“Freedom of expression is a bedrock of American democracy,” the Washington Post‘s editorial board writes in a November 18 jeremiad, “but its irresponsible exercise can distort and destabilize our politics.”
The Post‘s editors, mining the bottomless pit of mainstream media excuses for not predicting Donald Trump’s victory in November’s presidential election, think they’ve hit the mother lode with their newfound focus on “fake news” stories going viral in social media.
The Post coming out against “fake news?” That’s rich, especially given the last few months, during which the Post‘s reporters went all in for Hillary Clinton even to the extent of manufacturing “news” that Trump, and Julian Assange of Wikileaks, were in bed with Vladimir Putin and the Russian government.
Neither the Post nor its sources have publicly revealed so much as a crumb of actual evidence for the assertion. The case for the claim consists entirely of rumor and innuendo. But since doing so seemed to benefit Clinton’s campaign, the Post unreservedly ran with that rumor and innuendo, helpfully packaged for it by the Obama administration and the Democratic National Committee.
A one-time lapse? An artifact of Jeff Bezos’s takeover of the newspaper? No. The Post has been a vector for “fake news” for decades.
In the run-up to George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, the Post led American media’s cheering section, cheerfully publishing one bald-faced administration lie after another concerning Saddam’s “weapons of mass destruction” — then in the aftermath assisting the administration in taking revenge on Joseph Wilson (who had exposed one of the lies) by exposing his wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA agent.
Woodward and Bernstein’s glorious expose of the Watergate affair is long past and may have been an exception to the rule even back then. These days, at any rate, “fake news” is the Washington Post‘s stock in trade. Half their “reportage” comes down to nothing more complex than re-wording government press releases. The other half requires the extra work of slanting alleged “news” in favor of the paper’s favored causes and against their political opponents.
The Post’s editors pathetically close their diatribe with a veiled threat, channeling their masters’ voice: Social media needs to crack down on other people doing what the Post does to “avoid giving tyrants any impetus to crack down on dissent and free expression.”
This, from the paper which used Edward Snowden’s whistle-blowing work to grab a Pulitzer … then publicly advocated prosecuting their source!
The Post‘s editors have no problem with tyrants cracking down — they work for the tyrants. Their problem is purveyors of “fake news” — other than the variety pushed by the Post — gobbling up revenue in a niche the Post considers its own.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.
- “The Washington Post vs. ‘Fake News’: Pot, Meet Kettle,” by Thomas L. Knapp, New Haven, Connecticut Register, [web and print editions], 11/19/16
- “The Washington Post vs. ‘Fake News’: Pot, Meet Kettle,” by Thomas L. Knapp, OpEdNews, 11/20/16
- “The Washington Post vs. ‘Fake News’: Pot, Meet Kettle,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Antiwar.com, 11/21/16
- “The Washington Post vs. ‘Fake News’: Pot, Meet Kettle,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Ventura County, California Citizens Journal, 11/21/16
- “The Washington Post vs. “Fake News”: Pot, meet kettle,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Bucks County, Pennsylvania Courier Times, 11/22/16
- “The Washington Post vs. ‘Fake News’: Pot, Meet Kettle,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Key West: The Newspaper [Florida], 11/25/16
- “The Washington Post vs. ‘Fake News’: Pot, Meet Kettle,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Uinta County, Wyoming Herald [print edition], 11/25/16
- “Letter to the Editor: ‘Journalism’ in a ‘post-truth’ era,” by Martin E. Cobern, New Haven, Connecticut Register, 12/08/16
Also published on Medium.