Saturday, June 29, 2019

Interview: Brent Bozell explains what 'fake news' really is

Editor's note: This interview was originally published in April 2017.

This is the second of three articles spanning my discussion with Brent Bozell. The first article is available here.
Story by Joseph Ford Cotto
Like actors on tour, issues enter and exit America’s political stage. Debate rages, then quells, and is often forgotten -- if not rewritten -- in the pages of history.
One topic that manages to remain en vogue, though, is media bias. Both sides of the aisle claim that powerful press agencies have stacked the cards against them. They say it is all but impossible for the whole story to be told because certain individuals have no interest in truth. 
Where there’s smoke there must also be fire, correct?
An interesting, not to mention important, question for our day and age. The dawn of Donald Trump's presidency ignited a firestorm of scrutiny toward media figures. There has likely never been a time during which so much distrust and hostility flows at our supposed 'guardians of democracy'.
 When the public no longer, on a general basis, places stock in the watchmen-and-women-on-the-wall, it does not take a clairvoyant fellow to see that dark storm clouds are on the horizon.
Brent Bozell has watched with a keen eye as this situation unfolded.
"Founder and President of the Media Research Center, Mr. Bozell runs the largest media watchdog organization in America," his Politico biography reads. "Established in 1987, the MRC has made “media bias” a household term, tracking it daily and printing the compiled evidence biweekly in its well-known Notable Quotables, as well as the daily CyberAlert intelligence report on the internet. His most recent book, Whitewash: What the Media Won’t Tell You About Hillary Clinton, but Conservatives Will, was released in November of 2007. His previous book, Weapons of Mass Distortion: The Coming Meltdown of the Liberal Media, was released in July of 2004. 
"In 1998, Mr. Bozell launched, an online news service with an emphasis on investigative journalism. has become a major internet news source with a full staff of journalists in its Washington, DC metro bureau, with other correspondents around the world. In October 2006, Mr. Bozell founded the Culture and Media Institute (CMI), whose mission is to thwart the efforts of the liberal media to subvert America’s culture, character, traditional moral values, and religious liberty."
Bozell recently spoke with me about several matters pertaining to the American media. Some of our conversation is included below.


Joseph Ford Cotto: Today, anyone can favor a news outlet on the basis of his or her political stances. Such a thing makes media bias an advantageous for certain outlets who seek to provide a profitable echo chamber. Why is there such a market for echo chambers in today's media landscape? 

Brent Bozell: Because we're a bifurcated society. Human nature is such that we all gravitate to our comfort zones, with like-minded people. Our viewing and reading habits follow that trend. Again, this is dangerous. We know only what we want to know. 

Cotto: Despite having unparalleled access to news outlets which confirm one's view of reality, a majority of Americans view the press itself negatively. To what can one chalk up this odd state of affairs?
Bozell: Simple. They see a leftist agenda dominating "news" coverage. Why are the negatives of the news media at an all-time high? Because their bias (against Trump) is at an all time high. Even Democrats thought so in 2016! Some news networks, like CNN, are making no bones about it. Some reporters, like Jorge Ramos, are openly championing a left-wing agenda. The public is seeing this as a complete betrayal of a vow to report news in a fair and unbiased fashion. 

Cotto: 'Fake news' became the buzz-term of late 2016 due to the role it played in last year's presidential election. This term is a loaded one, with those from different sides of the political divide having their own favored definitions. What does 'fake news' mean to you?

Bozell: You are absolutely correct. "Fake news" is far too broad a term. Biased news is that news which reflects the opinion of the person producing it. False news is that which is untrue, but inadvertently so. It may be recklessness, or ignorance at play, but it's not conscious production of that which isn't true. Fake news is information that isn't news because it isn't true, and the reporter knows this.

The "fake news" being condemned by men like Mark Zuckerberg is a somewhat different animal. That's the "click bait" problem, where dishonest Internet/social media outlets produce wildly untrue claims about supposedly dead celebrities, or things of that nature, just to get the reader to click on the story for advertising revenue, or to sell product. The solution is not an easy one. Is a story about climate change being untrue, untrue?