by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Former newspaper editor and ongoing newspaper consumer Kevin Williamson offers National Review Online readers tips for wading their way through mainstream media reporting.
[A] critical eye is warranted. Newspapers, like all the works of men, are imperfect things, and the nation’s newspaper editors and television-news producers are very much at fault for the low general level of trust in the media. But they do not traffic wholesale in fiction. All of the cries of “fake news!” in the world are not going to change that.
What is happening right now is not salubrious skepticism but a kind of mass hysteria, millions of heads plunging with struthioniform insistence into the same sand, as though insisting that reality is something other than what it is, or merely averting our gaze, would somehow alter the truth. Something has changed radically with remarkable speed. Not long ago, when I would inform someone that they had passed along an Internet hoax or erroneous claim (writers on public affairs spend a fair amount of their correspondence thus engaged) the response would be a sheepish “oops.” About once a week, someone will inform me that Hillary Rodham Clinton was disbarred for misconduct (she wasn’t) or that Barack Obama’s mother-in-law is receiving a six-figure federal pension for having babysat his children (she isn’t) or some other such nonsense, and then cry “fake news!” when corrected. The irony is that they have fallen for fake news, and retreat into “fake news!” when their gullibility is shown. …
… We owe it to ourselves to take account of reality. And we owe it to the country, too. It is cheap, it is cowardly, and it is bad citizenship to simply shriek “fake news!” every time reality forces a hard choice upon us.