When commenting on the “new” phenomenon of “fake news” with presumably a multiplier effect with the Internet, there is an elephant in the room getting ignored by most of the traditionally respected actors in the sphere of news and commentary. They have formed a kind of “mutual admiration society” with a circularly reinforcing view of events that excludes outlying and dissenting views.
The ones who are most troubled about fake news and looking for ways to limit its effect are the ones often most guilty, in other words.
Tabloids have peppered newsstands in stores and supermarkets for decades, including testimonials of women who gave birth to two-headed aliens.
This “new” theme of “fake news” was tossed out first in the 2016 presidential campaign, pushed by both Obama himself and the Clinton campaign.
In a typical use of the term, the Washington Post was so aghast at the fake news scare that it published a list of fake news sites, throwing in serious right-leaning sites questioning official ruling party views, like Breitbart.com, in with actual blatant and overtly “fake news” sites like “The Onion”.
And of all the accused “fake news” sites getting fingered by “authoritative” sources in this discussion, is a simple news link aggregator, www.drudgereport.com, that does not even pretend to offer its own content, and does not even have original commentary, and includes links that are even helping drive people to traditional newspaper sites like the Washington Post itself!
That list was made by an apparently “fake front” for some group that demanded anonymity from The W. P. to protect itself from blow-back purportedly, and then quickly disappeared into the cyber ether.
But let us look at a mere handful of items from the history of “fake news”.
The sinking of the Battleship Maine was immediately blamed on Spain by the Respectable Establishment Press in the United States. To this day the cause of the explosion that sunk it, deep in the bowels of the ship, is a mystery.
The sinking of the Lusitania was used as a pretext to involve the U. S. in World War One, the “Great War”. We now know, a fact hidden then, that the Lusitania was loaded with all kinds of bellicose material. Instead of reminding both Woodrow Wilson and the public of his guarantee that he would not involve the country in that war, it cheered the battle and helped cover up the military nature of that ship’s cargo, using civilian passengers as “human shields”.
More recently, the chemical attack in Syria in 2013 proved to be a “false flag” attack by the rebels supported by the USA in funding and equipment, as reported in several European newspapers and by respected award-winning journalist Seymour Hirsch: https://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n08/seymour-m-hersh/the-red-line-and-the-rat-line
Those rebels were actively developing these weapons. The version of the recent 2017 attack that a standard Syrian bomb hit a rebel depot storing such weapons is a much more credible version.
And yet, most, though not all, the Elephant in the Room swallowed up the story without questioning why the winning side of the war, now not having to worry about Trump’s administration removing him (“Regime change is off the table”), would want to risk it all by using chemicals.
There is much ado about nothing. The winners of any crackdown on “fake news” are in a Truth is Lies ministry, as in Orwellian worlds. “War is the health of the state”, the saying goes, justifying attacks on civil liberties.
There is another good example of the “wild west” Internet doing more good than bad. ACM Communications recently published an article about the posting of what purported to be a solution to the “P versus not P” problem. It was refuted quickly, in about one day. One day! That used to take submission to peer review, with months required for review then publishing, and do it again for a refutation if it got past the months of peer review.
The Internet is Peer Review on Steroids.
In computing and science, there is not much to fear there either, except from the self-appointed “opinion leaders”. America still has a great many people thinking for themselves.