The False ‘Fake News’ Litmus Test
President Donald Trump has implied that any news that’s negative about him or his administration should be considered ‘fake news.’
“The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake.” That was one of the comments President Donald Trump made during a 77-minute news conference during which he made his displeasure with the media as clear as ever (as if there were any room for doubt).
During the same news conference, when asked about his statements that his presidency was the result of the “biggest Electoral College margin since Ronald Reagan,” he first tried to claim he meant of Republican victories, and when that was disproved as well, he non-chalantly dismissed that.
“Well, I was given that information, I don’t know, I was given — we had a very big margin.” He was given that information, which was wrong, and he spread it without fact-checking. And yet he seeks to be the arbiter of truth where the mainstream media is concerned.
He has tweeted, “Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election.”
Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 6, 2017
And, when a crowd of people in his own party gather to protest something, they, according to him, are actually liberal plants.
The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2017
During a recent discussion on Facebook, a friend of mine posted, in part, this:
[Trump] has literally said that he has no problem with negative reporting when it is legit and that he will do or say things occasionally to warrant it.
So when the negative reporting is legitimate, he won’t have a problem with it.
But when he calls members of the media “the enemy of the American people,” how can anyone expect him to consider any negative reporting as legitimate reporting?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2017
If Trump is going to suggest that reports that don’t portray him in a glowing light are examples of “fake news,” how will the “fake news” litmus test actually work?
That is to say, how will it ever be weighed to determine whether it is legitimate? Will it even get that chance for that level of examination? For those who fall on his every word, probably not.
And this is just a guess, but I suspect that uncertainty is the whole point. For the press, this kind of rhetoric sounds like a setup job in which the media is automatically biased until proven “legit.”
This goes both ways, of course: if you posted a story that some might perceive as overwhelmingly “positive,” Trump’s opponents are going to assume that story is “fake.”
I’m sure that the phrase had occurred to him at the time, President Richard Nixon, who likewise hated the press, would have branded all news stories that even contained the word Watergate as “fake news.” His supporters likely would’ve gone right along with that, too.
— Jim McGovern (@RepMcGovern) February 18, 2017
But that wouldn’t have make those stories fake. Or untrue.