There is a lot of talk these days about fake news. Here is the latest from Buzzfeed. It’s all over the place though. Major tech blogs and websites, newspapers, etc. are blasting Facebook for the rise of fake news.
What this is really about is Democrats wrestling with why Hillary Clinton lost. They still can’t bring themselves to admit they nominated a terrible candidate. As they console themselves with California liberals handing Clinton the popular vote in a campaign based not on the popular vote and as they burn James Comey in effigy, they now have turned their attention to fake news. People apparently believed so many lies off their Facebook wall that they rejected Clinton for Trump. Yep! That’s the ticket!
But for the lies, the Robby Mook led campaign custom tailored for twenty and thirty-something Brooklynite hipsters would have surely captured the Rust Belt, which Vox reading hipsters apparently never actually had heard of. It still boggles my mind that Mook and the Clinton team openly ignored Bill Clinton’s advice to focus on the white working class. Ignoring one of the most successful politicians in modern America because he’s the old guy is staggering hubris. But Clinton doesn’t know his beard wax from his Filson from his plaid from his Warby Parker, so how can he possible relate?
It’s gotta be the fake news.
Of course, the truth is that fake news is a problem. I have more than once tweeted out a fake news story only to have to apologize. Over the past year I have written several pieces critical of rightwing news sites that peddle lies for traffic. Other sites push out misinformation or they take truthful stories and magnify untrue motives to explain the story.
What the left ignores is that it also happens on the left. About twenty percent of leftwing news stories on Facebook came from fake news sites. The only reason it has been higher on the right has been because Barack Obama was in the White House. The left, in its sanctimony, assures itself that it has a monopoly on truth, but the reality is that as Donald Trump settles into the White House we are going to see a rise in leftwing fake news sites.
As an aside, I could spend days documenting all the crap, lies, and outright errors pushed on Vox, but the left would not believe it. A Vox writer, you will recall, actually wrote about a bridge between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, that does not exist. And that Vox writer has now been hired by the New York Times, a newspaper that to this day has never apologized for misreporting on then President George H. W. Bush’s experience with a supermarket scanner. The reporter in question was not even present and that reporter got promoted to the senior ranks of the paper. And let’s not forget a week before she lost the Atlantic ran a story entitled “Why Is Hillary Clinton So Widely Loved“. Only later did they change the title to “What Hillary Clinton’s Fans Love About Her.” There is no note in the piece that the title was changed after vast ridicule.
But I digress.
More troubling, we are going to see people on the left defend the fake news sites in the same way we have seen conservatives defend fake news on the right. How do I know? Because we saw it when George W. Bush was President. Leftwing sites pushed conspiracy theories and mainstream leftwing pundits pushed them out as true. Can we forget the story about George W. Bush wearing a wire so Karl Rove could feed him answers during the 2004 Presidential debate?
Fake news is a problem on both sides of the aisle and the party out of the White House tends to have the biggest problem with it. The left is primarily interested in the story now as a way to rationalize their defeat in the November election.
The best way to defeat the fake news sites is with the truth. It will require vigilance on the part of each side to call bulls–t on itself. A leftwing pundit or website calling out the right will do nothing but ratify the lie as truth for a conservative. In the same way, a rightwing pundit or website calling out the left will do nothing but ratify the lie as truth for a liberal.
I used to just be dismissive when conservatives called my radio show or wrote me with something they had read on a fake news site. I’ve had callers call my show wanting to know why I have not talked about a particular story. I used to just be dismissive and agreeable without committing to the story. But over the past year I have made a point of saying when I believe a rightwing site is spreading a falsehood. I have seen the madness that the fake news sites can create on the right and the rage they generate.
These sites get a lot of traffic, a lot of it comes from Facebook, and it poisons the atmosphere.
But I have also seen many true stories get dismissed as false by the left because they do not like or completely disagree with fair interpretations of the events, the presuppositions made in the story, etc. I have also seen the media much more eagerly dismiss right-of-center thought and right-of-center news stories than similarly situated left-of-center news.
In fact, one of the major reasons for the rise in news on the right, true and fake, is because of an ongoing media bias against conservatives and a liberal worldview in the press that convinces them they have a monopoly on truth. The media is overzealous in reporting white guys with Christian backgrounds shooting up places and why we need gun control as a result, but the moment a Floyd Lee Corkins enters the Family Research Center or a gay colleague shoots a reporter and her cameraman on live television or a muslim stabs someone, the media runs as quickly as possible from those facts. That then generates oversaturated coverage among conservatives pointing out how the media shapes and refuses to shape stories. Often that then causes the lie to trickle in to the truth.
I have to oppose any effort by the mainstream media and left to stamp out fake news sites because I know where it will lead. Many legitimate sources will be shut down and censored.
What I hope others on the right will do is join me in being willing to call out bulls–t on our own side. If we do not hold our own side accountable, eventually we will lose the trust of the American people. And I would caution the left that as they head into the wilderness they should not be so self-assured that the majority of the problem is on the right. For now, it is, but that is by virtue of being out of power. Now it is the left’s turn and the left is about to see a rise in misinformation and lies. I hope they will be as vigilant on their own side.