Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Fake Chickens Have Come Home to Roost

Now that we have dispelled the notion that hacking of voting machines decided the Presidential election, let's move on to the next source of blame--Fake News.  President Obama, Hillary Clinton and other leading Democrats are claiming that Americans were duped by non-mainstream media sites into voting a certain way in the election--and that steps should be taken to ban Fake News.

It should be noted that Fake News dates back to the founding of this country.  Benjamin Franklin published salacious stories and rumors about his political and business rivals in several publications he owned--including Poor Richards Almanac.  Why do you think strong protections for freedom of the press and expression are included in the very first amendment to the Constitution?

Modern Fake News can trace its roots to Madison, Wisconsin.  In 1988, The Onion launched there.  While going to school at UW-Madison, I remember The Onion was put out on racks right next to The Daily Cardinal, The Badger Herald and The Isthmus to be picked up for free.  Eventually, the paper went national--and every year or so we would all laugh as some Chinese or North Korean news agency would run an Onion story like it was an actual news item.

There was an effort to bring that format to television with the failed Onion TV show.  But Comedy Central repackaged it as a new Fake News show: The Daily Show.  The initial host--and funniest of all of them so far--was Craig Kilborn--who until that point was best known as a ESPN SportsCenter anchor.  Kilborn was replaced by comedian Jon Stewart--and that is when the show really took off.  In fact, it was so popular that it spawned several more Fake News shows like the Colbert Report--where former Daily Show "correspondent" Stephen Colbert moved into the genre of Fake News Talk Show--with equal ratings success.  Now you have Fake News shows for John Oliver--Last Week Tonight (which is by far the most hilarious of the Fake News shows)--and Full Frontal, starring Samantha Bee--another Daily Show alum.

And let's not forget the Pew Research study that found a stunning 12% of Americans said The Daily Show was their MAIN SOURCE OF NEWS!!!  And that 46% of those who described themselves as "liberal" trusted everything they saw on The Daily Show.  Did the folks at Comedy Central tell people at that point "Whoa, this is a comedy show, folks.  We don't employ any reporters or fact checkers here.  Please get your news from reputable sources"?  Nope.  In fact, they started running promos for the show calling Stewart "America's Most Trusted Newsman".  There was even a time when serious people were seriously suggesting that NBC News hire Stewart to replace Brian Williams after the latter was caught putting Fake News into the NBC Nightly News.  And when Stewart stepped down, he was replaced by another comedian--Noah Trevor.

The President even addressed the topic of Fake News in the days leading up to the election--but he only told people not to get their news from Fox News Channel and Rush Limbaugh.  Why no mention of The Daily Show or Last Week Tonight?  Then this week, the President took part in a lengthy sit-down interview with Noah Trevor to discuss "serious topics"--giving further credibility to the Fake News industry.  So why the "shock and awe" that people were swayed by Fake News on the internet in the days before the election?  Especially when you can still go to the New York Times app and find those Fake News stories embedded in with the "real news of the day".

I have to go now.  I just got an alert that an "Area Man Is Giving Up the Search For a Missing Sock in the Laundry"!

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