Fake News Déjà Vu

Source: The New York Review of Books, May 25

In an essay titled “The Inventor of the Presidency,” Gordon S. Wood writes:

…There were narrow-minded opponents of the new government – “disappointed expectants and malignant designing characters” – Washington called them. These “political mountebanks were trying to undermine the Constitution without giving it a chance.” At the same time, Washington continued, “increasing numbers of newspapers were spreading scurrility & malignant declamation and poisoning public opinion with falsehoods.”

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Monica Lewinsky Remembers

Monica Lewinsky in Washington in 1999.

Source: Monica Lewinsky, an anti-cyberbullying advocate and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, in The New York Times, May 22

This is not another obituary for Roger Ailes, who died last week 10 months after being ousted at Fox News. It is, I hope, instead an obituary for the culture he purveyed — a culture that affected me profoundly and personally.

Just two years after Rupert Murdoch appointed Mr. Ailes to head the new cable news network, my relationship with President Bill Clinton became public. Mr. Ailes, a former Republican political operative, took the story of the affair and the trial that followed and made certain his anchors hammered it ceaselessly, 24 hours a day.

It worked like magic: the story hooked viewers and made them Fox loyalists. For the past 15 years, Fox News has been the No. 1 news station; last year the network made about $2.3 billion….

None of this is to say that we shouldn’t have a credible conservative point of view in our media – quite the opposite. If we’ve learned nothing else from the 2016 presidential election, it’s that we must find a way to foster robust and healthy discussion and debate. Our news channels should be just such places.

So, farewell to the age of Ailes. The late Fox chief pledged Americans fair and balanced news. Maybe now we’ll get it.