“Fake news” has arguably turned into the buzzword of 2017 following Hillary Clinton’s surprising loss to now-President Donald Trump in the November 2016 general election.
Supporters of Clinton’s, in a scramble to explain how she could have blown her polling leads so badly, argued that poor, stupid Donald Trump voters only cast their ballots in his favor because they were too ignorant to tell fake news from the real thing.
To “back up” that point, they singled out stories like this one detailed by ThinkProgress and falsely claimed Trump won the popular vote shortly after he emerged victorious on election night.
There was also this false story detailed by the Washington Post about a pizza place that supposedly served as a front for a child sex ring with Clinton operatives being involved.
Trump even contributed directly to the fake news phenomenon much earlier when he established himself as one of the original — and definitely the highest profile — “Birthers,” who falsely claimed that President Obama was born in Kenya and was, therefore, ineligible to serve as president.
— Mike Gibbs (@Mikeggibbs) April 22, 2017
Admittedly, these are all pretty strong cases the political right should be doing its share of fake news policing. However, it does not get Democrats off the hook, and a recent piece of reporting from the Associated Press is exactly the type of story conservatives are rightfully decrying as a form of fake news.
The story is written by Jonathan Drew, and the topic is on voter fraud in North Carolina. The state, which went for Trump, recently conducted an analysis of its voter turnout and found more than 500 cases of ineligible voters casting ballots.
Drew rightfully points out the small number of infractions were not enough to affect the outcome of the election, and he also rightfully points out that the findings were well below the exaggerated commentary of then-President-elect Trump as he struggled to explain his popular vote loss.
But where Drew goes off the rails and ventures into fake news territory is in the sin of omission. The verbiage in the piece fails to discuss who benefitted the most from the ineligible ballots.
His punching of the point that it did not affect the outcome would lead one to think the votes were heavily skewed against Trump, but he does not state that. Instead, he pulls out two cases where the votes were from people voting for Trump through the executors of their estate after they had died.
By singling out these two cases and tap-dancing around the question of who the votes most benefitted, Drew is making it seem like the only ineligible (or illegal) ballots cast were from Trump supporters.
Not reporting all the news or reporting the news in such a way to specifically color against the side with whom you disagree ideologically is a form of fake news, and it is just as dangerous as outright lies because it further erodes trust in public institutions and grants leniency where none should be granted.
The AP should know better because, for the longest time, it has been considered “mainstream media,” aka the people who are supposed to adhere to even-handed journalistic principles.
YES THE LEFTWING RADICAL LIBERAL PROPAGANDISTS MEDIA…… pic.twitter.com/HJIavBZC38
— PA & US FOR TRUMP (@flyer74) April 22, 2017
The fact you cannot find anywhere in Drew’s story an explicit statement regarding exactly who the ineligible votes benefitted the most is a testament to why Americans of all political classifications no longer trust the media.
They realize the U.S. media is in a highly politicized, highly partisan state where reporting the truth is limited to how much the truth inconveniences the individual reporter’s agenda.
And what is fake news but news that can’t be trusted?