November 27, 2017

CNN Column Rewrites History in Attempt to Ban the Term ‘Fake News’

At CNN.com on Sunday, Hossein Derakhshan and Claire Wardle told us that they want to “Ban the term ‘fake news.’” Though theirs is an opinion piece supposedly representing the authors’ views and not those of the network, its wish to banish the term “fake news” from public discussion echoes CNN head Jeff Zucker’s sentiments expressed in early May, and acts as if CNN itself wasn’t one furiously trying to pin the tag on others a year ago.

Before going further, we need to stipulate that Hossein Derakhshan is a heroic media figure who spent years in prison in Iran for blogging the truth. His noble background makes his association with the CNN column in question particularly unfortunate. Frankly, he should know better.

It’s clear from reviewing her LinkedIn resumé and her body of work that the column is really Claire Wardle’s baby. She told CNN’s Stelter earlier this month that she refuses to use the term “f*** news” herself, and censors it in conversations. In her column with Derakhshan and her conversation with Stelter, she prefers to use the following three terms instead to describe “information disorder”:

Mis-information is the kind of false information disseminated online by people who don’t have a harmful intent.

“That might be my mom sharing a shock photo from Hurricane Irma,” without realizing that it’s actually an old photo from an unrelated event, Wardle said. “She just hasn’t checked it properly.”

Dis-information is false information created and shared by people with harmful intent. False news reports around presidential candidates ahead of the 2016 election fall into this category, and so does their social media amplification from malicious accounts.

Mal-information is the sharing of “genuine” information with the intent to cause harm. That includes some types of leaks, harassment and hate speech online. An example of mal-information, says Wardle, are Hillary Clinton’s leaked emails.

Wardle’s definition of “mal-information” is so problematic and selective that it renders the term virtually meaningless.

“Harassment and hate speech” aren’t forms of “information” at all, unless she really believes that properly presented inconvenient truths can be inherently harassing and hateful — in which case she should stop pretending that she believes in freedom of speech.

Her determination that Hillary Clinton’s leaked emails aren’t really “genuine” (given that the word in quotes) give us every reason to believe that she sees “good leaks” as those which harm people she doesn’t like, “bad leaks” as those which harm people she does, and that only “bad leaks should be considered “mal-information.” What rubbish.

One only needs to get through three paragraphs of the pair’s Sunday column to recognize that they are deliberately miscasting history:

Ban the term ‘fake news’

When we use the term “fake news” it is not only self-defeating, it oversimplifies a very complex problem.

A year ago, this wasn’t the case. The term actually meant something. It described a particular type of website that used the same design templates as professional news websites but its contents were entirely fabricated.

But earlier this year, the term started to become meaningless. It became used to describe any piece of information that someone else didn’t like …

That is not what transpired late last year and early this year.

Just over a year ago, the establishment press was giddy at the prospect of frontrunner Clinton winning the presidency, but was infuriated at challenger Donald Trump’s aggressive campaign conduct, his attacks on her, and his attacks on the press.

During previous months, the term “fake news” had gained currency to describe clearly bogus news items which were making it to Facebook’s “Trending” list.

Then, in the runup to Election Day, the press began targeting the term at “right-wing pages” which were allegedly “more prone to sharing false or misleading information than left-wing pages,” and to use guilt-by-association to tag candidate Donald Trump as a co-conspirator in supposedly disseminating it. Note that at the linked October 30, 2016 article, CNN’s Brian Stelter was already being forced to play defense for his network, as he complained that “CNN detractors filled my inbox with messages saying that CNN is the ultimate example of ‘fake news.’” Of course he denied it, claiming that “news organizations small and large try very hard to report the truth.”

Shortly after the left’s deeply disappointing Election Day, the establishment press, which had planned on having the support of President-Elect Clinton in discrediting the voices of center-right critics and competitors, went ahead and tried to do so on their own.

There’s hardly a better example of this than a CNN segment narrated by Stelter in November 2016:

Note that the graphics supporting Stelter’s narrative presented specific NewsBusters posts as examples of “fake news,” and that Stelter himself uttered the term “BS detection tools” as one particular NB post appears. In another graphic, CNN presented a post at another blog whose core content was entirely based on work done by a Gannett affiliate in Portland. In other words, CNN effectively called that Portland outlet’s underlying report “fake news.”

The purpose of the Stelter/CNN segment can be found squarely within Claire Wardle’s “information disorder” breakdown as a form of “dis-information.” It was “created and shared … with (the) harmful intent” of harming NewsBusters, a website which has been exposing the fundamental dishonestly of Stelter and CNN years, and another website which has been making mincemeat of the Keynesian “stimulus” narrative for the better part of a decade. Wardle may not like the term, but Stelter’s November 2016 segment is just one of so many genuine textbook examples of “fake news” the network has shamelessly promoted.

Establishment press outlets have spent the past year disseminating fake news while working feverishly, through their bogus and highly selective “fact-checkers,” to discredit legitimate center-right voices. Until their behavior changes, they fully deserve ownership of the tag every time they plumb the dishonest depths. One can be virtually certain, despite the financial and credibility penalties they are paying, that they won’t stop anytime soon.

Cross-posted, with possible revisions, at NewsBusters.org.

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