Elites Reserve the Right to Decree What is "Fake" and What is "News"

Legacy media corporations like the New York Times and Washington Post have big problems right now.

Consumption of their product is dropping. Public confidence in them has tanked. And in front of the nation and the world, they blew the biggest political story in decades by continually pushing the falsehood that Donald Trump had no chance to win the presidential election. 

Any rational thinker might take some time for introspection and consider a course correction.  But rational is rarely a word used to describe the legacy media.

So it’s no surprise that in response to their spectacular fall from a once lofty position of prestige and credibility, news outlets like the Washington Post are doubling down by insisting that the elite must continue to assert themselves as the ultimate arbiter of what is real and what is news.

For example, the Washington Post recently spent a considerable amount ink publicizing the conclusions of “independent researchers” who insist that Donald Trump was swept into office by a “flood” of “fake news” spread by a “sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign.” 

These efforts, moreover, supposedly “exploited American-made technology platforms [such as Facebook] to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House.” 

The Post article goes on to detail the work of an organization, PropOrNot, which it describes vaguely as “a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds.” This entity – the membership and funding of which have not been publicly disclosed – published a “Black Friday Report” and website, which amplify these assertions. “[T]his propaganda is undermining our public discourse by providing a warped view of the world,” it states, “where Russia can do no wrong, and America is a corrupt dystopia that is tearing itself apart.” 

PropOrNot’s prescription to the Red Menace that it identifies is to “[o]btain news from actual reporters,” in particular, “NPR, the BBC, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Buzzfeed, VICE, etc, and especially your local papers and local TV news channels.” Its website also contains a list of “related projects” (initially identified as “allies”) some of which will be familiar (and not in a good way) to those who follow the debate over gun laws in America. These include Snopes and Politifact, among others. 

Now, we wouldn’t necessarily discourage anybody from getting their “news” from any of the “reporters” mentioned by PropOrNot.

But the days when any thinking American will uncritically swallow whatever “facts” such outlets report (to say nothing of their opinion or analyses pieces) are long gone, and well they should be. Examples of their arrogance, ethical breaches, bias, and outright political collusion are now so numerous that their reporting, especially on politically charged issues like firearm policy, cannot simply be accepted at face value. 

Of course, no example is so brutally obvious as the inability of outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post to comprehend that Donald Trump was a legitimate and viable contender for the White House. Not only did they formally endorse his competitor, Hillary Clinton, they portrayed Trump – and even those who would dare support him – in a relentlessly negative light, to the point that “normalizing” the man Americans would eventually choose as their president itself became a sort of journalistic sin. As it became increasingly obvious to most Americans that Trump would win, anchors and commentators for a number of news network could only react with incredulity, anger, and even tears, completely negating any pretense of journalistic detachment.

“Fact-checkers” have repeatedly and notoriously botched firearm-related claims. After Hillary Clinton said the Supreme Court was “wrong” on the Second Amendment and pledged to make that case “every chance” she got, Politifact rated “false” Trump’s claim that Clinton wanted to abolish the Second Amendment. The organization based its analysis largely on the premise that Clinton had not called for an outright repeal of the amendment, dismissing the fact that if the Supreme Court were indeed “wrong” about the provision, it would not protect an individual right to armed self-defense. Later, Politifact rated “mostly false” NRA’s claim that Clinton said gun confiscation was “worth considering,” even though Clinton said exactly that about Australia’s program of forced firearm surrender. As another news source put it, “NRA says Clinton said something she said. Politifact says NRA claim 'mostly false'.”

News stories have also prominently misidentified firearms or demonstrated rank ignorance about simple firearm-related concepts. Several stories on the federal “assault weapon” ban (which of course concerned semiautomatic firearms) were dramatized on television news with footage of actual machine guns in action. More recently, Rolling Stone (currently subject to a sizable defamation judgment arising from a false story about gang rape on a college campus) breathlessly (and laughably) exposed the five most dangerous types of firearms as pistols, revolvers, rifles, shotguns, and derringers.

And reporters and news organizations have repeatedly been caught deceptively editing stories that deal with firearms or self-defense. Katie Couric is currently the subject of a defamation lawsuit for the misleading editing of an interview with a pro-gun group for an antigun documentary. The final cut of the film portrays the group as stunned into silence by a supposedly penetrating question, when in fact taped audio of the exchange proved the group’s members readily offered answers and rebuttals. NBC was caught blatantly doctoring the 911 call in the highly-charged case of George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, to promote the false impression that Zimmerman volunteered information about Trayvon Martin’s race as a basis for suspicion. In fact Zimmerman did no such thing and was only responding to a direct question about the subject’s race from the police dispatcher.

Throughout his campaign, Trump’s opponents sought to delegitimize him and his supporters. This effort continues, now that he has been elected. If anyone doubts this, try the simple experiment of attempting to find any positive coverage of the president elect in a major mainstream news source, especially any of those that formally endorsed Hillary Clinton. 

The fact that newspapers like the Washington Post would try to pull the same stunt on their upstart competitor news sources is hardly surprising. 

So read often and widely, but just remember that those who are now pointing fingers have plenty to be ashamed of themselves. And be especially critical of any news source that supports the regulation and investigation of its competitors, while exempting itself from those recommendations. If that reminds you of how the elites approach gun control, it should.

© 2016 National Rifle Association of America, Institute for Legislative Action. This may be reproduced. This may not be reproduced for commercial purposes.

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