Freedom_of_SpeechThe Obama Administration and many Democratic leaders have made “fake news” a rallying cry for more government and private regulation of the Internet — as well as a rationale for the devastating loss of Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump. Below is a column exploring the dangers of this new justification for speech regulation, which are already becoming evident in various countries around the world. I recently discussed the issue as part of an interesting segment with Ted Koppel.

The recent arrest of an armed North Carolina man in Washington pizzeria has led many to join the call for the curtailment of “fake news” like the story that Comet Ping Pong was a front of Clinton and her campaign chief, John Podesta, of a child sex ring. It is a ridiculous claim but it was enough to send Edgar Maddison to the site with an assault weapon. For civil libertarians, such incidents create an all-too-familiar hue and cry. Faced with a violent, unhinged reaction to a posting, the first response of many is to question the value of free speech and the First Amendment. Around the world, many have called for action to combat “fake news.” It is the latest siren’s call to get citizens to give up a defining right to government’s eager to control the media.
In her first public appearance since losing the election, Hillary Clinton called for actions against the “epidemic” of fake news and called it a danger to democracy. She called for government legislation and a coalition of private and public regulation. In a recent meeting between Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the two world leaders also struck out against fake news and its dangers. Obama warned that “[b]ecause in an age where there’s so much active misinformation and its packaged very well and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television. If everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won’t know what to protect.”
Under classic free speech analysis, the answer is simple: you protect it all. As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in his dissent to the 1919 case Abrams v. United States, “the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.” In other words, the solution to bad speech is more speech.
Of course, certain speech can result in arrest where it is the basis for a conspiracy or part of a fraudulent enterprise or encouraging for imminent violent acts. It can also result in civil liability such as actions for defamation or product disparagement. However, advocates of censorship are speaking of something far more extreme. They want to see a government crackdown on those who merely utter false statements or “propaganda.” Indeed, some are speaking of a reconsideration of the very value or permitted scope of free speech. That is the position taken by Harvard Professor Noah Feldman who questioned whether “fake” speech is protected speech. Feldman views “fake news” as a type of market failure in the market of ideas – the type of problem that calls for regulation not more speech. Feldman reflects a certain crisis of faith in free speech among liberals who are increasingly treating free speech as the problem rather than the solution for a free society. From hate speech to “microaggressions” to “fake news,” liberals are calling for the government to censor speech.
Various governments are ramping up monitoring efforts and discussing both voluntary and involuntary censorship through Internet and social media companies. In France and other countries, companies are already being prosecuted for posting being hateful. This week, a congressional committee moved to add $160 million to the National Defense Authorization Act to combat “disinformation” on news sites. Many want to see government actively ban sites and internet providers are being warned that they have to censor false stories or face government regulation from countries like Germany. In order words, be a “Little Brother” or face “Big Brother.”
The problem is that someone has to decide what is false or what is inspired for foreign agencies to cause mischief. For example, Hillary Clinton denounced Wikileaks as false but never cited as single false email to prove her claim. Likewise, acting DNC head Donna Brazile repeatedly made the same allegations when emails showed that she unethically leaked questions to be asked at a CNN townhall to the Clinton campaign. Brazile told the media that she could prove that emails were tampered with but never supplied the evidence. Wikileaks infuriated the establishment in Washington. The response has been blind rage from people in Washington who have thrived on controlling information and shaping the news.
It is an easy rationale for government regulation that has not been lost on countries long at odds with free speech. For example, this week Egyptian authorities arrests an Al-Jazeera journalist for incitement and fabricating news. Egyptian Mahmoud Hussein, 51, was the subject of a raid on his home and was then detained “pending an investigation into accusations that he incited against the state and broadcast fake news and documentaries”. The arrest illustrates the dangerous course being suggested by the Obama Administration and leader Democratic leaders in the political spasm following the election loss to Donald Trump.
“Fake news” is simply the latest excuse for governments to convince citizens to invite their own censorship. The dangers could not be more evident that the recent article by the Washington Post citing a study by a dubious group called PropOrNot listing various sites spreading false stories. The organization produced a effective black list that was portrayed as an objective list of peddlers of false stories or “Russian propangda.” It included some of the most popular political sites from the left and right Truthout, Zero Hedge,, and the Ron Paul Institute. It even includes one of the most read sites on the Internet, the Drudge Report. Notably, it also included WikiLeaks, which has been credited with exposing political corruption and unlawful surveillance programs. Ironically, PropOrNot has itself been criticized for falsely claimed associations with various offices and sites.
The ProporNot controversy shows how easy it is to create a blacklist and how eager many will be to silence those sites deemed “fronts” or “false.” The move to regulate speech on the Internet is little more than a digital version of mob justice. These advocates, however, are right in part. Fake news does have a real danger but it is not the erosion of democracy. Citizens can protect themselves, particularly with a free and unregulated Internet. The real danger of fake news is the reaction to it. The real danger is censorship.

