It’s been months now since Trump won. Despite receiving only 27 newspaper endorsements (to Clinton’s approximately 500) Donald Trump will be sworn in as President in mere days. Obviously plenty has been written about traditional media’s support for the neo-liberal Clinton, which makes absolute sense economically and ideologically but as far as new media endorsements go things were a bit more even.
If you get the majority of your news from the internet you could have existed in echo chambers which would have had you convinced Trump was going to walk it. Alternatively there were sources talking about a possible Bernie comeback as late as October if the FBI were to charge Clinton with treason, spirit cooking or whatever else was being thrown at her. Obviously none of these things happened but people were convinced they were true. Trump lost the popular vote by around 3 million votes, Clinton is a free woman (for now) and Bernie got nowhere near the ticket. These weren’t just endorsements, this was the media equivalent of ‘if you say a lie enough times then it becomes true’. Which is fine if there is only one lie but in this case there were a few of them and the fibbers were all fibbing as loud as each other.
Team Clinton have gone to town on Breitbart News since the alt-right mouthpiece cheered Trump over the line in November. ‘Fake News’ this and ‘Alt Right Propaganda’ that. Obviously it’s easy to accuse a content creator of peddling bullshit when the ideology they are pushing is the one your organisation is actively trying to destroy but what happens when another site continues to be seen as ultimately benign because they have the correct politics, even if they are as ideological and extreme as the other mob?
A Buzzfeed investigation into how ‘fake news’ outperformed mainstream news concluded that of the top 20 news stories in the lead up to the US election 8.7 million people engaged with ‘fake’ stories while 7.3 million engaged with mainstream (read: real/pro Clinton) news stories in the months leading up to the election. Unfortunately Buzzfeed arrived at these figures using faulty polling and outright fake data yet it is Buzzfeed who are the main crusaders against fake news.
Just as Breitbart cherry pick statistics to push their anti-immigration, anti welfare state, hyper-conservative agenda, Buzzfeed do exactly the same thing when they churn out easy to digest, rile up stories to appeal to the identity politics crowd.
Buzzfeed have been caught out several times spreading news about hate crimes which didn’t happen. After it had been revealed that an 18 year old muslim student in New York City had filed a phony police report about being attacked in the subway by drunk Trump supporters Buzzfeed decided to run the story anyway, leaving out the fact that the student made the whole thing up. Although this story may not be strictly ‘fake’ as a crime was reported, the crime never actually happened in the first place so therefore is irrelevant and to report it is to intentionally create division in the community. Buzzfeed then reported that the student was arrested for filing a fake report but left out the fact that she admitted to police the actually made the whole thing up prior to Buzzfeed reporting the story for the first time.
This recklessness is expected of the far right. They’ve been doing it forever. Breitbart’s habit of ‘fact checking’ stories which did not need to be fact checked just to discredit mainstream and liberal news sources is worth noting. While they may be stealing clicks away from MSM by being the biggest news organisation to frequently (or perhaps; obsessively) report violent attacks on Trump supporters, the torrent of far right brainwash their new readership are hosed with would be alarming if the Buzzfeed’s of the world weren’t doing the exact same thing on the other side of the ideological fence. For every Milo Yiannopolous rant about how the left are trying to ruin Christmas there’s a video on Buzzfeed saying that men sitting with their legs open is a threatening display of patriarchal dominance over women (and absolutely nothing to do with testicles). Both may or may not be right but both are totally missing the point.
No common ground will ever be found between the alt-right and the regressive left if they continue to blatantly make things up about each other. Unfortunately though a self obsessed and dishonest left suits the right as much as a racially and economically paranoid right suits the left. There are no winners in this exchange, just millions of zealots yelling and clicking and stonewalling the dialogue between people who want to find a real way out of the political sewer we’ve found ourselves in.
We’re living in a time where everything we don’t agree with is branded ‘fake’. In a democracy this is totally unsustainable. Perhaps the one thing Breitbart and Buzzfeed have in common is a desire to destroy the concept of modern democracy in favour of their own ideologies. Perhaps they’re just calling it as they see it. What is for certain is what they see and what is real are often two completely different things.