There are so many things that catch fire so fast, it’s impossible to even reach for the extinguisher. “Fact Checking” as a thing was like that. I saw it coming. I knew what it was.
There was no stopping it.
I’m going to start a list: The Institution’s Toolbox. It will be a list of the tools most often used to keep the institutions from being challenged.
The big hammer for my entire lifetime has always been the ignore. Whether actually spiking stories that don’t fit the institutional narrative, or simply having no curiosity toward what might challenge it…and therefore, never investigating in that direction, ignoring challenges is the principle tool of my lifetime. It leaves us shouting into the wind to no effect.
But technology has allowed challenges to get heard anyway. When Drudge first entered the scene at the end of the 80s, I remember distinctly that I could watch the news at night and see Drudge during the day.
At first the news tried to simply spike the stories that the fledgling internet was bringing to our attention. But that clearly didn’t work. So the next attempt was to release the spiked stories with a spin in hopes of mitigating the political damage. But that clearly didn’t work either because every time they reported the stories wrong, it was pointed out to their embarrassment. They had to start issuing corrections. They were in a tailspin.
…but they obviously recovered.
But whether it was the “Fairness Doctrine” or the latest attempts to ghetto-ize dissent by fake fact checking on social media, the attempt is always to get back to when the institutions could ignore dissent.
It has become no more complicated than this: For the institutions to be challenged, it must happen with the sources that they have licensed. We can talk amongst ourselves, but no matter how truthful the things we share, if they don’t come from the institutions, they cannot be entered into the broader discourse. It is absolutely air tight.