Eleven months after he had won the 2016 election, President Donald Trump made an audacious claim: that he was responsible for inventing the terminology of “fake news.”
“The media is really, the word, one of the greatest of all terms I’ve come up with, is ‘fake,'” Trump said, per reporting from CNN.
In actuality, the terminology had entered the American lexicon (though admittedly not as prominently) long before Trump first tweeted the words, a few weeks after winning in 2016. The term had a much different meaning back then: it was about actual publication of reports making audacious claims about individuals without any facts backing them up.
“Pizzagate,” where a publication claiming that there was an underground, under-age sex ring at a pizza parlor in Washington D.C. ran by prominent Democrats, was the most glaring example of fake news in 2016, that resulted in one man traveling all the way from North Carolina to act out in a violent way because of it. None of the Pizzagate story bore any legitimate truth to it whatsoever.
Shortly after winning, however, Trump changed the definition of the term “fake news.” Under his use of it, fake news evolved from actual fake news reports, to reporting Trump simply was critical of because it cast him in a negative light, even if the reporting was based on sound research and well-known facts.
It’s now been three years since Trump has co-opted the term to take on that new meaning, and since that time at least 40 other governments from around the world have chosen to follow suit, according to a report by the New York Times.
Since Donald Trump took office, more than 40 foreign governments have invoked the specter of “fake news” to discredit journalists in the United States and abroad. He’s now tweeted out the term “fake news” more than 600 times. https://t.co/2XTPl50jtK
— New York Times Opinion (@nytopinion) November 30, 2019
Their research isn’t exhaustive, as it could be that even more governments acted the way Trump has — calling out legitimate news reporting as “fake” in order to discredit journalists who are bringing up reasonable questions about their leaderships.
In some cases, it’s resulted in worrisome trends: Jordan is considering punishing journalists its government accuses of publishing “false news,” and in Cameroon, leaders have already jailed journalists they’ve accused of doing so.
Trump has shown no sign of slowing down his own use of the term in the incorrect way. In September this year, the president sent out the term 44 times, according to the Trump Twitter Archive, his highest monthly usage yet. Most of his use that month came about toward the end of the month, as Democrats were considering the start of (and eventually announced) an impeachment inquiry looking into his alleged inappropriate discussions with a foreign power to investigate a domestic political opponent.
Trump’s own campaign appears ready to continue discrediting news organizations, as they recently tried to suggest the Washington Post didn’t do sound research when they described a clearly edited image of Trump as fictional Rocky Balboa as “doctored.” The campaign said the news agency had provided no proof to the claim.
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Chris Walker is a freelance writer based out of Madison, Wisconsin. A millennial with more than a decade of journalism experience, Chris aims to provide readers with the latest and most accurate news of national importance. Chris likes to spend his free time doing activities in his community with his family.