STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Is That Real Fake News or Real News Called Fake?
By Joe Jarvis - December 30, 2017

At what point does hyperbole become fake news?

Because an article on Axios decrying the ill effects of fake news starts:

Donald Trump in one year has done more to discredit and diminish truth, facts and media than any other figure in our lifetime.

Oh boy. Where to start? I guess the first thing is first: this is not a defense of Donald Trump. Surely he has tweeted and said many things that can be considered false or misleading. I got an angry email the other day after I wrote a piece called Headlines Like These Are Why Trump Isn’t Worried.

The article was about how the media fixates on stupid things that don’t matter, versus actual policy issues. I even cited things about Trump they should criticize, like his Federal Reserve picks. But the email I got expressed anger that I seem to think the media’s focus on trivial matters “somehow absolves Trump of all his past crimes.”

Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough that the media’s focus on Trump’s tweets and “gaffs” is exactly what he wants. It distracts from the real issues and failures. And it keeps the government on your mind.

But back to the issue at hand: the claim that Trump is more of a threat to truth than “any other figure in our lifetime.”

What exactly is “our lifetime”? Mao Zedong died when my father was 26 years old. Has Trump done more to damage truth and media than the Chinese Communist Party Dictator responsible for tens of millions of deaths of his own people, including journalists and political opposition? What about Fidel Castro, or Hugo Chavez, both of whom were alive during my, and presumably the Axios article author’s lifetime?

I won’t belabor the point. They started an article about fake news with an extreme exaggeration… dare I say bordering on fake news?

They continue:

  • Despots use fake news as a weapon: Leaders or state media in at least 15 countries have used the term “fake news” to try to quell dissent or defuse questions about human rights violations.

Great point! It is very dangerous to allow the government to define what constitutes fake news. Surely they will use that against their critics in order to silence them.

Trump is certainly not among good company when it comes to who levels accusations that reports about their crimes are fake news. The President of the Philipines, Duterte, has been responsible for thousands of deaths in his war on drugs, which allows vigilante justice for alleged drug dealers. He is quick to denounce journalists as spies, even with Trump sitting next to him laughing. Not a good look.

So to be sure, allowing leaders to regulate free speech and the media by declaring critics peddlers of fake news is a huge problem.

So you might be surprised by Axios’ phrasing when they say:

  • Regulators around the world are beginning to take the problem seriously. Communications enforcers in the U.S., U.K., South Africa and elsewhere are all looking at ways to crack down on the problem, without inhibiting free speech.

Woah there. Are they taking the problem seriously? Or are they doing exactly what Trump and Duterte are doing, and cracking down on opponents by labeling them “fake news”?

It’s absurd. Who do they think would make or heavily influence the regulations against fake news in America? The President of the United States might have a little something to do with it.

So far what I have gotten from this article is: The “fake news” charge is a huge problem because world leaders use it against their opponents to curb free speech. Luckily, world leaders are looking for ways to crack down on fake news.

Does anyone else see the inconsistency here?

  • Elsewhere in the West: In Spain, Russian state-backed news organizations and bots “promoted digital misinformation and outright fake news” about the politically charged vote in Catalonia, according to the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. That’s in addition to fake news campaigns to meddle with elections this year in the U.S., U.K., France and Germany…
  • Regimes like those in China and Russia turn to censorship, with government-run media spewing propaganda — another form of actual fake news.

Okay, so now we are jumping back and forth between two issues. One is that leaders label real news “fake news” in order to stop dissent. The other is that fake news actually exists, which government should really do something about. Except that sometimes that “fake news” is sponsored by governments.

It’s not that Axios is wrong to point these things out. But they seem to be joining in on confusing the problem with the solution. Certainly having the government do something about “fake news” will only exacerbate the problem.

Axios concludes:

Be smart: We can’t say it too often: The real problem with fake news is that people don’t believe real news. That’s terrible for society and democracy, making good decisions less likely.

Great advice. Only believe the real news, and ignore the fake news. But how exactly do we do that?

The worst possible thing that can be done about this is any government intervention whatsoever. There is no way for regulation to stymie fake news. At least an equal proportion of falsehoods come from the government sector as the private sector.

The “fake news” phenomenon makes free speech more important than ever. It makes open discussion and freedom of expression paramount to getting to the bottom of the truth.

If we have people leveling accusations of racism and bigotry every time a contrary view is expressed, that does not foster open discussion. It is not an academic approach to considering data.

Admittedly this is a difficult task when both sides of a debate do not agree to engage constructively.

Fake news can only be dealt with if people engage in rational, clearheaded discussion. So perhaps in 2018, whatever our position on the various issues, we can leave behind the screaming matches, and actually listen, instead of just waiting for our turn to talk.

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  • jrrrr

    Great advice. Only believe the real news, and ignore the fake news. But how exactly do we do that?

