Lies and Damned Lies. What Is #FakeNews In the Age Of Trump?

Ever since November 9 we’ve been bombarded by assurances that #FakeNews is the bane of Western Civilization. I’m not really sure what actually constitutes #FakeNews in the eyes of the media but what is abundantly clear is that, from their perspective, they never perpetrate hoaxes. They merely make honest mistakes and we need to deal with that. #FakeNews is what people like, say RedState do.


Let me give you an example.

On inauguration day, a press pool was invited into the White House to see the redecoration. One of the members was Time’s Zeke Miller. I couldn’t pick Miller out of a two-man line up but what is blatantly obvious is that he went into the White House with a set agenda: find something that made Trump look bad. And he did. He tweeted that the bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. had been removed. And because he was making reports as part of a press pool, the story was picked up and spread like wildfire.

A half hour later, Miller corrected his report.

Note who he didn’t express his apologies to. That would be the guy he maligned.


It is difficult to attribute Miller’s tweet to anything other than maliciousness. He had an agenda. He thought the King bust was removed. He didn’t ask. He simply tweeted an allegation that can be taken in no other way than an attempt to paint Trump as a racist of some variety. As the saying goes, a lie travels around the world while the truth is pulling its boots on. In that half hour between Miller’s original tweet and his correction, the missing MLK bust became a sensation. And many people will never have seen the correction, they will simply remember the original story.

Is this #FakeNews? It certainly is not an innocent mistake because the kernel of the mistake is the desire to make Trump look bad. It isn’t an innocent mistake because a mistake would imply due diligence on Miller’s part, like asking someone and misunderstanding their response.

Today we have another example courtesy of Josh Rogin of the Washington Post. The State Department’s entire senior administrative team just resigned (I posted on it here, please click. “Baby needs new shoes.”)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s job running the State Department just got considerably more difficult. The entire senior level of management officials resigned Wednesday, part of an ongoing mass exodus of senior foreign service officers who don’t want to stick around for the Trump era.


Then there was this

As it turned out, everyone who “just resigned” had actually submitted their resignations last week as part of the change of administrations. The resignations were accepted yesterday. This is not a scandal. This is not them refusing to stick around for Trump, it is Trump telling them to get the hell out.

Is this #FakeNews? Because it wasn’t an innocent mistake. Just like with Miller the genesis of the mistake is a desire to make Trump look bad. Rogin had access to the same sources to verify the story as did CNN (Motto: we’re the fakiest fakers who ever faked a fake”) but he chose to run an “exclusive” that supported a narrative he preferred: noble civil service employees give up jobs rather than serve under arch-demon Trump. (See how neatly that ties in with the various stories of agencies with rogue twitter accounts?) It wasn’t even a little false and very easy to check


Rogin apparently just added 1 + 1 and got eleventy.

As someone who I think is famous, but whose name escapes me right now, once said, to him who is given much, much will be required. These people have the ability to set a news narrative by virtue of the reach of their outlet. They have an obligation to be right. A kid in Macedonia writing Facebook posts for fractions of a cent per page view is never going to have measurable influence. And yet we are supposed to believe that it is the stories about two headed space aliens that are a threat to our democracy and not the antics of a hyper partisan and agenda driven media who immediately circle the wagons to defend each other no matter what they do.



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