Dec 6, 2016

Welcome to Planet Disneyland, where even the ‘real’ news is fake

Fake news isn't solely the work of fringe-dwelling con men. You can find plenty of it in the pages of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Washington Post.

Helen Razer — Writer and broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and broadcaster

Donald Trump

Long before the result of the Italian referendum was known yesterday, Australian news media had prepared its response. Don’t bother looking. It’s the same they used for Brexit, Trump, Hanson 2.0. It’s what they’d have used for the rise of the hard right in Hungary, if they’d bothered. It’s the same they’ve got on standby for the victories of Le Pen, Alternative for Germany and Party for Freedom in the Netherlands. It’s incredulity tinged with moments of moral outrage, which is no kind of analysis at all. I now prefer to call this “fake news”. As fake as the “fake news” newly and conveniently constructed by the fakers as an enemy.

When a Western nation votes in a way we consider illiberal, this is the way it goes now. A few bold Australian commentators will say, “People who can vote are awful bigots, and we need to call them out!”. Their milder colleagues will look perplexed and ask, “How could this possibly happen?”. I caught this latter tone yesterday on ABC News 24 when a sober foreign policy analyst called Western politics “unpredictable” and the anchor agreed, that, yes, we really don’t know what is going to happen next. It’s all a bit unstable. Perhaps it’s something to do with fake information on Facebook? Not for the first time this year, I charged my TV with delivery of “fake news”.

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32 thoughts on “Welcome to Planet Disneyland, where even the ‘real’ news is fake

  1. Reverend Owen

    The last time history turned a corner this dangerous was before most of us were born. In Asimov’s story Eclipse, every 70 years a planet has a total eclipse of its three suns and because nobody was alive for the last one they have no way of understanding what’s going on (and they all go crazy). Mainstream media have been recycling their responses for so long now they don’t have a clue what to say about the new paradigm because they’re too frightened to acknowledge that it is one.

    1. Dog's Breakfast

      Indeed Reverend Owen. Even with books and history and all that, we rarely remember the lessons that the previous generation had to learn the hard way. Eclipse is a pretty amazing book, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a movie with a very similar storyline, possibly exactly that or a rip-off, which was also so thought provoking.

  2. James O'Neill

    I am afraid that “fake” is an adjective that applies to most of the alleged “news” and “analysis” published in the mainstream media and that has been the case since I first started following the msm in earnest with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. There have been a long list of fake news since then , including, just as an example, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the Gulf of Tonkin, 9/11, Iraq’s WMD, Assad “gassing his own people”, Chinese “aggression” in the South China Sea, and Russia’s “annexation” of Crimea. Then and now there is scarcely a printed word about any of these events in the msm that is worth a moment’s credence. And they are just topics I know something about. How many times do we read something and gullibly accept it because we do not know better?
    It is little wonder that the msm is going down the drain at a rate of knots.

  3. Dog's Breakfast

    Paul Krugman begins his article as follows: “Anyone who claims to be philosophical and detached after yesterday is either lying or has something very wrong with him .”

    Well, it fairly accurately sums up my feelings after Trump’s election, and I don’t really have very much wrong with me, except in recognising that the real isn’t real before many of my fellow citizens. Of course it helps that I’m not a US citizen.

    “Right-wing populism and the threat or experience of poverty? When have these two things ever been found rising together in history before.”

    Exactly, never happened before in human history, totally unique experience. For some reason I find myself thinking of that ad with the goldfish going around reading a claim from a breakfast cereal box every few seconds, each time reading it as if for the first time.

    Goldfish, moi?

  4. Andrea

    I have read this article three times and still haven’t the faintest idea what the writer is trying to say.

    1. samquigley

      Others might consider that a source of great embarrassment and choose n0t to divulge it on the internet. Not you, though. #sobrave

      1. Bob the builder

        Yes! In today’s anti-intellectual culture, lack of understanding is meant to reflect on the writer, not the reader!

    2. Helen Razer

      Hi, A.
      Perhaps I ought to have included an introductory paragraph on the “fake news” story that currently dominates western headlines. I presumed most Crikey readers would know about it. Anyhow. It’s about that.

    3. AR

      How does one distinguish fake news from mudorc & his ABC subsidiary? It wouldn’t be owt to do with the innumeracy of even economics journos and reporters with no memory, or interest in, ancient history – like last week – could it?

  5. Nudiefish

    Thanks Helen! Your most telling analysis is in tearing the sheet off why Clinton lost to Trump. He was offering something (very likely lying) whilst she was offering more of the same.

    Great read.

