09 December 2016

Fake History Makes Fake News


Screen shot of the New York Times website I took with my iPhone November 8, 2016. Facts are stubborn things.

Kevin Levin has written an interesting post at Smithsonian.com regarding the chattering classes' new mantra in the wake of the 2016 election: "fake news." First of all, we get the broad brush criticism of the American Voter:

"the American voter is woefully lacking in the skills needed to judge the veracity of a news website."

I read that as a not-so-subtle way of saying that Trump will be the new president because stupid people elected him. The statement could be interpreted as just more of the type of elitist attitude that created Trump's populist movement in the first place. As Karol Markowicz writing in the
New York Post put it:

Scrambling for an explanation for Donald Trump’s victory, many in the media and on the left [including academia] have settled on the idea that his supporters were consumers of “fake news” — gullible rubes living in an alternate reality made Trump president. [Emphasis mine]
It's all so predictable, isn't it? But if we take Levin's comment at face value, it's important to note that "most American voters" have been educated by the "education establishment". If the American voter is "lacking in skills", the education establishment is, in large measure, to blame, is it not?

Levin offers up the following examples of Fake News:
Among the many headlines from fake news websites include reports that, Pope Francis endorsed President-elect Trump, Hillary Clinton used a body double throughout the campaign, and sold weapons to ISIS.
Yes, there are real "fake news" sites and, yes, there are many pushing myths about American history. Levin points out several of these in his piece. But what's more interesting to me than the examples Levin provides are the examples Levin leaves out about "Fake News." Mercy, where do we start?

How about Brian Williams (formerly the darling of the lefty nightly news) who made false claims about his experiences covering the war in Iraq?

How about NBC maliciously editing the George Zimmerman 911 call?

How about the recent Rolling Stone rape hoax, for which they've been successfully sued?

I could go on; Dan Rather, Jayson Blair (NYT), NBC's staged truck fire for which they, too, were successfully sued by GM, the outrageous fake polls leading up to this election, - it just never ends. Odd, isn't it, how the left has suddenly had a "come to Jesus" moment regarding "honest" news? It's laughable. It's also absolutely absurd. Fake news sites can be easily discredited. Not so with traditional news outlets pushing an agenda.

While it's obvious that mainstream media organizations have lost a lot of credibility (and it gets worse with each passing day) and influence over the last 10 years, does anyone seriously believe that "fake news" on outlier websites, blogs and Facebook pages have more impact on American voters than do major media outlets?

Levin finishes up his piece by advising that the remedy for "fake news" is better history education:

Teaching our students how to discern the difference will not only help them steer clear of fake history and fake news, but reinforce the importance of a responsible and informed citizenry.
On it's face, I agree with that conclusion. But, as they say, the devil is in the details. At least 50% of Americans believe the "fake news" mantra now being preached is itself "fake" and meant to distract from the real source of "fake news" - the mainstream media - as well as to console those on the left over getting their butts kicked in the recent election. The "fake news" slogan now reverberating through the echo chambers of academia, the mainstream media and elites in government is simply their way of assigning responsibility to anyone or anything other than themselves for their epic defeat. It's all so self-serving and transparent. As predictable as it is, it is also extremely irresponsible. As journalist and attorney Glenn Greenwald recently pointed out, the term "fake news" is often used as a label with nefarious political motivations:
The phrase “Fake News” has exploded in usage since the election, but the term is similar to other malleable political labels such as “terrorism” and “hate speech”; because the phrase lacks any clear definition, it is essentially useless except as an instrument of propaganda and censorship. The most important fact to realize about this new term: those who most loudly denounce Fake News are typically those most aggressively disseminating it.
In other words, the self-appointed "fixers" for "fake news", i.e. the "real" media, the education establishment, big government types and academia, are actually a YUGE part of the problem. Academia is, in many ways, in bed with the mainstream media and share the same systemic faults as their mainstream media soulmates. Professor Victor Davis Hanson recently pointed this out in a brilliant piece titled: "Universities and the media: arrogant, ignorant, and ripe for reform." He writes:
The university and the media share two traits: Both industries have become arrogant and ignorant. We have created a climate, ethically and professionally, in which extremism has bred extremism, and bias is seen not as proof of journalistic and academic corruption, but of political purity. The recent election, and especially its aftermath, embarrassed journalists and academics alike — and should not be forgotten.
In the aftermath, they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing, as they insist that the popular vote alone should have mattered, that the Russians stole the election, that there was voting fraud, but only in the swing states Trump won, or that Democrats did not emphasize identity politics enough — anything other than the truth that a now municipal Democratic party is run by apartheid coastal elites and fueled by identity politics, and that journalists and professors cannot keep society’s trust.
There is, of course, ample proof that journalists "cannot keep society's trust." A recent Gallup poll revealed that Americans' trust in the mainstream media is at an all time low. And Hanson's including of "professors" [academia] same problem is valid as well, and for the same reasons as historian Gordon S. Wood has noted:
The people who came out of the ‘60s are currently in control of the profession and it’s has become essentially race-class-gender issues. Now, a new generation will come along and they’ll want to contest that. . . . But you can’t do much else and still have a career. It’s very difficult for young people to want to work on more traditional subjects. . . . We are cutting ourselves off from the general public [reality] and that's lamentable.
Professor Wood also points out that . . .
College students and many historians have become obsessed with inequality . . . And this obsession has seriously affected the writing of American history. The inequalities of race and gender now permeate much of academic history-writing, so much so that the general reading public that wants to learn about the whole of our nation’s past has had to turn to history books written by nonacademics who have no Ph.D.s and are not involved in the incestuous conversations of the academic scholars.
While I don't want to put words into Wood's mouth and while he does not call what is being taught "fake history", one might infer that as he comes fairly close by noting that many academic historians are not teaching "the whole of our nation's past." Others have been more direct:
What most frustrates Americans is that we are a happy, optimistic, can-do people ceaselessly harangued by media solons, delusional academics, post-sovereign Eurocrats, and the Democrats who love them. While we free and feed the world, they can’t tell us enough that we’re racist, imperialist, torturing louts. We know it’s a libel, an endless stream of slander. But we also know it’s an absurd libel. We’re tired of hearing it, but taking it too seriously would give it power it doesn’t deserve. ~ Andrew McCarthy (National Review)
Bottom line: many academics, "historians" and "journalists" are proposing the wrong solution for the wrong problem. In a very ironic way, both the problem and the solution are staring back at them from the mirror, and yet they can't (or don't want to) see it.

6 comments:

Phil said...

Excellent analysis. Keep up the good work.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thank you Phil.

Eddie said...

Excellent post.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thanks Eddie.

jessie sanford said...

Ah.......Kevin Levin self-promoter extraordinaire!

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

I don't fault him for that. Just about all writers must do some of that if they're going to be read.