The Eugene Weekly Takes on Fake News

A fight to the death of journalism.

I’m not at all surprised that Camilla Mortensen’s fake news buyer’s guide was a hodgepodge of vaguely related ideas and platitudes. On the other hand, the hectoring tone of her opening did come as a shock. Rather than a photo of NPR’s Elizabeth Jensen, I thought a more fitting, and creative, image would have been an illustration of Mortensen scaling a ladder propped against an extraordinarily high horse, upon the ass of which rested an old typewriter.

Then again, in fairness, her article comes down from this surprisingly arch tone in just a few sentences, bottoming out in a perfectly ordinary series of cloudy suggestions about how to tell truth from fiction. Just imagine you’re buying a dishwasher, or something. Honestly, I have no idea what her point was; and I’m pretty sure, neither did she.

On the upside, Mortensen does unintentionally reveal something of how clueless we are as a society. It’s no wonder those Macedonian teenagers concocting fake stories for ad revenue and lulz found such spectacular success in selling Americans on their hopes and fears. It’s hard to say if these new kids on the block are more or less skilled than the paid propagandists that have been bamboozling us for years, but if the Weekly is any indication, all of them are light-years beyond the journalists who offer themselves as guides through this dark and scary forest of unconscious misinformation and conscious fraud.

Even having very low expectations of the EW, I am still surprised by just how little insight the special section in defense of journalism demonstrated. Perhaps this, too, showed an unintentional genius in representing the true state of affairs in a country so critically lacking in self-awareness.

Don’t Mention the War

How, for example, can journalists discuss the mysterious degeneration of the reputation of the Fourth Estate without even mentioning the invasion of Iraq, and the fraudulent media campaign that took the most revered voices in national news and employed them to stampede the public into support of a criminal and ruinous war that is still running, almost fifteen years later? Noticing the dead elephant in the room wouldn’t even have required the EW to depart from its blame-everything-on-Trump editorial posture, as Tiny Hands himself used the fact of that war to throw shade at the NYTimes, and by extension the whole system of elite journalism, with its covert ties to the intelligence agencies and deep structures of political power.

Then again, any reckoning with actual history would have unavoidably complicated the narrative beyond Journalism good/Trump bad. And nuance can only get in the way of our duty to unite indivisibly behind simplistic and/or inscrutable slogans and symbols. Just put a pussy hat on it and call it good.

In her centerpiece, Corinne Boyer dutifully avoids a perfectly reasonable opportunity to speak across the journalistic divide by addressing the dispute over accuracy of the term “Muslim ban” to describe Trump’s attempt to restrict travel and immigration from 7 Muslim majority countries. Instead, she opts to crib edifying bromides about the general purpose and importance of journalism, in what turns out to be a passive-aggressive polemic against “[p]oliticians denouncing news”. Trump bad/Journalism good. ‘Nuff said.

No doubt this sort of preaching plays well-enough with the choir, but it does nothing to at all to illuminate or alleviate the problems we face. It is, rather, just a continuation of the failed Clinton campaign strategy – raised in defeat to a sort of religious obligation – of rendering anyone who supports Trump as a denizen of the basket of deplorables; while anyone who opposes His Tiny-ness is transformed, by the mere fact of this opposition, into a heroic defender of Truth.

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