Opinion / Student Space

How real is ‘fake news?’

Having full confidence in what you say is an important quality to have as a speaker – it brings more meaning and persuasiveness to your audience. After all, you should be only delivering facts. But when someone in the crowd calls you on something being untrue, the panic sets in. You may stutter, backtrack and have to listen to their point of view before saying your own piece or defending yourself with some hard-hitting evidence. Or, if you are President Trump, you could simply interrupt, hold up one finger and utter two words; ‘fake news’.

It’s no secret that many media outlets spread inaccurate information and over-exaggerate situations for clicks. We live in the era of ‘clickbait’, with every website using the most extreme of titles and misleading images as links to their articles, just for a few clicks. Using ‘clickbait’ has become part of the norm to survive as a thriving media source online. Political bias is also present, and fairly easy to spot within the media. It’s not difficult to tell with many American media outlets, especially news stations such as CNN or Fox News, which way they lean concerning their political stance

However, the problem with President Trump’s claims of ‘fake news’ are the underlying connotations of suppressing any opinion that challenges yours. It’s the cheap and easy way of hiding any truths that you don’t want exposed. It’s a level of arrogance that can only be found in the most delusional of millionaires (including those that started on a small loan of one million dollars). As a regular citizen of your country, you are free to follow the party and the news station that fits your bias as much as you want – it’s your right. But when the acting president dismisses every fact that contradicts his stubborn opinion and calls out entire news stations (in many angry tweets), ranting about how everything is ‘fake’ just because they may not favour his every decision, there is a problem.

There is a problem, because he is driving his supporters to only trust and believe words out of his own mouth, which is prone to slip-ups (see Sweden) and contradicting terms in his own statements (“The leaks are real, the news is fake”). There is a problem, because he is teaching his supporters the mentality that only their opinion is correct and all others who dare to challenge it, have ulterior motives and are trying to manipulate you. There is a problem, because it threatens democracy, and stops news sources from delivering legitimate facts and information to the people who need it the most.

This news comes about after President Trump mentioned at his very first press conference the term ‘fake news’ seven times while answering questions from the very news stations that he continues to bash. He also tweeted afterwards from his POTUS Twitter account:

“The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”

Its an interesting tweet to speculate, especially from a person in arguably one of the most powerful positions in the world, because you can see where each part of the tweet comes from in his brain. He references the fact that these media outlets are all fake, as in everything they report on that contradicts Trump’s own opinion on himself is hate speech. He references the ratings of mentioned media outlets, a nice homage to his days as a reality TV star. He attempts to clarify that it isn’t just his gears that this is grinding; it is the entirety of America’s. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Trump tweet without throwing a fear-mongering word like ‘enemy’ in there, just to get his followers riled up.

The majority of Trump’s campaigning relied on fear, which in my opinion, was a smart move. America is a scary place. Littering words such as ‘death’, ‘gun’, ‘terrorist’, ‘ban’ and repeating adjectives like ‘tremendous’ surely evokes emotion and a large reaction from the crowd. So everytime Trump uses his phrase ‘fake news’ to either describe an unfavourable poll, or a negative opinion on his Muslim ban on CNN, he is immediately sparking that same reaction from his supporters sitting at home. It makes a large population of America immediately skeptical of any piece of news they hear from that point on, even if backed up by legitimate facts. If it’s not straight from Donald’s mouth, they don’t want to hear it.

America is incredibly divided. More so than New Zealand ever has been in the political realm. You ask many teenagers in Auckland whether they are for the Labour or National party, and you’re likely to get many blank stares back. However, ask them if they were backing Trump or Hillary during the 2016 Election and you’ll certainly get a more impassioned answer with reasons why. As Trump continues to disregard news stations that offer constructive criticism, opposing views and opinions from Liberals, he is pushing the two sides further apart. As if the Election didn’t do that enough already.

I believe that Trump is still in campaign mode, trying to pander to his side, and to gather the votes he was guaranteed. If he is to be a successful president, he needs to begin to consider those who don’t wave their Trump hats around like a field day, and begin to address ALL of the American people’s concerns and criticisms.

But don’t take my word for it. This is fake news, after all.

Written by: Tara Jackson
Edited by: Marnie Bird

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