Dilbert’s Tips for Separating Fact from Propaganda

Despite the best efforts of our captured legacy media, the lack of shame in our political class, and the lack of consequences for perpetrators, falsehoods pushed by permanent Washington are still regularly exposed. We typically learn our government is lying to us through accidents, leaks, or simply because of the implausibility of the original lies. Dilbert cartoonist, Scott Adams, dedicates much of his daily podcast to educating listeners about how to process the news critically. The skills he cultivates in his audience would be useful to Americans asking how we can have a functioning democracy if our own government cannot be trusted to tell the truth.

We might not always be able to punish the government liars. But we can start educating ourselves, so we can make it harder for them to get away with their lies.

Just last week, for example, we learned Ukraine executed a deep-sea demolition of the Russian gas pipeline. At this point, the government is still pushing the story that the Ukrainians did it without any help from the United States. The original official lie held that the Russians bombed their own pipeline. While officials anonymously accused Russia, the U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm put her name behind the lie stating, “Russia was to blame.” There was never any evidence that Russia was behind the largest act of environmental sabotage in history. She just needed it to be true, so she misled the public.

Next, in reports reminiscent of Chinese-style economic news, the Biden administration has made bold claims that economic growth skyrocketed by nearly  five percent. Yet collected income tax data suggests a decline. Is there an epidemic of tax evasion? Did the Biden administration suddenly reverse course and cut taxes? Or did its cronies within the government cook the books to influence the 2024 election? Funny how the “mistakes” requiring later revision always tend in the same direction.

At least since the Trump era, but likely for much longer, permanent Washington shamelessly manipulates and lies to the American public through its cutouts in the press. Why is this legal? Permanent Washington has no problem cooking up a criminal case whenever a subject “lies” to the powerful in Washington. Much of the effort to rig the 2024 election by imprisoning Biden’s chief political rival rests on creative theories that Donald Trump “lied” about his opinions on the 2020 election or his property values. Of course, it’s not legal for government officials to lie to the public. But that does not matter when the Justice Department protects liars from criminal prosecution.

Adams warns that when a new story relies on “anonymous government sources,” it’s likely untrue. For example, when you review the original Nord Stream Pipeline sabotage accusations against Russia, the Washington Post wrote, “It’s not such a leap to think that the Kremlin would attack Nord Stream, perhaps to undermine NATO resolve and peel off allies that depend on Russian energy sources, officials said.” According to Adams, that passive tagline, “officials said,” is a dead giveaway the “officials” are pushing untrue propaganda.

Adams also cautions the public to be skeptical of a story that’s “too on the nose.” For example, while we all puzzled over the 2020 election results, some counternarratives such as Sidney Powell’s unverified election fraud stories that seemed tailor made to fit her interests. Because so many took the bait, the public paid little attention to the real and verifiable stories about politicized censorship and state-sponsored misinformation.

In general, when a story appears that exactly fits your hunches and suspicions, it’s often not true or delivered out-of-context. Yes, I’ve seen the videos of people stuffing ballot boxes. But that doesn’t prove those ballots were not cast by legitimate voters. I’m not saying there wasn’t voter fraud. I’m saying I have chased stories and read sworn statements hoping to confirm the accusations. I learned the hard way to not trust the fool’s gold of on-the-nose stories. In a case such as this one, the better questions are who convinced Sidney Powell that the evidence was there and why?

Third, we should always keep in mind the incentives and financial motives of the source. For example, we know the same companies selling the COVID vaccines paid to advertise on news outlets that aggressively censored vaccine skepticism and news of therapeutic alternatives. By the same measure, we should be skeptical of leaks originating from the Pentagon about an imminent or current alien invasion. Whose budget will we increase if the public suddenly panics? We should also be skeptical of the current AI panic meant to scare naïve lawmakers into handing our government the power to manipulate AI through regulation. Just try to have a political argument with ChatGPT and you can see a sample of how the government wants all political debates to go.

Fourth, we should be wary of any legacy media reporting on the intelligence community or the war in Ukraine. While we don’t yet know the mechanics of the relationship between the intelligence community and the press, it’s obvious that these news outlets now play a subservient role to our government and are mainly repeating what they’ve been told rather than doing original work.

Fifth, hit pieces and smear jobs aimed at political opponents of the powerful should serve as a signal that the target recently hit upon an uncomfortable truth the powerful wants to keep hidden. The long campaign against Donald Trump is the best example of this. But even the raids against New York’s Democratic Mayor Eric Adams have raised questions about whether the Biden administration might be trying to silence a critic of its immigration policy.

We should push past ad hominem attacks and listen to the villain’s side of things no matter how despicable that villain may be. Remember when Sadaam Hussien denied having weapons of mass destruction? Remember when Putin denied helping Trump win the election? Remember when Moscow denied blowing up the Nord Steam pipeline? Remember when the Chinese accused the U.S. government of having funded development of the COVID-19 virus?

This last story, especially, seemed unbelievable, but it was substantially true. The U.S. government did help fund the research that led to the pandemic.

Of course, pointing these things out won’t win anyone friends in high places. Scott Adams himself was all but canceled for expressing his alarm at the normalization of anti-white scapegoating. But if you actually want to know what’s going on instead of just existing as a pawn in a propaganda game, listening to the government’s opponents is important, even if you might not agree with everything they say.

Permanent Washington has noticed it’s becoming harder and harder to sell their version of the facts as the public loses trust in our eroding institutions. Unfortunately, instead of trying to reclaim credibility by propagating fewer lies, its solution is to expand censorship and intimidation of contrary voices. The new push to “regulate” AI, is just one example of this. As is so often the case, it has nothing to do with preventing the rise of an omnipotent overlord. It’s instead about protecting the lies and interests of the overlords already in power.

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