Posted by Curt on 17 December, 2016 at 11:30 am. 2 comments already!


Ed Morrissey:

Troubled about the recent scourge of “fake news,” the plague that suddenly descended upon us over the last few months? Bernard Goldberg, the author of the seminal book Bias* and a veteran newsman, offers us some perspective on “fake news” and its use by the same people engaging in hysterics over it. Long before Donald Trump even thought about going into politics — and long before the Internet — mainstream media outlets ginned up their own versions of “fake news,” mostly as vanity projects … or what we would call “virtue signaling” today:

Long before fake news became a hot topic, liberals in the mainstream media were practicing their own special brand of fake news. They weren’t misleading the public for malicious reasons; quite the opposite. They were simply showing off their humanity.

The best examples of this fake news-for-a-good-cause go back to the 1980s, when two of the biggest stories in America involved the rise in homelessness (in the age of Reagan) and the national scare over a new disease called AIDS. I was a correspondent at CBS News at the time and I witnessed first hand how – and why — the media got both those stories monumentally wrong.

Goldberg explains that both homelessness and AIDS were real problems, not fake ones, but the media coverage deliberately faked major parts of them in order to stoke panic, drive government spending, and viewership. They manipulated the stories to exploit the audience in ways that served their agenda. That agenda wasn’t entirely partisan, but it certainly played out that way at times. The homelessness crisis seemed to disappear from the media radar when the Clintons took office. One has to wonder whether it will return when the Obamas leave it.

Faked news in the mainstream media matters a lot more than “social media clowns,” Goldberg argues:

And in many ways the mainstream journalism version of fake news is worse than what the social media version, where jerks put out ridiculous stories about non-existent underage sex rings run by Hillary Clinton out of a pizza parlor.

Unlike the social media clowns, mainstream journalists have legitimacy.  They help set the national agenda. They influence legislation. And it’s not just about fake homeless and AIDS stories.  They’re still putting out fake news – about the supposed sexist wage gap between men and women doing the same job with the same experience (– if that were true why wouldn’t companies only hire women and save a boatload of money in labor costs?); about the epidemic of rape on college campuses; about the 99 percent of scientists who supposedly believe Al Gore’s version of global warming and think everyone else is an ignorant science “denier”.

But hey, they’re faking the news for good causes, right?

Goldberg doesn’t even get around to his former network’s attempt to hijack a presidential election in 2004 with faked memos from the National Guard about George W. Bush’s service. (He’s written plenty about it in the past, however, so he’s not shy about discussing it.) CBS disavowed the report and disciplined those involved in it when it blew up in their face, but that hasn’t stopped other media elites from trying to resurrect it. Hollywood even made a major motion picture about it, ironically called Truth, that essentially argued as Dan Rather did that the memos were “fake but accurate.” That came out under Sony’s banner — a major media conglomerate, not an obscure website with an Alexa rank of two zillion.

Now, that’s fake news with some impact. But why stop there? We can include the serial fabulism of Stephen Glass at The New Republic, whose stories were unquestioned while attacking conservatives at CPAC and elsewhere, and only got properly checked out when he trod on someone else’s beat (Forbes). More recently, Rolling Stone published a story that ruined the lives of dozens of people at the University of Virginia over a pack of lies that were intended to push a social panic over rapes on campuses — which also got exposed by treading on someone else’s turf (T. Rees Shapiro and the Washington Post). The examples go on and on, and those are the “fake news” stories we know about.

Some of the “fake news” comes from propaganda efforts from hostile regimes, as John Schindler reminds us, about which the Obama administration declined to do anything. But no one — no one — has put forward any evidence of a correlation between so-called “fake news” propagated on social media platforms like Facebook and voting behavior, let alone a causal relationship. The story that stoked this panic took aim at clicks at silly nonsense on low-traffic websites and compared them to clicks on four anti-Trump opinion pieces that Buzzfeed considered “real news.”

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