Trump’s complaints are often — not always — correct
Fake news, n. An article in “news” media that is fabricated, made up, has no bearing on reality, created by agenda-driven partisans with specific goals, who are served by fake stories they invent.
Phony news, n. An article in “news” media from one or more reporters, which appears to be newsworthy but is actually propaganda and spin disguised as news, designed to establish or continue a narrative that seems neutral but actually embeds a prejudice and represents a predetermined perspective or outcome.
Reporters adamantly reject the definition of phony news because, according to critics, they cannot see the truth it contains. In contrast, fake news is a problem everyone recognizes as a problem.
Phony news has dominated so-called “mainstream” reporting for decades, going back to at least when three networks dominated nightly TV newscasts, which many people can now recognize with the passage of time. The relatively new phenomenon of fake news, identified loudly by the present administration, has been a tool of both the radical left and radical right to influence political affairs. Phony news is the more insidious, since it is more difficult to spot and is more influential. Phony news slips into the mind through unconscious channels.
As an example, congressional Senate hopeful Sheriff Joe Arpaio was recently cast, in the lead of a front page article in Gannett’s Arizona Republic, as “a hardliner on immigration.” This is phony, and knowingly so. He never took much of any stand on U.S. Code Title 8, Immigration, and its lists of who is eligible to immigrate, or why, or who is banned, with extensive lists of people banned from the U.S., This includes money launderers, slave traders, people with communicable diseases, convicted felons, known spies, child molesters and many more, page after page. Sheriff Arpaio was a hardliner on illegal immigration, sneaking past border security, a completely different issue.
This phony spin permeated the balance of the article — and virtually all news coverage about the man — establishing a phony narrative that fit a left-wing agenda to denounce his policies, with vitriol spewed incessantly by the left. While it may be true he overstepped legal authority, there is tremendous merit in having borders, ports of entry, passports, a visa system, and criminal sanctions for sneaking into any country unannounced, staying without authorization, using the nation’s resources, and living criminally without citizenship “under the radar.” This is where Arpaio took a hard line, popular in some quarters, less so in others — including a blatantly prejudicial media (they deny this bias to this day).
Similar phony coverage dominates the gun issue, for example. Virtually every firearms-related story takes the tack that guns are bad. This is not fake, it’s phony. Almost all firearms stories cover nothing but crime, yet firearms comprise the number two participant sport in America (based on sales, ahead of golf, number three, an elitist predominantly rich white pursuit that gets exemplary front page coverage a lot). Firearms are a huge sector of the economy, the trade show for firearms is one of the largest in the nation yet it gets zero play — and the industry is thankful for this because it knows what the spin would be. Phony from top to bottom.
Fake news is not the big problem, despite that focus in “news” reports. Phony news distorts your thinking, puts emphasis in the wrong places, imbalances the real issues, and the worst part is this: reporters, producers and editors are immune to this message. They can’t see it, deny it is real when told, insist fake news is why they have lost credibility, and persist in foisting phony news with no awareness of what they do.
This Uninvited Ombudsman Report, “Page Nine,” the page most newspapers refuse to carry (ombudsmen have been fired nationally), has been illuminating phony news since May, 2006, long before Mr. Trump introduced the term fake news, co-opting my hard work. He’s not wrong, it just sidesteps the larger problem. Go read some of the phony news exposes at that link, and don’t plan on getting much sleep that night.