Musings —12.26.2016 12:59 PM—
I hate to upset my progressive friends and all that, but here’s the truth about the “fake news” stuff that all of the media have been talking about since Unpresident Trump “won” by getting three million fewer votes than his sane, competent and qualified opponent last month:
Fake news isn’t news. We’ve always had fake news.
There. I put it in a block quote so you’d notice it.
Political parties, and political campaigns – and those who are trying to influence the outcome in elections – have always propagated “false news.” Falsehoods, spin, lies, bullshit: the false news, you will always have with you, to mangle Jesus’ aphorism.
So, George H. W. Bush lied with “read my lips.” Bill Clinton lied with “sexual relations with that woman.” George W. Bush lied with “weapons of mass destruction.” Brian Mulroney lied about free trade – “we’ll have none of it.” Pierre Trudeau lied about wage and price controls – “zap, you’re frozen.” And so on. Those are just the ones off the top of my head. There are plenty more.
I don’t think most of those politicians thought they were in the false news business when they uttered those whoppers. They probably hoped those things were true, or they believed those things were kind of true. Spin is “hopeful persuasion,” Clinton guy George Stephanopoulos once said, and I always liked that characterization. It reflects what I have observed with many political folks: they believe in subjective truth, not objective truth. And they don’t actually believe there are any objective truths.
Let me give you a real life example, because I’m all about real.
I was near Union Station in my truck, waiting for my beautiful, amazing daughter to come home for Christmas. I was thumbing through Twitter, killing time.
I came across a tweet by the Unpresident, Donald Trump, in which he said: “We did it! We secured Nickelback for the inauguration. Very pleased, a great American band.”
I laughed out loud. Trump is an idiot, but this was idiotic even for him. Nickelback are Canadian! Ha!
There weren’t any of Trump’s telltale spelling mistakes in the tweet – “unpresidented” being my all-time favourite – but it featured that little blue Twitter check mark, indicating it was real. And the Twitter handle was authentic, too. Sitting there in my truck, squinting in the dark, it look real enough to me.
So I tweeted this:
— Warren Kinsella (@kinsellawarren) December 21, 2016
People must’ve thought that was funny, because they retweeted it, and favourited it, about a zillion times in the succeeding days. Twitter itself said there have been about 180,000 “impressions” about the tweet (meaning, I’m told, a human being saw it) and nearly 2,000 retweets and twice as many likes or favourites or whatever. So, a lot.
I was pretty focussed on my daughter, you see, and not so much Twitter. But, later on, when I again looked down on the screen, someone had tweeted back to me, saying the uneven spacing suggested to them that it was fake. So I looked at the tweet again and saw that they were right: the line spacing was off. Some mischief-maker had Photoshopped the thing and sucked in a ton of folks, me included.
And then I got to thinking. So it’s fake: so what?
Some other people – mainly Trump-lovers – starting objecting to the fake tweet. They wanted me to delete it, and tell everyone it was fake. They started citing Snopes and stuff like that. They were going bananas.
So I thought some more.
No, I thought, I’m not going to. Donald Trump is a lying sack of shit. He “won” the presidency on a mountain of lies. Lying was all he was any good at, in fact. He is the Liar in Chief.
So, on Twitter, I started pushing back. Fake news for a fake president, I said to one. True is false, I said to another, with Orwellian gusto. Snopes lies, I told one or two, in the hope that their puny craniums would implode. Embrace the new era, I tweeted to one woman, and stop clinging to the quaint notion that there is any truth left to be had.
The knuckle-draggers were going apeshit about all of this, naturally, and I always enjoy that. I love poking a stick between the bars of the conservative cage. But, in the midst of all the Twitter twaddle, I thought a useful point was being made, as well.
Namely, if the Right are going to tell lies about us, and get away with it, well – what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, I always say. Let’s bombard them with false news, too. Let’s make them suffocate in it. Let’s destroy them with it.
If you are progressive, you will be possibly horrified by this, because you are a good person and you observe boundaries. And, as a fellow progressive, I say to you: I endeavoured to be a good person, too. I tried to stay inside the lines, too. And what did that get us, precisely? It got us Donald Trump.
Hopeful persuasion, Stephanopoulos called it. I like that. Let’s persuade voters with what we hope to be true, but not what has been proven to be true, beyond a reasonable doubt. Let’s just make it true on, say, a balance of probabilities.
If that standard is good enough for a civil court, it’s good enough for me.