Trump, Fake News, and Lies: Why Good Journalism is More Important Than Ever

Since Donald Trump was elected, the fake news phenomenon has blown up in popular media. Amid much confusion and misinformation, Trump has taken advantage of Twitter to demonize much of the American mainstream media—most of which provide objective views of his almost-radical policies, including the recently struck-down Muslim ban. Take his February 17th tweet:

Noticeably missing from the list? Fox News, Breitbart News… any “alt-right”—and I hesitate to use this term, as it is normalizing radical almost-fascist policies and ideologies—news source, the only ones which are providing the American public with a pro-Trump biased view of his first 100 days in office.

Trump’s demonization of the American media is unlike anything democracies have seen in recent history. His use of Twitter as a gateway to his thoughts is unprecedented, and it shows the fragility of his ego. Instead of talking to the people and working out what his administration could improve on, he’s lashing out at the very institution which was implemented to hold figures of power accountable. Trump used the term “fake news” and its deviations 15 times this month on Twitter, and even more in his disastrous press conference.

Trump’s definition of fake news has come to be an “alternative” way of defining what the term actually means. And although some may say that it’s just a temper tantrum, this could actually have very disastrous consequences. For those who aren’t aware what fake news actually is, Don Lemon of CNN explains it very well while shutting down a Trump apologist:

“Fake news is when you put out a story to intentionally deceive someone and you know it is wrong,” he explained. “People get things wrong; sources sometimes come up empty, but no one I know has put out anything to intentionally deceive someone.”

It could almost be argued that Trump’s branding of fake news is actually… fake news itself. Or at least, it’s misinformation. Without the press calling Trump out for his lies, we would have widespread acceptance of the false “Bowling Green Massacre,” or the more recent terror attack in Sweden, of which Swedish officials are demanding Trump explain himself. Spreading misinformation and propaganda is the first step towards undermining democracy. In the digital economy, information is money, and Trump’s information is the loudest. When the loudest information online is misinformation, and further, is from the President of the United States—where are the people to turn if not reputable news outlets?

At a time where newsrooms are shrinking and are struggling to find funding, it is actually the time when the public needs objective information the most. Throughout history, journalism has long been considered a public good. And although the pressure to make profit may have diminished the focus on finding the truth at all costs, the underlying responsibility is still there. Journalism and news are vital to the proper functioning of a democracy.

As the US slides from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy,” the system of checks and balances designed to stop a dictatorship emerging in the US is being attacked. It is vital that journalism is supported and encouraged, even if it may not be the most profitable occupation. For every “alternative fact,” there must be an objective fact in its place. It is the only way to keep the fundamental aspect of a democracy—power in the hands of the people—alive.