What is Fake News? In the new paradigm, it is, simply, getting people to believe something that is not supported by facts or in contradiction to them.
So it’s lying, right?
It can be or it can not be, depending on whether you define lying in a purely empirical fashion (stating something that is explicitly false) or a normative fashion (deceiving someone in a hope to have the believe something false, while not necessarily saying explicitly false things). Sometimes the media lies outright, but usually they go the other route. Here is how it works, and how they (often) avoid torts for defamation. Of course, with the fallout from Covington, the future may be uncertain.
1) Publish a story with a shocking headline. Appeal to prejudice, titillation, debauchery; provoke anger and fear.
2) Muddle the available information. Omit facts that go counter to the headline’s narrative. Put the events out of order or confuse context through the writing sequence. Use the passive voice to avoid clarity. Include interviews or opinions with non-relevant personalities to reinforce the narrative and disrupt the flow of facts.
3) Allow the audience to draw the conclusion you wish them to draw. Have talking heads and opinion writers spam the conclusion on twitter, cable news, etc. Double Down. Attack any dissenters. Dox and Dogwhistle the mob to get a subject fired or make them apologize, thus confirming the truth of the headline.
4) Publish a short correction after the news cycle to mitigate the possibility of being sued for libel. Know that few people will read it and even fewer will remember anything about it. Avoid publicizing follow up information that invalidates the original headline.
5) the facts are forgotten, but the emotional response from the conclusion is remembered. Tap into the emotion for the next cycle, further cementing the desired opinions in the minds of the audience.
There are far too many examples to catalog in this article, but once you know the pattern, you’ll see it everywhere. Some recent examples:
Brett Kavenaugh – Despite no deductive proof of any transgressions and a very good inductive case against the “witnesses” (timing and financial benefit being the big two), people still believe a sitting supreme court justice is a gang rapist. They might still believe it about Clarence Thomas. Notice how quickly after the failure of the narrative all the “witnesses” were abandoned by the Democrat party and the media in general. Follow-up stories that the FBI found no evidence of wrongdoing or corroboration of the salacious stories (some of which were impossible) were buried in favor of other news.
Michael Jackson – This one has been on repeat for years, but the belief that Michal Jackson is a child molester persists; victorious defamation lawsuits are ignored, the fact that he was cleared on charges, grand juries refused to indict based on lack of evidence, even stories of Jackson’s heterosexual typical relationships… none of it is reported on so that the next inevitable cycle can begin where it left off – with MJ already being a confirmed pedo.
For a thorough rebuttal to this phenomenon, consider the arguments of Razorfist on youtube.
Covington Catholic – A recent article provoking pre-existing prejudice against whites, Catholics, boys, and Trump supporters in particular, this is a great example of how the media deceives without empirically lying. They showed a selectively edited clip of a boy (Nick Sandmann) “harassing” a “Native American Vietnam Veteran.” Those of us used to three decades of the fake news formula immediately smelled something rotten – the claims against trump supporters never really match reality, so this one that pegs it so hard set of the BS detector. Once the full video clip emerged what was visible was a group of boys on a school trip, one wearing a MAGA hat, watching a protest. a native american man (later revealed to not have been in Vietnam or had the MO he claimed) beat a drum in his face, and he responded by smiling. A 275 million dollar libel suit forced some outlets to follow-up with corrections, but step 4 and 5 were already in swing. People will remember racist Catholics, not attention-seeking stolen valor types enabled by a media willing to deceive in order to promote its own agenda.
David V. Stewart is the author of Muramasa: Blood Drinker and the Eternal Dream series. You can pre-order his latest novella, The Crown of Sight, now and read on March 22.