With the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, we’re being inundated with reports of “fake news.” Unsurprisingly, plenty of that reporting relates to the role of fake news in getting Trump elected, one of many theories being exploited by Hillary supporters in explaining the loss and in undermining the credibility of the results.
Reportedly in response to a fake news story about a child exploitation ring operating from a Washington, DC, pizza joint, Comet Pizza, a North Carolina man drove several hundred miles to expose the ring, which the fake news linked to the Hillary Clinton election staff. The risk in that case was quite evident as the man brought with him a semi-automatic rifle and fired it before surrendering to police. Fake news, and those who propagate it, is hardly new to our nation. I recently pointed out to a Washington Post reporter covering the Comet Pizza story how his profession and his publication were part of the problem, some might say the biggest part of it. And how wonderfully ironic that Hillary Clinton herself took to the stage to say, “The epidemic of malicious fake news and false propaganda that flooded social media over the past year — it’s now clear the so-called fake news can have real-world consequences.”
The former Secretary of State’s comment on the subject was rich: she who reported her plane landing in Bosnia under sniper fire; she who gave all Americans a steady stream of feints about her use of a personal server to conduct State Department business; she who held herself blameless for the debacle of Benghazi; she who welcomed Ferguson police attacker Michael Brown’s mother to the DNC stage as a symbol of police abuses.
The case can easily be made that uncritical mainstream news reports of the Clinton narrative on these important stories were little more than fake news shaped to bend public opinion toward liberal viewpoints. And, for them and her, the consequences are now evident – the rejection of candidate Clinton as the anointed one and the embrace of the Trumpian attacks on the mainstream media as the biased machine it has become.
Last week, the Washington Post offered this headline: “Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win the White House”. That’s real news, right? While some would think it so because the source was the venerable Post, reading the story shows how the truth may not mirror the headline. Within a few paragraphs, the article admits the intel agencies “do not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin ‘directing’ (the passing of) Democratic emails to WikiLeaks. Those actors were ‘one step removed’ from the Russian government…” Keep reading and you’ll find the House Intelligence Committee chairman, saying, “there’s no clear evidence… lots of circumstantial evidence, that’s it.” Within a day, the Director of National Intelligence himself was raising doubt about the intelligence even further, leading many to wonder again whether the Post’s breaking news was actually news or simply more political posturing.
Without a doubt, fake news that concerns law enforcement is a major problem.
Fake news about Michael Brown’s actions in Ferguson created the myth of “Hands up, don’t shoot,” rioting that caused millions in property damage, and fed a racial schism in America that seems broader today than in a generation.
Fake news and willing chief prosecutor Marilyn Mosby promoted the notion that six Baltimore cops intentionally put Freddie Gray on a rough ride that took his life, leading to millions in property damage and resulting in the injury to over a hundred cops sent to keep the peace. And, more recently, fake news said Keith Lamont Scott, who was fatally shot by Charlotte area police in September, was disabled and unarmed, innocently holding a book when confronted. We now know those early versions, those that brought Black Lives Matter activists again to a city that deserved the truth rather than the destruction, were apocryphal.
Fake news helped create the anti-cop Black Lives Matter movement that is ever ready to fill the void between the next police shooting and the exposed truth with divisive protest and destruction.
Fake news helped create cop-killers in New York and Dallas and Baton Rouge so yes, Mrs. Clinton, fake news does have real- world consequences beyond your election defeat.
Now, with the new year fast approaching, perhaps it’s time for Mrs. Clinton, the Post, Marilyn Mosby, Black Lives Matter, and so many other contributors to the fake news cycle to pull out the mirror and take a hard look at it, weighing their own complicity and framing their own resolutions that take another path.