot point by then.

Everything is likely to be thrown into this week’s debate, by the candidates, the news outlets, the voters, everyone. A second outing three months later is unlikely to offer the same impact, no matter how close to election day it may be.

It rarely is lucrative to be number two. Apollo 12 landed on the moon just four months after Armstrong and Aldrin did in Apollo 11. Yes, poor Mike Collins was stuck up in the command module but without Googling it, name one astronaut on the Apollo 12 mission.

If you think about it, the networks and the cable channels are in a constant battle not only for ratings points but also for respect and relevancy. Their market is forever shrinking, being nibbled away by every other possible platform in existence. USA Today, a print and digital outlet, has hooked on by offering the debate on YouTube.

That’s just one option, by Thursday there will be others to join Fox News, NBC, and ABC piggybacking on CNN’s broadcast for what’s becoming NFL Sunday in regard to coverage plans, some outlets starting hours before and ending hours after the debate’s puck drop.

Let’s be realistic, if you’re watching Fox News, ABC’s or NBC’s platforms ahead of or following the debate broadcast, you’re a political geek. And that’s okay, own it.

The only way to differentiate between broadcasts is to flip around, and dip into everyone. Turn on the radio for a bit, sit on the couch with your phone, your laptop or your iPad, and take in a bit of everyone’s coverage.

Before and after, you’re only going to listen to what you want to see and hear but during the actual debate, you’ll choose whoever broadcasts the best picture. Let’s be sharp and crisp, folks.

And that’s what matters at the end of the day, who paints the best picture and who tells you something closet to the truth,

Choose wisely, my friends.

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BNM Writers

Has Donald Trump Caused the News Media to Change Its Tune?

Rick Schultz

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A photo of Donald Trump
(Photo: CNN)

It seems increasingly inevitable that in slightly more than four months, America will once again choose Donald Trump to be their President. Apparently, skyrocketing inflation, high prices, economic pain, open borders flooded with illegals, crime-ridden streets, and other Democrat party priorities and schemes don’t seem to be selling across the nation.  

Perhaps the biggest sign yet of what’s to come, along with swelling Trump support across inner-city America, is the drastic change of opinion across left-leaning Silicon Valley.  

Clearly, and to their chagrin, the mainstream media’s deceptive narrative-shaping efforts no longer seem to be working.

A few days ago, the widely-popular All-In Podcast hosted an exclusive interview with Donald Trump, to discuss his priorities for his next term in office. The interview made headlines not only for what the political frontrunner said, but also for the reaction of the program’s hosts.

“Thanks so much for sitting down with us, Mr. President,” co-host David Sacks began. “The All-In Pod’s basically the four of us having conversations. It’s kind of a spectrum of different views. We got, sort of like, a little bit of some Fox News, and then some MSDNC at the same time.”

“Well that’s ok,” Trump quipped. “Keeps it interesting.”

Two weeks ago, Sacks hosted a fundraiser for Trump, where many Silicon Valley leaders attended and made contributions to help the former President win another term. Many tech billionaires also stepped up to support President Trump on the heels of the event, including the famed Winklevoss twins.

“One of the things I think we heard a lot at that dinner was the difficulty that people in business were having under this Biden administration,” Sacks said. “You got the crypto guys who just want a framework. They just want the government to tell them how to operate and they can’t get that. You’ve got no M&A happening right now in tech. The real estate guys, they can’t get loans because interest rates are through the roof and there’s a credit crunch. So I think one of the common themes we just heard across that dinner was that it was just so hard to do business right now.

“And I guess maybe a good place to start would just be, what’s the number one thing or maybe the top three things you would do to get things moving again if you’re re-elected?”

“So I’d say regulation, regulation and taxes, ok. You know, I gave the biggest tax cut in the history of our country, and a lot to businesses,” President Trump said. “As you know, they were paying, people and companies were paying 40 percent, 45 percent, including state and city taxes in many cases. And we got it down to 21 percent. We’d like to get it down lower, actually. But we got it down and the revenues were better than ever. Even with the lower rate we had record revenues, which tells you a little about that.”

