Home / Media / It never rains but it pours as (possibly) fake news threatens Trump presidency

It never rains but it pours as (possibly) fake news threatens Trump presidency

Was 2016 the maddest media year so far? It might have been with so-called “fake news” dominating the agenda. But 2017 looks like it will leave 2016 in the starting blocks already – and it’s only January 11.

Donald Trump is due to be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States on the afternoon of January 20th. This is a distinguished office, of course, but some strange coves have occupied it. None quite so strange as Trump though if the “intelligence” document revealed by Buzzfeed is to be believed.

Among other things it supposedly reveals that Trump is, if not a Russian agency at least what was called a “fellow traveller” in the dark days of the Cold War. That is, in the Russians’ pocket.

Almost as sensational is the allegation that he, or rather Russia’s FSB intelligence agency, hired a bunch of Russian hookers to play at “golden showers” on the bed of his room at the Ritz Carlton in Moscow in 2013, one previously slept in by Barack and Michelle Obama. Well revenge is sweet, or possibly sour in this case.

We don’t know if this is fake news or real news and neither, so it says, does Buzzfeed. It believe the unsubstantiated allegation (so far anyway) should be out there so people can make their own mind up. But by releasing the documents and causing a Twitter storm as well as a political one (explain why the Donald’s hair is so yellow in 140 characters or less etc) this possibly fake news has become a real news event.

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This puts news purveyors why try to play by the old rules in something of quandary – even us. Someone often asked for their views on the Royal Family and the monarchy told me the other day that they’d been rung by a reporter from a big national paper with some impossible tale (in their view) about the royals.

“Don’t believe a word of it,” they said. Neither do I admitted the reporter but it’s out there so we’ve got to do something. In other words, it may be fake news but it’s still news as far as we’re concerned.

Much of this is provoked by the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter in their different ways. Odds are that golden showers is the most searched on Google (maybe after Trump). So, for many, it’s a fact. Facebook is in the dock (again) over allowing live video feeds following a particularly gruesome instance. Twitter may not be able to make money but it shoots stuff around the world quicker than anything ever has, as Trump (a regular user himself) well knows.

What’s to do? Nothing really, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. For the most part Google, Facebook and Twitter and their smaller digital rivals are useful (couldn’t do this site without Google), harmless and diverting. Unless you’re an old-style news provider, of course.

If a certain video is ever released (and it’s hardly in the FSB’s interest to do so, assuming it exists) then we may not have Trump in the White House on January 20. Which would be the biggest win yet for supposedly fake news. And it’s only January 11…

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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