122 thoughts on “THE REAL DANGER OF FAKE NEWS”

  1. CNN< CIA, b i bicki eye bye o eee,
    bicki eye bicki O boo boo.

    Whiat is this talk about Anderson Cooper having been an agent of the CIA? Someone said that above.

  2. One more thought for Ted. Did you know that real news can have effects on people? In foreign policy it’s called “blowback”–like when Obama double taps innocent people with his drones at a wedding, well, sometimes, that makes the people who experienced that upset for some reason.

    Oddly, the govt. is arguing that the release of pictures of the torture they ordered will cause people to be upset and that’s why the judge should never release the photos of USA torture. Not because it didn’t happen but because it did.

    Something is going very wrong with logic here. One might think this is all about preservation of the govt.’s power to commit crimes.

  3. There is no “fake” news. It’s either a news or it’s a lie. I see no reason to add to the national lexicon unless it actually adds something to it. “Lie” serves just fine.

  4. I have long been appalled at the prevalence of Fake News, and, in particular, such heinous fake news outlets as ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, AFP, CNN, New York Times, and Washington Post. A large percentage of the US public agree with me, which is one of the reasons that Donald Trump was elected.

    The intelligent portion of the American population properly reasoned that since the Mainstream Media wanted Clinton, not Trump, then Trump must logically be the better choice.

    Of course, there will always be dupes and dopes that will accept the lies and Fake News created daily by the Mainstream Media. There is no hope for those people. They will always swallow the official lies created for them by the Mainstream Media, hook, line, and sinker. Such individuals are typically passive and have no critical thinking skills whatsoever.

    Many years from now, the grandchildren of those dopes and dupes will be comparing the legacy of Jack Kennedy to the legacy of Obama, noting the striking similarities between the two. They will argue that while Kennedy had the grand vision to put a man on the moon, Obama had the equally grand vision to put one in the ladies room.

    But with Trump’s victory over the Mainstream Media, the Leftists, and the Elite Establishment, I am still hopeful for America and civilization.

  5. Most Leftists are only for free speech with the exponents are left wing radicals and pornographers.

    Today’s speech codes and safe spaces are not being advocated by conservatives.

    Academicians supporting Euro/Canadian style hate speech laws also do not come from the American Right.

    I would respect leftists more if they would just admit the obvious.

    And calling me an evil, sexist, racist, bigot is not a refutation of what I just said.

    1. If this suggests that there are only two sides, only two philosophies, and only two potential outcomes, then it seems naive. The Extreme Left and Extreme Right are one in the same. Most of those on the Left and Right are not extreme in nature, so it would not apply.

      When the Extreme Left is offended, they do three distinct things:
      1. Express how offended they are.
      2. Call for the head of the person who offended them.
      3. Call for the job of the person who offended them.

      We had an example recently, where a reporter made a bad joke about Trump wanting to have sex with his daughter. The Extreme Right reacted. What did they do?
      1. They expressed how offended they were.
      2. They called for the head of the reporter who offended them.
      3. They called for the job of the reporter who offended them.

      Those who cannot see these stark similarities may very well be fooling themselves in true dogmatic fashion.