    The answer to that vital question is that there is a principled set of existing circumstances in which individual human existence, uniquely individual human identity, individually exercised value choices creating a unique individual human character, as well as natural laws of cause and effects that determine the effect of every action, as every physical action, including human action, is a physical cause of a natural law determined effect.

    A principled mental perspective that represents without contradiction all of these principles is impervious to the deceit of fake news, simply because omnipotence, not decet is necessary to alter reality.

    So the next time one reads a claim for collective existence, collective identities, collective characters, the multiple identities of intersectionality, or the postmodern presumption that human beings can create an alternate social reality, thereby escaping the consequences of natural law determined disaster as the inevitable effect of both stupidity and error, then one knows one has encountered “fake news,” futilely trying to replace what exists with what does not.

    One also knows that one has encountered a pathetic excuse of for a human being that has reduced a mental potential for intelligent life preserving thought, to zero.

    • Don Duncan

      Translation: Sovereign individuals exist, sovereign collectives, e.g., a state, do not. Behind the illusion of the state are despicable individual parasites who exploit and destroy. Their power comes from mass self-enslavement and worship of authority.

      • jrrrr

        Well, that’s a lot shorter for sure. May I appropriate that from your freedom loving culture and quote it in my favorite internet pastime of tormenting today’s overgrowth of postmodernists? That would be those who label as Nazi supremacists seeking to control others, anyone insisting that no one can create a preferred reality, in which human success is independent of the differences in natural law determined consequences delivered in _the_ reality to both knowledgeable actions and those of errors.

  • ” It is very dangerous to allow the government to define what constitutes fake news.”

    This assertion can stop with the word “government”.

    • Don Duncan

      Astute observation and clever wording!

  • Bruce C.

    I have a very different take on all of this.

    To me, the advent of the phrase “fake news” was a wake up call that officially and publicly declares everything that I read or hear CAN BE PURPOSELY FALSE (and it’s not against the law.)

    I grew up (i.e., was educated) to believe that everything one reads in print or hears on official public broadcasts must be true, otherwise the authors would be legally censured (something akin to plagiarism.)

    The “fake news” label to me represents an official (i.e., recognized and admitted to) fact that ANYTHING can be published or broadcast, and it may very well be not true and there are no laws against it. Instead, it is effectively serving notice to all of us that you better verify what you read/hear because it quite possibly is NOT true.

    When Trump declares something to be “fake news” I now take that to mean that it’s probably false, and is actually an invitation to check it out. I actually don’t recall anything he’s claimed is fake news that hasn’t turned out to be false.

    Furthermore, I don’t recall Trump or anyone else calling for government to crack down on it. Instead he/they seem to be suggesting that people STOP TRUSTING the government and the media so much and verify rather than blindly accept their veracity and good will.

    The FBI, CIA, Justice Department, Pentagon, “Deep State”, the Congress, establishment Republicans, various government officials and individuals, and the media have all been accused of lying, deception, corruption, and the creation of “fake” (aka false) “news.”

    • Don Duncan

      I used to believe the same. I have come to realize the MSM has always been (at least since the 20th century) a govt. propaganda tool. The “change” was not in the MSM but in our understanding of it. My whole life (75 years) I distrusted govt. but I woke up about MSM in the ’70s.

    • WA1

      Sadly, as ever… He who pays the Piper calls the tune…So as long as large Corporations get access to cheap currency, the mainstream media will be one of the recipients of this, and they won’t bite the hand that feeds them. Get rid of the cheap currency and the Federal Reserve system, and you will solve the problem of too big to fail, too big to jail and the parasite press and media barons.

  • Alan777

    It’s been extremely obvious to many including me for many years that the mainstream media CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, Reuters, BBC, NTYs, Washington Post, etc., are completely untrustworthy. It’s refreshing to see Trump chip away at the non-journalistic lying media and call them out. Too much Soros/Bezos money and limited ownership coupled with cable TV bundling of channels holds these charlatans afloat.

  • Number 6

    Well Given the fact most of the mainstream media actively participates in manufactured events and mixed reality terrorist drills, complete with crisis actors and reports them as real events. As one example to quote BBC News presenter Clive Myrie on the night of the supposed Manchester Arena bombing after discussing the initial death total.

    Caller “There were some people injured in the panic”

    Clive Myrie “What do you mean ? ACTUAL victims !”

    And given the fact practically the entirety of the mainstream media has been pushing the idea that there is such a thing as a homogenous greenhouse gas, a concept which defies practically every single law of physics, including but not limited to the first and second laws of thermodynamics, reflection, refraction and transmission, and conduction, convection and radiation.

    And even the minority of the mainstream media ie Fox news which claims to oppose the idea doesn’t point out these basic fundamental physics FACTS and instead maintains there is such a thing as a homogenous green house gas and feeds its audience indecisive fluff such as solar cycles, which relies on the faith of the viewer and not their common sense.

