A News Quiz: Real or Fake?
By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers
August 14, 2007
Satire is getting harder and harder to recognize. Just think how many
times lately you've come across a news story and said to yourself: "That
couldn't be true; it must be a joke." The real news too often is just as
scarily ridiculous as the faux news Jon Stewart "reports" on The Daily
With that in mind, and to demonstrate the point, I've put together a
bunch of short news items. See if you can identify which ones are made
up and which are real. (Answers below.)
1. Election officials from around the U.S., citing the money that could
be saved and bowing to the desire of more and more states to be the
first in the nation to get voters to the polls, have ruled that the
first primary for 2112 will take place in all 50 states during the 2008
"It was easy to see which way the 'we're-first' primary wind was
blowing," said a statement from the Association of Secretaries of State,
"so it seemed to make more sense to combine the two elections, and save
the voters the torture of having to go through four years of non-stop
campaigning by taking care of the situation now. Of course, we do
realize that by taking this step, the campaign for 2116 most likely will
begin in November 2008."
2. Florida State Representative Bob Allen (Republican), who is white,
explained his arrest for solicitation for sex by saying he was so
frightened by all the black males in and around the men's room in a
Titusville park that he thought the best course of action for his
continued survival was to offer the black guy whose stall he entered $20
for a blow-job.
3. By a vote of 400 to 35, Congress has created an independent,
bipartisan Truth & Reconciliation Commission with regard to the Iraq
War. According to the bill, Administration officials will be granted
amnesty for their crimes as long as they provide a complete and honest
recitation of their part in getting the United States into the war and
their knowledge and role during the occupation. Those who choose not to
appear, or who perjure themselves before the Commission, could be tried
before criminal and international war crimes courts. Agreeing to
co-chair the Commission are former South African leaders President
Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu.
DO YOU FEEL A DRAFT?
4. The Bush Administration, having seen how incensed the political
opposition was during the Vietnam War when there was a military draft,
has stayed far away from even considering such a call-up. However, the
military is stretched thin in Afghanistan and Iraq, the troops are
exhausted by their multiple deployments, recruitment is way down, and
this while the Administration is planning for an upcoming attack on
Iran. So, the draft, once anathema to the CheneyBush Administration, is
now being trial-ballooned. The so-called war czar, Army Lt. General
Douglas Lute, said that the U.S. has to meet "the demands of the
nation's security by one means or another," and therefore, "I think it
makes sense to certainly consider it."
5. Despite his having commuted the prison sentence for Cheney's
then-chief of staff Scooter Libby, convicted by a jury of perjury and
obstruction of justice in the Plamegate case, Bush said Libby received
"severe punishment" and "paid a high price" for his crime by being named
a felon. Many far-right conservatives are in full agreement that there
must be accountability for wrongdoers, and that, even with the
commutation, Libby is receiving "harsh punishment" by his having been
adjudged guilty. At the same time, they are now calling for Bush to
nullify Libby's conviction with a full pardon.
6. White House political advisor Karl Rove, seemingly confident that he
can remain in power through the end of Bush's term (even as he exits his
White House office), yesterday proudly conceded that he was personally
involved in the firing or forced resignations of more than a dozen U.S.
Attorneys around the country. He told a forum at the American Enterprise
Institute: "The President has the legal authority to hire and fire these
attorneys at will -- they are political appointees, after all -- and I
was glad to help him in this process. The President needs U.S. Attorneys
he has faith in and who will follow his guidance in terms of the issues.
We broke no laws in firing those not fully supportive of the President
and in installing new attorneys we knew we could count on. If the
Democrats want to continue to flog this dead horse for partisan
purposes, that's their business. But we will not cooperate."
7. The Bush Administration was able to slide out from under the terms of
the Geneva Conventions protecting prisoners of war by not calling those
it detained "prisoners of war." Instead, the Administration invented the
term "enemy combatants." When "enemy combatant" was ruled
unconstitutionally vague by the Supreme Court, the Bush Administration
renamed the detainees "undocumented fighters." Experts expect that the
government will be able to do what it wants with these prisoners until
all the "undocumented-fighter" court cases have been adjudicated, which
could be five to seven years.
8. Troops on the ground in Iraq, as with their earlier counterparts in
the Vietnam War, say they are frightened all the time and do not always
know how to recognize the "friendlies" from the "bad guys." Two Marines
who took part in a slaughter of two dozen civilians standing by a car in
Haditha in 2005 were exonerated by the commanding general in the case,
who said while "we exercise discipline and restraint to protect the
innocent on the battlefield," he was "sympathetic" to the challenges
Marines face on the ground in Iraq, noting that a roadside bomb had
taken out one of their buddies minutes before the Marines massacred the
civilians standing by their car.
