Before "Fake News," America Invented "Pseudo Events"

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute,

In the wake of the Chalottesville riot, it's been interesting how quickly the focus has shifted away from the actual events in Charlottesville and toward the public pundits and intellectuals are expressing opinions about the events. 

Already, the media has lost interest in analyzing the details of the event itself, and are instead primarily reporting on what Donald Trump, his allies, and his enemies have to say about it. 

This is an important distinction in coverage. Rather than attempt to supply a detailed look at who was at the event, what was done, and what the participants - from both sides - have to say about it, we are instead exposed primarily to what people in Washington, DC, and the political class in general, think about the events in which they were not directly involved. 

This focus illustrates what has long been a bias among the reporters and pundits in the national media: a bias toward focus on the national intellectual class rather than on events that take place outside the halls of official power. 

Note, however, that those quoted rarely have any special knowledge about the events themselves. Their opinions are covered not because they are knowledgeable, but because their quotations fit easily into a narrative that the media wishes to perpetuate. 

In a March 2017 column, Peter Klein noted this bias and what economist F.A. Hayek had to say about it: 

The intellectual, according to Hayek, is not an expert or deep thinker; "he need not possess special knowledge of anything in particular, nor need he even be particularly intelligent, to perform his role as intermediary in the spreading of ideas. What qualifies him for his job is the wide range of subjects on which he can readily talk and write ... Such people wield enormous influence because most us learn about world events and ideas through them. "It is the intellectuals in this sense who decide what views and opinions are to reach us, which facts are important enough to be told to us, and in what form and from what angle they are to be presented" (pp. 372–73). 

Klein then quotes Hayek at length: 

It is perhaps the most characteristic feature of the intellectual that he judges new ideas not by their specific merits but by the readiness with which they fit into his general conceptions, into the picture of the world which he regards as modern or advanced. . . . As he knows little about the particular issues, his criterion must be consistency with his other views and suitability for combining into a coherent picture of the world. Yet this selection from the multitude of new ideas presenting themselves at every moment creates the characteristic climate of opinion, the dominant Weltanschauung of a period, which will be favorable to the reception of some opinions and unfavorable to others and which will make the intellectual readily accept one conclusion and reject another without a real understanding of the issues. 

Consequently, the media's focus is not on relating the specifics of a particular event, and then allowing the reader to come to his own conclusions. Instead, the focus is on appealing to the opinions of those in position of power, and filtering all events through this lens, as to let the consumers of media know how they should think. 

Bias is not the only factor at work here, though. The excessive reliance on reliable and predictable "expert" sources stems from a need to constantly invent new news stories for broadcast and publication - and from a general laziness among publishers, editors, and journalists themselves. Traditional journalism requires true investigation and compilation of a variety of messy and disorganized facts. It's much easier, however, to simply call up a politician or an expert and create the facts by eliciting a "newsworthy" opinion from an important person. This approach becomes especially lucrative in a world of the 24-hour news cycle where considerations of time and money entice news organizations to create their own news rather than report on the events created by others. 

The World of Pseudo Events 

This sort of cut-rate journalism has reached especially objectionable levels in recent years, but this approach isn't nearly as novel as many people imagine. 

Indeed, thanks to the work of historian Daniel Boorstin, we can trace this habit among the the media class going back decades. 

In his book The Image: A Guide to Pseudo Events in America — first published in 1962 — Boorstin examines how reporting on the news had become less and less about researching and reporting on spontaneous events, and instead had shifted toward reporting on what important people have to say about events. 

Looking at Boorstin's analysis from our vantage point in 2017, it may look like Boorstin is splitting hairs, but this is only because we've been so inundated with reporting on pseudo events that we've come to regard such reporting as normal — and we now confuse pseudo events with the real thing. 

A real event, Boorstin writes, is reported when "newspapers ... disseminate up-to-date reports of matters of public interest written by eyewitnesses or professional reporters near the scene." 

In this type of reporting, Boorstin notes, there is a sense that the reporters are at the mercy of the events themselves. 

