Op-Ed

Yelling ‘fake news’ doesn’t turn fantasy into reality

Sacramento Bee

I do not weigh myself. Based on how my clothes fit, I think I could lose 10 pounds. Or 15. OK, maybe 20.

There is a high-quality scale in the back of my closet. I pretend it’s not there. So long as I do not step on that scale, I can believe whatever I want. I can go right along with my lifestyle while maintaining the fantasy that, sure, I could lose a few pounds but I’m fine, just fine.

#FakeNews operates on the same principle. Screaming #FakeNews every time we are presented with facts we do not want to believe does not make those facts any less true. It simply allows our fantasies to fester, and to fool us.

President Donald Trump constantly shouts #FakeNews.

On Oct. 5 he tweeted, “Why Isn’t the Senate Intel Committee looking into the Fake News Networks in OUR country to see why so much of our news is just made up-FAKE!”

Six days later, he tweeted, “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for our country!”

And six days after that he said, in response to on-going allegations against him of sexual misconduct from a former contestant on “The Apprentice”: “All I can say is it’s totally fake news. It’s just fake. It’s fake.”

Whether it’s national security or the Russia probe or climate science or the findings of our intelligence community, the president continually declares — without proof — that anything unflattering, anything he does not like, is fake.

On Veterans Day, he said that former intelligence officials James Clapper and John Brennan are “political hacks,” that anything they say about the Russia probe is #FakeNews!

Down in Alabama, five women have accused GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexual misconduct, dating back 40 years to when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Moore has adopted the president’s #FakeNews playbook, and why not? It works. Moore has not unequivocally denied the allegations. Still, 37 percent of Alabama evangelicals say they are more likely to vote for him after the allegations.

But it can’t all be fake, can it? That would be a statistical impossibility. Yet the president’s most loyal followers refuse to give up fantasy for facts. For example, what follows are indisputable facts:

▪ Our intelligence community is not made up of “political hacks.” It is made up of career military, law enforcement and intelligence experts who put their lives on the line to keep us safe.

▪ In the Philippines, 177 journalists have been murdered since 1986, making it one of the deadliest countries in which to be a reporter. Yet on Nov. 13, our president openly laughed as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ridiculed the traveling American press, saying, “with you around, guys, you are the spies.”

▪ Colin Kaepernick and NFL players do not kneel to disrespect the flag; they kneel to bring awareness to disproportional police brutality against black men.

▪ In the last 511 days, we have had 555 mass shootings in the U.S. The NRA has a financial stranglehold on members of Congress and, because of this and because we misread the Second Amendment — owning guns does not equal maintaining an armed militia — we will inexplicably continue to stand for the mass murder of innocent Americans.

▪ Climate change is real, and the U.S. is now the only country on earth that’s chosen not to be part of the Paris Climate Accord.

Where does this get us?

We can continue to apply the #FakeNews moniker to any and all news we find inconvenient, uncomfortable, or challenging. But simply screaming it at every turn does not make it so. In fact, it keeps us from being able to discern between what really is fake and what is not, to our own detriment.

Every now and again I find myself at a doctor’s office. And what is the first thing than happens when the nurse calls you from the waiting room? She makes you step on the big, industrial-looking scale, whether you want to or not.

I do everything I can to keep the facts at bay. I set my purse on the floor. I remove any unnecessary clothing like sweaters or jackets. I kick off my shoes. I even find myself sucking in my stomach and holding my breath, as though it might help. Desperate measures and all that. But to no avail.

The nurse taps the metal blocks down the sliding scale until the truth, the much-feared real number, is revealed. It is more than 20 pounds. Way more.

Facts are stubborn like that.

Reach Teri Carter, a writer in Lawrenceburg, at www.tericarter.net/contact.html.

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