From all the recent hand-wringing about “fake news,” you would think that the hand-wringers had never stood in a supermarket checkout line, surrounded by 72-point headlines about alien abductions and miracle cures.
Fake news has been around as long as real news, as any historian of early modern Europe can tell you (Renaissance readers gobbled up stories about women giving birth to rabbits, and men from Africa with faces in their chests). Social media has certainly transformed how fake news circulates, speeding up its circulation and extending its reach and impact. The temptation to blame many of our current ills on it—and by extension, on Mark Zuckerberg—is understandable. But the hand-wringing has in fact distracted attention from a much more important problem involving the American media. That problem is not fake news but the continuing delegitimization of real news by American conservatives. This delegitimization has been taking place for a long time (as The Nation’s Eric Alterman has meticulously reported, and as even some conservative media figures have admitted), but during the past year it has taken a frightening new turn. If the mainstream American news media are to have any hope of avoiding potentially catastrophic results—both for themselves and for American democracy—they need to change how they report on American politics, and on the ideological apparatchiks they continue to describe, misleadingly, as “journalists.” [ . . . ]
Read Full Story at: Fake News Is Not the Real Media Threat We’re Facing | The Nation