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Crying ‘fake news’ is handy for politicians but toxic for democracy

Lenore Taylor comments in The Guardian (13.1.17) on the increasing tendency of politicians to bullishly use the term ‘fake news’ to deflect media criticism and scrutiny. She suggests that, ‘instead of helping efforts to keep fact and fiction clearly separate, the claim is now being used to blur the delineation between them even further’.

Her report continues: ‘For a moment, I thought the ascent of fake news might shock, maybe even shame, political debate back to facts and reality. Silly me.

‘Crying “fake news” has become just another tactic to avoid a fact-based argument.

‘The US president-elect, Donald Trump, did it this week after the revelation of the Russian intelligence dossier. It is true the allegations in the dossier had not been verified. There is a legitimate debate in the media about whether, and how fully, it should have been published.

‘But it was not fake news. It was a real dossier and its contents were considered sufficiently credible for the Republican senator John McCain to pass it to the FBI and for federal officials to append a summary to their report to the president, Barack Obama, and Trump about claims of Russian hacking of Democrat emails during the 2016 election. It was a legitimate subject for questioning.

‘But the man who denies ever having said things that are actually in print, or recorded, and who routinely asserts things that are obviously and verifiably untrue, had found one more way to avoid being pinned down by questions. Just call it “fake news”.’

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