Issues & Insights

Some Real Truths About Fake News

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The folks who came up with the term “fake news” – no one has ever claimed credit for it – probably rue the day they did. Originally the term was going to be used to discredit anything that appeared in an outlet that wasn’t part of the media elite which contradicted the dominant liberal narrative or painted progressives and their policies in an unfavorable light.

Oh, for the schemes of mice and men, as Robert Burns put it.

Before those behind this grand experiment in thought control could get all the fact-checkers, news outlets, and academics ready to make it work, Donald Trump appeared on the scene and expropriated the term. In the blink of an eye, what was supposed to be an ad hominem attack on Fox News and other conservative outlets came to be synonymous with liberal media distortions of the day’s news. 

Now, say published reports, it appears “fake news” is a real thing and, just as the liberals alleged, there are a couple of Murdochs behind it all. Only it’s not Rupert. It’s his younger son from his first marriage James who, along with his wife Kathryn reportedly made significant contributions to a political action committee linked to a genuinely fake news operation allied with the Democrats.

The younger Murdoch, who at one time occupied senior management positions in companies owned by his father as well as a member of the News Corp. board of directors, severed his ties with the family business several years ago, allegedly over concerns of information bias. How odd it is then that he and his wife are now linked to a $500,000 contribution to Pacronym, a super PAC that, according to its website is “affiliated with ACRONYM” – a group that Federal Elections Commission records indicate funded a pseudo-news outlet called “Courier Newsroom,” which circulated Democratic Party and anti-Trump propaganda disguised as legitimate reporting.

The “Courier Newsroom” operated what one newspaper called a network of “impostor news outlets” in electorally critical states such as Arizona, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Democratic Party talking points and candidate press releases were rewritten by the outlets and uploaded to the web as though they were legitimate news stories. It was essentially a political operation, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Michael McAdams told National Review last October, “funded by a host of liberal billionaire donors” and “poster child for House Democrats’ complete and total hypocrisy when it comes to dark money and fake news.” 

It’s a remarkable turn of events given the younger Murdoch’s outrage, purportedly shared by his wife, at the way so-called disinformation propagated by media outlets like those controlled by News Corp. created an atmosphere leading to events like Trump’s 2016 election, the contest of his 2020 loss, and the disturbance at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 – which led directly to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., launching an effort to impeach the 45th president of the United States for a second time and have him removed from office before the end of his term. 

“Spreading disinformation — whether about the election, public health or climate change — has real-world consequences,” the younger Murdochs recently said to the Financial Times. “Many media property owners have as much responsibility as the elected officials who know the truth but instead choose to propagate lies. We hope the awful scenes we have all been seeing (at the U.S. Capitol) will finally convince those enablers to repudiate the toxic politics they have promoted once and forever.”

One is tempted to shout “physician heal thyself’ at James and Kathryn Murdoch but it would likely do little good. Whether the contempt he’s shown for honest reporting through this and potential other contributions – neither are talking about how they’ve been spending their political money – is driven by a familial dispute, ideological concerns, or the kind of liberal social consciousness commonly found among the members of the second and third-generation descendants of those who built great companies of tremendous value is not important; sad perhaps, but not a critical component of a drama that some might say has hints of Shakespeare about it. 

What truly matters is the shameful way the younger Murdochs have allegedly used resources at their disposal thanks to their father’s success to distort both the news and the political process.

Thanks to the technological advances that have made the Internet the main source of news about global current, it is easier than it once was to pull the wool over the eyes of the people. And, because P.T. Barnum’s still not been proved wrong, information that appears on the web that looks real is too often mistaken as being real.

James Murdoch and his billionaire cohorts who allegedly funded it all and the political operatives who came up with the idea for who knows how many pseudo-news platforms ought to be ashamed of their actions. They cheapened the process and the news business, a vocation some of us still consider to be an honorable profession. 

Peter Roff is a former UPI and U.S. News & World Report columnist who is now affiliated with several Washington-D.C.-based public policy organizations. He appears regularly as a commentator on the One America News network. He can be reached by email at RoffColumns@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeterRoff.

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