Not all fake news is alike. Some of it isn’t even fake, technically speaking, though it falls under the heading of selective omission, which can be pretty egregious.
Take as a case in point a story that appeared in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune concerning fights at Michigan State University between supporters of white nationalist Richard Spencer, who was scheduled to speak, and protesters of the speech.
The article was largely free of opinion, which is to the Tribune’s credit. It quotes a local clergyman as saying that “people need to say hate is bad and probably need to say it to his face.” But it gives equal time to Spencer, who observed, “What happened outside was really worrisome and heinous. “That was an attempt to use violence to prevent people from attending a speech that was peaceful.”
Make no mistake: This writer has no patience for the hate-filled ideas that Richard Spencer peddles. I could detour here into a sidebar on Spencer’s First Amendment rights, but I would be straying from the larger point, which is that the story, however important, is outside the Tribune’s area of coverage. East Lansing, where the university is situated, is three and a half hours from Chicago by car and is not even in the same state.
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With that in mind, consider Exhibit B, a story in the Tribune’s backyard that it chose not to cover. It was an interview Sunday with Democratic Illinois Rep. Danny Davis, who freely admitted to having a long personal relationship with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, whom he called “an outstanding human being”:
I’ve been to his home, done meetings, participated in events with him. I don’t regard Louis Farrakhan as an aberration or anything, I regard him as an outstanding human being who commands a following of individuals who are learned and articulate and he plays a big role in the lives of thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of people.
When asked about Farrakhan’s rabid anti-Semitism, Davis replied, “The world is so much bigger than Farrakhan and the Jewish question and his position on that and so forth.” [Emphasis added]
In ways, the two stories — the one the Trib carried and the one it ignored — are bookends. Both focus on hihgly controversial figures who subscribe to one form of nationalism or another. If there is a difference between the two, it is that one is local and the other is not. The Trib owes its readers an explanation of why it made the decision it did.
- Twitter declines to unverify noted anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan
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- Farrakhan-linked group to lead upcoming National School Walkout against guns
(h/t Cameron Gray)