“Stories should be supported by facts. Instead, stories are crafted to support a preconceived position.”
Last Thursday, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow claimed that she had been sent fake NSA documents from someone pretending to be another leaker, in the vein of Reality Winner. The documents supposedly confirmed collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia in 2016. Much like Maddow’s anti-climatic “scoop” of President Trump’s tax returns right before the election, the actual content of the story wasn’t what was being featured. It was the narrative that MSNBC was trying to sell as news, without any actual factual basis for the claims.
They were selling a narrative that consisted of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories regarding the Trump administration leaking the fake documents in order to discredit the network. While this is not as outlandish as a claim Alex Jones would make on InfoWars.com (it could indeed be a false flag operation for the mainstream media), the problem is that it was a narrative, not news. In an era where news outlets are combatting constant claims of “Fake News” about their stories, why would they stake their already shaky credibility on claims that they cannot reasonably expect to back up?
In an era where so much of our population is constantly connected to an unending flow of data, when we are always “turned on and plugged in,” how does the media adjust to ensure that accuracy and truth are the currency they deal in? Currently, it seems like everyone who is not a part of the media questions the truth of what the media is pumping into our eyes and ears 24/7.
When information is delivered that a consumer doesn’t like, they scream “Fake News.” When facts are not convenient for another, they also call it “Fake News.” In the words of William S. Burroughs, “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” We’ve moved beyond moral relativism, to full blown factual relativism.
It is hard to gauge who is more irritated with the current status quo. Is it the American public, sick of news stories all too frequently being revealed to be shadows of the truth when all of the facts are uncovered? Or is it the news outlets themselves who are irritated with the constant accusations of #FakeNews? One thing that is certain is that when your credibility is being questioned, you don’t double down by publishing more content and fact checking less data with the intention of producing a higher volume of impressions and clicks over a shorter time frame.
The frequency of stories being refuted by simple cursory fact checking is staggering. Then you have the added complication of outlets holding themselves above issuing an apology or accepting blame for their error; the situation becomes even more confounding every time.
Stories should be supported by facts. Instead, stories are crafted to support a preconceived position. Confirmation bias becomes a driving factor for what is covered, instead of the facts. And the cost of this game isn’t just reduced credibility of a network or a website; these actions are driving us to a future where an entire generation loses their faith in a news media that can be counted on to deliver them the truth.