Regardless of what many will try to lead you to believe, the majority of American citizens are intelligent enough to understand that politicians (especially those at the federal level) have a long standing history of crafty word play and information manipulation. This is especially true for those Americans over the age of 30 who have witnessed first hand the types of double talk and misdirection that occurs especially during campaign runs and political scandal.
The current administration is no different. What I personally take issue with the most is the current, pop-culture battle cry of “Fake News!”. This tag line is flawed from its core, and the reason is as easy to see as its flawed execution.
Simply put, the core of the “fake news” chant is Donald Trump’s motives behind saying it. It really doesn’t take a genius to notice that whenever he cries it out, it is in relation to anything that casts a negative light on him or his administration. As for any news that praises him, he unsurprisingly praises. This is not an anti-Trump observation. Rather, it is merely a statement of fact more about human behavior more than anything else. Because if we’re all honest with ourselves, whenever anything negative is said about any of us our first response is to try to discredit the source. The problem with such a major world figure as the President of The United States of America perpetuating such rhetoric is that, regardless of whether or not you like a current President, the fact is his opinion holds a LOT of weight.
The danger in the President continuing to push this idea, and the citizens who are willing to accept it and spread it, is that its logical conclusion can lead to the types of laws that have already been passed in the likes of Russia. Cutting to the chase of the Russian law, Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a new law which will allow the punishment of individuals and online media for spreading what Russia calls “fake news” and information which “disrespects” the state.
The new rules allow prosecutors to direct complaints about material considered insulting to Russian officials to the government, which can then block websites publishing the information. Publications that repeatedly spread “unreliable” information which undermines social order, may face fines of up to $23,000, and repeat offenders could spend time in jail, according to The Washington Post.
The laws will target online information that presents “clear disrespect for society, government, state symbols, the constitution and government institutions.”
Again, I cannot stress it enough – this is not an anti-Trump piece. I know many reading this may take it that way. The truth is, when Donald Trump complains about “fake news” in relation to any number of reports, I actually agree with him. Only, I don’t agree with his choice of words in calling it “fake news”. Far too often, what he’s actually referring to is “Poor Reporting”, because many news outlets and their journalists are far too often guilty of such, as well as excessive bias. The news in and of itself is predominantly not “fake”. Rather, it is often poorly reported. Just because I (or the President) don’t agree with the news itself doesn’t automatically make it fake. A recent incident at Lebanon High School regarding a student placing Bible verses on posters throughout the school is a perfect example. The local news media reported this as “Ohio Student Suspended After Posting Bible Verses Around School”. The problem is, this report is incomplete. This does mean it is “fake”. It is simply poorly reported. There are far more details to this story that I’m not going to go into here, but the truth is the reason this student received an in-school suspension was for violating a school policy that other students have received the same punishment for violating.
Naturally, I’m sure you’re wondering what then IS fake news. Simple – censorship. Censorship like that just enacted in Russia. When any one entity is given control over what you can and cannot read, see, or hear, the resulting information they provide to you is in and of itself “fake”. Although poor reporting can be annoying and often misleading, it is still not fake in that it is part of a basic fundamental American freedom – the freedom of speech. Choosing to believe everything any President or politician of your choosing says is true is also a basic right. But I caution anyone who tends to live by this practice that if everything said politician does not like is belittled and discredited as “fake”, you may already be living under the thumb of censorship without there actually being a law. Essentially, you have opted for voluntary censorship.
Bottom line, what is commonly referred today as “fake news” quite frankly isn’t always “fake”. Poor reporting is poor reporting, not fake news. If you are wrong about something you’ve said or written, you were just wrong or misinformed – that doesn’t mean it was fake.
Fake news isn’t fake news.