President Donald Trump has been running around like a four-year-old, screaming “fake news” every time a newspaper or news organization runs a story or segment criticizing him or his administration.
If Trump is going to run around proclaiming “fake news,” he should at least know what it really means. There is a difference between fake news, satire, biased reporting, and inaccurate reporting.
Wikipedia helps out with the difference between fake news and satire: “Fake news websites (also referred to as hoax news) deliberately publish hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation purporting to be real news — often using social media to drive Web traffic and amplify their effect. Unlike news satire, fake news websites seek to mislead, rather than entertain, readers for financial, political, or other gain.”
This is to say that fake news is the deliberate publication of news that is blatantly false, with the intent to mislead naive readers. Often, fake news is so outrageous that even a moderate skeptic would think two things: 1) “That seems really far-fetched or unlikely, so I should look that up,” and 2) “If it were true, why isn’t it all over the news and circulating though legitimate news organizations?”
Shepard Smith of Fox News, apparently tired of the president’s whining, further explained, “For the record, ‘fake news’ refers to stories that are created, often by entities pretending to be news organizations, solely to draw clicks and views and are based on nothing of substance. In short, fake news is made up nonsense delivered for financial gain. CNN’s reporting was not fake news. Its journalists followed the same standards to which other news organizations, including Fox News, adhere.”
Journalism has reporting standards, including the sourcing of information. Certainly there is bias — consider the assault Fox News levied on President Barack Obama. They attacked him constantly. Regardless, freedom of the press should ensure that the dissemination of information and opinion, even unfavorable opinion, is not banned.
It even appears now that Trump’s administration is ready to pick and choose which news organizations will be permitted access to White House briefings. In are organizations like Breitbart and all its connections to the Trump organization and out are organizations like CNN and New York Times who regularly report on the national concerns.
The country should be appalled and terrified. If there has ever been a president and administration that needs to be held accountable for its actions and the information it shares, it is this one. Trump’s statements have been fact-checked over and over and it has been established that more than every other thing out of mouth is not completely true.
In other words, the last person, by his definition, that should be complaining about fake news is Trump himself.
Fake news is not simply a difference of opinion or an unflattering account of the way the Trump administration is being managed. What Trump is describing is dissent and resistance — tenets of American democracy. To dismiss, minimize, and delegitimize it is the act of a narcissist and hints at oppression.
For example, the New York Times story about members of the Trump campaign talking to Russians is not fake news. Were there any inaccuracies in the story? Perhaps, but it was legitimate reporting from an established newspaper. Considering the relationship Trump has had with Russia, the story is more likely true than inaccurate — but, by any objective standard, it could never be considered fake news.
Regardless of how someone feels about Trump, his proclaimed attack on the media is not acceptable. Trump can only cry wolf so many times before people realize he is the problem, not the media. To declare war on the media is to declare war on the search for the truth about our government. Journalists don’t want to get the story wrong — it’s embarrassing for them. Same for the news outlets. When mistakes are made, they should be admitted, retracted, and an apology offered. It’s about being a professional — something Trump seems to know little about.
The irony is that the media created Trump. He owes his success to the media as he received much more media coverage in the presidential campaign that any other candidate. In fact, many have blamed the media for the extensive coverage they gave him in exchange for viewer ratings, and that his many transgressions were not more thoroughly reported. Trump likes the media when it benefits him and tries to discredit them when it criticizes him.
Sorry, you can’t have it both ways. You’re the president, you accepted the job — now accept the responsibility and scrutiny that comes with the position.
Rob Swindell is a lifelong Lorain County resident offering his opinions on politics, science, and social issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.