By R.J. McVeigh, Director of Apologetics
The rise of fake news on social media over the past year has recently prompted the mainstream media to begin drawing more attention to these false stories in an attempt to stop the trend. It is now almost a daily occurrence to see a headline article on websites like CNN that are titled something like, “No, [so-and-so] did not really say [what-and-such]”. Even Oxford Dictionaries has declared “post-truth” the word of the year; a term meant to describe circumstances in which objective facts don’t matter.
Organizations like these making efforts to create awareness of people being deceived online is all within the context of the cultural and political craziness of 2016 (Brexit, Donald Trump, etc.). These established organizations see recent events as a rejection of themselves, and their explanation for how anyone could reject them is that people just don’t understand the truth. They believe they’ve identified fake news as the reason people don’t understand the truth, and so they’re now targeting fake news.
“News sources” that are fabrications are despicable, and rightly should be condemned. But pre-existing bias in the media and in politics should receive a signification portion of the blame for the recent rise in completely fabricated “news” stories. Media bias and political manipulation of the facts have opened the doors for full-fledged fake news. When people start to believe that the “credible” and “mainstream” media is fudging the facts or choosing to only highlight certain facts to alter perceptions it makes it very easy for others to simply take it one step further.
The abortion lobby and the way the media presents abortion are prime examples of how lack of mainstream credibility has created the phenomenon of fake news. There are countless examples regarding abortion from just the past few years that demonstrate how the population has lost faith in the supposedly “real” news.
The most glaring example is last year’s #PPSellsBabyParts scandal. Those videos were real. They were not doctored or edited in a manipulative way. Even the Planned Parenthood commissioned analysis concluded this. But you would have never realized that listening to the media. The media took all their talking points from Planned Parenthood and started singing the line about “highly edited” videos. This was a phrase intentionally thought up to be misleading. Anyone who critically thinks about it for half a second knows everything we see on TV is “highly edited” – being “edited” doesn’t mean it’s manipulative or misleading.
But someone at Planned Parenthood intentionally tried to think of a talking point that would make it SOUND like the videos were misleading. And the media went right along with it, no questions asked.
After all the Wikileaks regarding media bias, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was an explicit request from Planned Parenthood to the media. The completely biased coverage of such a big scandal is an example of the mainstream media acting more like the same “fake news” they’re now decrying.
And then there’s the example of Planned Parenthood’s 3-percent abortion statistic. The claim that only 3% of PP’s services are abortion is highly misleading. It is intentionally designed and turned into a top talking point in order to mislead. Yet, any time Planned Parenthood’s abortion business is brought up in the news or on TV you can bet someone from the “mainstream” will cite this statistic. Never mind that the statistic is self-reported by Planned Parenthood, the media is perfectly willing to accept it as gospel without question. That sounds a lot like fake news to me.
There is also the way public opinion of abortion is presented in the media. Being pro-life is made to seem like a fringe minority. Never mind that even the most abortion-favorable polls show that 55% of the population oppose legalization of abortion in all or most cases. And when’s the last time the 600,00 people in the middle of a blizzard (EVERY YEAR) at the March for Life was given as much coverage as a few hundred protesters after the election? Not to mention that the mainstream media won’t even call Pro-Lifers “Pro-Life”; despite being very willing to call Pro-Choicers “Pro-Choice”. Again, this all seems like pretty “fake” coverage to me.
We could go on and on with examples of “real news” acting like “fake news” when it comes to abortion. Abortion is not the only example of extreme media bias, but it’s a big one. These examples and the mainstream reaction to fake news makes the mainstream seem insecure. You can smell the hypocrisy.
If there are any mainstream news executives trying to figure out how to regain credibility, I suggest they start with their abortion coverage. Stop taking your talking points from Planned Parenthood and NARAL. Acknowledge that hundreds of millions of respectable Americans oppose legal abortion. Treat it like a real issue. And then maybe you can improve your problem of readers favoring fake news over you.