News, Fake News, Very Fake News: A Primer

The motor of fake news is not inaccuracy. It's malice.

I had an insight into this important truth a couple weeks back when I was at a swank New York club for an evening event. The establishment in question is overwhelmingly conventional, i.e., leftish in that smug "We're-all-beautiful-people-who-are-you?" sort of way that publications like The New Yorker and the New York Times, along with such media outlets as CNN and MSNBC, exude like the cloying aroma of paperwhites.

I ran into an acquaintance, a female journalist I hadn't seen in years. I knew that her politics were echt conventional in the above sense, but I had also found her an amusing and lively person. We were chatting with a couple of other people about this and that when someone she knew from the Times joined in. I then overheard him explain to her that she had to be careful about what she posted on Facebook, Twitter, etc., because anything too explicitly anti-Trump could be used against her when that glorious day came and "they" -- the conventional fraternity of groupthink scribblers -- finally took down that horrible, despicable man.

"We've got dozens of people working on it all the time," he explained, adding that it was only a matter of time before they got the goods on Trump and destroyed him.

There in a nutshell, I thought, is the existential imperative that has been so gloriously productive of fake news and its exacerbated allotrope, first delineated by Donald Trump in his famous media-bashing presser on February 16, "very fake news."

News is the reporting of facts. Someone says "this happened on such-and-such a day in such-and-such a way," and independent, publicly available sources confirm that, yes, what was alleged happened at just that time and in just that fashion.

Fake news insinuates a skein of innuendo and a boatload of shared presumption floating on an ocean of fantastic desire into the mix. Repetition, like Rumor in the Iliad, whips this unstable congeries into an intoxicating frenzy:

" Trump's transition is in chaos, pass it on."

"Trump is a puppet of Putin, pass it on."

"Trump is Steve Bannon's puppet, pass it on."

"Trump, like Steve Bannon, is a white supremacist/racist/homophobic/woman-hating xenophobe, really pass that one along."

Every one of these fantasies is not only untrue, but ostentatiously, extravagantly untrue. Liberals of sound mind understand this.

Thus the British journalist Piers Morgan, than whom a more reliably left-liberal figure is hard to imagine, noted to Tucker Carlson that the Left's hatred of Donald Trump has blinded them to reality. Godwin's law, which states that the longer an online exchange proceeds, the more likely it is that Adolf Hitler will be dragged into the conversation, has been exacerbated in the case of Trump. It is true that every Republican since at least Ronald Reagan has been compared to Hitler, but in the case of Trump the comparisons have taken on an especially surreal tone. This, too, is something that Piers Morgan, in another interview with Tucker Carlson, noted with a sense of exasperated amazement.