Fake News (FKNW) Is an Attack on the Press

by Bruce D. Moore

“I was nowhere near Caesar when he went down fast and hard on Senate floor. Special Roman Counsel Investigation already shows: NO COLLUSION!!!  Sad for pathetic media scribes. ”     -Trumpbrutus as channeled by Scott Simon, 44 B.C.

The current meaning of the term “Fake News” (shortened to FKNW here) is much broader than it has ever been, and has come to mean any information that you don’t want to believe, often based on just a gut feel.  Let’s take a closer look.

Language is always in flux.  FKNW, which in the past meant tabloid news like the National Enquirer, or parody/satire like The Onion, now can include everything from opinion columns to Russian trollbot propaganda.  And it’s become a part of daily vocabulary too, something you might say when Dad’s been proven wrong about the weather forecast.

As for FKNW, the new meaning is: everything that you deem fake.  Any information that you don’t like.  And if FKNW can be applied to everything, it means  …nothing.

The great injustice that Trump has done to the free press is extending FKNW to include opinion as well as fact.  CNN rarely gets the basic facts wrong, and when they do, the right-wing media is on them like a cheap suit, parading it around.  So why is CNN singled out as the worst big offender by Trump?  Because he doesn’t like their OPINIONS; the undeniable bias that creeps into their stories (by withholding certain details, covering only certain stories, using loaded language).  Sorry CNN, you’re fairly factual but way too biased to be called truthful.  Same goes for FOX btw.

What a drag for us English-language users.  We no longer have a word to describe news that’s fake due to a lack of facts rather than due to merely poor opinions.   Excepting the over-used words “lie” and “bullshxt”, perhaps.  Lying news?  It just doesn’t roll off the tongue.  Forged news?

How to fix all this?  For one, we can stop using the words “fake news” unless we’re joking around.  The term has become so diluted in meaning that it’s almost useless.   Use “Lie” or “Bullshxt” instead.  Not as catchy as FKNWs, but they’re what we’ve got.

Facebook advocates using “False News”, but that just seems too limp and Zuckerbergian. http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2017/08/08/facebook_has_stopped_saying_fake_news_is_false_news_any_better.html

Maybe there oughta be a law passed…  grrr…   that requires you to add an identifying tag to every usage of the term fake news.  Like this:  FAKENEWSopinion  or FAKENEWSfactual  or FAKENEWSsatire.   Yeesh.  1984 didn’t happen in 1984, but it looks like it’s starting now.  Doubleplusungood.

What else can we say about FKNW?

Oh lawd, it’s too hard to sort it all out… So in despair, I cry “it’s ALL fake!” and stop reading.  And thereby shut down legitimate news…   cutting off my nose to spite my face.  Or, I move into an echo chamber and read only reassuring news that fits my political bias.  Everyone here has probably seen this echo chamber effect going on with themselves and/or people around them.

Trump co-opted the words FKNW to highly disruptive effect when he extended their meaning to include opinions as well as facts.  Now nearly everyone suffers news-feed fatigue trying to digest the newly-suspicious news. Trump thus polarized our political discourse, with people of all stripes retreating into easy-to-read echo chambers.

This WHATFINGER website is more-or-less of an echo chamber.  It’s a news aggregator that allows you to get everything from kitten memes to satanist Hillary stories and without ever leaving the comfort of your right-wing bed.   No doubt there are left-wing versions as well.

https://www.whatfinger.com/

Another thing; if you don’t like your opponents’ opinion, all you need to do is yell, “FKNW!” for them to be forced to drop any nuanced opinions or positions and fight for basic factual turf.  In this way, FKNW often becomes an insurmountable obstacle to discourse.

And if the FKNW label that’s been applied to a particular story starts to wilt in the glare of provable facts,  there’s usually some postmodernist line of retreat from the truth available for the labelers, probably involving crisis actors or the fact that we are all just the dream of a giant frog-god or similar non-falsifiable* argument.   So once accused of FKNW, you’re usually double-dog-damned with no way to climb over the FKNW wall.  Predictable result:  political polarization.  They live in their camp; you live in yours.

Facts are observations for which there is evidence.  Truth is a perception of the facts, hopefully assembled with accurate logic.  Unfortunately, at the bottom level, even the words “truth” and “fact” are contextually dependent, and there are no indivisible atomic nuclei of meaning for those words which would encompass all possible usages of those words.   In an emergency, a slippery practitioner of FKNWs can slide down such gaps in our language to avoid being pinned down.

