Tuesday, December 20, 2016

‘Fake’ News and the Victorian Gentleman

‘Fake’ News and the Victorian Gentleman | commentary
"...Because it is difficult for liberals to understand that people might oppose them on substantive as well as moral grounds, their analyses of the election results were as flawed as their takes on the horse race. 
Many liberal commentators simply ascribed Trump’s victory to the supposed racism, misogyny, and authoritarianism of his supporters, reducing varied and complex motivations to base, irrational, and impermissible drives.
...Such was the genesis of the controversy over “fake news.”
“News websites designed to trick and mislead people seem to pop up every single day,” wrote Brian Stelter of CNN.
...And yet the argument over fake news is about more than due diligence.
...In November, for example, an explosive Washington Post story claimed, “The flood of ‘fake news’ this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy,” according to “independent researchers who tracked the operation.” 
The Post quoted an anonymous source: “It was like Russia was running a super PAC for Trump’s campaign.”
...Also on the list were heavily trafficked populist websites such as Infowars and the Drudge Report.
...Long ago the press changed its job description and went from telling readers what had happened to telling them what to think.
...Why the obsession with fake news?

  • Readers with long memories will note that the mainstream media did not use this term to describe the work of Janet Cooke, 
  • Stephen Glass, and 
  • Jayson Blair, or 
  • the reporters who vilified and maligned the Duke Lacrosse Team, or 
  • the disgusting fabrications Rolling Stone told about fraternity life at the University of Virginia, 
  • or the myths parroted on CNN that Michael Brown shouted “hands up, don’t shoot” before he was killed in Ferguson. 
  • Nor was fake news a problem in 2012 when a man named Floyd Corkins said he shot an employee of the conservative Family Research Council in the arm because the Southern Poverty Legal Center had accused it of being a hate group. 

And yet four years later, when an armed man showed up at a D.C. pizzeria after reading online that it might be connected to human trafficking, the mainstream media’s quest to anathematize fake news intensified...
What makes the controversy salient is the uncertain social position of the mainstream media.
The press, Tom Wolfe wrote, is a Victorian Gentleman, the arbiter of manners and fashion, the judge of right conduct and good breeding.
But the fragmentation of the media landscape, the decentralization of the Internet and social media, and the rise of Donald Trump have set this Victorian Gentleman back on his heels.
Long ago he changed his job description and went from telling his readers what had happened to telling them what to think.
And the fact that so many people now have the means to disagree with him, to challenge him, to speak unmediated and uncensored, is profoundly disturbing to his sense of authority and self-worth..."
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