News, Fake News, Very Fake News: A Primer

News, Fake News, Very Fake News: A Primer, by Roger Kimball. Gotcha:

A couple weeks back …I was at a swank New York club for an evening event. The establishment in question is overwhelmingly conventional, i.e., leftish in that smug “We’re-all-beautiful-people-who-are-you?” sort of way that publications like The New Yorker and the New York Times, along with such media outlets as CNN and MSNBC, exude like the cloying aroma of paperwhites.

I ran into an acquaintance, a female journalist I hadn’t seen in years. I knew that her politics were echt conventional in the above sense, but I had also found her an amusing and lively person. We were chatting with a couple of other people about this and that when someone she knew from the Times joined in. I then overheard him explain to her that she had to be careful about what she posted on Facebook, Twitter, etc., because anything too explicitly anti-Trump could be used against her when that glorious day came and “they” — the conventional fraternity of groupthink scribblers — finally took down that horrible, despicable man.

“We’ve got dozens of people working on it all the time,” he explained, adding that it was only a matter of time before they got the goods on Trump and destroyed him.

There in a nutshell, I thought, is the existential imperative that has been so gloriously productive of fake news and its exacerbated allotrope, first delineated by Donald Trump in his famous media-bashing presser on February 16, “very fake news.”

News versus fake news:

News is the reporting of facts. Someone says “this happened on such-and-such a day in such-and-such a way,” and independent, publicly available sources confirm that, yes, what was alleged happened at just that time and in just that fashion.

Fake news insinuates a skein of innuendo and a boatload of shared presumption floating on an ocean of fantastic desire into the mix. Repetition … whips this unstable congeries into an intoxicating frenzy:

“Trump’s transition is in chaos, pass it on.”

“Trump is a puppet of Putin, pass it on.”

“Trump is Steve Bannon’s puppet, pass it on.”

“Trump, like Steve Bannon, is a white supremacist/racist/homophobic/woman-hating xenophobe, really pass that one along.”

Every one of these fantasies is not only untrue, but ostentatiously, extravagantly untrue. Liberals of sound mind understand this.

Trump’s first 30 days: what they aren’t telling you.

In fact, Donald Trump’s first 30-odd days have been extraordinarily successful. That’s the news. In fact, Donald Trump’s first 30-odd days have been extraordinarily successful. That’s the news. …

To date Trump has been even more successful than was Reagan in beginning to fulfill his campaign promises. All of his cabinet nominees have been confirmed … He has moved quickly to get the ball rolling on tax cuts, repealing Obamacare, strengthening the military, enforcing the country’s immigration laws, and cutting the jungle of business-sapping regulation down to size. He has, as Allen observes, “already taken steps … to fulfill at least a dozen of his campaign promises.”

But listen to the New York Times or any of the other conventional “news” sources, and you would think Trump is a malevolent and incompetent monster who, despite his supreme incompetence, is somehow tipping the country into moral Armageddon. …

Here’s one bit of news: the stock market has risen by nearly 3000 points since Trump’s election.

Here’s another bit of news: while Trump’s personal popularity remains low for a new president, the mood of the country as a whole has exploded with optimism, whereas towards the end of Barack Obama’s reign, 70% of those polled said that the country was moving in the wrong direction.

The media are the opposition party, and their monopoly is fading as the Internet grows:

Steve Bannon was right to brand the media the “opposition party.”

To an extent marvelous to behold, it has become a factory for the production of fake and very fake news: not just the dissemination of lies, half-truths, and unsubstantiated fantasies, but also the perpetuation of that echo-chamber in which political paranoia feeds upon the bitter lees of its impotent irrelevance.

As Donald Trump Heads to Congress, a New Polarization Is Hardening

As Donald Trump Heads to Congress, a New Polarization Is Hardening, by Gerald Seib.

Just over a month into his term, Mr. Trump stands as an exceptionally polarizing figure. He inspires intense support among his admirers and equally intense animosity among his detractors, with remarkably few Americans standing in the middle without a strong view.  Everybody appears to have an opinion about Donald Trump, and those opinions already appear locked in. …

He is well on his way to remaking the composition of the two political parties. Out in the country, if not necessarily in Washington, it appears that Republicanism is increasingly defined as support for Mr. Trump, while being a Democrat is being defined as opposing Mr. Trump. …

Almost 9 in 10 self-identified Republicans, and just over 9 in 10 Trump voters, say they approve of the job the president is doing, while almost 9 in 10 Democrats, and just over 9 in 10 Hillary Clinton voters, say they disapprove of his job performance. Usually, at such an early stage in a presidency, a fair number of Americans say they just aren’t sure yet what they think of the job their new president is doing. Yet now, just 8% say they aren’t sure whether they approve or disapprove of the job Mr. Trump is doing.

Bipartisanship on nearly any issue is not possible, because of the animosity stirred up by the media:

If Mr. Trump could find some common ground with Democrats … But it isn’t clear that Democrats, whose grass-roots supporters now demand wall-to-wall opposition to all things Trump, are even interested. Their animosity toward the man, and toward his appointees in areas such as the environment and education, seem to be blocking potential common ground elsewhere.

The bottom line is this: Political polarization helped produce the voter anger that in turn produced President Trump.

Trump has done what journalists should have done: boycotted the White House Correspondents’ dinner

Trump has done what journalists should have done: boycotted the White House Correspondents’ dinner, by Stephen Daisley.

The White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA), which hosts the annual gala, represents the journalists who cover the President day-to-day and awards scholarships to young reporters.

The dinner usually involves two skits: one by the President, who gently mocks the press and himself, and another by a broadly sympathetic comedian who ribs the Commander-in-Chief more or less respectfully while saving their most brutal jibes for his opponents.

This year, the laughter will be shallower still. Donald Trump has tweeted that he won’t be coming …

Celebrities had announced boycotts and Samantha Bee, a late-night comedian of the Trump-Hitler-applause variety, is even throwing a competing bash for opponents of the President. America doesn’t just have alternative facts, now it has alternative soirées. …

The event might seem innocuous enough; professional rivalries set aside for overcooked fish and undercooked jokes. However, it is this very clubbability, this did-Finn-get-into-Princeton cosiness that has drained the DC swamp of all public trust and confidence.

Seeing them up there, guffawing at wan presidential punchlines and opaque insider gags, knocking back the Bolly while a Hollywood turn cracks open vintage snidery about Christians, gun-owners and the flyover states — it’s enough to make anyone want to leap head-first into the basket of deplorables.

When you become friendly with politicians you start to convince yourself they’re human beings, and nothing good comes of that. …

Journalism in Britain remains a trade rather than a profession, despite the best efforts of universities with pound signs in their eyes. And yet it is our approach, sneering and scoundrel-ridden, that does a better job of holding the powerful to account. The cynical idealists of the US press corps, rebellious foot soldiers of the First Amendment, solemnly rise when the President enters the room. This, they insist, is out of respect for the office and the republican ideal. Try suggesting Westminster’s jaded hacks stand in the presence of Theresa May and you’d be laughed out the room. British journalists set out to be bulldogs and almost incidentally function as guard dogs. American journalists set out to be guard dogs and too often end up as lap dogs.

hat-tip Stephen Neil