A recent letter to the Gazette (8/16/17: “Time to Support the President”) amplifies the importance of getting our news from legitimate news sources instead of through dubious websites, dubious letters to the editor, or from politicians. The letter writer decried the prominence of fake news along with declarations of loyalty to President Trump, the very same fellow who made a political career out of the ultimate racist lie, echoed incessantly through fake news (Breitbart, the Daily Stormer, InfoWars), that President Obama was foreign born, all evidence to the contrary. Trump surely knew that his lie was a lie, and he counted on fake news outlets to spread it. It worked: the lie was enthusiastically accepted by a significant minority of our electorate, those who were all too eager to find a way to delegitimize a black president.
The same letter writer went on to say with no sense of irony that “(I)t’s time (for the media) to get on board,” implying that by supporting Trump, the media would serve the country and that by reporting news damaging to Trump, it was guilty of disloyalty. But, the job of journalists is not to be loyal to particular politicians: The job of journalists is to find the truth and report it. Reporters dug up the truth about Johnson and Viet Nam, they dug up the truth about Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs, they dug up the truth about Nixon and Watergate, and they dug up the truth about torture at Abu Gharaib. It seems likely that between Robert Mueller’s investigation and the work of an aggressive press, we will eventually know the truth about Trump and Russia, despite Trump’s best efforts to obscure the truth. It has always been the case that governments cannot be counted on to be truthful. It has always been the case that we need the press. This is especially true now.
Fake news is not news one does not like. Fake news is fake news. The more ideologically based claims seem to be, the more impassioned they are, the more skeptical readers should be. Letters to the editor often just echo Fox News, MSNBC, or, much worse, Breitbart and Nazi sites like the Daily Stormer.
Do what it takes to be an informed citizen. Read genuine newspapers as opposed to tabloids, and stay away from dubious sites. Trump repeatedly has referred to the legitimate press as the “enemy of the people.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Trump needs an enemy to distract us, and he needs fake news of his own making to be able to dupe us. Don’t let him.