Fake News: A Moral Facade to Manipulate Discourse

Fake news. It has been the hot topic as of late. Aside from blaming Russia and demanding a recount, many Democrats have now begun to blame the supposed ‘fake news’ for Clinton’s loss.

After months of the media spinning stories and polls to heavily favor Clinton, of predicting it would be damn near impossible for Trump to win, article after article spamming the public of Trump’s certain defeat, and despite their propaganda, Trump won. The fourth estate’s credibility now in the gutter, reeling from the loss, and doing everything it can to save face it turns to a new scapegoat to pin this unfortunate devastation…’fake news’.

Yes, supposed ‘fake news’, spread by Russia or not, is the new culprit that has supposedly influenced the masses and misinformed them thus leading to Trump’s victory. It is convenient and interesting this crusade against ‘fake news’ only appeared when the election did not go their way. It is all too telling.

First and foremost, a crusade against fake news in the name of ‘truth telling and hard facts’ is a complete and utter bullshit facade. The crusade against fake news is simply this: the manipulation of discourse by any means necessary as long as it is not a direct attack upon the legality of freedom of speech or press itself. It is rarely a direct attack upon the legal right of freedom of speech or press, rather it is the utilization of any means necessary, ideological or technological, to coerce opposition into silence and manipulate the discourse to confirm the agreed upon narrative only.

This is not new, only slightly more overt than usual. Whether it be shaming, policing rhetoric, doxxing, or banning social media accounts, the liberal left or regressive left will use indirect means to coerce or silence dissenting positions. To them, this is morally justified, for they are on the ‘right side of history’ or ‘fighting fascism and white nationalism’, or numerous other self-righteous rationalizations. The policing of fake news is an extension of this policing sentiment. Freedom of discourse, no matter the content, has become something of an enemy, or something desired to be eliminated. The support of discourse, but only within a narrow and confined boundary, only on specific approved content and vehemently excluding the disapproved content, has become a virtuous endeavor of the liberal left

While there are indeed false news stories, websites that purposely produce false news, and general spun propaganda; it is only the most naive that would defend and entrust in a pseudo-benevolent entity such as the state or corporations to police these things for them. The intention itself is ripe for abuse, and thus is the problem. This ‘concern’ only occurred when election results did not match up with what the mainstream media discourse desired, and this is the red flag that tells it is not so much falsity they are concerned with, rather the elimination of what challenges the trending agenda. The legal difficulties have already been written about in other articles, and lawsuits have already occurred. It is unwise and reckless to declare this or that ‘fake news’ and not expect legal repercussions. The legal troubles themselves are enough to can this whole ridiculous crusade.

What is most troubling even still are those on the left who will rush to defend and argue in favor of this policing of fake news. Either too naive or too short sighted to see the problem of entrusting some other entity to play ‘fact checker’ for you, as if that entity does not have its own intentions. I do agree fact checking is important. It is perfectly fine to have websites and other sources do this. But one must not be so passive as to accept these ‘fact checkers’ at face value, without question. Or worse yet, regarding the use of it as a tool to manipulate discourse, perhaps they know this fully and that is why they support the idea. Again, they may have no problem with coercing opposing or varying viewpoints into silence or taking part in ‘policing’ any views which one may be offended by or find unpleasant or disagreeable. Orwell was incorrect to think it is the State which will become totalitarian in surveillance and policing, no, it will be the people themselves that will smugly smile and willingly police one another and coerce into silence through any means necessary those who dissent, as if it is a holy moral imperative.

The argument best made in support of free discourse without policing, which includes yellow journalism and worse, is that an adult must be responsible enough to discern for him or herself what is and is not true. The infantilization of the masses may be trending, but it should not be the preference. A competent adult does not need and should not need a pseudo-benevolent entity to police what is and is not worth reading, or which is or is not valid content. Given there are many who do believe in sheer gossip, in crude exaggerations, in any content which may confirm their preconceived biases and narrative. This is the bad we must take with the good regarding freedom of discourse, speech, and press. It is the responsibility of the competent individual to compare articles with one another, double check sources, and triple check facts when and however a fact can be confirmed. It must also be stated, as much as there are those who are college educated that look down upon those who are not, education alone does not make one able to differentiate credible from not credible. The media has shown us clearly that even journalists educated at the best universities are every bit as fallible to agreeing with and propagating only that which agrees with their own biases and preconceptions, and in many ways, have shown to be some of the absolute worst at displaying this lack of integrity and outright zealous prejudice. An individual’s education does not determine whether they are capable of discerning legitimate news from the false, and this patronizing condescension that it must be done for them must stop.

The mainstream news media and staff have little room to dare pretend at having authority after the past many months of trash behavior they have exhibited. If they were wise, they would learn from their mistakes and be humble, not put on this bullshit facade crusading against a ‘fake news’ scapegoat.

In conclusion, the words of HL Mencken may summarize it best:

My belief in free speech is so profound that I am seldom tempted to deny it to the other fellow. Nor do I make any effort to differentiate between the other fellow right and that other fellow wrong, for I am convinced that free speech is worth nothing unless it includes a full franchise to be foolish and even…malicious.

Natasha Black