Sharyl Attkisson Explains the Origins of the 2016 'Fake News' Narrative in TedX Talk
In a Tedx Talk at the University of Nevada a couple of weeks ago (watch the video below) investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson revealed the origins of the "fake news" narrative that was aggressively pushed by the liberal media and Democrat politicians during the 2016 election, and how it was later flipped by President Donald Trump.
Attkisson pointed out that "fake news" in the form of tabloid journalism and false media narratives has always been around under different names.
But she noticed that in 2016, there seemed to be a concerted effort by the MSM to focus America's attention on the idea of "fake news" in conservative media. That looked like a propaganda effort to Attkisson, so she did a little digging and traced the new spin to a little non-profit called "First Draft," which, she said, "appears to be the about the first to use 'fake news' in its modern context."
"On September 13, 2016, First Draft announced a partnership to tackle malicious hoaxes and fake news reports," Attkisson explained. "The goal was supposedly to separate wheat from chaff, to prevent unproven conspiracy talk from figuring prominently in internet searches. To relegate today's version of the alien baby story to a special internet oblivion."
She noted that a month later, then-President Obama chimed in.
"He insisted in a speech that he too thought somebody needed to step in and curate information of this wild, wild West media environment," she said, pointing out that "nobody in the public had been clamoring for any such thing."
Yet suddenly the subject of fake news was dominating headlines all over America as if the media had received "its marching orders," she recounted. "Fake news, they insisted, was an imminent threat to American democracy."
Attkisson, who has studied the manipulative moneyed interests behind the media industry, said that "few themes arise in our environment organically." She noted that she always found it helpful to "follow the money."
"What if the whole anti-fake news campaign was an effort on somebody's part to keep us from seeing or believing certain websites and stories by controversializing them or labeling them as fake news?" Attkisson posited.
Digging deeper, she discovered that Google was one of the big donors behind First Draft's "fake news" messaging. Google's parent company, Alphabet, was run by Eric Schmidt, who happened to be a huge Hillary Clinton supporter.
Schmidt "offered himself up as a campaign adviser and became a top multi-million donor to it. His company funded First Draft around the start of the election cycle," Attkisson said. "Not surprisingly, Hillary was soon to jump aboard the anti-fake news train and her surrogate David Brock of Media Matters privately told donors he was the one who convinced Facebook to join the effort."
Attkisson declared that "the whole thing smacked of the roll-out of a propaganda campaign." Attkisson added, "But something happened that nobody expected. The anti-fake news campaign backfired. Each time advocates cried fake news, Donald Trump called them 'fake news' until he'd co-opted the term so completely that even those who [were] originally promoting it started running from it -- including the Washington Post," which she noted later backed away from using the term.
Attkisson called Trump's accomplishment a "hostile takeover" of the term and cautioned people to always be aware of "powerful interests might be trying to manipulate" their opinions.
She described two warning signs to look out for.
- When the media tries to shape or censor facts and opinions rather than report them.
- When so many in the media are reporting the same stories, promulgating the same narratives, relying on the same sources -- even using the same phrases.
Attkisson pointed out that there's an infinite number of ways to report stories, so "when everybody's on the same page, it might the result of an organized campaign."
She warned the audience about the latest effort to quell speech through something called "media literacy," where liberal elites tell everyone else whom they should trust. She said, "Media literacy advocates are busy trying to get state laws passed to require that their version of media literacy be taught in public schools."
What's more, they're developing websites and partnering with universities. She warned that these people have their own agendas and want to tell you what to believe.
"When interests are working this hard to shape your opinion, their true goal might just be to add another layer between you and the truth," Attkisson concluded.
Correction: An earlier version of this post indicated that Eric Schmidt currently runs Alphabet. He, in fact, stepped down from his role as executive chairman of Alphabet in December 2017.