All the Sturm und Drang surrounding the latest spasm of "fake news" mania as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg admitted "a huge mistake" in the way his company packages and sells data ignores a key point. This point tends to be overlooked by liberals in their narrative about how media influences elections.
It's not the fake news that sways the electorate, it's the main stream media. Fake news peers around the edges of influence, digging into the paranoid, conspiracy-loving side of human nature. But main stream media plays to the same music. The hidden takeaway from a Boston Globe exposé of Christopher Blair, who the Globe describes as a "hard-core Democrat," is that fake news doesn't change elections.
“We’re not changing elections,” Blair argues. “We’re not pushing some 70-year-old who’s been sitting on a fence watching Fox News over to the dark side. We’re trolling conservative low-hanging fruit and having them removed from Facebook. You post nonsense, they respond, you and your friends make them look foolish.“
The other takeaway is that publishing fake news doesn't often make millionaires--at least not a two-man operation run from rural Maine.
What it does do, is erode confidence in the manner and content of so-called "real" news outlets. I write "so-called" because the line between hard journalism and social activism has been crossed so many times in the past decade it's really difficult to even find the line anymore. Since Dan Rather went for the Bush memo in 2004, and in the haymaking days of the Obama administration, when White House talking points were regularly read and verbatim as fact, the American public has a hard time knowing who--or what--to believe.
The Russians know this, and spend liberally (pun intended) on both sides of the political spectrum to further erode our confidence in separating fact from fiction.
But none of that affects elections. Donald Trump won the presidency in large part because Americans were fed up with liberal activists occupying and claiming ownership of every major institution in America. The academy (that's "universities" for the unwashed fly-over country folk), big science, entertainment, high tech and banking had become liberal enclaves vigorously protected from any diversity of thought.
Erick Erickson's "you will be made to care" became truth in that the electorate decided to care, and push back in the most spectacular way they could. They punished political and establishment organs by choosing a 900 decibel mouth to project their objections.
In the midst of this, a thousand small cottage industries flourished in the tide of trolling from both sides. One of the reasons I originally came on board The Resurgent is because Erick told me there would be no comment section to troll. We soon found out that a comment section drives traffic because people like to read and respond to trolls.
I would even say that this is a desirable aspect of American political engagement (that doesn't mean I enjoy reading the comments). It's ugly but so are some people's relatives, but it doesn't mean they aren't loved by their family. Trolling, "fake news" and ugly political talk is part and parcel of what makes America great.
The main stream media would love to ban the comment section. They'd love to censor the news to only the things they think aren't "fake," which typically includes all the pet activist projects the left adores. But in the end, Americans make election decisions based on their own beliefs, not on sensational conspiracy stories. In 2016, we all knew who Hillary Clinton was and what she believed and did. Fake news didn't change that.
We all knew who Donald Trump was and what he believes. He won because of what we knew, not because of fake news. The liberals are only helping the Russians in their goal to destabilized America into a censored state where nobody believes the "official" outlets when they pursue this purge of "fakeness" from our news.
And if they simply listened to Christopher Blair, the liberal troll fake news kingpin, they'd realize they knew it all along.