The Ancient Laws of Unintended Consequences
by Victor Davis Hanson – March 7, 2017
Eight years of a fawning press have made the Left reckless.
The classical idea of a divine Nemesis (“reckoning” or “downfall”) that brings unforeseen retribution for hubris (insolence and arrogance) was a recognition that there are certain laws of the universe that operated independently of human concerns.
Call Nemesis a goddess. But it was also simply an empirical observation about collective and predictable human behavior: Excess invites unexpected correction.
“Fake news” was a term the Left invented to describe the ancient practice of propaganda (updated in the Internet age to drive Web traffic). They applied it to the supposed Russian habit of planting international news stories to affect Western elections, and in particular Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency and his tendencies to exaggerate and massage the truth.
But once the term caught on in our faddish age, who were the more appropriate media fakers? Fake news now serves as a sort of linguistic canary to remind the public that it is customarily saturated with a lethal gas of media disinformation.
Thus “fake news” seemed a proper if belated summation and clarification of years of liberal bias in the media that were supposed to be our custodian of the truth.
Were NBC anchor Brian Williams’s fantasies fake news? Were Dan Rather’s “fake but accurate” Rathergate memos? How about the party line circulated in JournoList or the Washington and New York reporters who colluded to massage the news to favor the Clinton campaign, as revealed in the Podesta WikiLeaks trove? Was jailing a video maker part of an Obama-administration fake-news attempt to blame Benghazi deaths on a spontaneous riot? Was the Iran Deal’s “echo chamber,” about which Ben Rhodes later bragged, the epitome of fake news?
Thank the Left, because suddenly the term “fake news” is becoming a common description of the media’s effort to suggest that Trump once went to Moscow to frolic with prostitutes, that his lawyer met Russians in Prague, that he removed Martin Luther King’s bust from the Oval Office, that he was going to employ “100,000” guardsmen to enforce immigration law, or that he wished to invade Mexico.
The once liberal invention of the term “fake news” now mostly refers to media efforts by leftists to warp the Trump presidency; to progressive media celebrities who have been caught lying, colluding, or plagiarizing; and to the cohort of unapologetically left-wing journalists who, in the words of Obama White House operative Ben Rhodes, “know nothing” and thus are easily manipulated by their progressive political puppeteers.
Obama officials have written contorted denials that by their very Byzantine wording suggest there is some truth to the thrust of Trump’s accusations. (Jon Favreau, a former speechwriter for Obama, tweeted a warning: “I’d be careful about reporting that Obama said there was no wiretapping. Statement just said that neither he nor the WH ordered it.”) At best, the public is learning that intelligence agencies and the Obama Justice Department deliberately monitored Trump’s campaign effort (and leaked its findings), acts that fit a larger pattern of seeking to oppose his 2016 campaign.
Maybe there is a divine goddess Nemesis, or maybe humans inevitably become arrogant when not checked, as a reflection of their primeval genetic code.
Or just maybe over the last eight years, the Obama administration so relied on media collusion (and Hillary Clinton’s all but sure progressive continuum) that it felt it could do things politically and culturally — monitoring reporters’ communications, politicizing the IRS, using the Justice Department to redistribute banking fines to left-wing activist groups — that otherwise no sane administration would even dare.