The notion that Donald Trump was elected president of the United States because of fake news stories going viral is something the liberal media, and CNN’s Brian Stelter in particular, have been harping on for a while now. It was nagging Stelter so much that he dedicated a monologue to it during “Reliable Sources” on Sunday. “Now, to be clear, fake news infects the left and the right,” he noted at one point, “but the evidence indicates this is more of a problem on the right, among some, not all, but some Trump supporters.”
He said that researchers needed to look into why people believe the lies they see on the internet. Then he suggested that Trump was the cause, like he was a parent passing on a bad habit to a child. “But I would suggest to you that it starts at the top,” he bemoaned, “After all, Trump himself frequently misled voters during his campaign and he has been personally fooled by fictional stories.”
Stelter announced that he was buying into his own confirmation bias, and taking the opinion and the insults of a fake news publisher as fact:
Now, I have a hard time believing any creator of any fake news website but one of them, Paul Horner, spoke with The Washington Post this week and look at what he said, quote, “I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His campaign manager posted my story about a protesting getting paid $3500 as fact. I made that up.” Horner went on to say, “I thought they would fact check it and would make them look worse but Trump supporters - they just keep running with it. They never fact check anything.”
But there was no mention by Stelter about how many people actually believe such stories, or how the premise behind that particular story is based in fact. Project Veritas exposed how a liberal political organization, Democracy Partners, payed for protesters at Trump rallies. Stelter didn’t mention how Scott Foval, who openly and clearly admits to starting “anarchy,” was fired over it.
On a similar note about admitting the truth about stories, on CNN’s New Day Saturday Stelter tried to smear the Media Research Center by including images of two NewsBusters articles during his shtick about fake news. He still has yet to publicly address what he found “fake” about either of them. He didn’t have a problem with the MRC when Rich Noyes was a guest on his show to discuss the media’s hostility to Trump.
Later on, he seemed to condescendingly wag his finger at Trump supporters, saying, “The more media literal you are the less likely you will be tricked by propaganda and that's what it is, propaganda.” “Journalism is also a big part of the solution, as an industry we have to redouble our efforts to restore our credibility,” he stated.
But it’s interesting that Stelter threw around words like “propaganda” and “credibility” when he was called out a week ago for his own liberal bias. Stelter also infamously blamed the firebombing of a GOP campaign office on Trump, but he scolded an Associated Press editor for ‘misleading’ people after exposing how Hillary Clinton gave foundation donors special meetings.
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Towards the end of the segment, Stelter seemed to get emotional as he asked, “So, how does this end? With no one trust anything? There's more fact checking than ever, but fewer people trust in the facts. Are we moving more into an authoritarian media climate, more like Russia or China?” But the problem is how the media distorts the facts, either through using unfair labels, omitting news damaging to Democrats, or, in some instances, flat out lying. The media is not a monolithic force for good as Stelter likes to depict it as. The media even makes up their own fake news stories from time to time.
According to the poll conducted by the MRC and YouGov, 69 percent of people viewed the media as neither honest nor trust worthy. 78 percent said the media was biased, and almost a third of Clinton supporters believed the media was pro-Clinton.
The public is smarter than they are given credit for, and are very perceptive. So, the fear that fake news is what drove a Trump victory over Clinton is powered by a distrust with the intelligence the public. If Stelter and the media want their credibility back, then they need to show some trust in the public and not just demand that the public trust them.
Reliable Sources .
November 20, 2016
11:28:30 AM Eastern
BRIAN STELTER: I've been thinking a lot about confusion and who it helps. Fake news websites set out to confuse people, but they are one only one symptom of a bigger broader disease, a break down in trust, a break down in a shared set of facts. This had been happening well before Donald Trump entered the presidential race but it is now accelerating. We are entering a terrible new age of information warfare and it brings to mind that old adage, “The first casualty of war is the truth.”
This war so to speak is playing out right on your smartphone, right on your Facebook news feed where made up stories spread to millions of people. Here are just a few recent examples. The pope endorsing Trump, fake. Megyn Kelly fired for backing Hillary Clinton, fake. Clinton committed -- Clinton linked to crimes committed by Anthony Weiner, also fake. But that one was tweeted by retired General Michael Flynn, Trump's pick for national security advisor.
This is the kind of BS that Facebook and Twitter and Google all have to grapple with, but we have to grapple with it ourselves individually. Those stories I just mentioned are all pretty easily disproven, they’re the most basic, pure, form of fake news. When I say fake news I mean stories designed to trick people into believing lies, deception 101.
Now, I have a hard time believing any creator of any fake news website but one of them, Paul Horner, spoke with The Washington Post this week and look at what he said, quote, “I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3500 as fact. I made that up.” Horner went on to say, “I thought they would fact check it and would make them look worse but Trump supporters - they just keep running with it. They never fact check anything.”
Now, to be clear, fake news infects the left and the right. I've seen Clinton supporters sharing fake links, this week, with election related conspiracy theories but the evidence indicates this is more of a problem on the right, among some, not all, but some Trump supporters. Further research is needed to understand why online lies are so appealing to some voters. But I would suggest to you that it starts at the top. After all, Trump himself frequently misled voters during his campaign and he has been personally fooled by fictional stories.
STELTER: Now, the contrast between the next president and the sitting president could not be more extreme. President Obama is deeply concerned about people believing everything they read on the internet.
STELTER: We do have problems. I think everybody feels it right now. One of the problems is that fake news websites are so easy to set up and so profitable for the creators. Every time we click and share they make more money but we are worse off. So Facebook and Google are now trying to choke off the ads that show up on these sites, trying to make them less profitable, but that is a losing battle. These fake news sites are always going to exist. In fact, they're probably going to get better at blending in and looking real. The same goes for hyper partisan blogs and Facebook pages that only tell people what they want to hear. That celebrate their side and demonize the other side.
You know, on this program we used to talk about red news blue news but we are now way beyond just red news and blue news. We are in an environment where some people are choosing to be color-blind. Media literacy is part of the solution here. As a society we need to help each other distinguish between reliable and bogus stories. The more media literal you are the less likely you will be tricked by propaganda and that's what it is, propaganda.
Journalism is also a big part of the solution, as an industry we have to redouble our efforts to restore our credibility. But to tell you the truth these are not satisfying or complete answers to the problem. I don't have complete answers.
STELTER: So, how does this end? With no one trust anything? There's more fact checking than ever, but fewer people trust in the facts. Are we moving more into an authoritarian media climate, more like Russia or China? I don't know. I feel so empty and frankly so pessimistic about this. But I know that people in power all around the world benefit from confusion. They benefit from this confusion. So we must be vigilant as journalists and as Facebook users and as family members at Thanksgiving. Refuse to be confused.