By Dave Andrusko
The Establishment Media, which lost much of its hegemony during the 2016 presidential campaign, is rethinking (or refashioning) one of the ploys it trotted out to try to regain some of the ground it has lost: “fake news.”
To be clear, everyone understands there really are stories that qualify as “fake.” But that’s not what the likes of Margaret Sullivan, media columnist for the Washington Post, meant the last six months as they mercilessly bashed anyone who questioned the “narrative” established by the Post and the New York Times and the usual suspects.
So I read with amusement Sullivan’s latest illogical self-congratulatory tirade–“It’s time to retire the tainted term ‘fake news’”–in the Post’s “Style” section where such gobbledygook rightly lands.
Why retire “fake news”? Well, because lesser types–“the conservative media machine” and President-elect Donald Trump–now routinely use it, which means “the truth-based community” (Sullivan and her friends) must go back to Square One: “call a lie a lie. Call a hoax a hoax. Call a conspiracy theory by its rightful name.”
Just two points. First, I understand that Sullivan would never be in the running to win any prizes for humility, or even for false modesty. But to oust everyone from the “truth-based community” because they don’t subscribe to what many of us would describe as your “fake news” is chutzpah on steroids.
I won’t go through the most recent illustrations of manufactured stories–“fake news”–from the Post because they are outside our single-issue purview. Suffice it to say that the techniques on display are frightening and have been denounced as McCarthyite, a reference to the 1950s demagogue Sen. Joseph McCarthy. In a word, smear, smear, and smear some more.
(As one commenter noted in response to Sullivan’s column, it’s ironic Sullivan has announced the end of “fake news” when “it’s the WaPo that has become the nation’s #1 purveyor of it.”)
Second, Sullivan acknowledges that many kindred souls still find “fake news” helpful as a tool to suppress dissent (the latter is obviously my characterization). Sullivan concludes
Nikki Usher [a George Washington University professor] for one, isn’t ready to dispense with the term because she thinks it serves a purpose for “the politically independent, moderately informed, regular voter . . . who hasn’t decamped yet to polarized media” — a way to express concern about mistakes, misinformation and conspiracy all at once.
Indeed, all those problems are real, and discussing them important. But putting them all in a blender and slapping on a fuzzy name doesn’t move us forward.
“Fake news” has had its 15 minutes of fame. Let’s put this tainted term out of its misery
So, in a word, to call something “fake news” is so gauzy a term the bad guys–Trump and conservative media outlets and, of course, pro-lifers–will appropriate it for their own use. But if you take even a cursory look at her 725-word rant, what is Sullivan’s elitist “solution”?
A self-appointed, self-designed truth squad will just announce that said story is a “lie” or a “hoax” or a “conspiracy.” And because they say so, thus must it be.
This from the media columnist from a newspaper that is so determined to hype a pro-abortion “Women’s March,” it can’t even remember there will be an annual march this month that will draw well over 100,000 pro-lifers.
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