Eventually, however, the need to sell newspapers and create more copy for printing helped reporters and their editors realize that they could create news themselves, and then report on those events as if they were spontaneous. Thus, reporters began to rely more and more on press releases, interviews, press conferences and other types of pre-packaged pseudo events that could give media outlets something new to report on. And then, of course, the politicians themselves — and the public relations people who work for them — are more than happy to supply the media with "pre-cooked" news, press conferences, prepared statements, and opinions designed to shape opinions about an event. 

On of the first politicians to master these methods was Franklin Roosevelt. Boorstin writes: 

In recent years our successful politicians have been those most adept at using the press and other means to crate pseudo-events. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whom Heywood Broun calls "the best newspaperman who has even been President of the United States," was the first modern master. While newspaper owners opposed him in the editorials few read, F.D.R. himself, with the collaboration of a friendly corps of Washington correspondents, was using front-page headlines to make news read by everybody. He was making "facts" — pseudo events — while editorial writers were simply expressing opinions. It is a familiar story how he employed the trial balloon, how he exploited the ethic of the off-the-record remarks, how he transformed the Presidential press conference from a boring ritual into a major national institution which no later president dared disrespect, and how he developed the fireside chat. Knowing that newspapermen lived on news, he helped them manufacture it. And he knew enough about news-making techniques to help shape their stories to his own purposes. 

Indeed, by the 1950s, it had become "possible to build a political career almost entirely on pseudo-events" as in the case of Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy, Boorstin notes "was a natural genius at creating reportable happenings that had an interestingly ambiguous relation to underlying reality." 

Boorstin quotes Richard Rovere, who frequently covered McCarthy as a reporter, who notes that McCarthy "invented the morning press conference called for the purpose of announcing an afternoon press conference." Reporters, Rovere admitted "were beginning, in this period, to respond to his summonses like Pavlov's dogs at the clang of a bell." 

Eventually, this obsession with the utterances of politicians blurred the line between facts and feelings.

This distinction was once represented by the difference between hard news and soft news. Boorstin writes:

The the traditional vocabulary of newspapermen, there is a well-recognized distinction between "hard" and "soft" news. Hard news is supposed to be the solid report of significant matters: politics, economics, international relations, social welfare, science. Soft news reports popular interests, curiosities, and diversions: it includes sensational local reporting, scandalmongering, gossip columns, comic strips, the sexual lives of movie stars, and the latest murder....but the rising tide of pseudo-events washes away the distinction." 

Boorstin illustrates this assertion with examples from a trip made by President Eisenhower to Hawaii. when the events of the trip itself proved to offer few interesting details, the reporters instead invented events and provided "factual" statements such as "Eisenhower's reaction to his Far Eastern trip remains as closely guarded a secret as his golf score," and "sooner or later the realities will intrude." These "facts" were not mere speculations on the side. They formed the heart of the article which was purported to be a news story. 

In other words, the reporter is offering nothing other than speculation about nothing in particular because he has nothing else to write. But, when put into a news story, the end result is that the reporter is changing public perceptions of the president. Boorstin concludes: Nowadays a successful reporter must be the midwife — or more often the conceiver — of his news. By the interview technique he incites a public figure to make statements which will sound like news. During the twentieth century this technique has grown into a devious apparatus which, in skilled hands, can shape national policy." 

It's not difficult to see how these techniques have been greatly expanded in our own time.

With the actual events of Charlottesville long over, the "news" continues as reporters and their sources among the intellectual class continue to opine on what Trump did or didn't say, and which of the interviewee's political enemies are to be blamed. Increasingly, the reporter need no longer even attend a press conference or leave his office. He need only monitor Twitter.  If the reporter agrees with a statement, he need merely report that it happened. If he disagrees, then he need do little more than call one of his trusted sources for a rebuttal. 

Moreover, when reporting these opinions, many reporters won't even provide the basic facts of who the speaker is. Thus, a reliance on anonymous sources has become almost mundane. And, as a perfect illustration of Hayek's point, CNN's recent debacles involving anonymous sources illustrates how these sources don't even necessarily demonstrate any level of expertise with the topic being discussed. 

