How Blatant Lies Became Fake News, and Now Alternative Facts
A label is an important thing. If you see a box of rat poison that is labeled “poison” you know not to eat it.
However, if that same box was labeled “Poisoned food” you are changing the definition. The box know longer contains pure poison, but is actual food that is now tainted. This admittedly strained metaphor helps explain how “fake news” has turned into “alternative facts.”
Let’s start from the beginning. As far as I can tell, the term “fake news” started when Democrats realized the election was in trouble. So, as an excuse (valid or not) they pointed to the spreading of “fake news” over Facebook and other social media websites. These news stories varied from saying “the pope endorsed Trump” to “Hillary will be indicted before the election.”
Some, like the news story that claimed “Donald Trump was born in Pakistan.” The “fake news” that the term refers to, is articles created with the intent to fool the general public, most often through social media.
However, what the Democrats didn’t realize is that they were doing dangerous rebranding. “Fake news” has existed for the entire internet’s history. Whether it was the stories posted on Facebook that “proved” Obama was a Muslim, or those email chains sent to you by your grandmother that claimed if you didn’t forward them, a dead girl would haunt you.
The difference was, we just called them hoaxes. They didn’t even have the seed of legitimacy. Now though, they are fake “news.” Somehow, between the formation of the internet and the election, we decided to brand these as news sources.
Once these sites were called “news” and it was established that the whole site could be “fake,” it didn’t take long for “fake news” to take its next step.
From here, fake news took on another meaning. Fake news began to refer to whole websites or channels that the person disagreed with, that were part of the legitimate news establishment. Democrats called Breitbart “fake news” and Republicans called CNN and MSNBC fake news. The term no longer meant a Deliberate Lie.
After this, “fake news” became a trump card (pun intended) used in any argument. If someone was argued against you, using a fact that came from a news site that opposed your view, the arguer could simply claim that those facts were “fake news.” There was no need to establish these claims, once that phrase was thrown out there, no defense was strong enough.
It’s like two people arguing about socialism, and one person screams “well you know who else liked socialism? Hitler.” The argument is over. Because what this person is arguing, is that a bad person is associated with a topic, therefore it must be evil.
Similarly, when someone claimed a fact was “fake news” what they were actually saying was that the fact being used came from a site that holds alternative viewpoints to mine. Therefore, those facts are questionable.
This is why, when faced with the CIA Dossier accusation, Donald Trump was able to say that CNN and the story were fake news. CNN often holds opposing views to The President, and the story came from Buzzfeed (for our take on if they should have published the dossier click HERE) another site that often disagrees with Donald Trump. By using the phrase “fake news” he didn’t even need to address the accusation.
And now we’ve arrived at our final destination: Alternative facts. News organizations report that 600,000 people went to the inauguration. However, as we’ve previously established, they are less than untrustworthy. They’re “fake news” creating deliberate lies to harm the President’s image.
So yes, they have their “facts” but that means the Donald Trump administration is allowed to have their “alternative facts.”
Rat poison is not food, and the hoaxes and lies that appeared online were in no way “news.” However, once the term “Fake News” was created, it could be slapped onto any news network, even the more established trustworthy ones.
I am not saying the established media never lies, far from it. However, they are not “fake news.” And I hope with time, the Trump administration stops feeling the need to rely on “alternative facts” and just deal with established reality like the rest of us.