    1. Helen Razer

      Totally, Nudie. I mean, of course he was lying. But Clinton was lying that she could end racism by simply urging people to be nice.
      I hate to say it, but Bernie was lying, too. (If you look at his past conversations, he talks a lot about universal basic income. I don’t think he thought he could ever bring rust belt jobs back.)
      I think for a lot of people, and this includes Hispanic men in particular who swung away from DEM this election, it was a case of “who is telling the least outrageous lie?” I don’t think people are as thick as we think they are. They know that it is easier to reorganise the labour market than it is to convince people to be individually nicer. The former requires a policy change. The latter means you talk to every American and convince them to be better. How do you do this? And who want a politician to tell them how to be? None of their business. Their business is managing the economy. And Clinton never really admitted that this was her business. Except, of course, in her speeches to Wall St.
      Of course she would have been a marginally more tolerable politician. But she just kept telling Americans that they needed to be better. After saying, again and again, that they were (outside the basket of deplorables) already great. How on earth can you expect to win an election by saying “the only thing that needs to change is people’s bad attitudes. I’ll keep everything else the same”. She is basically saying: I won’t do anything but preserve the status quo.
      I am aware that there is this very prevalent argument that the US economy is in great shape and if voters think it isn’t, well they are just bad people in denial. People say this often, and they don’t consider the number of jobs that have been lost and the social services that disappear in those shuttered towns. The fact is, many people have suffered great downward mobility through no fault of their own. Many, many Americans are living on eleven dollars an hour. The average wad of cash an American can access is four hundred bucks. Which is not, as it happens, even enough money to purchase an abortion.
      SO, you can say “look at the productivity figures, what are you complaining about!” or “there is no inflation”. This doesn’t change the fact that many are underemployed and unable to buy much at all. And you tell these people “America is already great. The only problem is your bad attitude”.
      And the media ran with this story, and is still running with it. The message is clear: we don’t think your poverty is important.

      1. klewso

        Clinton was just “Shut up and keep suckin'” : Trump gave them a chance to bitch-slap the establishment that has been “screwing them for their own good”.

  6. mikeb

    That “white American voter who endures or (quite reasonably) fears poverty” is actually privileged (according to Bernard K). You two should compare notes.

    But yeah – you are spot on.

    1. Helen Razer

      Bernard does not agree with me that real wages have stagnated and decreased. This is the subject of many sarky text messages between us.

  7. klewso

    Maybe if they just reported “news” – and left their expert personal opinions and cherry-picked facts (to support those opinions) where the proctologist found them – they wouldn’t be so wrong, and so profoundly bewildered at the reality?

  8. klewso

    “Fake news”?
    Do they mean like Rupert’s Limited News pro-conservative/Limited News Party advertorials?

  9. Joe Fitzpatrick

    “These deplorable attitudes. I try to imagine how this sounds to a white American voter who endures or (quite reasonably) fears poverty.”
    Bernard Keane would tell them to HTFU, apparently. I prefer Helen’s analysis.

    1. Helen Razer

      Our reading of the way in which people live is different.
      Of course, I agree with Bernard that white male entitlement is an actual thing. I do not agree that white men have simply conceded a little of their territory. By several measures, notably life-span and good general health, they have lost a lot.
      Of course, there are millions of those vile dudes who have millions. Who consider themselves to be absolutely objective and charge the less “objective” with identity politics. Who do what they can to hold onto power. But, there are millions more with nothing. And they vote.

      1. Joe Fitzpatrick

        It’s more than that. The whole HTFU line of reasoning seemed so incapable of bearing intellectual scrutiny that I thought it might be a parody (it still might).

        When you consider that the highest rate of suicides in the USA is among white males, then it seems difficult to avoid the conclusion that many of them are deeply, deeply miserable.

        1. Helen Razer

          I agree that a moral injunction is pointless. Telling people to just improve, or harden up, is a hopeless cry. Especially when, as you say, by some measures those addressed have particular hardship.
          I can’t agree that there is not some cultural privilege that goes along with whiteness and maleness. Of course there is. But the error for mine is to say that cultural privilege and economic privilege are identical things. There is overlap, of course. And statistically we find that there is a greater proportion of people of colour living in poverty than white people. The cultural and social systems are, as they say, mutually constituting.
          But this doesn’t mean they are identical.
          I think it gets really dangerous when you get into the territory of saying this or that thing about a culturally privileged group, such as white men. You can get super close to being a Men’s Rights Activist really quickly. For me, it’s more about defining the common enemy most of us have. It’s not about holding on to our cultural and identity differences in argument.
          What is the one totalising thing that is screwing most people? Capitalism. It’s not a hatred of white men any more than it is a hatred of women. (And if you want to talk about people sustaining injury. Well, let’s not go there. If it’s all “”this number of women are beaten” against “this number of men are killed” we are doing nothing more than a game of identity politics over corpses and battered bodies. I also remind you that the demographics of people being brutalised in US prisons is changing fast. Over there, as here in Australia, it is women of colour who are the fastest growing segment. )
          We would do very well to look at the way that people live.

          1. Joe Fitzpatrick

            (I agree, and thankyou for the thoughtful reply.)

  10. loz

    My friends in West Virginia don’t have to read news. They experience it and know fake news when they read it. Their power goes out all the time and they live with it, unlike SAians, and the Coalition. The Coalition wants a sugar coated Australia for a greedy supporter base. So one power outage from a twin extended super cell climate event in SA has them angry and the coalition running with it as far as they can. In WV they are real, down to earth, and can spot fake a mile away. They voted for change and acknowledgement. Thankyou Helen for writing this article.

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