TORONTO, Ont. Dec. 28, 2016/Troy Media/ – I hate to upset my progressive friends, but here’s the truth about the “fake news” that all of the media have been talking about since un-President Donald Trump ‘won’ by getting almost three million fewer votes than his sane, competent and qualified opponent in November:
Fake news isn’t news. We’ve always had fake news.
There. I italicized it so you’d notice it.
Political parties, political campaigns and those who try to influence the outcome in elections have always propagated “false news.” Falsehoods, spin, lies, BS: the false news you will always have with you, to mangle Jesus’s aphorism.
So, George H.W. Bush lied when he said “read my lips: no new taxes.” Bill Clinton lied about “sexual relations with that woman.” George W. Bush lied about “weapons of mass destruction.” Brian Mulroney lied about free trade – “we’ll have none of it.” Pierre Trudeau lied about wage and price controls – “zap, you’re frozen.” And those are just the ones off the top of my head. There are plenty more.
I don’t think most of those politicians thought they were in the false news business when they uttered those whoppers. They hoped those things were true, or they believed those things were sort of true. Spin is “hopeful persuasion,” George Stephanopoulos, a leading member of Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, once said. I always liked that characterization. It reflects what I have observed with many political folks: they believe in subjective truth, not objective truth. And they don’t actually believe there are any objective truths.
Let me give you a real-life example.
I was near Union Station in Toronto in my truck, waiting for my daughter to come home for Christmas. I was thumbing through Twitter, killing time.
I came across a tweet by Trump, in which he said: “We did it! We secured Nickelback for the inauguration. Very pleased, a great American band.”
I laughed out loud. Trump is an idiot but this was idiotic even for him. Nickelback is a Canadian band! Ha!
There weren’t any of Trump’s telltale spelling mistakes in the tweet but it featured that little blue Twitter check mark, indicating it was real. And the Twitter handle was authentic, too. Sitting there in my truck, squinting in the dark, it look real enough to me.
So I tweeted this: “They’re Canadians, you witless moron. But if you want ’em, you can keep ’em.”
People must’ve thought that was funny, because they retweeted it and favourited it, about a zillion times in the succeeding days. Twitter said there have been about 180,000 “impressions” about the tweet (meaning, I’m told, a human being saw it) and nearly 2,000 retweets and twice as many likes or favourites or whatever. A lot.
I was pretty focused on my daughter and not so much Twitter. But, later on, when I looked at the screen, someone had tweeted back, saying the uneven spacing suggested to them that it was fake. So I looked at the tweet again and saw that they were right: the line spacing was off. Some mischief-maker had Photoshopped the thing and sucked in a ton of folks, me included.
And then I got to thinking: So it’s fake, so what?
Some other people – mainly Trump-lovers – starting objecting to the fake tweet. They wanted me to delete it and tell everyone it was fake. They started citing the fact-checking website Snopes and stuff like that. They were upset, probably because my tweet had reached a zillion people, give or take.
So I thought some more.
No, I thought, I’m not going to. Donald Trump is a lying sack of you-know-what. He ‘won’ the presidency on a mountain of lies. Lying was all he was any good at, in fact. He is the Liar in Chief.
So, on Twitter, I started pushing back. “Fake news for a fake president,” I said to one. “True is false,” I said to another, with Orwellian gusto. “Snopes lies,” I told one or two. “Embrace the new era,” I tweeted to one woman, “and stop clinging to the quaint notion that there is any truth left to be embraced.”
The knuckle-draggers were going nuts about all of this, naturally, and I always enjoy that. But, in the midst of all the Twitter twaddle, I thought a useful point was being made.
Namely: if the right are going to tell lies about us and get away with it, well … what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, I always say. Let’s bombard them with false news, too. Let’s overwhelm them with it. Let’s give as good as we got.
If you are progressive, you may be horrified by this, because you are a good person and you observe boundaries. And, as a fellow progressive, I say to you: I have always endeavoured to be a good person, too. I tried to stay inside the lines, too. And what did that get us, precisely? It got us Trump.
Hopeful persuasion, Stephanopoulos called it. I like that. Let’s persuade voters with what we hope to be true but what hasn’t been proven to be true, beyond a reasonable doubt. Let’s just make it true on, say, a balance of probabilities.
If that standard is good enough for a civil court, it’s good enough for me.
Troy Media columnist Warren Kinsella is a Canadian journalist, political adviser and commentator. Warren is included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.
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