Whispers of Barack Obama being born in Kenya started circulating on the internet before he was even elected. In the first years of his Presidency those whispers turned into full blown conspiracy theories. In 2011, Donald Trump, then toying with a 2012 run for the White House, was largely responsible for bringing it back into fake news mainstream.
You could say Donald Trump’s 2016 run began all the way back before Mitt Romney had secured the 2012 nomination. Trump has either been generating or using fake news to his benefit ever since, and it’s worked beautifully.
In the Information Age, we are bombarded with endless amounts of information. Countless radio stations, television news stations, podcasts, internet blogs and vlogs, newspapers, etc. It’s endless. The problem is most of that information doesn’t get filtered or vetted by a big portion of the population. Many are left thinking and spreading falsehoods accidentally or on purpose.
So, when Donald Trump tests the waters for a premature presidential bid, it’s not surprising that it took just a few months back in 2011 for only 38 percent of Americans surveyed to believe that Obama was “definitely” born in the United States. I imagine Trump figured out at the time that conspiracy theories and fake news works.
During his 2016 campaign he used masterfully. He would say outlandish things daily. Promises he never intended to keep or even could keep, like getting Mexico to pay for a massive border wall. Last summer 21% of Trump supporters actually believed Mexico would pay for it. Nonsense. More importantly however, 79% of Trump supporters believed in the wall’s supposed benefits.
Day after day, Trump would outright lie. Whether it was in a tweet, or a campaign speech. Much of the mainstream media would let it go unchallenged and the right-wing media would back him up. What we were fed in turn, without a reliable press, was an almost daily dose of fake news spewing directly from his mouth.
Even in victory, Donald Trump claimed he beat Hillary Clinton in a landslide. The truth is closer to mediocre. Still, half of republicans believe Trump won the popular vote when he lost it by nearly three million.
Now he is the president elect and he seems to be using unsubstantiated news from the left to his advantage. Buzzfeed’s premature publishing of a scandal ridden, unverified dossier has given Trump ammunition. As we witnessed with CNN, he can now label anyone in the mainstream news as fake news without, as it seems, any real consequence. No other news company defended CNN at the news conference, did they?
While it looks like Trump may finally be getting a taste of his own medicine with #goldengate and what not. The real consequences of fake news or unsubstantiated news coming from the left is the same as when it comes from the right. A dumbed down populace.
Despite the lack of hard evidence, the mainstream media has been covering the Russia Email hacking scandal for the past few weeks. Almost nonstop. So, it should come as no surprise that per a YouGov poll, 52% of Democrats actually believe Russia tampered with the vote totals to get Trump elected president.
Dumb Democrats aside, the supreme dictator of fake news, Donald trump will now dumb down the American people to a whole other level. By dismissing CNN as fake news at his press conference and then going straight to a question from the extreme right-wing Breitbart News, Trump is setting a very dangerous precedent before he even takes office.
Conservatives who watch CNN aren’t going to go flocking to the Young Turks, RT or even MSNBC, they’re going to start watching the conspiracy lovers down at Breitbart, Info Wars and the blaze. Channels much worse and misleading than Fox so-called News or CNN.
American trust in the media is already extremely low, and there is a good reason for it, but CNN isn’t bad for what it reports per se, it’s bad for what it doesn’t. The same can be said for most mainstream media.
If the past month is any indication on where the country is going, then in four years from now, no one is going to know fake from real, right from wrong or fact from fiction. And that’s exactly how Trump and Republicans want it.