      1. Shrigis – you do not have to be on the Far Right or Left to be offended by a comment like that. If we turned it around and had a reporter say the same thing about Obama and his youngest daughter, the entire country would want his head.

    1. Treating fake news when the problems exist within the policy makers and the public is tantamount to prescribing a laxative to a person with a headache. Even if there’s a lot of movement, and the stink gets noticed, the problem remains uncorrected.

  6. The only remedy for fake news is what it has always been: the reader is to judge for himself or herself the validity of the story.

  7. At least 10 years ago I got rid of some fake news by turning off the cable. Saved something like $14000.00 so far.

    I also pulled the TV out of the living room.

    Now I’m using my computer to help get rid of Fake News by blocking Fake News sites like ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Huff Post and others as I have time.

    Because of their decades of lies they left the door open to new media to rise up and replace the dying old media.
    For example INFOWARS is now reaching 40 million viewers a week vs CNN’s, former CIA agent Anderson Cooper only has about 200,000 viewers per show.

    Hopefully Trump will get rid of this new Anti-1st Amendment law and use the DOJ and FCC to rein in the Saudi/foreign backed Fake News outfits like CNN/FOX

    1. Because of their decades of lies they [MSM] left the door open to new media to rise up and replace the dying old media.

      Well stated! But the new media explains their whining. It’s also why Obama and Hillary have such a receptive media to cover their own interests in this McCarthy look-alike fiasco.

      1. Obama and Hillary have such a receptive media -> Obama and Hillary have such a receptive old media[…]

        1. Brooklin Bridge,

          This former US intel guy, Steve Pieczenik, I’ve found to be very well connected and interesting as to what’s really going on behind the scenes in the govt.

          I think the interview about 1:52 minutes into the video.

          1. Oky1, I hope he is right, but I suspect Steve has an overly positive view of Trump and what Trump can accomplish. I base my own concern on Trump’s adminstrative choices to date, which often seem at odds with his stated objectives.

            But here’s hoping that those who remain positive are right!

    1. Excellent point. A technique that has been used so many times, I’m left bewildered that people still fall for it.

      Alas, Trump may not look much better on these nasty deals after all.

      He has a distinct advantage in that he sees absolutely no embarrassment in changing his position 180 degrees within the space of getting one sentence out, and taking in a breath to start a new one.

    2. Only those with a Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information security clearance were given access to the November 31 release. Since you weren’t authorized to access the November 31 compartment, you didn’t see them. In fact, information about the November 31 compartment is so top secret, that date’s not even shown on calendars seen by the masses–Russians included.

  8. How pathetically transparent that Ted Koppel’s piece on fake news is merely the loud complaints of the main stream media that their propaganda is subject to reality checks on the net.

  9. I often go to to get news – the bias is easy to spot and the stories and shows are uniformly excellent IMO. The newscasters are intelligent and the focus is usually on the guest/topic – NOT the talking head. There are also some good shows coming from ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company) and some from Canada and the UK. It’s good to get varying perspectives.

    One thing I noticed during the primaries and throughout the election was a preponderance to only give half the story, not correct a fake news story and to outright omit reporting like on DAPL or minimizing Bernie’s rallies whilst giving HRC attention even if she was able cobble together 50 people in an elementary school.

    This is a good discussion on “fake news”

  10. Ted was engaging in fake news!

    First he talks about the man who went into Comet Pizza with a gun to save children from pedophiles. Is this terrifying? Yes. Are we fortunate that no one got hurt? Yes. Fake news, Ted says, causes people to pick up guns and try to hurt people. You know Ted, I agree with you that sometimes this does happen.

    For example, after the MSM pumped up lies about Iraq and Afghanistan, a lot of people, maybe even millions of people ended up dead. Many more ended up wounded. People were tortured. US law was put in the toilet where copraphiles ate it up and Bush/Obama used the Constitution as toilet paper! Lots of people made a handsome profit selling weapons, as war contractors, in the banking industry and getting some new oil fields for their portfolio. All in all a tidy sum, still multiplying, all as the result of fake news!

