We’ve seen a lot of claims of fake news recently, and it made me wonder what benefits there were for the bigger picture. Certainly, there are problems, but who benefits from fake news? It’s becoming clear that Trump and his team have the advantage. Recently, Melania Trump decided to sue blogger Webster Griffin Tarpley for saying she used to be a “high-end escort.” Lawyers for the defendant claim it’s not illegal to publish a rumor if you think it’s true. In fact, libel and slander laws do need to establish intent in order to be enforced. However, remember Trump wants to “open up” libel laws in order to sue news outlets (NPR). The suit by Melania is going forward.
Here’s what happens with fake news:
Once you lie, your credibility is shot. Ask Dan Rather, Brian Williams, etc. More seriously, though, once you lie, your trustworthiness decreases, which makes it easier for someone else to say you lied. If it’s determined that you did lie, then you can be punished for libel or slander. Now a jury will look at the defendant and try to assess his/her trustworthiness in the courtroom, and given that he/she may or may not have already lied and that there has been plenty of fake news out there and that the plaintiff might even be able to paint some news outlets as having gained from lying, a jury might decide that, in fact, the defendant did lie. If the news was always honest, then no one would believe they lied.
Now, Trump and his team are also spreading fake news, and Trump’s Chief Strategist Steve Bannon was king of lying while working at Breitbart. Therefore, Trump’s team knows how to lie, seems to enjoy lying, and seems to predict benefits for them of lying.
Okay, so someone lies. Then the news reports it as true because they assume it’s not a lie. Then Trump lies again to say he had never said what the news said he had said (deep breath). Therefore, Trump is claiming the news outlet is spreading fake news and could sue them for lying.
There’s one thing missing. Fake news is still young. It’s just starting. Moreover, there are few court cases alleging it and requesting punishment for it. However, fake news has become part of regular conversation among friends talking about the state of the world, what Trump’s done in his first week, etc. The addendum to any of these conversations is usually “who knows if any of that is true.” Then someone mentions the words “fake news” and the conversation ends because there’s no way to add more value to the conversation without possibly saying something false.
I think you make a very valid point about the risk posed by fake news to credible journalism and reporting, especially in the early stages of news breaking when the facts and evidence are still emerging. The True Justice has made a general observation that fake news has the potential to almost imperceptibly flourish, camouflaged by human complacency regarding what they’re reading and an embedded assumption that facts have been checked and confirmed before publishing. This considers fake news from a different perspective to that taken in this article but both concur with respect to the risk to credible journalism.
Thank you for your research into this. It has become harder and harder to discern what’s true and what’s not, and the people shouldn’t blame themselves for that. This was intentional. It’s as simple as getting caught running a red light because someone told you red means go. There is no natural endpoint for stretching, obfuscating, muddying, or hiding the truth. Trump rewrote history two nights ago in Phoenix, which is worse than lying. He intentionally misled the public by defending his words with fabricated evidence.
Those of us that are honest are in a battle with liars and those whom the truth doesn’t benefit. It’s no different from having the more dominant force in an armed conflict. Whoever has the greater resources and utilization of those resources wins. As they say, the winner gets to write the history books, and in this case, Trump has cut out the intermediate steps of fighting a war and gone straight for rewriting history.
Regarding the ability to harm honest journalism, I think we have less to worry about in a judicial system because the effort to claim libel and force journalists to name their sources has all but fizzled away, but our eyes had better be wide open to the potential, if tapped, to shut off the mic of anyone you don’t like.
Always remember you can keep writing. Just remember that you ought to arm yourself with 1) backup copies; 2) legal knowledge regarding your rights; and 3) the fortitude to see the challenges but not change ANYTHING you’re doing. Do not self-censor, do not hedge your statements or speak in hypotheticals. Be yourself and defend that, and remind everyone else to do the same. The end of the road is mindlessly repeating whatever our controllers would say instead of using critical thinking skills.
So keep going. Thank you for visiting my blog. Happy to have you here!