Fake News – What is happening?

In his recent Press Conference, Donald Trump implied that mainstream Media were continuously pumping out “Fake News.” Was this a fair assessment or not?

There is an general assumption that mainstream Media have a code of conduct that results in news being presented in an objective manner. That is what media outlets operating in this space think that they are doing. Therefore they are gob-smacked that the President would say that they are pumping out “Fake News.” Their surprise is understandable, given the assumptions they are making about their own behavior.

Defining “Fake News”

Among an audience of journalists, “Fake News” would imply that a story is fabricated. On this standard, it is unlikely that mainstream media is pumping out “Fake News.”

Despite this, a large part of the wider audience can see that the presentation of news about Donald Trump is biased against him, even if the media are too blind to see it. In fact, this is not a matter of “Fake News” per se, but rather a matter of selection of the material, and the way questions are framed.

We are all aware of “Fake News” element of a question like, “When will you stop beating your wife,” implying that the person asked is actually beating his wife, even if it has not yet been established as a fact. While mainstream media are probably not asking questions as blatant as that, there is an ever-present danger, with a hostile media, that questions are designed to demonstrate that the person asked has committed some offense, yet without giving the interviewee a chance to address the implied substance of the question. If that were done, it certainly could be classified as “Fake News.”

Fake Reporting

It is more likely that Donald Trump is facing a different phenomenon, namely “Fake Reporting.”

“Fake Reporting” can be defined as reporting that purports to be objective, but is not. It is when reporters become partisan players, and not objective observers.

While many in the media think, “Surely everyone knows that the media play a vital role in the running of a democracy.”

If mainstream media want to be considered to play “a vital role in the running of a democracy,” they have to be more than partisan players: they have to be objective. Also, if they are really going to be constructive players they should give some thought to the end result of their forays into political agitation. It is expected that politicians will think about the long-term consequences of what they say – that is why some of Donald Trump’s pronouncements provoked such a reaction: he didn’t do this as he was expected to do. Yet now the media’s reckless behavior is considered to be normal and doesn’t provoke any self-examination at all.

An objective media is not supposed to act as a second opposition party, running a defacto counter-government line on every question. What is needed is balanced consideration of both sides of every question. Instead, what is delivered is something that can be described as “Fake Reporting.”

Every media outlet is entitled to deliver news in whatever way they consider serves their own objectives. This has always been the case, with papers that have served a Communist ideology on the one hand, and magazines that have particularly served a Capitalist ideology of the other hand. Also other papers have done well by publishing material that have served the reading needs of less educated readers. All that is OK, with no reason for this situation to be changed. However, most educated readers will turn to the mainstream media to get their news, and they trust that it will be objective.

So it is particularly offensive for media outlets that think that they are being objective to have departed so far from their own charter, yet keep up the charade that they have not changed. Elsewhere I have listed one fairly mild example of such behavior: I am sure that there are many worse cases. We even have been able to observe an invited journalist shouting out in a partisan way as the President was leaving his press conference.

I know for a fact that there is a continual stream of non-objective commentary on the Australian government funded “our ABC” on Donald Trump, which I find particularly offensive. (Make me a king for a day and I would cut their funding, immediately.) If reporters want to be partisan, let them at least not be government funded, and certainly do not claim to be objective.

Selection of Material

The brouhaha over the Russian scandal is a case of “Fake Reporting” partly due to the selection of material, and partly due to the way the material is handled.

Here is a summary of the situation as I see it from Australia:

  • John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, revealed his email password to a Russian hacker, either through his negligence or through incompetence in the DNC administration (if they failed to detect a phishing email – not hard to detect).
  • The Russians, who could see no hope for an improved relationship with USA via Hillary Clinton, released the content of the emails to the press, which the press duly reported, thus damaging Clinton’s prospects, as Russia hoped.
  •  John Podesta’s emails were interpreted to show that Hillary Clinton belonged to liberal elite, and did not have great concern for her nominal base, the working men and women of the USA. This turned voters against her.
  • Donald Trump was very pleased to have this negative information about Hillary Clinton circulating and, at a rally, encouraged the Russians to keep doing it. This was one of many cases of Donald Trump’s stepping outside of the established norms of public behavior. Even though voters recognized that this was not a normal response (and many didn’t like it), they voted for him anyway, and he won the electoral college.
  • Then, in this interregnum before inauguration, Trump’s National Security Adviser designate talked to the Russian ambassador about future relationships with the Trump administration. Some claim that this is not permitted under the US constitution, even though this interpretation would be particularly unworkable. It also is based upon a clause in the constitution that has never been prosecuted and therefore has never been subjected to judicial review. (In addition, taken to this extreme, an incoming President would be particularly hamstrung.)

What is achieved by pursuing this matter endlessly? Hillary Clinton lost because she failed to convince sufficient voters in sufficient states that she should be elected president.

Unless I have missed something, the whole “Russian thing” is a storm in a teacup. It is case of “Fake Reporting;” partisan reporting pretending to be objective.

Fake News or Fake Reporting – who cares?

The “positive” outcome that the mainstream media seem to want is the impeachment of Donald Trump, and the consequential restoration of the former ascendancy of the liberal elite. The latter will not happen: it has had its day. If the former does happen, heaven help the USA. Surely a democratically elected president should not be impeached because he offends the liberal elite. Does anyone really think that such action will heal the divisions in the USA? Rather, the divisions in the USA will be healed by restoring the jobs and wages of ordinary workers, which is Donald Trump’s agenda.

Author: Graham Lovell

Ancient history historian, software developer, one-time accountant, husband, father and doting grandfather.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.