A Disturbing Glimpse Into The Manufacturing of Fake News

Ken Blackwell is Senior Fellow for Human Rights and Constitutional Governance at Family Research Council. This article appeared on Townhall.com on May 31, 2019.

President Trump’s enemies are providing yet another disturbing glimpse of the veritable fake news factory into which the mainstream media has morphed.

Late last week, Ian Bremmer, one of the most well-known foreign policy experts in America, tweeted a made-up quote from President Trump without offering any indication that the statement was fictitious. “President Trump in Tokyo: ‘Kim Jong Un is smarter and would make a better President than Sleepy Joe Biden,'” Bremmer wrote, providing no further context.

Predictably, the fake news twitterverse took the quote at face-value. Journalists and lawmakers alike went on to share Bremmer’s tweet, blasting President Trump for a statement he never made.

CNN contributor Ana Navarro-Cárdenas, for instance, retweeted the fake quote with an emotional message to her followers.

“Don’t shrug your shoulders. Don’t get used to this insanity,” she wrote. “The President of the United States praising a cruel dictator who violates human rights, threatens nuclear attacks, oppresses his people, and kills political opponents, IS NOT FREAKING NORMAL.”

Democrat Representative Ted Lieu also took the bait, tweeting a list of critical questions at the President in response to Bremmer’s fabricated quotation.

“Is this when @realDonaldTrump became our President? Or was it when he kowtowed to Putin in Helsinki? Or was it when he said there are fine people on both sides? Or was it when he obstructed justice multiple times? Or was it when he separated infants from parents? Or was it w…” the lawmaker said.

The outrage continued to percolate across social media until Bremmer posted an “update” admitting that he had invented the “objectively ludicrous” remark for the purposes of an apparent experiment. The following day, Bremmer finally issued a belated apology for his original tweet, acknowledging that he “should have been clearer” when (mis-)quoting the President.

Whether or not you believe Bremmer’s claim, it’s clear that his initial tweet lacked proper context — as a respected foreign policy expert, columnist, and editor-at-large for Time magazine, Bremmer is - or was - viewed as a reputable source by many of his followers, and should have taken that responsibility more seriously. That being said, however, Bremmer is not an objective “reporter” who is paid to publish facts, and media personalities who quickly pounced on his tweet without verifying the information should have known the difference.

The whole episode was distressingly reminiscent of the Covington Catholic controversy, in which reporters across the mainstream media landscape aggressively defamed a group of high school students based on incomplete and inaccurate reports from non-journalists on social media, only to discover that their original description of the encounter was practically the exact opposite of the truth.

Sadly, the fake news media haven’t learned their lesson from the Covington travesty. In fact, the Ian Bremmer debacle wasn’t even the only fake news scandal that happened in recent days.

The New York Times, for instance, published an editorial suggesting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Trump are partially responsible for the rise of anti-Semitism. The Times, of course, is a notorious purveyor of anti-Semitism itself. BuzzFeed News was forced to delete an “inaccurate” tweet claiming that a pro-Nazi vandal was radicalized in part by conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro, who happens to be Jewish. And Democrat presidential candidate Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke’s twisted facts about immigration, inmates, and gun violence during a CNN town hall barely received any attention from the mainstream media at all.

The high-profile journalists and elected Democrat politicians who were so quick to amplify Bremmer’s “objectively ludicrous” tweet should be embarrassed by their own gullibility, and the American people should be disgusted by this glimpse at the sausage-making behind the spread of fake news, which persists like a plague on our society in the age of Trump.