Fire and Forget

Military jet fighters carry a type of air-to-air missile nicknamed “Fire and Forget.”  Older missiles required continuous guidance from the pilot, who would need to keep a target locked on until the missile got close. But these missiles use active radar to find their targets, and the pilot is free to do other things (like focus on survival and avoiding enemy missiles). The pilot can “forget” the missile and let it do its job.

Politicians and reporters are now equipped with fire-and-forget missiles.

I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve seen a rash of outlandish statements, jumps to desired conclusions, opinion pieces disguised as facts, and blatant lies spread as truth.

I’m not talking about Weekly World News, whose cover stories I read with delight as a child. “UFO Base Found in New Mexico!”  “Bat-Boy to be Wed! Pics of Sasquatch Bride on page 6!”

And I’m not talking about the Rush Limbaughs and Bill Mahers of the newstertainment industry, whose job it is to say whatever ridiculous thing gets them a riled-up audience.

I’m talking people who should know better, people whose job descriptions are all about communicating clearly and truthfully with the American public and the world at large.

Say what you want, you can retract it later… if anyone bothers to prove you wrong.

 

I know this has been going on for a long time. Propaganda and “spin” and yellow journalism and so on are nothing new. You probably already have a particular news agency in mind. For some of you, it’s the Devil, Fox News. For others, it’s the real Devil, MSNBC or CNN or ABC or whoever last said something glowing about President Obama.

Let’s run down a few stories.

James Holmes shoots up a crowd at the midnight showing of Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, CO. This is a horrific tragedy, and not surprisingly inspires lots of conversations about how we can possibly avoid or prevent future tragedies on this scale. It also inspired ABC’s Brian Ross to point out,

“There is a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado, page on the Colorado Tea Party site as well, talking about him joining the Tea Party last year. Now we don’t know if this is the same Jim Holmes, but it’s Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colo.”

That was enough info for some people to run on. Even though it was later shown to be a different Jim Holmes and Ross later apologized, the damage was done. For some, the important association of Tea Party with the shooting had been proven.

This seemed familiar in an eerie way. I’d heard something like this before.

Perhaps you recall Jared Lee Loughner, the individual who shot U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords and several other people in Arizona. Immediately there was talk of “inflammatory rhetoric” and suggestions that this must be the work of extremists “like the Tea Party.” But no such connection ever materialized.

Oddly enough, when Army Maj. Nidal Hasan opened fire in the Fort Hood incident, there were warnings to avoid a “rush to judgment” about his motivations.

Shouldn’t caution and restraint and thorough investigation be the default policy in cases like this?

Lest you think, dear reader, that I am a staunch Tea Party / Right Wing defender, allow me to turn the tables on my conservative friends’ lunacies.

I’ve seen posts and Facebook-shared articles warning of President Obama’s devious plan to stage an assassination attempt against himself in order to declare martial law and prevent the 2012 elections from taking place. This reportedly got started with a blogger in Florida and grew in assured Truthiness (thanks, Colbert!) to the point that a Tennessee Republican sent a letter to his constituents to warn them of the possibility.

“The more we talk about [it]… the stronger is our defense against it actually occurring.” – Joe Angione, conservative blogger.

Hence all the discussion of the impending zombie apocalypse.

Again, the government official apologized, and most people realize it’s a tinfoil-hat conspiracy. But I still found the story being shared on Facebook. I’m not completely certain it was being shared in order to “clear up the confusion.”

Fox three! Fire and forget!

(“Fox three” is NATO brevity terminology for launching an active radar missile. That it might be mistaken as referring to a news agency related to this subject is mere delicious irony.)

Before Facebook became our go-to news source for everything that agrees with our existing point of view, I used to get e-mails forwarded from conservatives that detailed all manner of overblown Left Wing conspiracies and Obama Administration evildoing. Usually, these could be refuted with a quick facts check, but judging by the list of addresses in the forward chain, that probably never took place.

In almost every case, I’d hop on Snopes and have an answer–or at least a clarification–in seconds.

If you’re being told a story that proves exactly all the terrible things you’ve always believed about the “other side,” you’re probably not getting a fair and objective account of all the facts – regardless of the news organization’s slogan or stated objectives.

This Chick-fil-A business is no different, sadly. Did you know that Chick-fil-A dollars went into lobbying Congress to stop the U.S. Government from condemning a hate-filled bill in Uganda which would authorize life imprisonment and even death as punishment for the crime of homosexuality?

Yeah, neither did I until I saw it posted on Facebook.

Well, that would explain why people would be so up-in-arms about Chick-fil-A, I guess.

Except it’s not true.

Chick-fil-A’s profits supposedly go to a non-profit “charity” they run called WinShape Foundation. They donate to a variety of Christian groups, including the Family Research Council (FRC). A lot of these groups have, as part of their platform of political views, the idea that marriage is about one man and one woman. I totally get why people might object to that in and of itself.

But that’s not good enough for some, who want to paint a picture of Christians as filled with hate and murderous intent for anyone different from them. A picture made it to my Facebook wall that declared how Chick-fil-A was supporting the FRC who in turn used $25,000 to lobby Congress. The FRC’s goal, according to the picture? Stop Congress from condemning the Ugandan bill mentioned above.

It took about two minutes to find this article from CBS news where the FRC is allowed to clarify their position. Kind of in line with everything else they say and do, they’re not okay with wholesale murder of homosexuals. They’re also not keen on the U.S. Government declaring homosexuals a protected segment of the populace like how we protect people based on race, gender, religion, and so on. Again, I get why people don’t agree with or particularly like the FRC, based on that position. But at least make sure the position you’re angry with them about is the one they actually hold.

Still, the message is out there. FRC wants the Ugandan death bill to be passed. Chick-fil-A supports the FRC. Deep down, all those people who lined up at Chick-fil-A want nothing more than dead homosexuals. Obviously.

Why check facts when we already have an explanation for a given story?

Fire and forget. That missile will do it’s job. Actually, in this case, it’s more “fire and remember,” because the intended audience gets the message and makes the desired connection between the accused and whatever political agenda is being targeted. Sure, there may be retractions and apologies later, when no one cares.

And that’s if we’re lucky. It’s practically shameless.

MSNBC actually defended the edited video saying, “MSNBC did not edit anything out of order or out of sequence and at no time did we intend to deceive our viewers.” The video is worth watching as an example of what I’m talking about; there’s no way to conclude that the edited version was meant to accurately portray Governor Romney’s actual comments.

Maybe this is why people turn to Jon Stewart for a refreshing take on news stories. This site from ‘the Inquisitr’ is just what popped up on my Facebook wall and got me thinking more on this subject. At a guess, I imagine they’re probably just as bad as all the other sites and organizations out there. The two videos in the story are worth watching, though.

I know I’m not saying anything new here. This problem is known. Solutions for it aren’t easy, because ultimately, the public is clicking those links and hitting the “Like” and “Share” buttons on whatever news stories support their preexisting views. So these news sites keep firing off more junk and opinion-disguised as fact.

My wife saw the title to this post and came up with a good possible solution for reporters and politicians willing to speak in haste.

“Fire and forget? Oh, you mean, like, fire that guy, and forget about him?” 

Oh, if only…

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2 thoughts on “Fire and Forget”

  1. OMG. The politicians have figured out how to use fire and forget tactics. I’m going to star this post to see if I can get as many favorites and likes as possible to get the word out there to my like-minded friends. Thumbs up this post if you agree. Also, check out my awesome blog, hitlerwasntthatbaddotcom.com –Oh, and send your money to me. I’m a nigerian prince in distress.

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