Fantasy News

Bruce Maples (bruceinlouisville@gmail.com)
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The reality of fantasy.

While journalism wrestles with ways to present accuracy in the age of Fake News, a front-page blurb in the March 13 issue of The Courier-Journal in Louisville reveals the much sneakier Fantasy News.

The headline is a Donald Trump White House spinmeister’s dream, “GOP: New bill’s numbers add up.” If you still don’t get it, the subhead explains, “Officials come out Sunday to defuse harsh analysis from congressional budget office.”

Republicans are in a bind because their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act has been analyzed by groups like the American Medical Association and AARP as costing more and providing less. On top of that, an upcoming report by the Congressional Budget Office is expected to reinforce those analyses. In response, the Republican strategy was to blanket Sunday’s TV talk shows and state, without evidence, that their plan would be better and cheaper.

The Courier-Journal abetted that Republican strategy with its four-paragraph blurb referring readers to a longer USA Today story inside the paper.

In the age of fantasy news, it’s not enough to report simply that Republicans disagree.

The traditional journalism model of quoting one side of an issue, then quoting the other side in the hope of producing an objective story doesn’t work any more. It doesn’t work because that model assumes both sides are equally rational. Over the decades conservatives have become skilled at flooding the zone with fantasies that tax cuts for the rich produce prosperity for all, that immigrants cause crime and terrorism, even that Jesus was white (Google “Megyn Kelly Jesus was a white man”). Those assertions don’t persist because logic or analysis supports them, but because of wishful thinking and repetition.

Twelve years of Republican presidents and eight years of Democratic presidents demonstrate that trickle-down economics does not work. Immigrants commit fewer crimes than the general population, the most recent high-profile terror attacks in the U.S. were home-grown, and Jesus, well …

You can fact-check a fact. Fantasies require deeper and innovative levels of vigilance and tactics on the part of journalists, and citizens.

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