The Left is so upset that Democrat Hillary Clinton lost the White House that they have started recriminations. Media-related recriminations.
But not internally. Instead, the Left and even a few media outlets have compiled a black list of fake news sites.
“The danger here is that when liberals try to define ‘fake news,’ it can be defined as ‘fake angles,’ as in ‘things that should not be explored.'”
These lists are supposed to be used by like-minded people to block news sites on Facebook and elsewhere. Not surprisingly, the publicly available list was compiled by a Massachusetts academic, Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communication at Merrimack College.
Zimdar titles the lists, “False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical ‘News’ Sources.”
After the election, the list began circulating widely on Facebook and elsewhere. Journalists posted it and asked for comments.
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Zimdar explains that “odd domain names generally equal odd and rarely truthful news … Not all of these sources are always or inherently problematic, neither are all of them fake or false. They should be considered in conjunction with other news/info sources due to their tendency to rely on clickbait headlines or Facebook descriptions, etc.”
While the list has some genuinely bogus sites — it lists some truly bothersome sites such as the Daily Currant — it also adds some sites familiar to conservative readers.
Conservative or libertarian-leaning outlets including ZeroHedge, Twitchy, and IJR (Independent Journal Review) make Zimdar’s list of naughty news sites.
ZeroHedge is an anonymous, business-oriented blog that breaks news and often delves into policy. It doggedly broke news about WikiLeaks and the John Podesta emails. Podesta was Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman whose campaign-oriented emails WikiLeaks began posting on Oct. 7.
Twitchy is a conservative-leaning site that has never claimed to be a straight news site. Instead, it posts stories about newsworthy tweets. Many of the tweets it blogs about are rants from liberal officials or celebrities.
Twitchy is a favorite water cooler of conservatives. It’s also an accurate site: How can you make errors about a famous person’s tweet when you embed the tweet itself? (Zimdars has blocked people from viewing her Twitter account, by the way.)
Breitbart News also makes the list. It’s odd, as Breitbart employs a bevy of reporters who do original reporting, analysis, and commentary. It has grown since the 2012 death of its founder, Andrew Breitbart, into a huge news site and aggregator.
Breitbart has come under heavy fire from the Left lately because of former Breitbart Chairman Stephen Bannon’s role, first in Donald Trump’s campaign and now the Trump administration.
Bannon has been accused of anti-Semitism, mostly because of a May article attacking William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard. But the May 15 article was penned by David Horowitz, a Jewish conservative intellectual, who scolded Kristol for not supporting Trump.
The list suggesting self-imposed censorship is not likely to worry conservative-leaning sites, since left-wing news consumers who will most embrace the list were not likely patrons of their content before.
Far more alarming are murmurs of media crackdowns from the small handful of massively powerful Silicon Valley giants that control the flow of so much internet traffic.
Google and Facebook — sites whose top officials openly supported Clinton — are now under tremendous pressure from the Left and academics to crack down on conservative websites. The pretext for reform is that many of the sites pushing pro-Trump stories are phony, or that they spread lies.
“Facebook, and Google to a lesser extent, have faced a backlash for allowing the spread of phony news articles that could have swayed people’s views of the candidates during the presidential campaign season,” the Los Angeles Times noted on Tuesday.
Facebook and Google have taken some action. The Times notes that Facebook has restricted so-called fake news sites from using Facebook’s advertising tools. But the designation “fake” remains undefined and entirely subjective.
“The danger here is that when liberals try to define ‘fake news,’ it can be defined as ‘fake angles,’ as in ‘things that should not be explored,’ like paying for protesters,” said Tim Graham, director of media analysis for the Media Research Center, a conservative media watchdog. “Or the ‘fake angle’ of wanting to know what on Earth the president was doing on the night of the Benghazi siege. They’re ‘unproven conspiracy theories’ because no one should try to prove them.”