A REPUBLICAN AND HOUSE PAGES
9. Breaking News! It was revealed today that Republican Rep. Hank
Button, who took over from disgraced Republican Rep. Mark Foley as
Chairman of the Page Program in the House, and who was a Boy Scout
leader who had taken scores of young boys into the woods on camping
expeditions, has not been accused of child sexual abuse, marital
infidelity, messing around with hookers, or any other moral failing.
More as this odd story doesn't develop.
10. Representative Nancy Pelosi, who even before her election as Speaker
of the House said the issue of impeachment was "off the table," recently
told constituents that if she weren't Speaker she'd probably be moving
for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney.
11. Former Surgeon General Richard Carbona complained that his Bush
Administration superiors ordered him to mention Bush three times per
page when issuing his reports to the press.
12. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, fresh from Iraq where he helped
that country's jurists and lawyers come up with an honest and democratic
legal system, received word that he has a new job waiting for him after
he leaves the Bush Administration. He was appointed to the seat of
Murdoch Professor of Legal Ethics at Pepperdine University in
California, to take effect starting in February of 2009.
MUSLIMS AND HINDUS
13. Conservative Republican Congressman Bill Sali (Idaho) believes
America's founding fathers would not have wanted a Muslim elected to
Congress [Keith Ellison, Minnesota] nor approved of the Hindu priest who
recently delivered the daily prayer in the U.S. Senate. "Those are
changes -- and they are not what was envisioned by the Founding
Fathers," asserted Sali, who said the only way the U.S. can continue to
survive is under the "protective hand of God." ... When a Hindu prayer
is offered, he said, "that's a different god" and it "creates problems
for the longevity of this country."
14. Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, a member of the House Homeland
Security Committee, asked the Pentagon for permission to read a copy of
its Continuity of Government plan, to be put into motion in the event of
a catastrophic terrorist attack. His request was denied by the White
House, which cited the classified nature of "sensitive" material.
DeFazio had asked to see the documents so that he could alleviate the
fears of conspiracy-minded constituents; now DeFazio says "maybe the
people who think there's a conspiracy out there are right."
In a similar vein: Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, who sits on the
Armed Services Committee, asked to see a copy of the Pentagon's
provisional plan for leaving Iraq, to learn how the troops would be
protected if and when a withdrawal began; the request was denied.
According to Eric Edelman, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, asking
to see the document "reinforces enemy propaganda."
15. Pro-surge pundits, generals and key Administration officials, begged
American citizens to give the surge in Iraq a chance to succeed before
criticizing it. President Bush said in February of 2007 that we all
should know within six months whether or not the escalation was working.
When it wasn't succeeding six months later, Bush and Gen. Petraeus said
the surge hadn't really kicked in for real until just a few weeks ago,
and Americans will have a better idea how things are going later this
year or maybe in the Spring of 2008. They advised politicians, pundits
and the American people to hold their comments until then.
"I WAS YOUNGER THEN"
16. U.S. Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, who was a client of various
houses of prostitution in the nation's capital and back home in
Louisiana, apologized in a press conference (attended by his wife) for
his wayward moral behavior "in my past." He also alluded to other
shameful incidents "in my past." All his transgressions, he maintained,
with perfect logic, happened "in my past," the implication being that
they occurred long ago and were perhaps youthful indiscretions. Other
miscreants have used similar logic with the expression "when I was
younger," even when their misdeeds occurred when they were in their 40s
or 50s or more.
17. The Surgeon General has ordered extensive neurological testing of
Bush, Cheney, Gonzales, Rove and a host of their aides. "We suspect
early onset of Alzheimer's," Dr. Mary Andrew said, "based on their
increasing admission that their short-term memory is failing. There
appears to be a communicable epidemic of such memory loss in the Bush
Administration, perhaps because of the heavy use of aluminum pots and
pans in the White House kitchen." Dr. Andrew based her finding on recent
appearances by Administration officials before various Congressional
committees, where their in-person testimony or written remarks were
replete with hundreds of iterations such as: "I don't remember," "I
don't recall," "I have no memory of that."
"Surely," Dr. Andrew said, "high government officials such as the
President, Vice President, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General and
Senior Political Advisor have records and logs that indicate the date on
which such-and-such happened and who they met with. If their memories
are fading, they should check those records and answer the questions."
(Late bulletin: Dr. Andrew was summarily fired by Bush after these
remarks were typed into emails on her computer but before she had pushed
the Send button.)
ANSWERS: The first and last answers, of course, were
fabricated, along with 3, 6, 9, 12 and the final half of 7. All the rest
are true. If you got more than eight answers correct, you're obviously
up on your real news and fake news. As a thank you for taking this test,
you can now check out a copy of
one-finger-salute to the nation.
Copyright 2007 by Bernard Weiner
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught
government & international relations at universities in California and
Washington, worked as a writer/editor at the San Francisco Chronicle for two
decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org).
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