It’s all the rage these days, in the wake of Trump’s victory, to attack (generally conservative) “faux news” sites, even to the point of getting them blocked or banned altogether.
This rage (like every other rage) isn’t a new as people think: I was accused of this back in 2008, when I posted this piece on Barack Obama and pledging the flag. A civics teacher from Southern California took me to task about this and rounded off his primal scream with this:
I found your site thanks to some of my students looking for credible information opposing Obama for a debate that they were preparing for class. I was able to show them the difference between an opinion site and a scholarly site due to this fact. Thanks for being out there. Have a nice day.
In my reposte to his comment I noted that I never claimed this site to be anything other than an opinion site. (I would commend you to look at that reposte, and see how everything has turned out.) Turning to David “Spengler” Goldman’s piece that launched mine, Asia Times Online is certainly a news site (especially when the late Allen Quicke was editor) but Spengler’s long-running “column” (to use an old print term) was an opinion column, albeit one of the best in the business, IMHO.
Both the civics teacher and the current “faux news” hounds are working from the same playbook: there are sites where “truth” is always found and those which are simply putting out opinion masquerading as news. (The civics teacher adds the “scholarly” to that, but my PhD studies have taught me to look at the literature with a critical eye.) It’s convenient that the former agree with their idea, and that’s where the problem is. It’s Pilate’s question redux: what is truth?
To start with, it’s the American ideal that there is an “objective” press. But it’s just that: an ideal. Journalism’s drive to get at the facts has certainly gone down in recent years (Sharyl Attkisson is a notable exception) but across the pond people are more realistic. The French, for example, have always known that different newspapers and magazines have different points of view and the audiences to go with them; in the UK, it’s not as fragmented but it’s there all the same. What’s broken in this country is the basic consensus about what we’re all about, and a press that “everybody” can agree is fair has gone out the window with that. (The Wikileaks revelations about the collusion between the press and Hillary Clinton’s campaign is another nail in the coffin to the concept of an objective press.)
Beyond that, I think it strange that a post-modern culture–and its acolytes–that proclaims there is no objective truth suddenly gets worked up about “faux news.” You can’t have it both ways: if there is no objective truth, you can’t really say some news is true and some is false. But that’s never been the object of the left; their idea has been to masquerade a new absolutism as relativism, and that stinks.
The civic teacher also thought me unAmerican and anti-American. It used to be that, when a leftist told you that, you could take it as a compliment. But that’s another one of those things that has changed. Or has it? Today liberals love patriotism as long as they are running the show and hate the country when they don’t, but that’s another example of playing both sides of the street in American politics.