The All-In interview covered many of the most pressing topics of the day, including inflation, immigration, abortion, and the federal debt. As of the weekend, the podcast episode already had approximately a half-a-million views.

On the rash of murders, rapes, and other crimes being committed by illegal aliens urged into the country by Democrats, Trump pointed out that his secure border would have kept those criminals out of the country.

On abortion, Donald Trump said he does not support a national ban. He also noted that the real extremists are the Democrats, with their frenzied zeal for killing babies right up to the moment of birth, or beyond.

On the oversized bureaucratic state, Trump mentioned some areas he could trim the waste, including at the Department of Education.

Donald Trump also said he would de-classify the JFK files in his overarching effort to be more transparent than the current administration.

But perhaps one of the biggest revelations of the nearly-hour-long interview was how and why typically left-leaning tech leaders have reversed their opinions of Trump, when given the chance to talk with him without the usually-biased media lens.

Following the discussion, co-host and billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya prodded co-host and angel investor Jason Calacanis to give his opinion of the interview.

“I’m undecided, as you know,” Calacanis said, playing coy. “We had a limited amount of time with him.”

Just four years ago, Calacanis told CNBC, “I hate Trump with every fiber of my being and he’s the worst human being on the planet.”

“J Cal, just say it. You like him. Just say it, because it’s written all over your face,” Palihapitiya urged. “Just say it. You like him. You’re confused. You asked great questions and he just dealt with them head on. Just admit it, you like him. You like him!”

Calacanis smiled and said, “I like the fact that he came on the pod, I will say that.”

“I told you you’d like him! This is my point!” Palihapitiya said. “Whether you come out of this wanting to vote for the President or not, everybody needs to, I think, just sit in a room and hear him out.”

“He was very respectful, actually,” co-host David Friedberg said, noting that Trump did not take the bait when asked to comment on some controversial figures. “I was very surprised to hear how he respected Fauci and how he framed his response to that question. And I think that says a lot.”

Palihapitiya himself has admitted he was anti-Trump in 2016 and 2020, and he explained his thoughts on his co-hosts admitting they were surprised by Trump’s calm, rational tone and thoughtful answers.

“But can I tell you why you’re surprised? Because I think we have been fed – this is what I’m saying – we have been fed a narrative of what President Trump looks like,” Palihapitiya said. “Now, in fairness, we’re also being fed a narrative of what President Biden is like. And this is why you have to see these men up close and personal for yourself.

“Because, David, the fact that you’re surprised is less about the fact that Donald Trump has changed. It’s more the fact that you’ve been told a narrative and you’ve believed it. And so now when you see the actual truth you have to re-underwrite. Hold on a second, he’s actually pretty thoughtful. He’s pretty presidential. He doesn’t go off on people. That’s not what you probably thought going in because that’s not what the mainstream media portrays about what you should be thinking.”

Perhaps many voters have also wisened up to the manufactured, media-driven conspiracies that were never true in the first place. That Trump was a Russian agent. Or that he said white supremacists were good people. That he told people to drink bleach. That he verbally disparaged our troops. The media reported these things, and many, many more for years, even though they were knowably false. As a result, the voting populous no longer believes the fake news media that cried wolf.

A recent poll from one of the most accurate outfits, Rasmussen Reports, shows Donald Trump with a ten-point popular vote lead over Joe Biden. As many experts have pointed out, this favorability across the country is much larger than the margin of fraud they believe occurred in 2020.

So it seems that – despite the mainstream, corporate media’s best efforts – the wide swath of America stands behind Donald Trump and his plans to help the nation regain peace, prosperity, and security. Never before have we seen Silicon Valley, rural America, and a groundswell from urban culture converge onto the same team. 

This should make for an earth-shattering November 5th, which the media will have to cover, whether they want to or not.

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