As this continues, the waters get muddier. If Melania’s lawyer wins and a judge decides it’s the journalist’s responsibility to vet the information even when that’s impossible and decides that it’s best to report no news at all if you can’t be sure everything is accurate, then news outlets can’t report anything because it’ll be so difficult to prove something is true and because there will be a legal precedent to hand down punishment to any news outlet that lied. As I mentioned earlier, it’ll be hard for a jury to determine if a news outlet lied, and any previous news reports about whether they lied in the past or not will be difficult to trust.
If a judge decides it’s best to report nothing, then Trump needs only to claim something was fake news, which would trigger a legal investigation, and then the news outlet will realize it’s best not to report anything because not just the news outlet but the actual journalist, the individual human reporter, could be liable and could face jail time, censure, etc. At the very least, they’d almost certainly be fired in order for the news outlet to lessen any further loss of its reputation.
My conclusion of all of this? Journalism will be reduced. Courage to report anything will go down and thus reporting will go down, which means public accountability will go down. If you can’t vet information because there’s so much fake news that you can’t even trust your own sources or sources of reputable news outlets, then you get scared to report because Trump can claim fake news and trigger an investigation whenever he doesn’t like what he hears, whenever something sounds like it could be against him. Your career will be over whether you lied or not, and you might have to pay a fine and possibly serve jail time.
Claims of fake news and the subsequent inability to prove that news is real because of the prevalence of fake news allow punishment to be enforced against the reporter. By spreading fake news and making it impossible to prove what’s true and what’s not, you either report nothing or risk severe punishment.
Honestly, I think the source of fake news is Trump, is Bannon, and is the fake-news machine that he and his group have created in order to create an environment in which anything could be considered fake news. If a judge decides that this is true and also concludes that therefore you shouldn’t report anything because you know there’s a good chance it’s fake due to the prevalence of fake news, then the judge is saying there’s a high likelihood the reporter would know before reporting the news that the news would later be determined to be false, which would mean the reporter knew he/she would probably be breaking libel or slander laws. Legally, if you can reasonably assess that an action you’re about to take is a crime, then most courts would assess that you should have known to not take such action. Therefore, a guilty verdict becomes almost certain even without much evidence.
Trump and his team did this. They lied in order to get this started, and now, since they lied but they won, they get to say everyone else lied and punish anyone they want.
When lies and truth cannot be determined to be one or the other, when lies are punishable, when the power to determine is handed to the plaintiff, and when the defendant has no way to prove truth, there’s only one thing left to do: say nice things about Trump and never report anything he does wrong, which is exactly what he wants you to do.
You’ve reached the end of Series 7: Fake News
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