Since the election of Donald Trump as President, there have been numerous complaints about something called fake news. Amanda Carpenter of Conservative Review posits “Fake news is malicious, false information that somehow becomes credible.” Fake news has the aura of credibility because it emerges from political and social discourse associated with notable factual events. It has been suggested that fake news is synonymous with propaganda.
The original source of fake news is often the individuals who are now condemning the fake news. In recent speeches, President Obama, recent Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, German chancellor Angela Merkel, and even Pope Francis have all decried fake news claiming it causes people to react erroneously to a false sense of reality and basic untruths. Conspiracy theories rely on such reactions.
What about method? To the world leaders, the Internet and its generally populist blogs cause the fake news to propagate without control or contradiction. Of course, there is an alt-right to attack, although the left and the alt-left is at least as pervasive on the Internet and, arguably, more pervasive in the mainstream news and social media.
Is a lie or deliberate untruth fake news? Here are some examples of what may or may not fall under the categories of fake news.
President Obama said, “If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor” knowing full well that was untrue. However, is that false and malicious? Did it achieve its political objective of making the Affordable Care Act seem more credible in the world of public opinion?
Hillary Clinton blamed an anti-Islamic film trailer for the Benghazi attack knowing full well that it was an Islamic terrorist attack. Is that false and malicious? Did it effectively shield the Obama administration from criticism of its failures in Libya just before the presidential election in 2012?
Julian Assange published thousands of documents stolen from the Clinton presidential campaign, and none were contradicted as to truth. Is that false and malicious? Did it undermine the Clinton presidential campaign’s credibility and damage the reputations of many of her most ardent advisers? (By the way, certain intelligence agencies say Assange got his information from the Russians. Assange has said that is untrue. So, are the intelligence agency claims fake news? Who is to be believed?)
The left have strenuously argued that fake news is dangerous in the real world. However, historically the most dangerous fake news is propaganda that comes from government. Someone like me, writing an article like this, has no particular authority, expertise, or credibility. I may not have the facts straight or reasoned correctly. I am arguing that fake news is most dangerous when it evolves from political power and government interests.
The very fast paced and information-deluged world requires the free individual to be more cautious in how he or she treats the news. A healthy dose of skepticism is a good start. It also helps to check more than one independent news source as many news articles refer back and forth to each other (a form of lazy journalism at best). The passage of time is a friend because initial knee jerk reactions are wrong a fair percentage of the time (essentially it helps to suspend judgment). It is useful to have a sense of the trustworthiness of the source of the information (Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice or more, shame on me). Lastly, am I getting facts presented in a logical and dispassionate manner, or am I getting opinions masquerading as facts and containing a healthy dose of political correctness and bias. (Personally, I prefer the former but there are lots of people too busy to ponder what they are hearing or reading).
As far as fake news is concerned, I don’t like it, but I like my individual freedoms and rights more. I certainly don’t want the government pressuring the various forms of media to censor news and ideas under the pretext of protecting the citizenry from fakeness. Such censorship ends up with State controlled news and totalitarian control of the people. Just ask anyone who escaped from the now defunct Soviet Union.