Believe it or not: MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell was just caught spreading more fake news. Shamelessly, it was a matter of simply posting a video – just sending out another tweet. Yet, all he had to do was substantiate the video first – as any legitimate journalist would. But, no – why bother to do that?
In this day and age, the thrill of spilling your liberal guts all over the place, in combination with the thrill of risking one’s entire reputation as a professional newscaster, was simply too much wanton temptation for O’Donnell to avoid.
Specifically: O’Donnell tweeted a video in which a female Muslim student was shown railing on a racist white student who had tried pull her hijab off her head.
How did O’Donnell discover the video? Was a case of archaeological journalism, digging deep for the truth. There is a grand tradition at MSNBC, that was started by Rachel Maddow. In the Maddow formula, she constructs a long diatribe in which she spends 20 minutes repeating herself over and over again, in a careful exposition of all the evil details of some miniscule story she has researched. She puts the whole evil story together slowly just in case you are not as smart as she is. It’s like listening to a liberal conspiracy theory for dummies.
Was O’Donnell trying to be a pseudo-journalist like Maddow? Not hardly.
The high school these playfully violent students attend is Washburn High School in Minneapolis, Wisconsin. The high school itself has since reported that the video was just a play video – just clowning around because fake violence is always funnier than real violence. The fake violence video even had a real title: “Welcome to Washburn” and it was watched by no less than 6.5 million people.
In fact, all told, the video has since garnered over 161,000 shares, over 29,000 comments. An official statement by school district spokesperson, Dirk Tedmon, offered the following:
“We want to make sure our families know the school community works continually to keep our buildings safe,” because for the school district strives to create an environment that is “culturally sensitive to all our students is a priority.”
Bottom line: O’Donnell found a video made by high school kids, a video of fake-play-violence, and he blithely decided to re-tweet it. He probably reasoned that he would either be credited with  tracking down Islamophobic violence in the USA, or  being the kind of big name rascal who would play for ratings over voracity.
So, O’Donnell decided to tweet it.
It stands as a real lesson in the state of journalism today. Journalism professors the world over are cringing as they struggle to inform their wise and worldly students that being a journalist involves more than re-tweeting high school fake videos, and getting credit for it.
Peruse the now-infamous fake-play-violence video for yourself and judge what was going on in O’Donnell’s mind as he re-tweeted it.
In fact, as we chase down the facts and discover that the school in Minneapolis investigated the video on Saturday. They confirmed it was a play fight for the of it. Therefore, school staff had confirmed the alleged incident had never occurred.
In other words, the following has just transpired:
- A fake video by some high school students representing American and Islamic violence was posted
- A nationwide tele-journalist posted it on Twitter
- The nation has since discovered the video was actually fake-play violence for the fun of it
- The tele-journalist removed the video
- The whole nation is talking about how MSNBC’s O’Donnell conveyed fake news
Question: Is this a story about a fake-violence-for-fun video, or is this a story about how shameless and irresponsible MSNBC’s O’Donnell is?
More importantly: why did O’Donnell retweet the video?
First, note how O’Donnell did nothing – we all had to trace down the story and verify it for ourselves.
Second, rest assured that O’Donnell will simply claim that he retweeted it because he thought it carried relevance for the national discourse.
This is becoming the standard ploy for fake journalists: they did not spread a fake story out of laziness or a desire to pull ratings shenanigans. They presented something that had been presented to them, which seemed like it might have relevance to the national discourse, and if it turned out that it did, then it was a good thing the story was spread. And if not – oh well.
They were just trying to tell a story about a story that seemed interesting.
In other words, fake journalism is now becoming part and parcel of the world of mainstream news, where ratings and eyeballs rule over truth-telling any day of the week. And the ultimate justification for nationwide journalists who spread fake news will always be that they were just relaying information they thought might be relevant to the national discourse.
In other words, journalists no longer convey the news in an attempt to relate the truth. Instead, journalism now seeks to tell a story about a story. The journalist has discovered something of interest, and in this story one person has apparently relayed something to another person, who then conveyed it to yet another person, and now the journalist is finding out about it, and simply wants everyone to know what might be going down.
The truth is that this is being hatched as the new definition of permissible journalism because the world moves so fast and the news moves in sound bites at the speed of light – and that means you do not have time to fact check. If you do fact check, then you might spoil the opportunity to grab all the attention you would get from being caught spreading fake news. And if it turns out to be true, well, so much the better (ahem, wink-wink).
Ironically, in a world like this, an intelligent person no longer can rely on any one source to get their news. In fact, no one can rely on any mainstream outlet for the news as a sole repository for information.
The smart money is now on sourcing news for oneself, using at least three sources, and triangulating on all the evidence from there. That also means that no one will ever again, automatically trust a mainstream journalist or a mainstream news outlet – never, ever again. In other words, although he probably does not yet realize it, Lawrence O’Donnell has just ensured that for the rest of his professional life, he will have about as much street cred as a news broadcaster, as Rosie O’Donnell does.
Congratulations to Lawrence O’Donnell for becoming professional journalism’s intellectual equivalent of a suicide bomber. Now MSNBC has officially joined the ranks of BuzzFeed and CNN, each of which has displayed the class that issues forth from desperate acts perpetrated by desperate people – like MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews – all done in the name of presenting the news.
This is probably the fallout from the internet – a new world is now coming into view in which no one is automatically trusted or respected as a source for information or truth. In fact, in the final dose of irony, the bigger the organization, and the more money is riding on their reputation, the less likely they are to be a perfectly faithful conduit for information.
The fix is in, the ratings game is on, and everybody is wise in the 21st century.