Dean Clough

April 28, 2021

Portico Darwin: Fake News in Real Time

I can assure you this blog won't devolve into just another partisan piss-up.  In fact, I hope you've noticed in my posts that I've tried to present reasoned, fact-based positions.

But today, I'd like to share something I witnessed personally and directly - right here at The Villa.

This past Monday, the good Dr. Shelly Murphy - like a sister but also a recovering Trump voter ("I'm voting with my checkbook" were her words last fall) - was working with me on the various network and A/V projects for which I'm here.   We were chit-chatting and almost in passing, she slipped in "Can you believe Biden wants to let Americans only eat 4 pounds of beef per year???  That's crazy!"

As I do now when presented with either something that sounds fishy (like this) or factually disproven by independent and reputable sources everywhere (like that Biden stole the election), I muttered a "Wow, interesting" and started talking about tomorrow's weather.

But this one bugged me.  I believe in most of what Papa Joe is doing, and I bet even my more conservative friends are enjoying the relative normalcy and competence of his administration, especially in the wake of the opposite. 

And I specifically support his efforts on Climate Change.  So while I know as fact that the digestive emissions from cows and other animals raised for humans to eat are a major source of greenhouse gasses, I still seriously doubted the Biden administration would propose this.

And in fact, the Biden administration did not propose limiting American's beef consumption - at all. 

(Going forward, I hope you'll agree with my choices for objective reality; this time I lead with Snopes, but it's always either them, AP Fact Check, Politifact,, or Reuters.)

So here it is:  a complete taxonomy of a totally false narrative from the right about Biden's policy proposals.

Does Biden's Climate Plan Include Cutting 90% of Red Meat From Our Diets? |

And if you want more, here's the same story completely debunked by Politifact. 

But sadly, you see this pattern often in other dubious stories that seemingly come out of nowhere.  In case you don't read the full Snopes or Politifact expose's above, here's how this one went down:

1)  Biden makes a completely reasonable speech and offers real proposals about Climate Change
2)  The British tabloid rag Daily Mail takes his words and then simply makes stuff up about what "could happen"
3)  Malevolent commentators pick up The Daily Mail story as a "news" story and soon, Fox News has stories on it, and the cycle begins.  

(I love the screenshot of the burger from Fox News in the Snopes story.  Imagine a less-informed voter seeing that as fact and how damaging that is to efforts to unify our country.)

On a personal level, it's especially a bummer.  Shelly is nothing if not brilliant and she's also one of my best friends.  But:

  • My cousin believed this story, and didn't check its veracity 
  • Nothing in what she repeated to me was true
  • Yet Shelly will repeat it to others, and they'll believe it, too
  • Rinse and repeat and you have The Divided States of America

What to do?  I don't know, other than to say that there's journalism - a profession like being an accountant, doctor, or plumber - and then there is entertainment.  It is on us as citizens to discern between the two.

I like this as a philosophy going forward, for all of us:  Yes, you are entitled to your own opinion, whatever it may be.  But once you voice those opinions as facts publicly, the onus is on you to back it up with reason and reality.   Shelly failed here badly in that regard.

But all is not lost.  I put away my fact checking apparatus long enough to attend last night's Mariners-Astros game, from what can only be described as Diamond Certified seating - 4th row, in La-Z-Boy-like thrones.  In fact, it's actually called "The Diamond Club".  The seats, dining and drinking set-up were so good, it bordered on the preposterous, and really isn't $650/ticket the definition of that word?  But when one hangs with the wildly generous Dr. Murphy, one soon understands the term "wealth inequality" - but as you saw in Tupper Lake and now here, it can be oh-so-nice.  Thank you Dr. Murphy - but how about but less "The Federalist" and more The Economist?



I really want to express my gratitude again to those of you that read this and are kind enough to send your nice feedback.  My recent posts have elicited some very thoughtful responses.

The database marketing kingpin and longtime advisor Steven Simon was very encouraging, but also cited a non-fiction work by Kurt Vonnegut

"I've been rereading an old Kurt Vonnegut non-fiction book and thought you would appreciate this passage. He's writing a letter to the people of 2088. Talks about how we keep electing leaders who care only about battling nature and preparing for war, when we really need to do the things listed. And this was from a speech he gave in 1988!  We are so fucked."

Indeed, when one read's Vonnegut's prescient words, it is indeed hard not to despair, given how we've addressed nothing.


And while the usually-agreeable Dr. Downs thought my multi-volume turntable piece was 
"way way waaaaaay over the top and more than I needed or wanted to know",

Max "Madras" Ryder thought it "wasn't that long and it was very informational."  Madras was also kind enough to share the details of where he reads my blog, but I'll keep that between us.

My post on the Chauvin verdict rang true to Primo Harvey, PhD - who's brilliant, and not just because we typically agree nor because he likes this blog (or sound system suggestions)!

"I'm very much enjoying Portico Darwin, especially this post, in which I think you characterize our crazy situation well with policing and guns, and in particular the relation between them. How did things get this way? I believe it comes down in great part to a self-serving snow job by the NRA that is similar to those of the tobacco (what lung cancer?) and petroleum (what climate change?) industries. The NRA has succeeded in normalizing the "overpopulation of guns in the US" (good one Portico) by embedding itself in the Conservative gestalt. And this is ironic to me, because if one is looking for a time to go back to, when America was greater than it is today, why not go back to before the NRA started promoting some idealized version of the American cowboy as a white man standing against the “socialism” of the federal government to stoke the dreams and fears of American gun owners?"

But the biggest compliment is when I'm asked if you can share my blog with others you think might be interested.  This from Max's better half, the dynamic Lauren Ryder:

"Our Almanor neighbors met and lived in SF about ten years ago. They are currently visiting with us at Bodega and we mentioned your blog and think they might enjoy it. I would love to share your first one with your ratings defined. Would you mind sending me that version to share?"

I am beyond humbled.  Thank you, Lauren and to anyone that is taking the time to read this.  You are welcome to share this link with those that might wish to subscribe.

A day in the life, indeed.  That song and others from this album resonate with me on this blog topic.  Here, recently remastered and in pristine high resolution, is The Beatles' second or third best album, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely  Hearts Club Band".  I definitely wish John and George were still around . . . their take on the world as it is now would be interesting.

About Dean Clough