So how did FKNW get started?  Trump isn’t the first liar…  FKNW must have a beginning back in the mists of time.  Yes, it does, go research it yourself on Wiki.  We aint got time for that now.  The real story begins with the Nazis, who were the first to exploit FKNW in a big way.

The term Big Lie, meaning that if you tell a big fat lie over and over ppl will believe it, was coined by Hitler.  Trump has used the Big Lie tactic repeatedly, starting with the FKNW lie.  He actually succeeded in changing the meaning of the phrase in just a couple of years.  Make Germany Great Again, anyone?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_lie

Fake news often involves accusing the opposition of exactly the crimes you’re guilty of.

“I am not the crook.  Crooked Hillary is.”     -Trumpnixon, 1972

Fake News Haiku

It felt true, but still
we gasped to know he said it.
Except he didn’t.     – Gwee Sui

Conclusion:  FKNW is a mental virus…  a fragment of bad religion…  a malicious byte of information coded to disrupt.  And at the same time, it’s almost meaningless.  A kind of dark matter swirling around our noosphere.  Gonna make it harder for us all going forward, like salmon swimming up a FKNWaterfall.   Thanks, Donald.

Facts are notes and lyrics on sheet music. Truth is what the singer gives to the listener when she’s brave enough to open up and sing from her heart.  – Unknown

Post-truth is an assertion of ideological supremacy by which its practitioners try to compel someone to believe something regardless of the evidence.   – Lee McIntyre

It’s is a fact that the sky is blue when it is blue and that roses that are red are red … it’s also a fact that colors do not exist.  – Steven Hoyt

Alternative facts aren’t alternative facts.   – Bruce D. Moore

* Falsifiability is a key concept here.  It means that your argument CAN conceivably be proven wrong if only someone can find the proper evidence.

Falsifiability and Karl Popper (1:50)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wf-sGqBsWv4

Bruce D. Moore is a long time Davisite, on-and-off since 1960, and considers it the center of the universe.  He does occasional analog integrated circuit design work when not walking his crazy dogs around the Trader Joe’s area.  He founded the Blue Sky Party (membership: four people) which maintains a stupidly optimistic long-term view of technology’s ability to fix the world’s problems.


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34 Comments

  1. Keith O

    the undeniable bias that creeps into their stories (by withholding certain details, covering only certain stories, using loaded language).  Sorry CNN, you’re fairly factual but way too biased to be called truthful.  Same goes for FOX btw.

    This is so true, it’s not just spinning stories but also which “news” outlets choose to put forward and hold back.  There are many more than just CNN and Fox that do this.

    As an example, I have Yahoo as my Internet home page and it’s very biased in which stories it chooses to present.  If it’s Trump negative it gets the green light.

  2. Keith O

    Because of the obvious bias in much (most) of the press, I don’t think Trump is off base in calling them Fake News or FKNW.  Maybe it’s time they did finally get called out.

    1. David Greenwald

      The point is that Fake News was actually intentionally fabricated news whereas he is using the term to mean “I don’t agree” or “Biased” News. So now everything he disagrees with, he calls “fake news” it’s lost its more important meaning.

      1. Keith O

        If it’s designated as opinion then you have a point, but when major news networks in their supposedly non opinion actual news casts only want to present the negative stories on Trump and bury any positive headlines then I think Trump is right, it is Fake News.

          1. David Greenwald

            It happens. Sometimes sources embellish. Sometimes they don’t find the key additional source they needed. And sometimes, not often, they overreach. But for the most part, I think the news reporting is fairly accurate. You may think it’s biased. I may think it’s biased. But those are two different things.

            Here’s a good example…

            Feb. 24: On anonymous sources

            In a speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump claimed news organizations “make up sources,” citing one news story with nine anonymous sources as evidence.

            Trump, Feb. 24: A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people. And they are. They are the enemy of the people. Because they have no sources, they just make ’em up when there are none. I saw one story recently where they said, “Nine people have confirmed.” There’re no nine people.

            As we wrote, the White House did not identify the story that Trump criticized. But there was one story at the time that had nine anonymous sources, and it turned out to be accurate, not “fake” at all. That was the Washington Post story on Feb. 9 that said then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn “privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials.”

