Samantha Power, who served as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations in the Obama Administration, penned a revealing opinion article for the New York Times earlier this week. The article, titled "Why Foreign Propaganda Is More Dangerous Now," attempts to pin responsibility for the rise in fake news and foreign disseminated propaganda on the American public, who she claims have been too easily duped by imposters and hyper-partisan news outlets.
Her predictable solution is for Americans to once again rely entirely on “[r]eporters and editors serving in the role of professional gatekeepers” who previously “had almost full control over what appeared in the media.” She asserts that in the past, “a foreign adversary seeking to reach American audiences did not have great options for bypassing these umpires, and Russian dezinformatsia rarely penetrated.”
The central tenet of her thesis seems to be that the American public is simply too ignorant to be trusted with deciphering what’s real, and what isn’t. And I have a problem with this notion.
In 2016, Ben Rhodes, Obama's Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, said in an interview with The New York Times Magazine, that modern day journalists will print whatever political establishment hacks tell them to print. His direct quote:
All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus. Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.
And these are the people we’re supposed to trust? The 27-year-old know-nothings that Democrat and other progressive politicians use to peddle propaganda? You must be joking.
Power also laments the public’s inclination towards questioning whether "objective facts exist at all." She says, "The sense of an epistemological free-for-all provides an opening to all comers."
The truth is, this concept of espousing subjective facts started with the mainstream media. For every objective fact (i.e. hurricane Harvey hit Houston), we’re bombarded with subjective facts (i.e. the hurricane was caused or worsened by global warming) that fit and further the left wing’s narrative. Power isn’t upset that subjective facts have become the norm, she’s concerned that leftists no longer have a monopoly on them.
It’s true that the advent of social media has brought with it a constant barrage of news, some real, and some not. The idea though, that the solution to fake news is more strictly controlled news, often fed to impressionable and biased young reporters by political officials and then regurgitated onto the front page of every newspaper, is authoritarian and scary.
Americans may not always be able to unscramble what’s real and what’s fake, but I’ll take my chances. Much better to be wrong occasionally than to be told what’s "real" by the politicians, academics, and elites who sit comfortably in their ivory towers, looking down on the rest of us.