In the run-up to the election, the MSM suddenly discovered something it dubbed “fake news” — stuff from prank sites that nobody is his right mind would ever believe — and then used the term to smear right-leaning websites that published stories from points of view that make the Left uncomfortable. Well, that was then and this is now:
When Jim DeMint wanted to dis a TV interviewer’s suggestion that Obamacare has merits as well as flaws, the former senator and tea partyer used a handy putdown: “You can put all that under the category of fake news.”
When conspiracy theorist Alex Jones wanted to deny a CNN report that Ivanka Trump would take over the East Wing offices traditionally occupied by the first lady, he used the same label.
And when a writer for an arch-conservative website needed a putdown for ABC’s chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl, he reached for the obvious: “fake-news propagandist.”
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.
But though the term hasn’t been around long, its meaning already is lost. 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.
Funny how when the shoe is on the other foot it doesn’t fit quite so well, isn’t it? As part of its War on Trump, the establishment media consistently conflates two only superficially related, but contextually quite different or actually unrelated things — “Russian hacking” and “changed the vote for Trump” is a good example. But conservatives are wise to their game, and so they gave “fake news” right back to them with both barrels. Of course, it’s an easy case to make when you have a former purveyor of fabulism like Dan Rather now teaching journalism ethics.
So, naturally, the Post writer blames the current non-utility of the “fake news” slam on… the Right:
“The speed with which the term became polarized and in fact a rhetorical weapon illustrates how efficient the conservative media machine has become,” said George Washington University professor Nikki Usher.
As Jeremy Peters wrote in the New York Times: “Conservative cable and radio personalities, top Republicans and even Mr. Trump himself . . . have appropriated the term and turned it against any news they see as hostile to their agenda.”
So, here’s a modest proposal for the truth-based community. 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.
Glenn Kessler, who writes The Post’s Fact Checker, put it this way: “People seem to confuse reporting mistakes by established news organizations with obviously fraudulent news produced by Macedonian teenagers.” Kessler noted that he’s often asked by readers to investigate “fake news” that is nothing more than a correctable error in legitimate journalism.
Got the distinction now? But if you sometimes can’t tell the difference between The Onion and the Washington Post, you’re not alone. The Deracinated Left is now approaching peak meltdown, which will take place precisely at noon on Jan. 20. Enjoy.