            Am I going to say that the media doesn’t ever make up sources – no. But, given all of the eyes out there, it would be pretty risky to one’s career to simply make up the source. And as we see, the timing was such that it appears the story he was referring to, was likely legit.

            Flynn resigned five days later after admitting that he misled Vice President-elect Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

        1. Ken A

          It is not just “opinion” the right wing media really thinks Obama is a Muslim born in the middle east who was sent here to destroy the Christian faith and the left wing media really thinks that Russia sent people to America to “steal” the election (by distracking Howard and his fellow poll workers with organic soy lattes while they stuffed the ballot box with votes for Trump)…

          1. Don Shor

            It is not just “opinion” the right wing media really thinks Obama is a Muslim born in the middle east who was sent here to destroy the Christian faith and the left wing media really thinks that Russia sent people to America to “steal” the election…

            Interesting examples, since the first is an outright lie (except using Kenya, not the middle east) repeated over and over by people who knew better, for political purposes, whereas we have plenty of evidence that the Russians did, in fact, seek to disrupt the election and had a clear preference for Trump.

        2. Ken A

          It seems like Don forgot to think how dumb the average American is and remember that the average Republican is even dumber.  I don’t think that these people (like most Republicans) “knew better” (that Obama was not born in Africa or the Middle East and/or was not a Muslim or Terrorist) and were just saying this stuff “for political purposes”…

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjP-y7YaNUE

          It also seems like Don is not aware that a large percentage of the world’s “anonymous remailers” (and web based financial fraud) are located in Russia so people (born in America living in America) who “seek to disrupt the election”  will use anonymous remailers based in Russia (since is looks bad when “fake news” is sent out with a RNC or DNC ip address)…

          P.S. I’m wondering if Don thinks the “Russian” facebook ads “disrupted” the election enough to pushTrump over the top for the win…

          1. Don Shor

            Replying to Ken:
            I have no idea whether the average Republican is smarter or “dumber” than the average American.
            The people who repeated birtherism but undoubtedly knew better, included Trump, Gingrich, Bachmann, and others. They were who I was referencing as saying it for political purposes.
            I am aware that Russia is a center for internet disruption. Again, that wasn’t my point. It is well established that Russia had an aggressive campaign to disrupt the 2016 election primarily to deter Clinton. https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/ICA_2017_01.pdf
            It was more than Facebook ads. I have no idea how effective it was. I do think we need to be vigilant about the direct hacking of state elections, and that the current administration is not sufficiently concerned about this issue for rather obvious reasons.

        3. Jeff M

          Funny how we see this perpetuated theme that Republicans and Trump supporters are dumb and Democrats and Hillary/Bernie Supporters are smart.

          So, when the Democrats had the working class onboard, where the Democrats more dumb then?

          What is the evidence of this intelligence or lack of intelligence?  Sorry, but I don’t see it.

          I like to define the measure of intelligence as “successful intelligence”.

          So is the “smart” party that gave us a chronic losing lying, crooked & unappealing BO redux named Hillary Clinton, and the old white hippy socialist fool named Bernie Sanders… and they have lost the house and the senate and most of the state governors and state legislatures for how many years?

          By measure of success, I cannot warm to this theme.   And then the Democrats are embracing Marxism… adding yet another indication that the theme is reversed.

  3. Ken A

    I want to thank Bruce for his article (and David for including the bio).

    I agree that “Fake News (FKNW) is an Attack on the Press” but feel that many (but not all) of the “attacks” are deserved since BOTH the left and right leaning press (both print, broadcast and digital) have gone so far from “reporting” that they spend MOST of the time “spinning” and “faking” news…

    Today if we had a “man bites dog” incident the left leaning press would add “another example of how violent most men are and why the #metoo movement needs continued support” and the right leaning press would add “at least he didn’t kill the dog the way the liberals running UC Davis kill animals in their labs”…

    P.S. Keith makes a great point about what stories get covered and it is why people like Jeff are probably locking their doors so their kids won’t be killed by one of the many illegal aliens who came to America to kill white people and why people like Eric can’t believe that we are not doing anything about the all the white supremacists that are trying to kill illegal aliens before they can save the lives of white children (and puppies)…

    1. Jeff M

      LOL.  Nice.

