The National Review Opines Against Fake News — But Throws Hands Up

The National Review, the stalwart conservative periodical founded by William Buckley, has written a piece warning about the dangers of fake news.

I am relieved, I must say, to hear that folks on the right are just as alarmed. While the first screaming proselytizers came from the left, it is a hopeful sign that maybe we Americans can come together to make truth a virtue again.

Here’s a few quotes from the article by Jim Geraghty, National Review’s senior political correspondent:

Yes, the new rash of fabricated stories is awful, toxic to public discussion, and worthy of rebuke, just as the stories pushed by Rather and Williams and Rolling Stone were. But those now proclaiming a “fake-news crisis” are long on furious denunciation and short on anything resembling a plan or a proposal to deal with it.

No amount of effort to debunk fake stories is going to dissuade people with this mentality. Nor is an official disavowal. Reliable news organizations and political figures can denounce “fake news” until the cows come home, but it isn’t likely to change the thinking of those who consume it.

“Fake news” is terrible. But not everything in life that is terrible can or should be snuffed out. Sometimes, the proposed remedy is worse than the disease.
I guess the last sentence quoted gives me less hope, as Geraghty seems to maybe be playing a game with us — playing to mainstream Americans by saying that fake news is bad, while playing to the conservative base with a wink and a nod by saying that it’s okay that fake news proliferates. Have some guts Geraghty! Would you like to get rid of fake news or not?

Some Optimism Please!

While it’s true that fact checking failed totally in the election, and no amount of technological wizardry by social media companies will annihilate fake news; we shouldn’t be so simply-minded to think there are no long term solutions.
The new nonprofit organization I am working to give birth to, Truth For Democracy, will be designed from the ground up to fight this intractable problem. By working at the intersection of science, technology, education, and behavioral economics, Truth For Democracy will sponsor innovations and science to wage an all-out war against disinformation, while simultaneously working “to make truth a virtue again in our American public and political conversations.”
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