One can make the case that the majority of what passes for "news coverage" nowadays really falls within the parameters of Boorstin's pseudo events. When new facts would require hard work and serious journalism, it's much easier instead to rely on a few trusted sources - which have already been quoted countless times before - and get the usual predictable opinions to fill out an article. This is then reported as "news" of a new "event," but is really just an opinion piece in which the opinions of an interviewee are portrayed as "facts." This has been going on so long, few journalists even see a problem with this approach anymore. 


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Ntoxic8ingWave's picture

This and many other events are simply psy ops by the deep state to sew racial and political discord within this country. They are looking to create the second civil war. It is up the the level headed people of the country to call it out and maintain the peace.

Xredsx's picture

I still cannot believe in the simple fact that no one still cant see  things for what they are. all Trump is doing and always has been doing, is exposing the whole truth but in a Nigel Farage tactical way. It's the only way that one can get the msm to debate the truths to this world. Donald is the Trump card. 

stitch-rock's picture

Game of logic-
if you see something no one else sees, either: A) everyone else is wrong or B) you are wrong

Xredsx's picture

Nigel Farage went through the same process that Trump has been going through a few years ago. Everytime Nigel mentioned his opinion on the EU, the whole establishment turned on him, saying and calling him all the same things that they have been saying about Trump. It was this process alone that woke the British people up to the truth about Europes centralisation agenda because everything was just a conspiracy theory. Farage had to go through all that hatred  too because it was the only way he could get the msm to debate the things that the establishment doesnt want the people to know.

Common_Law's picture

I guess they didn't like McCarthy playing their games. If we could have held onto our anti-communist morals things could have been much better.

VoteSmarts's picture

You are suggesting psychology has been -weaponized- and you may be correct: "Nature abhors a vacuum" applies: Absence of prompts poor substitute/s. Sad .

sgt_doom's picture


Ultra-Fake News USA !!!

The other morning on the Seattle ABC affiliate, KOMO, I heard a report of the quintessential Fake News item:  Bill Gates was donating X amount of stock, i.e., he is moving his stock to his Gates Foundation, thereby sheltering it from taxation, hostile takeover bids, and public view.

One hears similar reports over the years on NPR, Fox, etc., making the false claim that such-and-such "philanthropic" billionaire made a massive billion-dollar "charitable donation" --- that is, they moved their stock or assets to their foundation!

Sadly, there still exists gullible and ignorant Americans who actually believe such trash.  I've read articles by self-described environmentalists urging the bad guys to "start a foundation" --- or that "Free Press" clown, McChesney, urging that foundations become the financiers of public news, completely oblivious to the fact that many already do, and falsify much of the so-called "news" we are bombarded with daily!

A recent "study" from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York says that new startups are at a significantly low point at the present (last I heard, new business formation was at its lowest in 80 years) and that almost all new job creation derives from startups. (Wonder where all those new jobs are coming from, then???)

One of the major reasons cited was difficulty in obtaining bank loans ---- Duh!!!!

Since the passage of Dodd-Frank thousands of small banks and community banks have disappeared (Federal Reserve stooges will say they have "merged" --- meaning larger banks took over their operations and remaining assets), and the top five banksters have grown in size because they were legally allowed to claim credit derivatives as capital --- since the top five control over 90% of credit derivatives, or fantasy finance instruments, and the remainder is thinly spread the world over --- obviously Dodd-Frank was designed to favor the top five banks!

And what about the difficulty of new startups in obtaining bank loans?  Obviously, with the loss of so many of the smaller/community banks which once made those loans, and with the large banks primarily loaning to various corporations solely for purposes of stock buybacks and dividend payouts, who is left to finance America's future?


