Beating Trump Isn’t Enough
we have to beat the conditions that got him elected to begin with
Here’s how fake news — the real fake news, right wing fake news — disseminates itself, and it depends on the fact that six in ten Americans only read headlines according to a recent study.
I receive daily news alerts from a number of sources from the far right to the far left. This morning, a far right outlet, Godfather Politics (just the latest iteration of a continually renamed site) sent out an email with a list of headlines, almost all of them alarmist in different ways. One of them included a disturbing headline: almost 8 million illegal immigrants tried to buy guns recently according to FBI stats.
Just on the face of it, I thought — ah no, I don’t think so, so I followed up. Here’s how it went.
Godfather Politics posted the following headline yesterday, December 28th: almost 8 million illegal immigrants tried to buy guns:
You can read it yourself here: godfatherpolitics.com/record-number-of-almost-8-million-illegal-aliens-tried-to-buy-guns-this-year
They got their information on December 27th from the Washington Examiner‘s Twitter feed, @dcexaminer
That tweet of course links to an article on the Washington Examiner‘s website, which has a somewhat different headline now. Instead of claiming that 8 million illegal immigrants “tried to buy guns this year,” the headline now says that a “record number of illegal immigrants are barred from buying guns this year.” See the difference? Here’s the new headline:
Which you can read for yourself here: washingtonexaminer.com/…/fbi-record-number-of-illegal-immigrants-tried-to-buy-guns
Ah, but there’s more: the Washington Examiner did in fact erroneously report that a record number of illegal immigrants tried to buy guns and were prevented from doing so. But, that did not in fact happen. What has happened is that the FBI released lists of names of people barred from purchasing guns. Nearly 8 million of those names are illegal immigrants. So the real story is that the FBI list is bigger than before, and that it has 8 million names, but it was never the case that 8 million illegal immigrants actually tried to buy guns. That’s fake news.
Now the Washington Examiner did post a correction on the news article:
You’ll notice that the venue incorrectly named itself Washington Secrets in the retraction, which was no doubt an earlier iteration of the Washington Examiner, but they’re so sloppy they didn’t even catch that.
What is the real number? The Washington Examiner did in fact report the real number. Of the 8 million illegal immigrants barred from buying guns, 3,300 attempted to buy guns in 2017 and were denied:
So what has happened?
I know my right wing friends. They’re going to say “everyone makes mistakes. Mainstream media does the same thing.” No, this is the deliberate spread of misinformation that leverages the fact that most readers don’t read more than headlines. I know that because they didn’t remove the tweet. I also know it because every time I follow up on right wing media headlines I get the same results. I don’t get these kinds of results from my follow-ups on the Washington Post or the New York Times, however.
What do we really learn from this fiasco?
First, that consumers of right wing media are regularly being fed massive lies and they believe them. My right wing friends won’t bother reading this, and if they do, they might believe it in this one instance but never learn to distrust their sources.
Next, that right wing media is complicit with the Trump administration in manufacturing an immigration crisis that doesn’t exist. The Trump administration, with the help and support of right wing news outlets, is lying about the nature and extent of our immigration problem. The fact is, most illegal immigrants are here to work and to support their families, so they are overwhelmingly law abiding once they get here. And, for the record, they keep coming because American employers keep hiring them — but the Trump administration is not targeting American employers even though they are just as guilty of breaking the law as the illegal immigrants that they hire.
Finally, we learn that the immigration crisis is in fact a manufactured, fictional crisis. The numbers prove it. 3,300 illegal immigrants out of about 8,000,000 on the list is .04% — only .04% of illegal immigrants who enter the country attempt to purchase guns. That’s in contrast with 30-40% of American households with guns as of 2017. In contrast, as of 2011, “data collected by the FBI show that firearms were used in 68 percent of murders, 41 percent of robbery offenses and 21 percent of aggravated assaults nationwide.” So the overwhelming majority of gun offenses are committed by Americans who own guns, not illegal immigrants. If we want to curb gun violence here in the US, we need to do it with extensive, national revision of our gun control laws. No wall is going to change that, and we need to quit blaming illegal immigrants for our own problems.
