The courage to name and shame chronic liars””and stop giving them a stage””is hard to come by in a competitive marketplace the economic basis of which is crumbling. Gatekeeping power will always bring with it a temptation for abuse””and it will take a long time for people to come to believe that temptation can be resisted even if it is.
But if old media will be hard put to get a new grip on the gates, the new ones that have emerged so far do not inspire much confidence as an alternative. Facebook (which now has more than 1.7 billion monthly users worldwide) and other social networks do not see themselves as media companies, which implies a degree of journalistic responsibility, but as tech firms powered by algorithms. And putting artificial intelligence in charge may be a recipe for disaster: when Facebook recently moved to automate its “trending” news section, it promoted a fake news story which claimed that Fox News had fired an anchor, Megyn Kelly, for being a “traitor”.
And then there is Mr Trump, whose Twitter following of over 11m makes him a gatekeeper of a sort in his own right. His moment of truth may well come on election day; the odds are that he will lose. If he does so, however, he will probably claim that the election was rigged””thus undermining democracy yet further. And although his campaign denies it, reports have multiplied recently that he is thinking about creating a “mini-media conglomerate”, a cross of Fox and Breitbart News, to make money from the political base he has created. Whatever Mr Trump comes up with next, with or without him in the White House, post-truth politics will be with us for some time to come.
I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.