Here’s a Handy Guide for Republicans to Tell Whether a Story is Really ‘Fake News’
This week, a startling new poll was released in which 92% of Republicans said that they agree that the news media sometimes knowingly reports false or misleading—otherwise known as “fake”–news. Since, in the modern era, it is nearly impossible to get 92% of Republicans, or any large group really, to agree on anything remotely controversial, this statistic understandably created quite a stir.
As an anti-news media conservative who has spent most of their career trying to educate people about how biased and flawed much of the mainstream news media coverage has become, I felt a strange sense of culpability for having played a tiny role in these disturbing results. This is not because 92% of Republicans (as well as 72% of Independents and 53% of Democrats) are incorrect about the news media occasionally reporting things which could be described as “fake news,” for, sadly, this does indeed happen all too often.
The real problem here (other than, of course, the fact that the news media now has dangerously little credibility remaining with most of the public) is that most people, especially Trump-supporting Republicans are really awful at determining when the news media may be reporting things that are not true. Consequently, the term ‘fake news” has become little more than a weapon for President Trump to fool his “Cult 45” following into thinking that negative stories about him can’t be trusted, and the legitimate cause of media accountability has now been hopelessly bastardized for the sole benefit of a man who deserves such a benefit less than anyone.
With that in mind, as both a service to these Republicans to whom I am referring, as well as an effort to work off some personal guilt for having possibly contributed to this crisis in media confidence, here is a handy guide that can be used to determine when a news story might be “fake,” and when it probably is not.
- If the story is reported quickly, in the midst of chaos, the universally accepted narrative fits the mainstream media’s ratings and political agenda, and it doesn’t pass the smell/logic test, there is about a 67% chance that it is at least somewhat “fake.” There is also an 85% chance that the mainstream media will eventually correct these mistakes in as muted a manner as possible.
- If a story is very negative about Trump and it doesn’t at least get picked up by MSNBC, then there is a 98% chance that it really is “fake news.” However, if Trump actually calls the same story “fake news,” then the odds that it really is “fake” immediately drop down to about 50%.
- If the story originates on Fox News, especially at morning or night, and centers on the concept of a “Deep State,” then there is a 95% chance that the story is significantly “fake.” If that story is first reported by any other “conservative” media outlet, there is a 100% chance that it is mostly “fake.”
- If GOP Congressman Devin Nunes is the primary source for the story and it appears to discredit Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, there is a 99% chance that the story is at least misleading, if not totally false. If Sean Hannity only spends two shows discussing it, this means that there is a 100% chance that it is “fake news.”
- If President Trump tweets about a story which helps his cause in some significant manner, and he only asks whether it might true, then there is a 99% chance that it is at least partly “fake news.” If the story involves some sort of bizarre and nebulous conspiracy theory, there is then a 100% chance that it is “fake news.”
- If President Trump calls a story reported by The New York Times or The Washington Post “fake news,” and the story is not then corrected within 48 hours, there is a 98% chance that story is primarily true. If the story is about a planned personnel move by Trump himself, there is a 100% chance that the story Trump is condemning will eventually be proven to be at least mostly true.
- If President Trump promotes a negative story about Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, James Comey, or Robert Mueller from a “conservative” media source that is below Fox News on the food chain, there is about a 70% chance that the story is false, or at least misleading. If that story is about the FBI in general, those odds rise to about 90%.
- If a story is positive about Trump, or negative towards one of his enemies, and Sean Hannity obsesses about it but Trump never mentions it, there is a 98% chance that it is “fake news.” If murdered DNC aide Seth Rich is involved in the story, those chances of being “fake news” officially edge up to 100%.
- If President Trump calls a negative story about him “fake news,” and Shepard Smith, Bret Baier, Chris Wallace, or Andrew Napolitano go on Fox News and vigorously back up the story, then there is only a 2% chance that the story is actually “fake.” If no major GOP member of Congress joins Trump in condemning the story, then there is a 1% chance that it is actually “fake.” If Alex Jones backs Trump on it, there is a 0% chance that it is really “fake news.”
Hopefully this guide is helpful, especially to Trump fans. The news media largely deserves the shocking lack of trust in which almost all Republicans have for what they report, but that shouldn’t get Trump supporters totally off the hook for not being able to tell the difference between and real and fake news.
At least now they have one less excuse.
John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org