The demand for fake news

Michael Brendan Dougherty of National Review Online tackles an unexplored aspect of the debate over “fake news.”

President Donald Trump will occasionally, at rallies or press conferences, just point to a reporter or a group of reporters and say, “You are fake news.” It’s a crowd pleaser at the rallies. But in a way, by pointing a finger directly into the camera bays, he is pointing at all of us. And I feel accused. …

… [L]et’s be honest and admit that the problem of fake news is a problem of demand, rather than one of supply. …

… Fake news grows out of human boredom and felt powerlessness. Hillary Clinton had the power to kill, and occasionally lusted in it. “We came, we saw, he died,” she said of Colonel Qaddafi. Her preferences could be translated and acted out upon the world. Just expressing her preferences seemed to make her richer and wealthier.

Most of us inhabit a different position in life. We have bosses who tell us what to do. We have bills and need to figure out how to pay them. Maybe we have creditors or even a parole officer to satisfy. That is, we don’t have much power. And so when the news comes around that someone you’ve never heard of got killed for unknown reasons, and the victim was connected to the powerful and rich people you hate, you do have one dark little power: to smile and choose to believe the worst, or at least to say you do. The appeal is in the sweet but small-minded satisfaction of knowing that “they” are mad you believe it.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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