Donald Trump’s Fake News

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President Donald Trump has an interesting relationship to the truth. He regularly makes statements and claims and cites “facts” which are demonstrably false. Ludicrously false. Dangerously false.

However, in some cases it can be argued that “the truth” is merely a matter of perspective or of sources. In many cases Trump can find sources which support his claims. In fact, much of his information seems to come from cable news. And millions of Trump’s supporters believe his truths because they share his worldview and get their information from similar sources. The news is reporting this information, the President is reporting this information, of course it must be true.

Except when it isn’t. Because while reality is subjective and in some instances “the truth” may be up for interpretation, in others the facts are the facts because it’s what actually happened.

There is no evidence of mass gatherings of Muslims cheering the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Immigrants are less likely to commit crimes those people born in the United States. The U.S. economy improved under President Obama. Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory places him 45th out of 58 in winning pecentage. Donald Trump lost the popular vote

What is more disturbing, however, than President Trump’s tenuous grasp on the truth is his (fairly successful) attempts to use his position to impugn those which present alternative facts. That is to say actual facts. Namely, President Trump is using his bully pulpit to continue his assault on the news media. Or, as the President would declare, “fake news.”

NPR has published an article by Danielle Kurtzleben in which she examines the use of the term “fake news” and speaks with University of California, Berkeley professor George Lakoff regarding this phrase.

Dr. Lakoff’s conclusion bears summary here because his conclusion is troubling for American democracy. Many adjectives have been used in the past to modify “news”. “Liberal”. “Conservative”. “Biased”. “Unbiased”. “Fair”. “Unfair”. But “fake news” is different. At least it has become different from the manner in which Donald Trump is utilizing the term.

As described by Kurtzleben and Lakoff, President Trump is using “fake” as a synonym for false. In other words, information reported by news outlets such as CNN, the New York Times and others mentioned in his tweet is not biased or unfair, it simply isn’t true. And if the information is false it really isn’t news at all.

The message, therefore, is clear: don’t listen to these news outlets. Don’t believe anything they write, say or tweet because it isn’t true.

No news outlet is perfect. They get things wrong. The news should be critically consumed. But if most major newspapers and most cable news outlets and most major network news outlets are fake news and cannot be trusted it leaves little room to consume “real news”.

Ultimately, it leaves Donald Trump as the sole arbiter of “the truth” and gives him the right to set policy based solely on his truth. It leaves Donald Trump as the lone voice of American democracy. That is to say a severe curtailing of American democracy.

In short, President Trump is dictating reality. It really is “Donald Trump’s America.”

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