The Imaginary Witches of Fake News

By Michael Willard

A shrill chorus shouts fake news, influencing the Ma and Pa Kettles of rural America, good folk, common sense folk, but who are mesmerized and numbed by the drumbeat of fear mongers.

The calmer voices rarely leap over their backyard fences.

But the noises they hear loud and clear are from total boobs, meaning not the anatomical characteristic, but the Webster dictionary definition of an absolute idiot.

Yes, dear hearts, I’m talking Rush Limbaugh and Fox’s Sean Hannity, among others, broadcast blabber guys who couldn’t make it through the first round of Jeopardy, the Pampers’ edition.

Lest you think I write these epitaphs from an elitist perch, my childhood was spent in a 39-foot house trailer occupied by a family of five. It was the same size as the boat on which I lived years later.

Not to sound too Dickensonian but I did cut my teeth on menial jobs such as bag boy, bowling alley pin setter, door-to-door purveyor of donuts; and, though only for a short time, a carny who lifted tykes into kiddy rides at the fairgrounds.

So, from this plebeian status, I proclaim, without fear of ridicule, I belong to a rare but exalted class of Experts on Fake News. I have fought the plague as a reporter, editor and writer on two continents.

For a third of my professional life, I worked in a fake news, purchased news and autocratic-driven news atmosphere in Russia, Ukraine, and Turkey. So, forgive me if I’m not impressed with Fox’s protestations that it is a legitimate news outlet. They doth protest too much.

At the same time, I believe them, though their former slogan of “Fair and Balanced” was a romancing of the product into the stratosphere, an outrageous claim to which they obviously and inwardly snickered.

This is not to say, however, I consider the network an honest broker of ideas; and, this might surprise you, I often feel much the same way about CNN and my favorite publication, the New York Times.

But, here we are talking degrees of news colorization from red hot pants on fire to more a mellow yellow.

However, when Hannity joined President Trump on stage at a rally just prior to the mid-term elections, it was truly throw-up time for a guy like me, as well, I am sure, as my former colleagues from a once great wire service, United Press International.

Tossing the alt-right publications into a separate trash pile, most major mainstream media simply offer viewpoints, and all are tinged with certain regrettable but inherent and understandable biases. This is natural given the political leanings of owners and the foibles of humankind, particularly we who record history by the millisecond.

However, in America we are blessed with a diversity of opinion, and, frankly, that makes everything gloriously right in a free society.

This doesn’t mean I am giving Fox a pass.

The pendulum there has swung so far to the right it passes within a few light years of Saturn. On the other hand, a traditional lineup on CNN is three on one side of an issue, and a struggling, over-matched, conservative contrarian on the other.

This does not shout fairness, though, frankly, I am nearly always on the side of the ones with the white hats, the slightly left of center tribe. For humor and a dose of pique, I occasionally watch Fox.

However, neither Fox nor CNN, nor the other mainstream networks, rise to the label of Fake News. The New York Times, with its smorgasbord of opinions, is anything but a false town-crier.

The fact is, though, our President couldn’t tell fake news from a pink armadillo. His slogans about “that’s fake news” and “enemies of the people” amplify either his ignorance or diabolical genius. I think it is a lethal concoction of both.

One can only wonder what a Trumpian Gazette would display in its columns. It’s doubtful it would be stories from paramours past, jilted vendors, or Trump University “scholars” (suckers). No doubt exaggerated crowd estimates would be a regular feature.

But I do know from living it about the tainted, rotting fish stink of journalism in other lands. In Russia, being a reporter can get you killed. In Ukraine, one can buy a favorable story in most any publication. In Turkey, you simply get locked up for defying the man, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

However, as long as we have a market place of varying ideas in the US, it is up to the reader, viewer or listener to accept responsibility and judge what enters his or her noggin through eyes and ears.

It is we who must filter out the complete bull pucky from that which is simply disagreeable and contrary.

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