Remember a little while back, when you started hearing the term “fake news” a lot? It was around the time of the 2016 election. Specifically, it was right after the election. There were a lot of reasons for the Democrats’ loss, we were told. None of those reasons had anything to do with voters making personal decisions, or Hillary being an awful candidate, or anything silly like that. No, one of the biggest reasons, at least for a while, was “fake news.”
“Fake news” is also what Norm Macdonald used to call what he did on Weekend Update. But I’m still bummed that he got fired, so let’s not talk about that.
Anyway, “fake news” is over now. That term is no longer in favor. Margaret Sullivan at the Washington Post has your instructions:
Fake news has a real meaning — deliberately constructed lies, in the form of news articles, meant to mislead the public. For example: The one falsely claiming that Pope Francis had endorsed Donald Trump, or the one alleging without basis that Hillary Clinton would be indicted just before the election…
Faster than you could say “Pizzagate,” the label has been co-opted to mean any number of completely different things: Liberal claptrap. Or opinion from left-of-center. Or simply anything in the realm of news that the observer doesn’t like to hear…
Let’s get out the hook and pull that baby off stage. Yes: Simply stop using it.
Instead, call a lie a lie. Call a hoax a hoax. Call a conspiracy theory by its rightful name. After all, “fake news” is an imprecise expression to begin with.
Also, the Russians are hacking our power grid.
Sullivan’s point is that “fake news” sites — the ones where the now-infamous Macedonian teens make up Weekly World News-type stories for clicks — should not be confused with, ahem, legitimate news sources that make mistakes. Fair enough.
The problem is, legitimate news sources have been making the same kinds of mistakes my entire life. And those mistakes tend to land on one side of the aisle.
Oh, you’ve uncovered some bombshell memos that will keep George W. Bush from getting reelected? Dan Rather will run ’em as fact and spend the next decade insisting they’re real. A Kenyan preacher visited Sarah Palin’s church one time? We’ll turn that into Caribou Barbie Consorts with Witch Doctor. Hell, let’s just go ahead and accuse Mitt Romney of giving a woman cancer because he loves money so much. That’s real news.
Note to my social superiors in the media: It’s a bit late to start complaining about the misapplication of the term “fake news.” It’s not the deplorables’ fault that so much of your product is indistinguishable from the crap cranked out by Dmitri in Veles. Teabaggers and Trumpkins and Teutons aren’t the ones who’ve degraded the news profession so badly that Donald Trump can run against you and win.
You did this. You worked hard at it. And when it didn’t work, when people started talking back, you just turned up the volume to drown them out.
These are the fruits of your labors, newscreeps. Eat up.
P.S. More fake news: WaPo’s coverage of post-election “hate crimes.”