Once upon a lifetime or two ago, back before the Internet or even before the rise of some of current contemporary politicians, I used to think of “fake news” as something that bears little resemblance to what it means today.
That was before we even coined the term “fake news” as it has come to be known these days.
If someone were to present an item as “news,” but it turns out to be false, you’d just call it what it was: a fabrication, a prevarication, a lie. Thanks, though, to an adroit politician — who hates to be called one, even though that is what he is — many of us toss the term “fake news” around recklessly. If it’s negative, it’s “fake.” Even if it tells the truth, it’s “fake” in the eyes of those aligned with the target of such truth-telling.
Donald John Trump, the nation’s 45th president, has now turned the term into something of a rallying cry for the shrinking — but still substantial — base of Americans who still believe what he says.
The president’s standing among Americans is around 38 percent — give or take a point or two — who think he’s doing a good job. The rest of us, um, think a lot less of him. The Trumpkins of this nation glom onto the “fake news” mantra to discredit any news report seen as critical of their guy.
They don’t get the irony, though, of what they say about the media. If you want any clearer example of what I used to think of as “fake news,” you need look no further than the man who’s made it the rallying cry it has become.
Donald Trump is the king of fake news. Call him King Donald the Faker. To wit:
He perpetrated the lie that Barack Obama was constitutionally unqualified to hold the office of president; he cited a phony instance of “thousands of Muslims cheering” the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11; he said President Obama bugged his campaign office after the election; he said “millions of illegal immigrants” voted for Hillary Clinton and gave her the 3 million popular vote plurality she scored over Trump, despite losing the Electoral College vote; he implied there might be White House recordings of conversations he had with fired FBI Director James Comey.
What, I ask, do all these instances have in common? They’re all demonstrably false. They’re lies. They are made up events.
They are “fake news”!
Still, the president gets away with it in the minds of those who stand by their man.
I get that Donald Trump changed the rules of politics when he ran for and won the presidency in 2016. Brother, do I ever get it.
What continues to boggle my mind, though, is the very idea that this guy gets away with hanging the “fake news” label on media and news reports while being cheered on by those who ignore his own tawdry record of dishing out lies.