If you’ve listened to Donald Trump speak at any point over the past year and a half, you’ve likely heard him use the phrase “fake news.” It’s become one of his favorite rebuttals — so much so, in fact, that he claimed to have invented the term “fake news” in late October. Much like the man himself, this marvelously idiotic assertion is what happens when you combine boundless egotism and staggering ignorance.
On Tuesday, the Washington Post published the story of Jaime T. Phillips, a woman who approached the newspaper claiming to have engaged in a sexual relationship with Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for the United States Senate. Phillips told Post reporters that she and Moore had engaged in a sexual relationship, culminating in Phillips being forced to get an abortion when she was only 15 years old.
The allegation aligned perfectly with Moore’s apparent modus operandi (four women allege that Moore’s sexual misconduct took place when they were in their teens and Moore was in his thirties). Moreover, the hypocrisy of a pro-life, Bible-thumping, conservative Republican forcing his teenaged paramour to get an abortion would be extra ammunition for Moore’s political opponents.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), Phillips’ story wasn’t true.
“I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”
-James Baldwin, “Autobiographical Notes”
A large swath of the population has begun to define patriotism as unquestioning loyalty. Criticism of our society or our leadership, they claim, is an expression of hatred for our country and therefore must not be tolerated. Acknowledging that this country is not perfect, they assert, is not a simple exercise of free speech. It is tantamount to treason.
By and large, media outlets tend to lean in one direction or the other on the political spectrum. It’s a shrewd business move, really — the average consumer doesn’t just want a dull recitation of the facts. They like to be told what those facts represent; they want the information placed in context for them, and outlets are more than happy to oblige.
Consumers can always check the news wires (Reuters, AP and the like) for the latest information and use that information to inform their stance on a given issue. If we all did that, however, there would be no need for FOX News, no need for MSNBC; those outlets exist not to give us the news, but to tell us how we should feel about the news.
This is not ideal.
It was reported yesterday that Fox News host Sean Hannity is taking an unexpected vacation amidst mounting backlash from his advertisers for his embrace of the bizarre and moronic conspiracy theory surrounding the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich. For those unfamiliar with the case, Rich was murdered in an apparent botched robbery last July; the internet, of course, wasn’t satisfied with the official explanation for his death. And since Seth Rich was a DNC staffer, conspiracy theorists — with their Rain Man-esque compulsion to make everything, no matter how small, fit into a larger and more sinister picture — decided his death was no mere coincidence.
I recently came across an article by Katy Waldman on Slate titled “Against Retweeting Trump’s Old Tweets.” In it, Waldman makes a case that the popular practice of retweeting Donald Trump’s old tweets whenever his current actions contradict his previously-stated positions is, in fact, a Bad Thing To Do. The title alone was enough to spark my annoyance: someone deemed it worthwhile to sit down and compose a 1,200-word finger-wag about the perils of holding the President accountable for his past comments, as though this practice — which consists of finding an old Trump tweet and tapping twice on your phone in the hope that an internet stranger will find it humorous enough to like it, retweet it, or (dare to dream) follow you — will doom our society and therefore must be contained.
Like his colleague John McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham has established a reputation as a “maverick” politician, a gimlet-eyed straight shooter who isn’t afraid to cross swords with those in his own party when his conscience demands he do so. In this regard, he’s seen as a breath of fresh air in an increasingly divided political environment; partisan hacks like Trey Gowdy and Jason Chaffetz will contort themselves in any manner of ways to defend clearly indefensible positions and justify their party’s actions, even if it means offering themselves up on the altar of public scorn. But Graham would never do that – he has too much respect for the office and for the sacred duty of his role as an elected official to represent all his constituents, not just the ones who voted for him to ever engage in such behavior. It is this perceived fortitude that has helped drive the narrative that Lindsey Graham is above the fray.
The only problem is, it’s not true.
There’s been a lot of hue and cry about Donald Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Most of it is (rightfully) centered around the fact that Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee, sat in limbo for an entire year because Republicans (like this asshole) refused to even hold confirmation hearings. And the worst part about it was that Republicans appeared entirely content to keep that stalemate going indefinitely.