Fake News Is Not the Real Media Threat We’re Facing

Conservative talk radio predates the Internet as a populist alternative to the mainstream media. This article challenges the idea that “fake news” is a new, or even a significant problem, and instead explores how some celebrity conservatives (including radio host Rush Limbaugh) encourage their followers to mistrust traditional news outlets.

Fake news has been around as long as real news, as any historian of early modern Europe can tell you (Renaissance readers gobbled up stories about women giving birth to rabbits, and men from Africa with faces in their chests). Social media has certainly transformed how fake news circulates, speeding up its circulation and extending its reach and impact. The temptation to blame many of our current ills on it—and by extension, on Mark Zuckerberg—is understandable. But the hand-wringing has in fact distracted attention from a much more important problem involving the American media. That problem is not fake news but the continuing delegitimization of real news by American conservatives.  —David A. Bell (The Nation)