Fake News Fatigue

I’m getting fake news fatigue. No, not because I’m sick of consuming narratives that are obviously false, or even that I’m tired of wading through a ton of bullshit media just to find the truth. I’m sick to death of the term “fake news” and anyone who uses that term to describe a point of view they don’t care for.

Thanks, 45.

And yes, we have our dear leader to thank for that disgusting moniker. “Fake news.” How catchy! It’s almost as good as “You’re Fired.”

Ever since the president-elect refused to answer CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s question during a briefing back in January 2017, “fake news” has been the go-to phrase hurled out by anyone looking to shut down a discussion. The President slides that description into any tweet where he doesn’t have any other defense to combat valid questions or points posed by a news organization.

And that’s exactly the point. Your average MAGA advocate will use that phrase when presented with evidence they can’t dispute or information that makes them uncomfortable inside their bubble, but the current administration carefully crafted the idea of fake news as a way to discredit its detractors.

Note that “detractors” in this case is anyone who dares say something less than flattering about the president or his actions… Anyone who might deign to point out that the Emperor has no clothes. Remember that the tirade against Acosta only came out because his employer CNN had just released a report indicating that Russia might have compromising information about the then presidential candidate and his business dealings. Acosta had done nothing but attend a briefing as a White House correspondent.  

The attempts to discredit legitimate news organizations started coming fast and furious after that. Soon, it was the “failing New York Times,” “ratings challenged CNN,” and “Amazon Washington Post” [Amazon founder Jeff Bezos also owns the Post]. All tweets from the President about the media questioning his antics are accompanied by #fakenews or “Fake News!”

It’s really becoming a Dickensian era for journalism in the United States, as this government-led crusade against the media is literally both the best of times and the worst of times—potentially ever—in the history of this country.

The government is literally attacking the Fourth estateit’s like something you’d hear in flashbacks from a dystopian novel. A free press is one of the hallmarks of this country, and its entire function is to hold government accountable. It’s one of the bedrock ways in which our government functions as a democracy. Those are concepts taught in high school government classes, but no one should really be surprised that something so obvious has flown over the head of this president. It’s even more chilling to consider the alternative—that, perhaps, Trump and his cronies know exactly what he’s doing and this is a calculated move to undermine the media and promote distrust amongst the public. That’s the stuff of authoritarian regimes right there.

Speaking of authoritarianism—how about a government-run channel aimed at telling the public what the “real” news is? I believe they have something very similar in North Korea, and now we here in America get our very own Propaganda TV in the form of a new broadcast the President has launched on his Facebook page. Helmed by his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump (did you really expect him to go outside the family for this?), the show laments all the “fake news” out there today, highlights the President’s recent “accomplishments,” and wraps up with the message, “Thanks for joining us, everybody. I’m Lara Trump, and that is the real news.” Watch the clip here.

And the fake news gambit has managed to whip the mouth breathers in his base into a frenzy, although we didn’t exactly expect critical thought from these people anyway. It has coalesced in some disturbing ways, such as the incident in May where Greg Gianforte (R-Montana), then running for reelection as a Congressional Representative, body-slammed a reporter for asking him a question he didn’t like. One could safely argue that it’s because of this sustained onslaught of verbal attacks against the media that actual violence has erupted against journalists. The charmer-in-Chief himself has seemingly condoned this idea that violence against the media is OK, recently Tweeting out an edited video of himself in a WWE appearance, tackling another individual with the CNN logo superimposed over his head.

Classy.

As frightening as these incidents are, the rhetoric and physical intimidation has served as a rallying cry to journalists and forced them to step up their game. We are seeing some of the best investigative reporting in decades happening right now. Journalists are supposed to function as the watchdogs of democracy (that’s another grade-school level concept, Prez, keep up!), and they are reclaiming that mantle with gusto.

Almost daily, stories emerge about the current administration, the First Family, and their business dealings that deserve to come to light. The most glaring example is, of course, the New York Times breaking the story that Donald, Jr. met with a Russian lawyer in June of 2016 to get potential information on Hillary Clinton. This raises questions about election tampering, corruption, and a whole host of other potentially illegal activities that the American people need to know about. These stories are not distractions, they are not fraudulent, and they are not Fake News! Ultimately, it doesn’t even matter if the President and his ilk are found to have done nothing wrong because the media is simply reporting WHAT happened. That’s their job. It’s the role of the Justice Department to use that information to determine wrongdoings, and it’s up to the rest of us to form our opinions.

To be fair, journalism in America has, in some ways, been in a decline over the past 15 years or so. The industry has been fighting to remain relevant in the age of the internet, and newspapers in particular have been fighting to transition to a format that generated revenue while maintaining readership. For most publications, this meant bowing to advertisers and putting out more fluff content that generated “clicks” because, today, clicks equal dollars. Your average person was not interested in traditional politics—boring policy, numbers, and science that are the reality of so much of daily life. Instead, they want to be entertained with Housewives, celebrity babies, and the latest fidgeting Pokémon fad (or whatever kids these days are into!).

Look no further than the last election for further proof. Much could be said about the outcome, but the fact is that the boring policy wonk lost and the ratings-grabbing loudmouth, who spent more time name-calling than outlining actual plans, won. She could talk for days about foreign policy; he had memorable catch-phrases.

The silver lining to all of this is that now your average American is more completely engaged in politics than ever before. Seriously, how many members of the President’s cabinet could you name off the top of your head before this year? And journalism is finally returning to the lofty ideals of old—where the journalists ask the hard questions and the people can depend on these institutions to provide them with hard facts.

So yes, I’m tired of fake news. I’m tired of politicians, surrogates, and others resorting to meaningless catch phrases when their argument wears out or when presented with an idea that challenges preconceived notions. I want an informed public that isn’t afraid to ask questions of its leaders and demand answers. (And I really want people to have all the facts so they can make an educated decision for the next election—how’s that for wishful thinking?)

I’m tired of the American people’s willingness to accept this kind of irresponsible behavior from the leaders of our country.

Instead of yelling “fake news,” we should all be demanding the truth.