All News Is Fake News Until Proven Otherwise
by Gabriel McArthur
At this point in 2016, it’s hard to know whether or not Prince, Bowie, and Harambe are all hanging out on an island somewhere sipping margaritas with Andy Kaufman wondering why they didn’t join him sooner…
The internet and it’s memecentricity (yeah I made up that word, but give me a few days and it’ll be up on Urban Dictionary) has complicated our world dramatically over the past two decades, culminating in the most mind-numbingly bizarre year we’ve had in a while. Moving forward from the “election heard ‘round the World”, we’re starting to see the catastrophic effects fake news is having on American society. Most news sources we’re exposed to these days are courageously fighting the good fight and warning us about the looming threat of Vladimir Putin and the Russian state. Fake news, they say, is at the center of a villainous plot to undermine our elections in favor of Donald Trump and his barbershop quartet featuring Putin, Wikileaks, and The Alt-Right. — Here’s the bottom line, fake news is a real problem, but not for the reasons you think it is.
Major news sources particularly focus on #Pizzagate, an online conspiracy theory which accuses Clinton campaign manager John Podesta and other Washington elite of holding sadistic cocktail parties featuring satanic blood rituals and horrific child abuse. The spread of this theory influenced a D-List actor to fire a shot in Comet Ping Pong Pizza , the alleged location of these grisly black masses. This specific incident is being cited all over the journalism world to highlight the dangers of fake news. But let me be clear; in the context of this article, conspiracy theory doesn’t mean untrue, simply unproven. While it’s highly unlikely this theory is as legitimate as some Reddit users are convinced, we ought to be careful to discount it completely. Jeffrey Epstein, a former billionaire executive of Bear Stearns served jail time for soliciting prostitution from girls as young as 14, and that’s only what he got caught for. As some may remember, folks on the left were drawing connections between Epstein and Donald Trump while completely forgetting that both Bill and Hillary Clinton went to Epstein’s private island. You can call that last sentence fake news if you’d like, but even the uber-liberal Daily Beast reported on this before: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/06/30/the-billionaire-pedophile-who-could-bring-down-donald-trump-and-hillary-clinton.html. Only a few months ago, Anthony Weiner complicated Clinton’s campaign considerably when emails originating from her private server were discovered during an investigation of Wiener‘s solicitation of, you guessed it, an underage girl. For some reason, people can look at these incidents and understand there are some very sick people intermingling with the rich and powerful, but stop just short of believing they talk to each other. The problem is, Pizzagate is so cobbled together, extreme, and bizarre that any grain of truth to it will be swept under the rug decisively by most of the public. I’m not convinced by Pizzagate’s proponents, but I absolutely believe people should be looking into it.
The reality is, fake stories have existed as long as there’s been mass communication. We’re talking back to the chisel and stone days. We don’t even need to go back that far to remember people like P.T. Barnum, the circus tycoon who bought a blind slave in 1835 billing her as George Washington’s nurse. (Sounds an awful lot like a certain President-Elect we all know). I was shocked to discover recently that Ben Franklin himself faked a news story involving Native Americans scalping settlers to drum up support for land-grabbing. In the past few months, the major news companies have been pushing the narrative that fake news is a much more dangerous problem in this election than any before it. Just listen to any cookie cutter host on MSNBC, FOX, or CNN and they’ll throw in a quip about fake news at any opportunity. Facebook and Twitter are also working on ways to combat the rise of misinformation. Hillary Clinton’s first speech since her concession focused on how fake news cost her the election. This borderline obsession with fake news by pretty much everyone in power raises the question…Why?
On November 30th, a little over two weeks before the writing of this piece, HR6393 or The Intelligence Authorization Act passed the House of Representatives and moved on to the Senate, in which a similar bill was also passed. This provisions within HR6393 is absolutely necessary to maintain the function of our intelligence agencies. That’s kind of the insidiousness of it. A small section of the bill gave our government the authority to combat fake news officially. It doesn’t lay out specific actions they’re allowed to take or who they aim to target other than Russia and other “extremist groups”. Whether we’d like to believe it or not, fake news is still covered under the first amendment. Still, Congress just opened the doors for media censorship in America. The justification is protection from any Russian interference in our election processes. Yet, one has to ponder the foresight required by Putin to know how the “hacked” DNC emails from almost a year ago would affect the election even if he did in fact possess them. If these emails were false, why did Debbie Wasserman Schultz resign from the Democratic National Committee the very next day after they were released? Why did Donna Brazile, the interim DNC chair who left CNN after the discovery of her leaking townhall debate questions to the Clinton campaign repeatedly point to the emails as stolen and not fake? Did Vladimir Putin force these people to act unethically? The mainstream media uses the phrase “highly confident” when referring to our intelligence agencies and their belief that Russia interfered in our election. Why don’t they use the phrase “highly certain”? Is it because they know most people won’t see the difference in the verbiage? I can’t say for certain, but these are questions we need to be asking of the media before this results in a global conflict.
This entire election, pundits and pollsters made predictions that never came to pass. Aside from being a killer alliteration, that fact makes me wonder why people are so readily accepting of their narrative now. They discounted Bernie Sanders as a candidate who would never make it past Iowa’s primary. They covered Donald Trump’s every little misdeed over countless real issues facing American citizens. They propped up Clinton as an unbeatable candidate for president. All of it, proved to be wrong. Am I advocating against reading or watching their content? On the contrary, I believe we should consume news from a wide variety of sources. Not because their words are always true, but because many times their words reflect what those in their bubble believe is true. It isn’t the government or mainstream media’s job to protect us from fake news. It’s incumbent upon each of us to fact check the fact checkers, and use independent media to report stories they won’t report. We must do everything in our power to protect free speech and citizen journalism. Until of course, our ability to do so is lost as collateral damage in the war on fake news.