Friday, December 16, 2016

The news has always been fake

One especially annoying aspect of the current freakout over "fake news" is the near total lack of historical perspective whatsoever.
They also don’t seem to know how we entered this post-fact world or when the factual age, which must have preceded it, ended. Was it in the 2000s, when the whole world debated imaginary weapons of mass destruction before being conned into war? Or was it in the 1990s, when the Lewinsky scandal dominated newspapers, and the United States panicked over superpredators and crack babies? Perhaps it was really Reagan’s 1980s, with its secret, Central American wars, the Iran-Contra scandal, and the denial of the AIDS epidemic. Or maybe we need to go back even further: to Nixon’s not-a-crook 1970s, to George Wallace’s law-and-order 1960s, or to McCarthy’s redbaiting 1950s.

I guess lack of perspective would be the definition of a freakout, wouldn't it? It would be nice, though,  if the leading lights of our discourse would exhibit the slightest bit of institutional memory from time to time. Without that,  we're basically operating in a state of permanent freakout.  Although,  if you've been around long enough you'll understand that isn't new either.

Anyway, it seems like we've been declaring The End Of Civil Agreement On The Bounds Of Reality for decades now. And rarely does anyone comment on the dejavu.

The thing is, in politics, facts are always in dispute.  Or at least they are open to interpretation and debate.  The process of hammering that out can be ugly. And it often comes out quite wrong.

Those of us who do remember the bad old days can tell you the news has always been fake. But for most of our lives our only access to the debate over it was limited to yelling back at the TV. Anyone telling you we need to... um... streamline the process of finding out facts by limiting discussion to a credentialed elite either doesn't remember most of history or is lying to you.

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