Talk about your fake news!

By Jeff Roorda

It’s the newest catch phrase: “fake news.”

The implicit meaning of the phrase belies it’s current application. In political campaigns, they use the term “anti-negative negative” to describe a political attack where you go on the offensive against your opponent by accusing him of making false accusations against you he never actually made. That’s what we have here with the whole “fake news” craze, a pre-emptive strike that discredits your detractors before they even get a chance to detract.

Most recently, media outlets have been atwitter with reports about the firing of Michael G. Flynn from the Trump transition team for his role in the “pizzagate” fake news story.

Gasp!

The only problem is that Flynn appears to have had nothing to do with debuting or spreading the “pizzagate” story. In fact, the tweet that has everyone lathered-up attributed to Flynn (this is the younger Flynn, by the way, not to be confused with his father, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who President-elect Trump has tapped to serve as his national security adviser) innocently pointed out, “Until #Pizzagate (is) proven to be false, it’ll remain a story.”

What, exactly, is wrong with that statement?

Isn’t it more social commentary or an observation about the nature of the Twittersphere than it is scandal-mongering of some fraudulent, unfounded narrative?

Even though so-called mainstream media outlets – including the New York Times – reported that Flynn was fired from the Trump transition team for “using Twitter to spread a fake news story about Hillary Clinton that led to an armed confrontation in a pizza restaurant in Washington,” the plain facts seem to tell us that Flynn did not spread the story but rather commented on it’s miasmal nature and that his actions did not lead to the armed confrontation and that he was NOT fired from the Trump transition team because he was never on the Trump transition team.

Talk about your fake news!

The mainstream media reporting on fake news by faking news is nothing new. In my new book, “The War On Police,” I write extensively about one of the first major fake news stories in U.S. history, the whopper about Mrs. O’Leary’s cow starting the Great Chicago Fire, a story widely reported by very “reputable” news outlets. I use the invented story of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow as an analogy for the shameless way in which the mainstream media reported on the events in Ferguson, Missouri. I was on the ground seeing history unfold before my very eyes in Ferguson and witnessing the inauthentic way most media reported on it. It shook my faith in the ability of the free press in this country to report things free of fabrication or sensationalism. I’m not sure that I’ll ever again trust information I get from mainstream media sources.

That’s a shame because the “fourth estate” is imbued with a sacred duty to the people to not only report news accurately but also to fact check those who engage in the telling of mistruths.

That doesn’t happen much anymore in American media. No news outlet – broadcast, print, or internet – enjoys a mass audience anymore. In the days of news giants like Murrow, Brinkley, Huntley and Cronkite, network news had a sprawling share of the market and had to play it straight to maintain credibility with a very intellectually and ideologically diverse audience. Nowadays, media outlets play to a small niche’ audience of loyal followers who pursue their confirmation bias right to the source that is going to report on the news of the day from a perspective its consumers share. As a result, no matter where you get your news, it’s filtered, spun, or embellished. That doesn’t mean that news is fake, it simply means that it is consumer driven. It’s really just free market principles at work in the news media, basic supply and demand.

That leaves it to consumers to make there own assessments about what is fake and what is authentic. It’s thorny to be sure, but it’s where we are as a society that has information at our fingertips.

So the next time you see riots in the street and the anchor tells you you’re witnessing “peaceful protests” or you see video of police officers who are being shot at donning protective equipment and you here the correspondent call it a “militarized operation,” know this: It’s incumbent on you to decide what is and isn’t fake. If you rely on the media to do that, you’re going to get kicked right in the shins by Mrs. O’Leary’s cow.

The demonizing of police: How far will it go? Get a cop’s-eye view of the current climate against law enforcement with “The War on Police: How the Ferguson Effect is Making America Unsafe”

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