This afternoon, I am once again sharing the words of the wise Nicholas Kristoff, opinion writer for the New York Times, and author of several books. His article, Lies in the Guise of News in the Trump Era, says much of what I intended to write about today, only he does it far better than I. In the interest of honesty and integrity, I share only a portion of his article, and a link to the entire article.
Lies in the Guise of News in the Trump Era, Nicholas Kristoff, New York Times, 12 November 2016
IF you get your news from this newspaper or our rival mainstream news sources, there’s probably a lot you don’t know.
You may not realize that our Kenyan-born Muslim president was plotting to serve a third term as our illegitimate president, by allowing Hillary Clinton to win and then indicting her; Pope Francis’ endorsement of Donald Trump helped avert the election-rigging.
You perhaps didn’t know that Clinton is a Satan worshiper at the center of “an international child enslavement and sex ring.” Or that Chelsea Clinton isn’t Bill Clinton’s daughter, but a love child of Hillary’s by another man — or that Bill has his own love child with a black prostitute.
Oh, the scoops we miss here at The Times!
None of those items is actually true, of course, but all have been reported by alt-right or fake news websites (the line between them is sometimes blurred). And one takeaway from this astonishing presidential election is that fake news is gaining ground, empowering nuts and undermining our democracy.
As I’ve argued for most of this year, I think we in the mainstream media — especially cable television — sometimes bungled coverage of Trump. There was too much uncritical television coverage of Trump because he was good for ratings; then there was not enough investigation of his business dealings, racism and history of sexual assaults, and too much false equivalency that equated the two candidates as equally flawed.
More broadly, we in the mainstream media are out of touch with working-class America; we spend too much time chatting up senators, and not enough visiting unemployed steel workers.
Yet for all of our sins in the mainstream media, these alt-right websites are both far more pernicious and increasingly influential. President-Elect Trump was, after all, propelled into politics partly as a champion of the lie that President Obama was born abroad and ineligible for the White House.
Even now, only 44 percent of Republicans accept the reality that Obama was born in the U.S.
I find them particularly loathsome because they do their best to magnify prejudice against blacks, Muslims and Latinos, tearing our social fabric.
The venom directed at minorities is staggering: Alt-right kooks suggest that Obama is literally the devil and is trying to destroy humanity through vaccines.
Mr. Kristoff is one of the few in the mainstream media who has even acknowledged the mistakes that were made by the media in what is likely to go down in history as the Great Trainwreck of 2016. Yes, the major media outlets, the ones I rely on for my day-to-day news, let us down in a major way, and it is to be hoped that they have learned from this and will take the necessary steps to police themselves in the future. If they do not, then it is up to us to hold them accountable for journalism that benefits their bank balance more than their viewers. But that is a topic for another day, another post …
However, of equal importance is, as Mr. Kristoff writes, what I call the ‘illegitimate media’. A study by Pew Research shows that some 60% of people get at least some of their news from Facebook and other social media sites, and 49% get a significant portion of their news from social media. This, given the unreliability and proliferation of falsehoods found on what passes for news on social media, is an abomination! And it is a sad, disturbing statement about our society, about our educational system, that this many people are willing to accept, at face value, everything they read on a platform that, by its own admission, is for social interaction rather than scholarly pursuits.
Has the citizenry of the U.S. forgotten how to read, how to research, how to think? I believe that a vast majority of them have, else they simply do not care. Is it easier to jump on the first train that comes by, never asking where that train is bound, than to study the schedules and make sure to get on the train that will take you where you actually wish to go? For a long time, I worked to correct friends on Facebook who re-posted untrue garbage, such as poor Jackie Chan who seemed, for a time, to die every few weeks, or the rumours of Bill Clinton’s illegitimate son. I would patiently explain that one really needed to verify these stories through reliable sources before posting them on Facebook, but finally I got tired of it and just began ignoring them all.
We have all heard of the ‘dumbing down’ of America, and I am convinced that social media has contributed largely to that concept. Human laziness, declining quality of education and social media. At least 30 million American adults cannot read. Somewhere around 60% think a faux news story on Facebook is “news”. This, folks, is a trend we must all work to turn around. Educators, parents, even friends need to help people understand the difference between news and politically motivated lies, else our nation will continue to spiral downhill and we will continue electing people who make promises they cannot possibly keep, who have no qualifications for the positions to which they rise.