There’s no way to watch this clip and not detect the taste of sour grapes, just as there’s no way to watch the recent media/left hand-wringing over “fake news” and not see an attempt to explain away Trump’s shocking upset as some sort of grand scam. It must be a comfort to believe that a key reason you lost 300+ electoral votes to a guy who got caught on tape talking about grabbing women by the p***y was because someone in Macedonia wrote a story on Facebook about you eating babies or whatever. I agree that “fake news” has real-world consequences. You know what else has real-world consequences? Not running ads in Wisconsin. Or not running ads anywhere for six months about what you plan to do for the average blue-collar voter.
To be fair, though, I don’t think she means this as a commentary (or mainly as a commentary) on the election. She’s obviously talking about the guy who gorged himself on “Pizzagate” material then thought it’d be a good idea to grab his rifle and head down to Comet Ping Pong to liberate the many child sex slaves supposedly held captive inside. Imagine his surprise when he found no captives there. (“The intel on this wasn’t 100 percent.”) As with all political and media stories now, reaction to the “fake news” panic splits pretty reliably along partisan lines, with the left overly credulous because it wants to believe Trump could only have won because right-wingers are paranoid dupes and the right overly skeptical because it wants to use “fake news” as a cudgel against big media. (Virtually every conservative reflection on “fake news” has boiled down to the idea that mainstream media is the real fake news.) I think the influence of “fake news” is overstated — if you’re inclined to believe a story that Hillary Clinton eats babies, chances are you weren’t voting for her in the first place — but if you missed this piece a few weeks ago, have a look now. There are in fact people out there who are making things up whole cloth, just like The Onion does except without the laughs, because they can make bank on it. One amazing example:
[T]he most successful post BuzzFeed News found from a Macedonian site is based on a story from a fake news website. The headline on the story from ConservativeState.com was “Hillary Clinton In 2013: ‘I Would Like To See People Like Donald Trump Run For Office; They’re Honest And Can’t Be Bought.’” The post is a week old and has racked up an astounding 480,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook. (To put that into perspective, the New York Times’ exclusive story that revealed Donald Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns generated a little more than 175,000 Facebook interactions in a month.)
The viral Clinton story was sourced from TheRightists.com, a site that admits it publishes both real and fake content. According to emails released by WikiLeaks, Clinton said in a private speech to Goldman Sachs that she would like to see more successful business people enter politics. But she did not mention Donald Trump in any way. The quote used in the headline is false.
Some fake-news writers have written pieces for mainstream outlets since the election boasting about how easy it was invent a story and have it catch on online, especially on the right. There’s been enough attention to the phenomenon by now that Sheryl Sandberg had to formally deny responsibility for swinging the election to Trump in an interview on the “Today” show this morning because Facebook hasn’t figured out a way to filter out “fake news” yet. I think you can simultaneously believe that (a) the media sucks, by and large, and (b) people should be far more skeptical about what they read online, especially when what they’re reading flatters their political prejudices. Whether or not “fake news” is really a thing, motivated reasoning is definitely a thing.
If you’re looking for a piece on how our terrible media softens up the public for “fake news,” here’s the best one I’ve read. Exit question: Hillary suggests here that Congress should take action against “fake news,” specifically foreign propaganda. What sort of action?