      You bring up a point that both on the right and left can agree on.   But one caveat.

      We can agree that the media sensationalizes certain stories.  Once house starts it and then they all follow like lemmings believing that they will miss some Neilson ratings if they don’t.  It becomes a weird tabloid media storm often disconnected from what any rational person would consider worthy of all the attention.   But people like watching a train wreck for some reason… especially those with a high body-count.

      We often complain about the volume of this stuff relative to the actual probability.   It appears that someone making the decisions for what news gets attention has nefarious reasons.  For example, let’s say that there is a study that concludes that global warming has resulted in a severe increase in lightening strikes.  And after some school kids are incinerated by a hit in some part of the country, the national news media swoops in for a three-day media storm interviewing “experts” and others upset about it.   The political left is gleeful because we have more global warming fear propaganda to push their anti-industrial and scarcity agenda.  However, the probability of getting killed by lightening is still infinitesimal.  It looks like left-bias to people on the right.  It might not have started out with biased intent, but it becomes a giant political influence tool rather than news.

      But with respect to your comparison of illegal immigration and white supremacists, here is the difference.   The white supremacists have a right to be here and a right to their opinions however disgusting.  The illegal immigrants do not.  And so one American dead at the hands of an illegal immigrant is one death too many.  There should be zero tolerance for ANY probability that an American will be killed by an illegal.

      1. Tia Will

        And so one American dead at the hands of an illegal immigrant is one death too many. “

        An adroit but completely inappropriate move of the goal posts. Yes, Americans who happen to be white supremacists have a right to express their opinions….peacefully. They have no more right to murder than a person who is in this country undocumented.

        The victim is just as dead, the family just as bereaved regardless of the nationality of the murderer.

  4. Jeff M

    “Fake news” means two things.

    1. News, generally on social media and sometimes in the main media, that is purposely artificial and pushing a political bias to influence rather than inform the reader.

    2. Content labeled as news that is so laden with bias and opinion that it no longer fits the definition of news.  There are two drivers for this type of fake news:

    One – the “reporter” is severely biased in view and incapable of compartmentalizing her strongly held feelings while doing actual reporting of facts… and weak or like-afflicted editors allow the garbage to be published.

    Two – the “news” organization is putting out the equivalent of click-bait to capture an audience of people that don’t really want the news… they want information that makes them feel better about themselves.

    Trump is talking about all of these things and he is doing the world a great service identifying this fake news problem since the news media has drastically failed policing themselves and maintaining journalistic standards of conduct.

    Those that criticize Trump for bringing up the fake news problems, and that attempt to make those working in the news media some new type of protected political class are part of the fake news problem.

    One more thing… Fox News is a debate format.  It leans right, but brings on people from both sides of a debate to hash it out.   Yes they tend to steer things in a direction that tends to appeal to conservatives, but generally it is because they discount the feelings part of the argument and seek objective fact-based arguments.

    CNN on the other hand is a left-biased, Trump-hating POS.

  5. Jim Hoch

    I would also like to thank Bruce for the most interesting article in The Vanguard I can remember. Interesting enough I am no longer waiting outside with the hose for the incoming “walls of flame” that has been in the news.

    In many places news outlets declare their POV or political outlook on the front page. The “objective” conceit is not pandered to.

    CNN is very biased in their selection of news which does not bother me though their current shift from text rich delivery to video clips does bother me. Fox is the worst in this regard. They have almost no text at all with just a bunch of low intelligence types mouthing nonsense.

     

    1. Jeff M

      They have almost no text at all with just a bunch of low intelligence types mouthing nonsense.

      Wow.  You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but I completely disagree.  Really, “low intelligence types”?  How do you define intelligence here?  Frankly, other than a few loudmouths on Fox News I would love to see a debate between that team and the CNN team.  I was thinking about an idea for a great new TV show (MEDIA WARS!)… and have it be moderated and structures like the NPR Intelligence Squared events.   I think Fox News personalities would love it.  I think CNN personalities would not.

      1. Jim Hoch

        It seems that Fox believes that their viewers are unable or unwilling to read. Given their success they are very likely correct.

        I guess the discussion of exactly how stupid the Fox hosts are is moot, I prefer to read.

        1. Jeff M

          Fox News is a cable (i.e. TV, video, media) news organization.  However, several of the media personalities on Fox News write content on their websites, blogs etc.  Let me know if you need some examples to read.

