Americans evaluate the news as good or bad, liberal or conservative, fake or legitimate. With each squabble or negative story, President Trump continues to refer to news outlets as fake news, to undermine and demonize the press.
What is fake news?
Fake news or false news is created with the intention to deceive audiences. According to google trends ‘fake news’ peaked in February and was not used much before 2017. This year Facebook created a way for users to report fake news and prevent false articles from spreading.
‘Fake news’ is not in the dictionary. It made its first known appearances at the end of the 19th century. According to Merriam-Webster’s website, the usage of ‘fake news’ is new and not likely to reach the dictionary because it’s a self-explanatory noun compound.
With Trump’s usage of the words ‘fake news,’ he’s created his own definition and people feel more comfortable using it when it doesn’t apply. A made-up story about an ISIS leader endorsing Hillary Clinton for president is in the same category as an article from CNN.
Trump’s war on the media
With his twitter attacks on various reporters and news outlets, Trump has declared war. CNN retracted a story about Trump’s involvement with Russia, Trump retaliated by posting a WWE style video of himself body slamming a person with ‘CNN’ printed over their face. At the end of the video and in other tweets he refers to CNN as ‘Fraud News Network.’
Trump had reasons to be upset with CNN, but the way CNN handled the retracted story refutes the idea they are fake news. Three journalists resigned and the story was retracted because it didn’t meet CNN’s editorial standards.
When a legitimate news outlet retracts a story they are trying to be more honest and transparent with the public because trust with their readers has value. By admitting their errors they are trying to conserve credibility with their audience.
Is Trump crying ‘fake news’ to defend his presidency?
After CNN retracted the story, Trump tweeted calling all major news networks fake news.
If Trump believes all news is false, then where do we get information? He doesn’t articulate specific errors he has found in the news, he only dubs all news as fake, posts it on social media and his supporters repost it. He teaches Americans that it’s okay to discredit stories when they are too critical of the president or not positive enough. With many already distrusting of the media, they feel the President is speaking for them, making the words ‘fake news’ popular among his supporters.
Trump’s claims against the media are reminiscent of Nixon, who also disliked the media and thought the press was out to get him. During the Pentagon Papers, The Washington Post was banned from the White House completely, not allowed at any press briefings or events. Under the Trump administration, journalists are seeing shorter and shorter press briefings.
It’s become a scary time for journalists. No matter how hard they work or how objective they remain all their work can be overlooked because the president and others refer to them as fake news.
Whether Trump believes all news networks provide fake news, he is trying to defend his position as president and reputation. He knows by calling sources fake he can discredit reporters, ruin their credibility and make their job of holding him accountable more difficult.