All The News That’s Fit To Fake
By Matt McDonald | December 27, 2016, 14:34 EST
Glad to hear about the coming crackdown on Fake News.
Liberals are right: It’s wrong to take falsehoods and use them to deceive. It’s also wrong to take actual facts and present them in an absurd way designed to deceive.
If it’s done just to get someone’s attention, it’s unfortunate. If it’s done in politics to smear, it should be condemned. No matter how much you like one candidate and despise another candidate, this sort of manipulation does a disservice to our country.
My support for those sentiments solidified back in October, thanks to National Public Radio. One day I was driving around when a narrative story came on the air reporting that Donald Trump was getting support from an unlikely source … Serbian nationalists. In Serbia.
Intrigued, I listened on.
The reporter described how Serbian nationalists had led a pro-Trump march in Belgrade.
(Aside: Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, is about 4,300 miles east of Boston, the nearest large American city. Most Serbs are Orthodox Christians.)
Serbian nationalists, the story explained, had been responsible for ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina back in the 1990s. (That’s when certain Serbs living in Bosnia tried to link the territory of their communities by killing and driving out Bosnian Muslims in between, in hopes that the Serbs could separate themselves politically from Bosnia.)
Turns out a lot of Bosnians left Bosnia during the war and ended up in eastern Missouri.
The reporter, it turns out, started to see a link to the 2016 U.S. presidential election in July when he saw a photo of a guy standing outside the Republican National Convention in Cleveland wearing a red hat that said “Make Serbia Great Again.”
Then, he noted, in August the “far-right” Serbian nationalists marched in Belgrade in support of Trump.
The reporter had since talked to people living in eastern Missouri who were originally from Kosovo, a largely Muslim place that Bill Clinton as president supported in its independence movement from Serbia back in the 1990s. The reporter had also talked to Bosnians living in eastern Missouri.
They love Hillary Clinton, it turns out, because of what Bill Clinton did for them as president.
It was one of those NPR stories where the anchor interviews the reporter. So the anchor moved the story along with a set-up question:
“So, what about Donald Trump? Is there any particular take on him in this community?”
Yeah,” the reporter responded, “those that I spoke to, both Bosnian and Kosovar, tend to feel ostracized by the Islamophobic, anti-refugee rhetoric that they perceive is coming from his campaign, because they are of course Muslim refugees of another era.”
The reporter mentioned a man he had talked to who was originally from Sarajevo. (That’s a Bosnian city that was under siege during the Bosnian war 20 years ago, where atrocities occurred.) The man told him Bosnians in Missouri were alarmed about Trump because, in his words, “they’ve seen what hate speech can do.”
O.K., so you might be thinking that this is a story about how Hillary is good because she likes refugees and Donald is bad because he wants to ostracize them or drive them out or kill them or something.
It was time for the race to the larger point. As the anchor pushed the story to its conclusion, it dawned on me where it might be going. I listened, transfixed.
“Just thinking about the election, how likely is it that this Bosnian-Kosovar vote, assuming they do vote generally as a bloc, could actually tilt Missouri Democrat?” the anchor asked.
The reporter explained that if the Republicans won by a lot in Missouri, the way Mitt Romney did in 2012, then the Bosnian vote probably wouldn’t matter.
But if the election were close, he said … “It could make a difference.”
Unspoken was Missouri’s status as a bellwether state particularly important to Republicans. If they can’t win Missouri, they usually can’t win the election.
And it could all come down to … Bosnians.
To be fair, let’s remember that the reporter covered himself. He said that if it wasn’t close in Missouri, then even if they all voted one way the Bosnians probably couldn’t make a difference.
Turns out that was correct.
Trump won Missouri 57-38. That’s 19 percentage points. According to the official tally, the difference was 523,443 votes.
No word on exit polling showing how the Bosnians voted.