        2. David Greenwald

          You would think the right wouldn’t want to exhume Spiro Agnew.

          I’m a fan of this song by Tom Paxton (full lyrics) ; “I’ll sing you a song of Spiro Agnew and all the things he’s done.”

  6. Jeff M

    One of the best resources for news sources by their political bias:  https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/

    Check out the “Least Biased” tab and you will note that there is basically few to none major US news sources on the list.

    Check out the “Left Biased” and “Left Center” biased and all the major TV and print news organization are listed.   The Wall Street Journal is the only “Right-Center” biased national newspaper.   Fox News is the only major TV News organization that is “Right biased”.

    This gets to the main point of the disingenuous crying about Trump’s criticism of the fake news.  90% of the major news sources are left-biased, and since they all parrot the same stories, they amplify the bias.  So a little fake news goes a long way in harm.

  7. Eric Gelber

    A president who averaged 7.6 false or misleading claims during the first 558 days of his presidency is hardly the person who should be charging others with disseminating fake news: President Trump has made 4,229 false or misleading claims in 558 days.

    A president who regularly shows his disrespect for freedom of the press–by, for example, labeling the press as “the enemy of the people,” threatening to take away press credentials of reporters who ask questions he doesn’t like, and, as recently as today, tacitly threatened CNN and NBC by suggesting “a look at their license”–is hardly a person who can be expected to uphold the First Amendment. These are the actions of a would-be dictator.

    Donald Trump admits that fake news is just news he doesn’t like:

    The Fake News is working overtime. Just reported that, despite the tremendous success we are having with the economy & all things else, 91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake). Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?

    Trump Tweet of 4:38 AM – May 9, 2018

    Identifying fake news is important; but the term no longer has its intended meaning. It’s been weaponized by the current President to rile up his sycophantic and gullible base to meet his own political needs, without any concern for the damage being done to the vital American institution that is a free press.

  8. Keith O

    News just out that can’t be faked but will be down-played and under-reported by the Fake News press:

    201,000 jobs added in August

    Unemployment rate at 3.9%

    Wages up .4%

  9. Keith O

    I ran across this this morning, I feel it’s dead on accurate:

    No matter how many outraged opinion pieces or news articles (but I repeat myself) the New York  Timesproduces, no matter how many smarter-than-thou analysts with non-prescription eyeglasses mope about sadly on CNN, no matter how many Obama fan boys and girls left in the White House press corps shriek at the president whenever in earshot, it just doesn’t matter anymore.
    The economy hums. Trump keeps us out of foreign entanglements. Wages increase. America’s traditional meritocracy replaces the Democrats’ grievance-based society. Life happens. 
    And while the New York  Times op-ed was a nice try by the media, they must on some level, deep down, grasp the new reality: no one hears their screams.

    https://nationalinterest.org/feature/why-trumps-record-trumps-medias-spin-30757

    1. David Greenwald

      What does it mean: “it just doesn’t matter” anymore? Trump has a low opinion rating. Polling shows the Republican majorities are precarious. You can argue that it might not come to pass, but it might. I think the right is taking the victory of Trump last time to mean they are impervious to standard electoral analysis rather than a one-off anomalous perfect storm – bad candidate Clinton combined with close results breaking toward Trump, and an electoral map that was incongruous with the popular vote leading to a very improbable victory. Does lightning strike again? Maybe. But this quote seems to bank on it. Republicans are willing to look the other way at a whole host of conduct by Trump – how can you be sure that the voters will as well?

      1. Keith O

        It means that the average American has smartened up enough and is not falling for Fake News and the biased news organizations.  They wake up and see their wages rising, very low unemployment and millions of jobs being created mostly due to Trump’s policies.

        1. David Greenwald

          I don’t see anything objective that supports that view. Trump has historically low average approvals and among the highest disapproval ratings in history. He might win if he is at a high point in his popularity and has the right opponent, but I as I said before, I wouldn’t count on everything to align perfectly for him as before.

        2. Jeff M

          Same polls that had Hillary winning in a landslide and instead of admitting their bias and flaws have shifted to say they were correct because she won the popular vote.

          Until the polls accurately poll the voting republic, they will continue to fail accurately accessing the true mind of the majority voter.

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