As someone who has been in the news business for more than 40 years, can I let you in on a little secret?
“Fake news” has always been with us.
Long before the Internet came along two decades ago, there was “fake news” – meaning wildly inaccurate stories, reports made up out of whole cloth, intentionally misleading news accounts and groundless, politically motivated hit jobs by activists masquerading as journalists.
How do I know this?
Because I witnessed it – from the inside out. For 20 years, I was reporter, editor and top executive at major-market daily newspapers in the so-called “mainstream media.” I hate to sound condescending, but very few people have that kind of experience. Those who’ve had the opportunity to run daily newspapers in major markets represent a very small club, not that we have meetings. And no one, besides me, with that kind of comparable experience went on to found the first independent online news-gathering organization in the world.
I say this not to boast, but to explain that I have a unique vantage point from which to discuss changes in the news business over the last four decades.
So, let me put this “fake news” hysteria in perspective.
It’s always been there. That’s not to excuse it. That’s not to suggest it doesn’t warrant exposure and condemnation. The problem? “Fake news” very much seems to be in the eye of the beholder. One man’s “exposé” is another man’s “fake news” story. Long gone are the days when common standards and practices were part of a journalist’s code of ethics.
What’s different today?
- Anyone can set up a blog in five minutes, make up stories and reach a potential audience of billions.
- Anyone can post a “fake news” story on Facebook in one minute and mislead and potentially deceive millions.
- News – fake or otherwise – travels at the speed of light from east to west and west to east with no guardrails.
But, there’s something much more sinister at work in our world today. What we euphemistically call “the mainstream media” are not mainstream at all. They (and I use “they” advisedly because “media” is a plural noun) have little in common with Main Street. Collectively, they are part of an insular culture of elitists who actually believe they have a monopoly on truth, when, in fact, they only have a monopoly on hubris.
I don’t have any statistics to prove this theory, but here it is: What we call the “mainstream media” are the biggest purveyors of “fake news” in the universe. Why? Because of audience size and reach, and because they long ago dropped all but pretense at seeking objective truth. They don’t even believe in objective truth – except when it comes to their own narrow opinions.
How else can one explain, for instance, their complete sell-out to the fraud of man-made, catastrophic, carbon-driven climate change? They sell it like a religion. If one is even skeptical of this ideologically driven fear-mongering, then one is a rube, a “denier,” a bumpkin, a barbarian, a buffoon. The theory is devoid of evidence. It is nothing more than a tool of those who seek to create a new economic order under the control of a ruling global elite.
Of course, what would the gilded purveyors of reality have to say about that accusation? “Conspiracy theorist!”
You see, under the rules of “fake news” hysteria, differences of opinion, differences in perspective, differences in worldview are tantamount to heresy, which today calls for figuratively burning your opposition at the stake.
The question then becomes how does one deal with the reality of “fake news”? I would suggest to you that, as annoying as it is to me when I see people believe lies and, further, how little discernment most people demonstrate, more information is almost always better than less.
Were we better off when there were three network newscasts and all of them peddled the same party line?
Is it better to have a consensus of public opinion based on only one official set of “facts”?
Should we allow Facebook, Google or some government entity censor what they determine to be lies?
Or, are we better off sticking with the wisdom of America’s founders who, in crafting the First Amendment and its unique special protections for free speech and freedom of the press, recognized no one but God actually has a monopoly on truth?
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