    And don’t get me started on quantum quackery and the pseudo scientific priesthood, which the mainstream passes off as the cleverest people who ever lived, despite the fact these morons think a one dimensional point ie a number in someones head is physical object with properties and that dividing by zero equals infinity (thats how they claim to have “calculated” that the destiny of a black hole is infinite, by the way) Never mind dividing by zero equals undefined, and it its utterly utterly utterly Impossible to calculate infinity.

    I’d have to say that my definition of “Fake News” is ANYTHING the mainstream media pushes, and everybody’s time would be much better served and humanity would be much better off as a whole, if we didn’t listen to these lying sacks of s**t in the first place !

    • Don Duncan

      Back to island village with you!

    • WA1

      Love it… Truth getting an airing at last… That’s what we need more of.

  • Varangian Guard

    There are plenty of stones to be thrown at both sides of the aisle. I personally do not see the environment changing and choose not to be part of that confirming, denying and general prattle that consumes any news feed. I choose to back the side that is based in the principles that are most beneficial to a prosperous and safe society for all those in the USA. Then bring those principles to any that are willing to have an adult conversation based on fact and devoid of emotion.
    A market based economy in a republic based society, focusing on but not limited to a nationalist agenda willing to assist allies and neighbors peacefully will be in our best interests. To be assertive in making the citizens and residents responsible for their own actions yet willing to offer a hand when one legitimately falls.
    Unfortunately the things that have transpired over the last 2-3 decades also require one “to carry a big stick” as many sheep follow false Shepards and do not question the questionable authorities who promise free miracles in payment for blind support…..

    • Don Duncan

      Who are these “true Shepards”? What “things” are unique to “the last 2-3 decades”? At 75 I have witnessed majority blind obedience to authority my entire life, worldwide. Reading revisionist history has taught me this has been the political paradigm in every jurisdiction since govt. began. While progress has been made, we are still in the “Dark Ages” politically.

      The problem is not with following the “true authority” but with following any authority, with surrendering personal sovereignty. Down thru the ages, thousands of revolts have cost 10s of millions of lives on the premise that a change of authority would bring justice and prosperity. It did not happen. It’s not enough to know something is wrong, the solution must be known also.

      • WA1

        Hear, Hear.

  • jymm

    It really all depends on your political perspective. Conservative? MSNBC is fake news. Liberal? Fox news is fake news.

    • Bruce C.

      So does your definition of “political” mean non-objective? Any given fact is either true or not.

      MSNBC actually conjures up completely false and made up stuff. FOX may – at worst – give only a partial version, but usually when they do it’s because all of the FACTS aren’t yet known.

      That’s a big difference.

      • jymm

        It has nothing to do with my views, or with facts, it has to do with what people believe. If you don’t believe, no amount of facts will sway you, if you do, no falsehood will dissuade your belief. I agree, Fox is way less false than MSNBC, but that is not my point.

  • Glenn Richard Williams

    I’ve watched two speeches Trump gave to Veterans and the FBI months apart. I was able to watch them both on Fox news, I switched the channel during his speeches and saw no coverage on any of the other supposedly fair news channels. Some of it may be fake news but what is more disturbing is the lack of coverage for the good things he does. That’s why I can only watch a short portion of other news coverage because invariably it harps on all the perceived negative coverage of Trump. Strange we didn’t get this type of non-coverage or bad press when Obama was in office.

    • Don Duncan

      Strange? Not really. All news is edited (controlled) by people with world views and personal agendas who slant intentionly or subconsciously. It is up to us to sort out the bias. Of course, this is impossible if the reporting is blocked completely. No news, non-coverage is a powerful propaganda tool, perhaps more so than slanted news. Ask any Libertarian who saw the press ignore the fact they existed but the presidential election reports listed many 3rd party results with less votes all thru the ’70s. I’m sure when called on this they would claim it was just a mistake, an innocent oversight (over and over). It was disgusting to watch on MSM, but a powerfull reminder of the fourth branch of govt. The so-called watch-dogs were working for TPTB, not the public. That keeps the public ignorant and easy to exploit, e.g., the “matrix” is safe if the choice of pills is removed.

  • NobodysaysBOO

    when they found life on Mars they keep quiet,when they found the cures for cancer they stay quiet,when they steal elections or money they are silent.
    when they did 911 they say move on,or go back to the mall.
    none of this is GOOD GOVERNMENT buy any stretch.

    the forgotten attack on 911 is an open wound on the USA and Israel.

    • WA1

      9/11 was an attack that began a worldwide hunt for dissenters, and doesn’t stop at U.S. A. borders… The five eyes pact allows all those governments the powers to spy on each other… Thomas Jefferson said it best when he spoke on the matter… Nothing I’v seen in the last 15years leads me to believe we are as a world moving inexorably towards Totalitarianism.

  • r2bzjudge

    “Donald Trump in one year has done more to discredit and diminish truth, facts and media than any other figure in our lifetime.”

    The news media did that, not Trump.

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