The chattering classes are at it again. Building high the walls of ideology, and sharpening the rhetorical knives of self-exculpation. They cannot bear to see what is before them, so they deny it; they choose not to see.
But in choosing not to see the new President-Elect as cause to question their own worldviews, politics and beliefs, they embrace a new notion. This notion allows them to continue to believe in their own rectitude and worthiness. They call this idea ‘false news.’
The term ‘fake news’ and the list of purported fake news sites started with Melissa Zimdars, assistant professor of communication and media at Merrimack College.Last month the Washington Post published an article saying that, “The content from Russian sites has offered ready fodder for U.S.-based websites pushing far-right conservative messages.”
A website called “ProporNot” has produced a report, claiming that various popular websites are, in fact, pushing Russian propaganda. The list includes InfoWars.com, RonPaul.com, ZeroHedge.com and PaulCraigRoberts.com.
Among the complaints from ProporNot about these sites are that they push: 1. Support for Brexit and EU breakup, 2. Support for anti-vaccination positions, 3. Support for gold-backed currency, 4. Conspiracy theories and 5. Isolationism for the US but not for Russia.
Of these five, at least two of them, 1 and 3, are viably conservative. Being an anti-vaccinator is not proof of insanity, nor is it a belief in isolationism. Conspiracy theories are, sadly, as common to the Right as they are to the Left, but they are not endemic of all people in either group.
The rhetoric at work here is strange. Instead of making specific cases, these websites seem guilty of little more than dissenting from the views of the mainstream media. The media, whose blindness to their own biases remains monolithic, are astonished that their views should be differed from.
Both of the lists cited are at play among the media, for reasons which are not difficult to divine. By accusing the listed sites of being ‘false news’ the media set themselves up as ‘true news.’ They need to do this, as the media is stained in the eyes of many after our colorful election season. Lest we forget, this was the season that many journalists called for throwing aside their own codes of ethics and behavior in order to defeat Trump.
When I looked into some of the websites listed, I will admit that some of them are the sort of nutty websites a conspiracy theorist uncle might visit, or a bored teen might frequent. But some are news sources relied upon by many people. If we’re going to define ‘fake news’ we need to do so with a better criterion than just what a liberal professor or a website run by God-knows-who think constitutes fake news.
The hostility we’ve seen towards the media in the last few months is likely only to increase. The GOP is now being led by Trump, whose attacks upon the media are well-known. The Left is also showing a similar distaste for media, but in a different way. They hate the media for not necessarily preaching the message the Left desires. This causes the Left to call for some ‘muscle’ to get rid of pesky journalists. Whether real journalism will continue to exist, given hostility to journalists on both sides, is anyone’s guess.