Before the left finally decided to settle on the idea that it was Russia’s Boris-and-Natasha tactics that cost Hillary Clinton the election, “fake news” websites were a very popular culprit.
These websites — poorly designed and likely believed by almost nobody — were somehow touted as the reason Donald Trump won. Even after denials by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who isn’t exactly known as a Trump apologist, the narrative continues to be believed.
Now, however, liberals might be rethinking that story in more ways than one after it was revealed that one major fake news proprietor planned to donate his ad revenue to the Democrats.
According to Politifact, the political “fact-checking” website with a notorious liberal bias, James McDaniel has pledged to donate his $615 in ad revenue from UndergroundNewsReport.com to whoever the Democrat presidential nominee is in 2020.
Some of UndergroundNewsReport.com’s headlines include hits like: “Bombshell: WikiLeaks leaks ‘lost’ Clinton email,” “Obama tweet: Trump must be removed, by any means necessary,” and “Whoopi Goldberg: Navy SEAL Widow was ‘Looking for Attention.’”
McDaniel, a Clearwater, Florida, resident, founded the site on Feb. 21. “In a week and a half, McDaniel said, UndergroundNewsReport.com totaled more than 1 million page views,” Politifact reported.
Politifact reported on McDaniel’s dubious claims and rated all of them “pants on fire.”
“In the course of our reporting, we reached out to McDaniel through an email address on his website. Surprisingly, he agreed to talk to us about his website and the fake stories,” Politifact said.
In the interview, according to Politifact, McDaniel “says his website was dreamt up as a side project for laughs … Unlike many fake news purveyors, McDaniel didn’t want to sway conversations or make money through ad revenue. Curious about how easily people could be fooled, he cooked up a post he thought would normally sound too crazy for anyone to believe, just to see if it caught on.”
“I was surprised by how gullible the people in the Trump groups were, but as I continued to write ridiculous things they just kept getting shared and I kept drawing more viewers,” McDaniel said. “I saw how many fake, ridiculous stories were making rounds in these groups and just wanted to see how ridiculous they could get.”
Now, here’s what I find amazing — Politifact, apparently running an expose on the tactics of fake news, does almost no background-checking of McDaniel’s claims. What he says may, in fact, be true. However, Politifact’s information about page views, ad revenue, and who was most likely to believe his stories appear to be based entirely on of the word of a man who ran a website that existed to run fake news stories (albeit with disclaimers, we must point out). Shouldn’t that require some scrutiny?
McDaniel had every reason to make his UndergroundNewsReport.com look as if it were just a lark gone awry thanks to those goshdarn gullible Trump fans. Politifact reporters assumedly knew this — and yet, all the evidence they provide to back up his claims is a small sampling of idiotic comments from Facebook trolls who bought the stories. And as we know, no Facebook troll whose emotions run higher than their IQ score is ever liberal.
Politifact’s story on McDaniel’s website is eerily similar to an NPR story run in the aftermath of the election. In that piece, NPR producers meticulously tracked down an elusive fake news creator in the suburbs of Los Angeles. When they finally caught up with him, however, they did almost no fact-checking on his claims.
Even though every word that came out of his mouth should have been suspect due to his motives, NPR essentially interviewed him and said, “Well, your word is good enough for us. Thanks for exposing the scourge of fake news and how gullible Trump fans bought it!” (I’m sure it didn’t sound that stilted, but it’s hard for me to come up with convincing fake dialogue at this time in the morning.)
Eventually, Politifact says, the blowback from the Whoopi Goldberg story convinced McDaniel to get out of the fake news business. He’s going to donate the whopping $615 to the Democrat candidate in 2020.
So, let’s review. This fake news website apparently was a runaway success, even though it only generated $615 in ad revenue. It apparently influenced discourse, even though the only evidence provided for this is a small sampling of Facebook trolls.
We have no evidence how many of the one million people who viewed the page believed it, only that McDaniel vouchsafed that a lot of people did. However, as we’ve seen, he’s a Democrat. This not only busts the narrative that conservatives and Russian partisans are the ones behind fake news websites designed to tilt the election, but it also casts suspicions on the objectivity of anything he says.
And Politifact presented all of this as more or less unvarnished fact. It’s not necessarily, in the parlance of their website, “pants on fire”-level lying. It’s also not journalism.
It would be nice to see Politifact use the same level of scrutiny they use for transparent fake stories like “Obama tweet: Trump must be removed, by any means necessary” on themselves and their reporting.
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