The threat of "fake news"

June 6, 2019 |

Media outlets may huff(po) and puff about President Trump’s blasting of “fake news,” but a lot of Americans agree with him.  A new survey by Pew Research found that Americans view made-up “fake news” as a bigger threat than terrorism, climate change or illegal immigration.

I don’t know if I’d go that far (which doesn’t mean the poll is fake news), but it’s definitely a problem. Here's yet another example: how many Democratic Presidential candidates are claiming that most Americans couldn't handle an emergency that cost $400?  You guessed it: fake stat.

Most fake anti-Trump news is fueled by the kind of rabid partisanship that leads every reporter to swallow any negative story, no matter how suspicious, or seize on any possible anti-Trump spin to a story while ignoring the bigger picture.  And yes, “fake news” can have really bad consequences, even beyond the way that it misinforms the public, undermines respect for the President, and gins up anger and divisiveness.

For instance, over the weekend, I noted that many top US media outlets, including the New York Times…

…were repeating a claim from a South Korean newspaper that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un had executed his top nuclear negotiator for failing to reach a deal with President Trump. This story, if true, could have resulted in an end to nuclear disarmament talks, discrediting of our President internationally, and more dangerous turmoil in Asia. But in my comments, I pointed out that the story was far-fetched and made little logical sense (admittedly, Kim often doesn’t, either), that the source had been wrong before, and (quoting myself), this “would be like (Kim) aiming his entire firing squad at his own foot” and “until it’s verified, let’s bear in mind that the US isn’t the only place that has ‘fake news.’” 

Well, it appears that the nose for avoiding cow droppings that I developed growing up in a rural environment still works.  Several days after that report appeared, the official who was allegedly executed was photographed sitting five seats away from Kim at a concert.

I hope that incidents like this, and the new Pew poll, will convince media outlets to clean up their acts and get back to aiming for objective, fact-based reporting instead of biased, badly-sourced attack pieces.  However, I predict that tomorrow’s New York Times headline will read, “North Korea Defies Trump by Creating Zombie Army.”

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