Every once in a while, Bill Maher reminds us that he's the only liberal pundit on TV who will call "the tolerant" left on its BS. In his latest weekly show, Maher released a helpful summary of "rules for identifying fake news" - which everybody who posts on social media about the campaign-era predations of shadowy Russian trolls and the mechanics of "internalized misogyny" would do well to watch: "Fake News" isn't some made-up phenomenon concocted by pro-Trump bloggers. It's a very real and disturbing trend that goes much further in tearing at the social fabric of American society than $100,000 of spending on Facebook ads ever could.
In his monologue "explainer" on how to spot fake news, Maher admits that Trump voters have good reasons to be suspicious of the mainstream media and its tendency toward hyperbole and exaggeration that often leads CNN, the Huffington Post, Slate and their peers to manufacture controversies out of thing air. Or, as he puts it, just because a few people on Twitter with no followers and no real-life influence are angry, doesn't mean the rest of America feels that way...
"Since so much of what passes for today's journalism is anything but...how about some rules for identifying actual news.
"If anybody is demanding an apology...unless they have hostages, that's not news.
"And when the offended group are identified as the internet, twitter or people - it's nobody. I guarantee when you click on the story the internet is three losers with a combined twitter following of their mom."
"I used to think something was news if a journalist reported it. But really I live in a world where its news if Mariah Carey's tit flops out because Twitter will respond and then a journalist reports on the controversy. If a boob flops in the forest and nothing is heard about it doesn't make a sound. But if three jackasses tweet about it, it's news."
Maher gives several examples of what passes as news, including the "controversy surrounding Jennifer Lawrence's performance in the movie "Red Sparrow". The mainstream press reported that a shot of Lawrence with a group of men was unforgivably sexist...because Lawrence wasn't wearing a coat (while the men in the shot were).
Wonder why Fake News resonates so much with Trump fans – because so much of it is fake. Just nonsense made to keep you perpetually offended with an endless stream of ‘controversies' that aren’t controversial. pic.twitter.com/pog5OO4ttL— Bill Maher (@billmaher) March 3, 2018
Maher threw up all over the "story" which just happened to be reported in dozens of "serious" media outlets, despite having zero social import or even any grounding in reality.
Here's the headline from Elle online and a hundred other sites: 'Jennifer Lawrence's latest red sparrow protocol has twitter calling out gender inequality. See because the men are wearing coats but she's not. And even though that was her choice, somebody with 11 followers didn't like it so the the story was reported in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New York Post, Fox News..."
"Now all these esteemed news organizations aren't saying they think it's a big deal because they're serious journalists. They'd rather be writing about Syria or the oceans dying but oh the humanity, Jennifer Lawrence didn't have a coat. Wrap her up, wrap her up!"
Such "clickbait" stories like this aren't rare, in fact as Maher admits they have become the norm, to an extent that most consumers of news hardly recognize how ridiculous they sound.
"This is not an outlier, this is a constant and prominent part of today's journalism. Creating some bullshit non-issue that a few trolls will go apeshit over, then reporting on those tweets like all of America's talking about nothing else."
Justin Timberlake used a protection of Prince for his Superbowl halftime show and people are furious...nope nobody cared.
People are really mad that Sean White dragged the American flag after he won the gold...nope not even a little you fucking liars.""Weight Watchers is targeting teens and twitter is outraged. No it isn't, it's the same three people. And it's not hard to find three people who are mad at anything. I could say good morning and three people on twitter would object: 'Good in your privileged world, Bill Maher'."
Yet considering the mainstream media's obsession with these types of stories, it is no surprise that a sizable chunk of the US population has lost its faith in the validity and and motivations of news organizations like CNN. What is surprising is that people like Maher are finally admitting what is really going on...
"No wonder fake news resonates so much with Trump fans - because so much of it is fake! Just nonsense made to keep you perpetually offended with an endless stream of controversy that aren't controversial. And outrages that aren't outrageous.
And what is really going on is that as Maher admits, what the US media is doing is no different than the alleged "discord-sowing" misinformation campaign that Mueller recently accused 13 Russians and 3 Russian companies of perpetrating on the US population?
"Because places like the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed and Salon - they make their money based on how many clicks they get. Yes, the people who see themselves as morally superior are actually ignoring their sacred job of informing citizens of what's important and instead creating divisions to pursue their own selfish ends. Wait isn't that what Russia was doing to us? Yes it is.
And we need to stop both of them from using us as the cocks in their cock fights. And so I saw to the people who were unable to go on after seeing Kendal Jenner tweet the wrong colored emoji A bit of advice: If you didn't like what Kendal did with a brown fist...then don't watch her sister's sex tape."
So, next time you're reading about the epidemic of teenagers eating Tide Pods, or rushing to be the first to know all about the latest Kardashian clickbait du jour, don't: not only will it stop rewarding hollow headlines designed for clicks, it will force the US media to once again focus on news that truly matters. The real news.
And no, it's not easy: in fact, as the media's current business model shows, clickbait works, which is why it is easier to just blame someone else for creating it and "sowing discord", when the real culprit is America's endless superficial, scandal-seeking obsession, always eager to to click on the next catchy, if idiotic news story, and then cover up its guilt by blaming, why who else, Russia.