Recommended Reading:

The Rich and the Super-Rich    by Ferdinand Lundberg

Treasure Islands    by Nicholas Shaxson

Battling Wall Street:  the Kennedy presidency     by Donald Gibson

Web of Debt    by Ellen Brown


TabakLover's picture

I cannot beleive I am going to say this, but, we could learn from the Jews about dealing with symbols of our past history.  Have the concentration camps been bulldozed and the earth salted? 

grizfish's picture

Bulldozing!  What a wonderful tool!

The quickest and easiest way to retain our Constitutional Rights, eliminate globalist doublespeak, and eradicate mass brainwashing is to "Bulldoze the MSM."


Insurrector's picture

Bulldoze all the buildings with the word "Trump" on them!

Aristofani's picture

Wow. I didnt know that hayek sometimes looked in the mirror, and not just to blow kisses to himself. Or maybe he was.

MrBoompi's picture

Pseudo events were Obama's specialty.  For example, Sandy Hook, Boston Bombing, Osama Bin Laden Killing......

Tiwin's picture

He learned from the Masters - Bill "OKC"Clinton and George"9-11"Bush

Insurrector's picture

I live in Boston you fucking idiot (hopefully not actually fucking so that your genes don't pollute the pool any more than it has been).

The Boston bombing was a pseudo event?  Were you there? 

You and your upvoting idiots are obviously Russian puke looking to stir up conspiracy theories.

detached.amusement's picture

hey dipshit

read it

do you think it makes a shits worth of difference that you live in boston?

that's like believing the 911 official lie because one was a resident of NYC at the time.


Akzed's picture

Events are not as important to the cabal as is spinning the reporting on them. The lives and property destroyed are cannon fodder.

Full Court Lugenpresse's picture

It's a really good point. A huge fraction of news is not "X happened" but rather "Bob said X and Y, igniting a MEDIA FIRESTORM". Commentary on commentary. This is pretty dumb.

Still ZH, get it together: the story right now is not Trump's comments yesterday, which were completely reasonable and evenhanded ("I'm saying both sides were violent and I condemn them both. It's right there on video. You fake news liars only told half the story") but rather the SHRIEKING reaction from shitlibs and cucks that he dared to name-and-shame left wing violence. What do they have to hide? Why are they so eager to protect communist rioters? That's what people are wondering this morning.


VoteSmarts's picture

It began in 1937 with the Hindenburg crash, and the reporter publicly crying his grief: Formerly News articles and reports of what happened became Human Interest Stories which pumped circulation, and sheeple waiting to be fed...

Insurrector's picture

You lack depth perception and have an uncanny way of shading your words with irony.

Gas the alt left terrorists?  Your Nazi colors are showing.

Cardinal Fang's picture

'We can do the innuendo,
We can dance and sing,
And in the end
We haven't told you a thing,
We all know that crap is king...'

-Don Henley 'Dirty Laundry'

Friedrich not Salma's picture

Gotta love that Hayek guy! Whoever he is.

canadian shenanigans's picture

Sensationalism is a type of editorial bias in mass media in which events and topics in news stories and pieces are over-hyped to present biased impressions on events, which may cause a manipulation to the truth of a story. Sensationalism may include reporting about generally insignificant matters and events that do not influence overall society and biased presentations of newsworthy topics in a trivial or tabloid manner contrary to the standards of professional journalism.
Some tactics include being deliberately obtuse, appealing to 
emotions, being controversial, intentionally omitting facts 
information, being loud and self-centered and acting to obtain 
attention. Trivial information and events are sometimes 
misrepresented and exaggerated as important or significant and often include stories about the actions of individuals and small groups of people, the content of which is often insignificant and irrelevant relative to the macro-level day-to-day events that occur globally. 
Furthermore, the content and subject matter typically affect neither the lives of the masses nor society and instead is broadcast and printed to attract viewers and readers.

Tiwin's picture

Sensationalism is a type of editorial bias in Jew Owned mass media over-hyped to present virtue-signalling opportunities from both the huffpo types and even the ZHers. Division and eventual conquering ensues.

Fixed it for ya!

Rebelrebel7's picture

The problem with America from my perspective, is that there are just enough non-sensical people who are willing to regurgitate establishment lies and act in a way that would create controversy over the lies, which allow the establishment to continue screwing everyone over without criticism or controversy!