And yes, in case you weren’t sure before, this all adds up to the fact that the Trump administration forced a government shutdown for no good reason at all, and he did it while his own party controlled both houses of Congress.
Yes, blatant self-promotion here: I have a few publications coming out this year, and they’re edited anthologies, either my own or my contributions of chapters. I don’t feel too bad writing about it, as I love doing this work, so I love talking about it. But I also love hearing other people talk about the work that they’re doing, and I like promoting the work of others — I love it when people I’m connected to produce good things, and I like taking about that too.
There’s also a bit of an ethical imperative behind book promotion: if a publisher invests in your work by publishing it, you should feel obligated to promote it — to help the publisher recover that investment. On a side note, you can trust me when I say there is no real money in almost all academic publishing for the authors of these works, at least not in terms of direct compensation for the publication. I got one check a year for three years for my first book, Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety (Continuum/Bloomsbury 2010). Each check was big enough to take my wife out to dinner to an Olive Garden / Red Lobster kind of restaurant, but it wouldn’t cover the sitter too. It sold about the average number of copies for an academic book, 300-350. It’s listed in over 1000 libraries around the world, but shared databases mean that libraries don’t have to own their own copy of a book to have access to it.
But best of all, because these are all edited anthologies, I’m not only promoting my work, but the work of colleagues around the world. So what I’m really saying here is, “check out this interesting work that we’ve all come together to do.” Publications appear in the order of their release.
Rock and Romanticism: Blake, Wordsworth, and Rock from Dylan to U2 (Lexington Books, February 2018), edited by James Rovira. Check out the book page to see descriptions of each chapter, lists of musical works discussed, lists of literary works discussed, and links to iTunes playlists associated with each chapter. Most of the music covered in this volume falls in the category of classic rock or folk/roots/country rock (Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Rush, U2, Blackberry Smoke), but we have chapters engaging acts like Lil Wayne and the 1960s’ Italian pop singer Piero Ciampi. Why I love writing about music.
Kierkegaard, Literature, and the Arts (Northwestern UP, February 2018), edited by Eric Ziolkowski. Great study of the subject under discussion edited by a leading Kierkegaard scholar — not to mention the contributor list, which is almost a who’s who of Kierkegaard scholarship. I was fortunate to contribute chapter 12, “The Moravian Origins of Kierkegaard’s and Blake’s Socratic Literature.”
Assembling the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Essays on the Social, Cultural and Geopolitical Domains (McFarland, March 2018), edited by Julian C. Chambliss, Bill L. Svitavsky, and Daniel Fandino. I was privileged to contribute “Silly Love Songs, Gender, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Avengers: Age of Ultron.” The table of contents isn’t available yet.
Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms (Palgrave Macmillan, April 2018), edited by James Rovira. Yes, it’s a second rock and Romanticism book released in the same year, but it’s completely different from the first with its focus on the Gothic. I’ve built a book page for this one too, which should go live either mid to late March. The book page will also have chapter descriptions, links to the music and literature under discussion, and links to iTunes and Spotify playlists. This anthology takes the thesis stated in the previous Rock and Romanticism book then narrows and focuses it upon the Gothic. After an initial discussion of Milton, Shelley, and the Rolling Stones’s “Sympathy for the Devil,” chapters focus on music from the New Romantics and the Pretenders onward, covering a variety of acts: post-punk, goth/emo, Eminem, and metal bands.
In development: Interpretation: Theory: History (under contract with Lexington Books). Really interesting project in which contributors examine a variety of reading practices from Plato to Object Oriented Ontology against their historical backgrounds to establish a dialectic between our reading practices and their social milieus. I hope to send a first full draft to the publisher by the end of March.
The next two projects are in very early stages of development and continue to narrow and focus my study of rock and Romanticism:
Rock and Romanticism: The David Bowie Edition (will probably be retitled David Bowie and Romanticism).