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How to Know When the Narrative Is False

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

I know what you’re thinking: This should be the world’s shortest column, right? If it comes from the “mainstream,” “legacy,” or “corporate” media—whichever term you prefer—it’s probably false. Perhaps, but there’s actually a little more to it than that. You can know something is false, but offering a cogent rebuttal for the less enlightened is another matter.  


First of all, the fact that we’re even talking about “narrative,” not “news” —much less “truth” or “facts”— should be instructive to anyone interested in truth and facts. Yet “narrative” has become the leftist media’s favored descriptor, one they once used only among themselves but now openly flaunt, as if the rest of us can’t tell the difference. Sadly, too many can’t—which is why those of us who can must constantly make our case. 

No doubt intelligent Townhall readers know exactly what a narrative is: a story that might be somewhat rooted in reality but might also be completely made up—or anywhere in between. Unfortunately, most of the narratives advanced by today’s leftist propaganda artists (my preferred term) are based only loosely on facts, and those are often distorted.  

One obvious example is the recent police shooting of teenager Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus, OH as she was attempting to stab a young woman. It was initially spun by the media and blue-check Twitter as “yet another senseless murder” of an “unarmed Black person”—until the body cam footage was released, showing unequivocally that Ma’Khia was indeed armed with a large knife, that she was indeed on the very verge of committing murder, and that the officer was not only justified in taking her out but positively heroic, saving an innocent life.  

For that matter, the entire narrative of police “genocide” against Black people is just that—a made-up story. A handful of isolated incidents intentionally blown out of proportion by the leftists in government and media who seek to divide us. But that is another column, one that has actually already been written by the inimitable Heather McDonald. (In fact, she’s written several such columns, and I recommend all of them.) 


Another example is the narrative surrounding COVID-19—or should I say the multiple, interlocking narratives. The most lethal disease since the bubonic plague swept through Europe in the Middle Ages, COVID is literally killing people in the streets while bodies stack up in hospitals and school children infect each other on playgrounds, like some real-life version of the cooties game. The only way to protect yourself is to stay home forever and wear a piece of porous cloth over your face, even while on a Zoom call.  

Only none of that is true. Not a word of it. Yet how many people are utterly convinced, having swallowed hook, line, and sinker the media/government narrative? The answer, of course, is an alarmingly large number. So many that we’re forced to wonder if our nation can survive this plague—not COVID, but the plague of lies, idiocy, and gullibility that is annihilating our freedoms and destroying our republic.  

You, of course, as a Townhall reader, are not stupid and gullible. Nevertheless, the professional narrative-spinners are quite adept at what they do, and they are backed by the power of government and the far-reaching media, including social media. With all those forces arrayed against you, how can you know when the narrative is false—and more importantly, how can you demonstrate that to others? Fortunately, for the wary and astute, there are always clear give-aways:  


Vagueness. The first indication that an allegedly factual narrative might be mostly fiction is when the information presented is vague and imprecise. It lacks specificity, relying on hedge words like “might” and “could.” Instead of providing hard numbers, it refers to “many” and “some.” That may be acceptable in an op/ed piece, but in a supposed news story, such vagueness indicates that it really isn’t news. 

Contradictions. Another sign is when the spinners contradict themselves. A narrative is typically constructed over time, using multiple, similar stories ostensibly conveying the same information and thereby reinforcing each other. 

But when this week’s story states something different from last week’s, without the spinners acknowledging the inconsistency— apparently hoping you won’t notice — that means they’re advancing a narrative, not giving you information. (Remember that, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, this was precisely Winston Smith’s job.) 

Moving goalposts. Yet another common tactic of the narrative-spinners is to change the terminology mid-stream, essentially equating two things that aren’t at all equal while once again hoping you won’t notice. An example would be coronavirus “deaths” versus “cases.” For the first few months, the mortality rate was not only exaggerated but constantly promoted, in an attempt to persuade us that contracting the virus is a certain death sentence. But since mortality rates have fallen precipitously, all we’ve heard about are “cases.” 


And how about “from” versus “with” — as in deaths FROM coronavirus as opposed to death WITH coronavirus? To this day, we still don’t know how many people actually died due to contracting the virus as opposed to merely testing positive while expiring from other causes. But we do know it is a significantly smaller number than the supposed death-toll we’re being sold. 

Data manipulation. Speaking of numbers, narrative-spinners are also masters at manipulating data to make something look worse (or better, but mostly worse) than it really is. For example, how many people to this day think Florida is doing worse at battling the pandemic than New York, due to the Sunshine State’s decision to open up their economy and eschew mask mandates? Those people might be surprised to learn that in New York, the death rate per 100,000 is 270, as opposed to Florida’s 166—despite the latter state’s older population. Then again, most of them would probably ignore or deny the evidence anyway, since it doesn’t comport with the narrative in which they are wholly invested. 

Cui bono? Finally, when evaluating the truthfulness of any narrative, it’s vital to ask yourself “Cui bono?” or “Who stands to benefit?” If the answer is “the narrative-spinners,” that’s a good sign they might not be honest brokers. So what do the Trump-hating narrative-spinners in the media and the Deep State stand to gain from casting COVID-19 as the Back Death reborn, scaring millions into staying home, and convincing us the only way to save the country is to give up all our freedoms? Oh, I don’t know. But it just might have something to do with a Joe Biden puppet presidency, the advancement of global socialism, and the Great Reset


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