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Some “new” lessons as the “new” year stumbles in. Yay.

I talked about the late journalist Alan Prince previously. One of Alan’s tributes that I inherited, now hanging in my office, is a plaque that reads “Life unexamined is life not worth living,” bestowed on him by the future journalists in one of his classes at the University of Miami.


The etched bronze may be a misquote or a paraphrase. In a time of fake and/or grossly abbreviated news, I’m not sure how to tell the difference or even whether it’s important that I do. The adage is attributed to Socrates, so something may have been lost in the translation from Greek to Wikipedian. Although the Macedonian guys who spawned a lot of fake news, according to “real” news sources, apparently did not have a translation problem in click-baiting many U.S. citizens who speak fluent Trumpian.

The “official” quote is:

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” —Socrates, as recorded in Plato’s Apology

Talk about high aspirations: Socrates supposedly uttered the phrase at his trial after choosing death over exile; the modern interpretation, therefore, is that death is the noble choice in the face of alternatives.

Really? Can’t I continue to conduct a self-examination for an as-yet-undetermined period of time prior to death? Say, a few years? If I promise to self-examine closely almost every day? I mean, the plaque wasn’t even mine; it was Uncle Alan’s.

As has happened over and over again year after year, the so-called “new” year offers a time for a so-called “new” self-examination prior to exile and, hopefully, many new years prior to death. As professionals who presumably examine others for a living, journalists presumably are in a better position than most to examine themselves. It all sounds very exhausting, although perhaps it’s less exhausting to practice fake journalism than real journalism.


But is fake news any easier to write than real news? Please write some real news and let me know.

As 2016 wound to a miserable close, I found myself chasing something called Pizzagate down a well-deserved rabbit hole. I was put on the trail by a YouTube channel named Reality Calls, which as near as I can determine is also the last name of its founding YouTuber, Tara. That’s right: Tara Reality Calls—again, as near as I can determine. YouTube recently suspended Reality Calls, according to a notice Tara posted at her website.

Tara’s notice had the additional benefit of providing me with evidence that her channel and her mission were extravagantly racist. Which doesn’t disqualify the evidence she presented regarding Pizzagate, but does little to bolster it, either. Regardless, it provides an opportunity for me to bow out of that particular path of citizen journalism in establishing the story.


Tara Reality Calls: Not Brittany, but banned from YouTube.

Meanwhile, other lines of inquiry had led me to one Brittany Pettibone, who, like Tara, was advocating a racially charged, alt-right agenda in between revelations about Pizzagate. Confusingly, Brittany also looked enough like Tara to make me think at one point that they were one and the same. If you’ve ever rued Judith Miller’s shortcomings in the lead-up to the Iraq War in 2003, please know that it can be difficult even to separate one person from another, let alone confirm the presence of WMDs in a Middle Eastern dictatorship. The two brunettes—Tara and Brittany—even showed up in the same Hagmann Report podcast:

Which you’d think would make it easier to tell them apart. Hey, at least I didn’t start a war.


Brittany Pettibone: Not her sister, Nicole, and not Tara Reality Calls, either. But like Tara, an alt-right darling also enamored of Pizzagate.

So I’m inserting a photo of Brittany nearby, and tell me I’m crazy. I mean, if you never heard either of them talk (Tara happens to have a British accent and Brittany doesn’t, although accents can be faked—witness Hugh Laurie in House). And I hadn’t heard their voices until such time, in the course of my research, I did.

Journalism is really hard.

And all this going on as 2016 was winding to a close, fake news almost causing a nuclear war, and the Russians hacking our election. Real journalists, of course, are forcing me to use the words “Russian” and “hacking” and “election” in close proximity, preferably the same sentence. Or more preferably, the same headline. Although some real journalists now are telling me to resist that temptation.

Fortunately, President-elect Trump has promised to reveal important new information about the “Russian” “hacking” of our “election” in the next day or two. I’m betting that Steve Bannon has tipped him off on something. A great way to start the new year!

So, I’ve learned a tough new lesson from the hard last year, and it promises to leave me hanging on limply to any hope that anything new and important will come of the Pizzagate story. Although I think the Constitution allows me to believe that there’s something to it. I’m hoping that Trump confirms that in the near future.

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