Matthew Reddin

Get It While It’s Schlock: The Return of Fake News

Fake news is nothing new; however, the 2016 remake is especially fraudulent, which legitimizes it in the eyes of the reader. Stop the presses, I want to get off.


Here’s a thing that actually happened, in a year where you really can’t make this kind of thing up any longer.

One of multiple “fake news” sites on the Internet ran a story that a child sex ring was being conducted out of the basement of a pizza restaurant somewhere in D.C. and, because she has nothing better to do with her time (aside from running for President), one of the architects of this operation was none other than Hillary Clinton.

Right, so aside from it being the kind of not-even-remotely-funny joke that one used to just brush past on the Internet (the nonsensical spam-like ramblings one would occasionally get attached on an email where the subject line begins with “Fwd: Fwd: Fwd:” and would be deleted immediately), it’s a story so ridiculously conceived and ludicrously plotted that even the most middling of low-rent, direct-to-video schlock film producers would have rejected it as being too low-brow for Steven Seagal (the man has standards; he made Cyborg Nemesis, after all).

But the crux of it is, this story got a guernsey in one of multiple “fake news” sites that have infected the Internet, and our intake of news via social media has become so skewed to our own prejudices and political biases that the “real” media, the “mainstream” media (or the “lamestream” media, as the Trump people called it), is despised to the point where the “fake” news is regarded by those who read it as being the only trustworthy outlet of the fourth estate there is.

Not for nothing, The Daily Show started as straight up news satire and merged into more a cultural barometer of the ongoing hypocrisy and laziness of both the conservative media and their stablemates in elected office.

One Charles Bronson-like individual took the story at face value, the one about Hillary Clinton running a pedophile ring out of the basement of a pizza restaurant. He walked in, vigilante-like, guns blazing, and shot the place up. Because he had the best interests of the kiddies at heart. Never mind that there were no kiddies in the basement, and never mind that there was no actual sodding basement … let alone the presence or imprimatur of the former Secretary of State. The chap took the story seriously, because he’s an idiot, and the Trump fans who wrote the story on the site they built for the sole purpose of slowly but surely discrediting Secretary Clinton, knew that someone, somewhere, would.

There’s a quote floating around the Internet attributed to Hitler and Goebbels, those lovable scamps, which reads along the lines of, “The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it.”

It’s one of many stories, many sites, and many examples of how one piece of nonsense, one bitter, poorly-scribed piece of sub-mental anti-journalistic detritus can be consumed by the unwashed masses as being fact. The Pope, bless him, has weighed in on the subject—the subject of fake news—and has equated consumption of fake news to the consumption of shit, likening the act to that of coprophilia. Which is as unique a perspective as one might expect from the current occupant of the Seat of Peter; once again leaving us asking the question “Is the Pope a Catholic?” as a genuine query rather than as a rhetorical one.

Fake news has been part of the landscape, by and large, since the advent of Fox News some 20 years ago. From its genesis as being the vehicle to feed the wants and preformed prejudices of conservative older white males, it sprung the Leftist counter-punch, the far less successful MSNBC, and also, not for nothing, The Daily Show, which started as straight up news satire and merged into more a cultural barometer of the ongoing hypocrisy and laziness of both the conservative media and their stablemates in elected office.

Also on The Big Smoke

News consumption has become so polarized, with editorial directions and outlet-wide political biases becoming so pronounced, that actual old school objectivity is these days as scarce as either hens’ teeth or original clichés. Fake news springs from this, and the rage is palpable, especially from Trump and his seething cesspool of followers.

Fetid outrage is, however, not the sole domain of the Right. There was a moment in the last gasps of the Australian Gillard Government when Melbourne’s The Age editorial had the galling temerity to suggest that given the then very real prospect of an ALP loss and the ensuing, dreadful notion of a Tony Abbott-led coalition government, Julia Gillard should step aside as PM and that Kevin Rudd, for his faults, would have had a far better shot at retaining government than Gillard would. A sensible, articulated argument in an opinion piece.

But, the outrage! HOW DARE The Age not spoon-feed its readers the exact things they wanted to read? How DARE THEY not tell me what I already believed? The bastards, how very dare they think differently to me?

One thing leads to another. Without a constantly reliable source of information that makes people feel good about their own allegiances and prejudices, those who need their feelings spoon-fed back to them will find this spoon-feeding from other sources. Hence the fake news. Hence the damage. Hence Trump. Hence Brexit. Hence Pauline Hanson. Hence every bafflingly ludicrous “news” link your mother’s friend Mavis sends her on Facebook that you consequently have to explain to her is abject bollocks.

But, having said that, every other media outlet, mainstream or not, ran a story last week that 73-year-old Mick Jagger became a father for the eighth time when his 29-year-old girlfriend gave birth. Jagger, who became a great-grandfather two years ago, now has a son two years younger than his own great aunt. A 73-year-old man saying “Gimme Shelter” you’d think would be asking for a blanket.

It’s a story (among dozens of others in 2016) that I only wish was fake news, but isn’t.




Matthew Reddin

Matt Reddin has been writing nonsense about film, TV, books, music, and live theatre for a touch over 20 years. He’s gone from the halcyon days of street press in Perth, to regional dailies, national magazines, and major metropolitan newspapers. Now, in between bouts of sporadically yelling at clouds, he vents his creative spleen at

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