The decision by some social media platforms to point out news sites that are not really publishing news, but what is now being generally called Fake News, has not gone down well with those out there on the right. This may be not unconnected to the fact that many of the sites qualifying as Fake News are out there on the right. But all that the outrage has done is to shine a spotlight on all the falsehood and misinformation machines.
Andrew Breitbart - his legacy endures
What kicked off the latest ruckus was the decision of Melissa Zimdars, who is “an assistant professor of communication and media at Massachusetts’ Merrimack College”, which is described as a “conservative-leaning school”, to compile a list of less reliable sites. As Ken Doctor put it, “Her list of about 130 problematic ‘news’ sites includes those she considers to be ‘false, misleading, clickbait-y, and satirical ‘news’ sources’”.
So there were entries for satirical sites like The Onion, although including Private Eye magazine is in itself problematic, as the Eye does both satire and genuinely solid investigative journalism. The list clearly needs refinement in that area. But it has already been withdrawn, after a storm of protest, as some of the names appearing it were those of the right-wing’s least tolerant and most upfront shock troops.
Alex Jones’ InfoWars was there. So were The Blaze and Breitbart. That was sufficient to provoke a furious backlash. Ms Zimdars has been forced to take her Twitter feed private. Typical of the smears was that pulled by Zero Hedge.
“We have a confession to make, everything we've said over the past ~7 years has been fake. Well, not really, but that's what the ultra-liberal, Assistant Professor of Communications at Merrimack College, Melissa ‘Mish’ Zimdars, would like for you to believe … While it's unclear exactly what prompted Zimdars to publish a list of ‘fake news’ sources, we have a sneaking suspicion it was a coping mechnism [sic] cleverly employed by the New England, liberal arts snowflake to deal with the stunning defeat of her chosen Presidential candidate”. So full of soundbites and clichés as to be laughable.
World Net Daily - which, like Zero Hedge, was coincidentally on Ms Zimdars’ list, also went smearing: “MEET LEFTIST PROF WHO WROTE 'HIT LIST' OF 'FAKE' NEWS SITES
Trump-basher 'feminist' blacklists WND, Breitbart, Blaze, O'Keefe's Project Veritas”. Readers were invited to “Meet Merrimack College Assistant Professor Melissa Zimdars, a 30-something self-identified feminist and activist who has expressed great dislike for President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence”.
Was any evidence ponied up to support the accusations against Ms Zimdars? Well, no it wasn’t, and that effectively proves the whole point of her exercise. Two sites identified as peddling Fake News respond by peddling Fake News. You really couldn’t make it up.
WND goes further, complaining “In addition to some satirical and bogus sites, her list attacks the credibility of well-established news organizations such as Breitbart, BizPac Review, Red State, the Blaze, the Independent Journal Review, Twitchy, WND and James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas”. But O’Keefe is a notorious hoaxer (remember ACORN?), so all this does it make the impartial observer yet more sceptical.
Melissa Zimdars is right. And Fake News is now on the run. Good thing too.