By Edward Morrissey
In the wake of a stunning election result, many people — especially in the media — have struggled for an explanation. Rather than acknowledge the obvious and prosaic answer — that voters in swing states chose change rather than the status quo — analysts have sought a Unified Theory of Donald Trump's Success. Trump couldn't possibly have won fair and square, the assumption goes, so all that's left is to identify whatever went wrong and banish it so this never happens again.
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Over the past week, the consensus Unified Theory from the media is this: Blame fake news. This explanation started with BuzzFeed's analysis of Facebook over the past three months, which claimed that the top 20 best-performing "fake news" articles got more engagement than the top 20 "mainstream news" stories.
Nowhere in BuzzFeed's article does author Craig Silverman demonstrate a correlation between that data and voter persuasion, let alone a causal connection. Instead, the analysis offers a look at how articles of potentially questionable provenance could go viral quickly. That leaves a lot of questions begging in the "fake news threw the election" explanation.
There are also serious problems with the evidence BuzzFeed presents. As Timothy Carney points out at the Washington Examiner, the "real news" that Silverman uses for comparison are, in many cases, opinion pieces from liberal columnists. The top "real" stories — which BuzzFeed presented in a graphic to compare against the top "fake" stories — consist of four anti-Trump opinion pieces and a racy exposé of Melania Trump's nude modeling from two decades ago.