Just What Is “Fake News”?

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By Phil Erwin

President Trump is making frequent use of a catch phrase that perfectly captures his (arguably very justified) disgust at the way the nation’s news media have treated him.

“Fake News” could be an indictment of a specific story, suggesting inaccuracy, incompleteness or bias being used to deliberately conjure up a belief in untruth. But Trump has extended the meaning of that phrase to signal that entire media outlets are routinely delivering the public non-truthful “news.”

Jim Acosta, WikiPicky

In a recent press conference, the President called on CNN reporter Jim Acosta: “You’re Fake News, but go ahead…” He wasn’t calling only Acosta a news charlatan – he was saying that CNN itself is a news charlatan.

Well, the media at various times during the campaign called him a “clown,” a “buffoon,” and worse. Trump is returning the favor – calling them, in essence, habitual “news fakers” – a clever way to call them “liars” without using an impolite and overused insult. Trump knows that when insults are overused, something is lost in the repetition. Calling the Press “liars” has no more impact than calling politicians “liars.” But calling the Press “Fake News” has punch, in part because it’s an oxymoron – a phrase with built-in hypocrisy. (How can something be “real news” if it’s fake?)

And it’s pretty obvious that Trump’s hook is sinking in; he has tapped another grass-roots nerve. Polls show the general public considers the media to be even less trustworthy than Congress! But it’s a rather non-specific term, so we might reasonably ask: Exactly what does “Fake News” mean?

We can identify four different types of “news” items which could reasonably be termed “fake”:

  1. Stories made up out of “whole cloth” which have just enough connection to reality to make them plausible, but which deliver completely false “information.” This is incredibly easy to do via the Internet, with nothing more than a computer and the brass cojones to spew lies into the world’s news thoroughfares. Last year, someone “reported” that the Pope had endorsed Hillary. Never mind that the Pope is not a U.S. citizen (so his opinion shouldn’t matter,) and that many of Hillary’s supporters were either not religious, or not Catholic. Somebody thought it would help Hillary, and Lo! the “Fake News” media all picked the story up and blindly ran with it. Did they call the Vatican to check it out? Nope. And that makes those outlets “Fake News.” Realjournalists don’t behave that way. More recently, Press Secretary Sean Spicer identified stories in the Washington Post that were completely false, and informed the Post of the errors. Rather than issuing retractions, the Post released: Update! The White House denies… to imply the Administration was hiding something, rather than admitting to having published untruths in the first place.

  2. Stories grounded in truth, but carefully framed to deliver a specific slant or perspective. This is what we now encounter whenever we read most newspapers, or watch (for a glaring example) MSNBC. The New York Times is particularly adept at slanting the meaning of an article with a carefully-crafted title. If you understand the inherent bias, you can sometimes pick out the meager kernels of truth; but if you’re unaware of the bias (or you share it,) you will absorb the story as the Whole Truth, and be convinced that competing views are inherently wrong.

  3. Stories that omit key details because those details conflict with the publisher’s inherent bias. Trump pointed out this practice during his address at CPAC, noting that the “Fake News” outlets were all reporting that he had called the “News” an “enemy of the American People.” He had actually called the Fake News a public enemy; they deliberately left out the word “Fake” to create the impression that Trump was calling the Press as a whole a public enemy – a fundamentally non-American assertion. (No less a personage than Senator McCain bought into this subterfuge.) But calling “Fake News” an “enemy of the People” is in fact wholly consistent with American values. “Fake News” deliberately obscures the truth; the Founders expected the Press to be protectors of the truth, which is why they accorded the Press explicit Constitutional protection.

  4. Stories that are deliberately not covered, because doing so would challenge the bias of the media outlet. The murders of American citizens by undocumented “immigrants” (invaders) released onto U.S. streets (often by “sanctuary cities”) is a perfect example. There have been well over a hundred such deplorable killings in recent years; try to find even one reported correctly in the “mainstream” media.

At CPAC, White House adviser Steve Bannon said the “corporatist, globalist media” are diametrically opposed to Trump’s economic nationalist agenda. What he meant (in part) was that the power structures of media corporations buy into the Liberal-Progressive “open borders” agenda, so their publications strenuously support this inherent bias (“Immigration good! = Wall bad! = Trump racist!”) That renders those news outlets one-sided political players, not trustworthy political observers. In effect, they are not “Press” – they are actually “Political Action Committees.”

Which is precisely what Trump called them during the campaign.

Once again, Trump got it right.

Phil Erwin is an author, IT administrator and registered Independent living in Newbury Park. He would like to support some Democrat ideals, but he has a visceral hatred for Lies and Damn Lies (and is highly suspicious of Statistics.) That pretty much eliminates supporting most Democrats, and a bunch of Republicans to boot.


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