While the proliferation of the internet continually creates new media at breakneck speed, providing a voice to millions, it also means that the worst kinds of political rhetoric are easily disguised as “news” when they’re really no more than simple propaganda. Designed to speak to those who already agree, these popular properties  continually misinform and misdirect in order to push the emotional buttons that insure devoted anger, incivility, and demonization.
I’m not speaking of simple bias: As any writer knows, it’s impossible to write anything without some bias creeping in. Even the most academic inquiries are skewed simply by the questions researchers choose to ask and answer. There is no escaping it. Even given that bias, there are responsible and reputable journalistic outlets across the political spectrum. Mother Jones and The American Conservative are two examples of properties that, even with an agenda, strive to provide cogent, fact-based and logical reporting.
Not so with the worst of the worst; take a gander at these two:
Conservativebyte.com is one of the top fifty political websites in the country, despite (or because of?) filling its pages with falsity, innuendo, and—of course—the always incendiary headline. Here’s a good example from July 12, 2013, at the height of the George Zimmerman trial:
The headline demonstrates once again that an over-the-top right-wing site loves nothing better than to tie everything (and I mean everything) to a corrupt Obama administration. And they do it in classic style: Apparently “speculation is raging,” and the judge “could have been put under pressure.” In other words, nothing in the way of facts, reportage, or journalism of any kind. Nada, zilch, scratch, zip, diddly, bupkis. Nothing. And yet people read this stuff and believe it because they want to.
Lest those on the left think that the right has the patent on journalistic insanity, I beg to differ. Check out my favorite counter-example, ThinkProgress.org.
Think progress? I think not. Despite the name, the only real thought going into this work is the carefully wrought headlines, aimed, as always, at gut rather than head. And as for progress, that too is missing. In fact, this tawdry excuse for a website seems more interested in taking journalism back a hundred or more years to the days when media moguls first began passing off opinion as news, plastering yellow journalism across the front pages of, for example, New York World and New York Journal, the rival papers headed by Pulitzer and Hearst, respectively.
ThinkProgress recently gave us this:
What a headline, huh? Doesn’t matter that Governor Corbett (PA-R, in case you were wondering) never actually said any such thing. Mr. Volsky, in writing the article, used the connect-the-dots technique to presume that Corbett meant that, and then crafted a headline that is context- and fact-free. It’s only further down in the headline that Volsky attenuates his claim by writing that “Corbett appears to suggest...” But, hey: that headline makes for good copy if you’re trying to rile up the masses.
ThinkProgress, by the way, is one of the top fifteen most visited political sites, ranking higher than both Mother Jones and The American Conservative.
I know what you’re thinking right now.  You’re thinking that one of the two I’ve mentioned is downright evil while the other one is completely different. You’re wanting to call me names and tell me I’m blind and that I need to wake up. Well, I have woken up. When I want to understand what’s happening in our political world, I go elsewhere. In fact, I go to many elsewheres in order to find a balance. I respect Mother Jones and The American Conservative. I fondly review articles at The Huffington Post and Taki’s Magazine. Yes, they have bias: as I’ve said, journalism always does. But they’re not yellow. Their purpose is still news and facts and context and information rather than innuendo and disinformation.
So why, oh why, is this crap so damn popular? My guess is that it goes back to what I think you’re thinking right now. We like the stuff our guys put out there. We believe it because we want to. But try not to.
Update: I'm officially adding Daily Kos to my list of egregious offenders for having run this story with an outrageous headline. What will it take, I wonder, to get people to see that their favorite e-rags are all doused in kerosene and waiting for a light? - MC
There are thousands and thousands of less popular properties; anyone with a computer and the ability to spell “wordpress” can shout about anything. However, I’m referring in this essay to those that have millions or more in visitorship annually.
 Or at least I think I do. I’m assuming, based on experience and review, but I can’t be absolutely sure, so if you need to rip me a new one anyway, fine. Go ahead. I’m used to it by now…. ;-)