    I don’t seem to remember Ted asking if we need to disgorge part of the first amendment over those lies. This is a very selective vision of what constitutes fake news. The govt.’s fake news, hyped repeatedly by MSM and think tanks committed to profit caused Ted no pause. Some lies are more equal than others. Some lies, the biggest and most dangerous ones ever that result in mass killings and torture are O.K. because?????

    This insincere concern over fake news is completely exposed in Ted’s talk! A real concern with fake news would need to encompass fake news put out by the powerful for their own interests. Ted repeats the unproven assertion that Russia hacked the Podesta e-mails. There’s no evidence for this. In fact, evidence argues they were insider leaks. Shouldn’t he take himself off the air for repeating unsubstantiated conspiracies?

    This interview shows what the real problem is. It’s not fake news. It’s not lies. It’s not violence. These are all good when the govt. and the powerful engage in them. It’s alternative voices having a space in our society. This is what must be stopped because this can expose the lies and extraordinary violence of the powerful.

  11. “Pizzagate has been cited as a prime example of fake news, but a more useful comparison might be Gamergate. While it may look, at first, like another fanatical anti-Clinton conspiracy, Pizzagate has become a queerphobic witch hunt, targeting artists, musicians, and their supporters. Outraged by the harassment to which he’s been subjected, de Dionyso — who now lives in Washington state — recently wrote about this strange saga on Medium. I spoke with him recently about his experience as a Pizzagate target.”

  12. Pizzagate needs to be looked at. There is something going on and it isnt fake news. Look into what has been discovered so far.

    1. Yeah! How about that weird Anchovy Poem working its way across the Internet?

      Hold The Anchovy!

      There was a little anchovy,
      That came from out the Sea.
      And Oh!, he was a tiny thing!
      That barely you could see.

      But underneath my gentle hands,
      He grew and grew and grew!
      Sooo, now he’s seven inches long!
      And Oh!, what he can do!

      Squeeky Fromm
      Girl Reporter

  13. The problem with “fake news” is that all reality soon become relative, which means all you have left is power and belief. Unfortunately, neither the reliance on power nor belief will solve problems that cannot be understood without fact and evidence coming into play. The painful truth about reality is that it doesn’t care what you think. For example, the planet will just continue to get hotter bringing increasing hardship and suffering to many around the world in its wake, and pretending it is nothing but a “hoax” will not prevent it from happening.

    1. Or, the world is NOT really getting hotter because of human activity, and the “hoax” is all the Global Warming stuff. Because with all the various agendas at play, who really knows what the science is really finding. To paraphrase the Clintons, “Drag a million dollar global warming study grant through a university and you never know what you will find.”

      Squeeky Fromm
      Girl Reporter

  14. Good article. The whole “fake news” meme is just a cover for censorship. Here is a story I found today at Naked Capitalism, about the New York Times. Read it, and weep:

    Having left the Times on July 25, after almost 12 years as an editor and correspondent, I missed the main heat of the presidential campaign; so I can’t add a word to those self-assessments of the recent political coverage. But these recent mornings-after leave me with some hard-earned thoughts about the Times’ drift from its moorings in the nation at-large.

    For starters, it’s important to accept that the New York Times has always — or at least for many decades — been a far more editor-driven, and self-conscious, publication than many of those with which it competes. Historically, the Los Angeles Times, where I worked twice, for instance, was a reporter-driven, bottom-up newspaper. Most editors wanted to know, every day, before the first morning meeting: “What are you hearing? What have you got?”

    It was a shock on arriving at the New York Times in 2004, as the paper’s movie editor, to realize that its editorial dynamic was essentially the reverse. By and large, talented reporters scrambled to match stories with what internally was often called “the narrative.” We were occasionally asked to map a narrative for our various beats a year in advance, square the plan with editors, then generate stories that fit the pre-designated line.

    Reality usually had a way of intervening. But I knew one senior reporter who would play solitaire on his computer in the mornings, waiting for his editors to come through with marching orders. Once, in the Los Angeles bureau, I listened to a visiting National staff reporter tell a contact, more or less: “My editor needs someone to say such-and-such, could you say that?”