Most people, I believe, do not believe the bullshit being disseminated by the establishment in a 24/ 7 assault over the airwaves.

There are simply enough useful idiots in America to create the illusion that the establishment has succeeded in harnessing the narrative and the masses .

The overwhelming evidence proves that  the establishment has COMPLETELY failed to win the narrative!

Favorability ratings for all American institutions  other than small business owners and the military and police are all at unprecedented lows and way below 50%. I suspect that the police and military favorability ratings are also way below 50% but people falsely rated them positively out of fear of retaliation from the surveillance state.

The establishmemt has repeatedly failed to convince the majority of voters to vote for their bought and paid for candidates!


News flash to the lunatic left! Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama also opposed gay marriage in the very recent past! No president has ever deported more illegal aliens than  Barak Obama! Hillary Clinton said black children were super predators that had to be brought to heel!Bill Clinton increased childhood incarceration! No president has ever done more for Wall Street and the multi-billionaires than Barak Obama and Bill Clinton was second! Nobody has hurt small businesses,  the middle class, and the poor more than Barak Obama! Get a fucking clue!

Insurrector's picture


Clearly a case of diarrhea of the mouth and constipation of the brain.

PodissNM's picture

The whole thing was a set up from start to finish.

Oberst-Gruppenfuhrer's picture

CNN...bringing you fake news from the jews since 1980

fuckstar's picture

At least its creator did experience sufficient remorse that she tried to try to kill herself. Alas, that was fake news too. She failed.

Mzhen's picture

The car driven by the stooge from Ohio on Saturday is variously depicted -- in a registration document and in pictures -- as having a sunroof and as not having a sunroof.  So somewhere into the event, or pseudo-event, a stunt double car may have been utilized.

MEFOBILLS's picture

A new video, with drone footage, showing the staged Charllotsville "crowd."  Note also, the fire truck staged in advance in case any actors become hurt.

Bolsheviks long ago learned to use their money power (the creation of money) to then fund revolution.  People don't sponataneously organize, have signs printed up, buss themselves in to agitate, do long range planning, etc.  All these sort of vanguard revolutionary acts require long term advance planning, and funding.  Virtually all color revolutions are funded by NGO's.  Where do they get their money?

Now that government has been usurped, most events need to be considered first as a false flag until proven otherwise.

Tiwin's picture

I cannot believe there are still ZHers that watch television in any form except while being held hostage at an airport by weather delays.

It focuses your train of thought AND your commentary in exactly the direction our Masters want.

Wake up Goy! Cut the cord!

Herdee's picture

CNN is very fake news. Here's some news the fake mainstream con-artists are afraid to report.

Insurrector's picture

Your counter to CNN is freakin Alex Jones???

You been chugging that vile piss and are deranged.

fuckstar's picture

The most famous ff since gutenberg has to be the grave robbers using fake rumors of Napolean to raid the London stock exchange and ultimate fuck all the GOG princes and princesses.

otschelnik's picture

The Russian hacking has run its course...  Wham!   The new neo-nazi narrative is born!  

Insurrector's picture

More like resurrected, not born.

Been in the US for many decades.

BritBob's picture

Biggest fake news of the century (and believed by half of the globe) - Argentina's Falklands claim. Falklands- Never Belonged to Argentina (1 page):

bloofer's picture

"a bias toward focus on the national intellectual class...."

I don't know as I'd call these buffoons "the intellectual class."

WitchCharmerrr's picture

Black people who were never slaves are fighting white people who were never Nazis over a confederate statue erected by democrats,' and why, because democrats can't stand their own history anymore and somehow it's Trumps fault?' Insanity!

Insurrector's picture

Read some history witchy -

The Republican and Democrat parties have undergone a polarity shift since Lincoln.  For the most part, the KKK were southern Democrats who fled the party and became Republican in reaction to civil rights laws and segregation policies.

This or course makes Lincoln the original RINO.