Who’s ready for another outrage cycle over fake news?
On Sunday, a gunman walked into a Washington D.C. pizzeria at the center of a conspiracy theory speculating it is the headquarters of a child sex slave ring involving prominent Democrats. The man, fortunately, did not hurt anyone and surrendered to police after learning there were no tunnels holding child sex slaves.
The bizarre affair, which is likely going to result in jail time for the culprit, became the atrocity of the century in the hands of our objective, “fake news” hating press.
“Fake News Purveyors and Trump’s Conspiracy Theorists Have Real World Consequences” declared The Daily Beast’s report on the matter, complete with the opening sentence: “Americans just got a glimpse of what it will mean to have a Conspiracy Theorist-In-Chief.”
In spite of the fact that Trump has never even brought up or alluded to #pizzagate, Trump gets blamed for the conspiracy theory because some of his fans promoted it, including Michael Flynn’s son — the closest link pizzagate has to The Donald’s campaign.
The Washington Post editorial board specifically blamed the president-elect in its Tuesday proclamation, “Trump has made a safe zone for fact-free discourse, and ‘pizzagate’ proves it.”
Trump’s apparent love for conspiracy theories “has normalized the bogus and dissolved the opprobrium that traditionally attached to public figures who traded in falsehoods,” according to The Post’s editorial board.
All this concern over fake news and conspiracy theories leads to the one stark conclusion: social media must censor outlets and content other journalists deem to be erroneous.
“The social media sites are for profit enterprises,” Politico’s Glenn Thrush explained on MSNBC Monday. “You’ve got Reddit, you’ve got Facebook, and you have Twitter. Explain to me why, is there a constitutional right to put potentially inflammatory incitements of violence on these sites? Why aren’t Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, and Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook coming up with a more serious strategy for either labeling or banning groups that knowingly push false and hateful contents on their sites?” (RELATED: Politico Reporter Gets Caught AGAIN Sending A Story To A Clinton Staffer For Approval)
Whether the Comet Ping Pong incident will be serve as the impetus for Facebook and Twitter to eradicate the amorphous phenomenon of “fake news” (if that’s even possible) remains to be seen. What is clear is that left-leaning journalists and commentators are more sure than ever that fake news was an important factor in Trump winning the election.
This seems a curious conclusion to draw with all of the events of the campaign and the various social trends driving the election. Additionally, it seems entirely ridiculous on the part of traditional media to blame minor Facebook pages and a few anonymous Twitter accounts for brainwashing undecided voters to vote Trump when mainstream outlets like CNN still reach far more Americans.
The theory goes that if blue-collar Pennsylvanians and Michiganders had just read The New York Times’ great reporting on the election, they would know the truth and would have heroically cast their ballots for the first woman president. But evil forces manipulated these simple folk and turned them into rabid Trumpkins — hellbent on expelling noble Muslims from the U.S. and tweeting out mean things to courageous journalists.
With all the concern about fake news, you would think conspiracy theories were never heard of prior to social media and major news outlets never published false content. In order to have a healthy democracy, we need to leave journalism to a handful of trusted outlets — such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. Alternative media needs to be nudged out of the way so we don’t elect another Trump and everyone can read more quality content, like The Washington Post’s recent op-ed “Trump’s election stole my desire to look for a partner.”
The current obsession over “fake news” ignores the complicity of major outlets like The Times and The Post in perpetuating erroneous reporting that convinced Americans to support the Iraq war, spurred a witch hunt against three innocent Duke lacrosse players, and spread a lie that Michael Brown had his hands up when he was shot by a Ferguson police officer.
Even more recently, the reporting that Trump had virtually no chance of winning the presidency was a common theme in the pages of The New York Times and other, totally not-fake news outlets, as pointed out by the Washington Free Beacon’s Bill McMorris.
The Times at least admitted right after the election’s aftermath it messed up and that it needed to reconsider how it covered the election. But that very short period of accepting blame ended as soon as the fake news straw man emerged for journalists to lash their anger upon.
And it’s in their interest to not accept blame for their own failures in reporting and opinion.
One of the core themes of the election was a revolt against elites. Elites were roughly defined as upper-middle to upper class individuals living in ritzy urban areas disconnected from Middle America. They work in white-shoe law firms, Fortune 500 corporations, academia, government, think tanks and, of course, the media.
Millions of Americans who gravitated to Trump, and to Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, rejected the wisdom of this elite. Populism proved to be more appealing than what the elites were offering, and millions of Americans felt those at the top of this country’s social structure were failing everyone else.
Moreover, the total disconnect between the elite and much of America was revealed in how off all the electoral projections were and the dripping disdain shown for Trump supporters everyday on Twitter by snarky journalists.
Admitting failure for media elites would undermine the power and influence they have amassed in our society. So if they would like to keep hold of that power, it’s better to cast blame on the suddenly pervasive fake news phenomenon for journalism’s problems.
The war on fake news is a thinly-veiled attempt to restore power to the old media gatekeepers and bar the way for alternative media — even when prestige outlets are starting to eschew the appearance of objectivity and embrace the bias of their newer counterparts.
It doesn’t appear likely Facebook and Twitter can eradicate everything considered fake news. Especially when aggrieved journalists can’t offer a clear definition of what it constitutes and recklessly include legitimate news sites as purveyors of falsehoods because of their politics. (RELATED: Journalists Struggle To Define ‘Fake News’ Even As They Declare War On It)
But those facts are not likely to dampen the enthusiasm for the war on fake news on the part of journalists, who seem dedicated to proving to America they are a class beholden only to their fellow urban elites — and no one else.