    The bigger shock came on being told, at least twice, by Times editors who were describing the paper’s daily Page One meeting: “We set the agenda for the country in that room.”

    Sooo, ever wonder how come a story about a black thug who is banging a guy’s head into the sidewalk and gets shot becomes a national story, about poor innocent blacks being shot by mean old white-hispanic people??? It could be squeezed into “The Narrative.”

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

      1. It’s not about black people. It’s about “The Narrative.” One basic part of “The Narrative” maintains that blacks are in the destitute shape they are because of outside forces, vaguely described as white privilege, institutionalized racism, port traumatic slavery disorder, etc. etc. etc. And that the “good” white people, Democrats like de Blasio, or Rahm, or Nancy or Hillary, etc. will protect them from mean old white people like the Republicans. Sooo, anything which can be squeezed into The Narrative, will be squeezed into it. Whether it fits or not. Whether it is true or not. Never mind the the 72%+ black illegitimate birth rate. That does not fit into the narrative, because that is not mean old white people causing it. Never mind black kids eschewing education because it is “acting white.” That does not fit into the narrative. Never mind the ridiculously high black on black murder rate, that does not fit into the narrative.

        For the Democrats and Liberals, everything is about The Narrative, and the race-baiting crap is only one part of it.
        That is why they hate FOX News. FOX is not really that much into The Narrative.

        Squeeky Fromm
        Girl Reporter

        1. One need only to review your lengthy history of writing about “feral blacks” to determine your views about racial matters. It is vicious and hateful. The same thing goes for your narrative about gay people.

              1. Yeah, and a half-dozen people contended with him. He didn’t always respond. Your point?

                1. I am confused by your comment. I was not aware that making a comment thanking somebody also required making a supplemental point. But then again, I have had several of those little candies with the fancy liqueurs inside like Grand Mariner, and Jim Daniels, and Richard Strauss. Sooo, who knows??? Darn, but those little things are addictive.

                  Squeeky Fromm
                  Girl Reporter

          1. Sooo, did you examine my opinion, and did you decide for yourself whether or not there are a large number of feral savage blacks??? Because simply labeling my speech, without getting to the truth or falsehood therein, isn’t much of an analysis.

            You can start your examination right here, with the story about the feral savage black popping a cap into a 3 year old kid!

            You can also read Taleeb Starkes’ book, The Uncivil Wars. When you do, get back to me.

            Squeeky Fromm
            Girl Reporter

    1. My sister and I get a call on the phone from a cousin of mine ca. 1980, just to girl talk. She’s then about 35 and still single. Well, she says, she’s enjoying her quality time, midmorning with coffee and the Sunday Times. The magazine, the book review, &c. It could not have sounded more mellow.

      Half a generation ago, Camille Paglia offered the opinion that the self-understanding of the Times as the ‘paper of record’ was ‘twenty years out of date’. She offered that opinion around the time Howell Raines arranged for over 30 news stories about the membership policies of a golf club in Atlanta and then got smacked with the Jayson Blair scandal. I suspect if you did a content analysis, you’d find the paper began circling the drain the day after A.M. Rosenthal retired.

  15. A shame Professor Turley’s interview with Koppel did not include his statement in this post that the solution to fake news is more free speech. I assume that if he did say it during the interview, it was cut out since it’s perfectly clear to the viewer that Koppel’s point of view, what he is being paid to sell by implication, is the promotion of soft-shoe McCarthyism under the age old banner of, “This time it’s different.” That is, Now we really really need it. Of course, soft-shoe is never enough and quickly becomes hard as the loss of one’s job or the bars of a prison cell.

  16. They are easily tracked down. All we have to do is Legally TAR AND FEATHER THEM IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE AND BROADCAST IT.

    1. We need to bring back the noble art of stoning These pesky radicals think they have the market on horrors cornered. I’ll take one of our Inquisitions, say the Spanish one, over mere group beheadings any day of the week for sheer inhumanity inspired by ritualized fear.

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