WAKE UP! We are now officially on Day Four of Reason's annual Webathon, in which we ask you there, the one cursing at squirrels, to rummage around the pockets of your waistcoat, past the spare monocle and Somali pirate flag, and disgorge the monetary contents therein into our metaphorical tin cup so that we can blast even more libertarian journalism into space. We're asking for a quarter-million freaking dollars. We're about a third of the way there with halftime rapidly approaching. As the late, great Prince beseeched us, Come on y'all we got to jam, before the police come.
Before we start on today's topic of Fake News, I wanted you all to join me in a rousing virtual rendition of Happy Birthday to Reason! No, not the magazine, silly, but our very own Reason Sophia Spicer, the darling tot pictured at the right who turns four today! As you'll recall from my Webathon-announcement of her arrival four years ago, lil' Reason is the product of Ken and Kara Spicer, who met right here in the Hit & Run comments, got married, and immediately started breeding. Reason's sisters now include Liberty (age 3) and Justice (17 months). As Katherine Mangu-Ward pointed out yesterday, unlike most other publications, we treat commenters like family–a weird, legal-trouble-inducing, fanfic-writing, staffer-hating family, to be sure, but a family nonetheless. I can safely speak for both Katherine and Nick Gillespie that the most humbling thing about stewarding the flagship of Free Minds and Free Markets is the deep personal bond that readers have with the mag. So thanks for all of that, Happy birthday to the elder Spicer girl once again, and let's get to it!
You may have noticed one of the media's go-to post-election navel-gazing maneuvers—decrying the cancer of "fake news" eating away at our body politic, typically (in their depiction) originating from online trolls and/or Macedonian teenagers on Vladimir Putin's payroll, etc. You can read some good analysis of this curious journalistic post-mortem from Scott Shackford, Jesse Walker, A. Barton Hinkle, and Scott Shackford again. To which I am here to add one salient reminder: One of Reason's core functions is debunking the fake news disseminated not by Slavic autocrats, but by the very elite news organizations currently filling their diapers about "fake news."
Let us take a brief tour. The biggest U.S. sex trafficking story of the year, according to The New York Times, Reuters, and basically all respectable media in the Pacific Northwest? Fake news. That post-election wave of trans teen suicides, as first popularized by a Guardian and Out contributor, and then spread like wildfire over social media? Fake news. The Trump-era spike in violent hate crimes? Fake ass news. The gender pay gap, as depicted by the president and just about every major media outlet (with the notable exceptions of their fact-checking departments)? Not truthful. But surely the "sex trafficking survivor" who spoke at the Democratic National Convention was actually a "sex trafficking survivor, right? Wrong.
And please note that all the above debunkings came from just one staffer, Elizabeth Nolan Brown. This is what we do.
Since our last Webathon, Jesse Walker called shenanigans on a Newsweek "bombshell" tying Putin to Donald Trump, Jacob Sullum compiled his annual list of made-up drug scares, Stephanie Slade pointed out that no, women are not being murdered more than men at work; Damon Root disputed Jeffrey Toobin's physical/intellectual descriptions of Clarence Thomas, Scott Shackford noted that one of those "vanishing middle class" studies failed to grok that the cohort was contracting because more Americans were getting rich, Anthony Fisher defrocked the widely reported tale of an Alabama cabal of neo-confederate cops planting evidence on suspects, I unpacked two wholly unsupported journalistic claims of racism, and multiple authors made sport of the late, great Clown Panic of 2016. As Nick Gillespie observed Tuesday, Brian Doherty was a one-man wrecking crew on the lousy journalism about the tricky social science of guns. And Jim Epstein did not fail to notice The New York Times subtly walking back chunks of its infamous 2015 nail salon series, which Epstein almost single-handedly exposed as being somewhere between shoddy and fraudulent.
Correcting the record against the mainstream media's pernicious spread of false news has been a Reason specialty for decades. Robby Soave was the second journalist in the country to suggest that Rolling Stone's infamous University of Virginia gang-rape story may well be a hoax. Katherine Mangu-Ward last year famously concluded that, all routine hysteria to the contrary, "Plastic Bags Are Good for You." Peter Suderman in 2013 discovered that the media's poster boy for Obamacare hadn't in fact signed up for the damned thing yet. Ronald Bailey debunks politicized science as part of his basic job description. Beloved former Reasoners Radley Balko and Jeff Winkler in 2009 put together "The Top 10 Most Absurd Time Covers of the Past 40 Years," the bulk of which were panics totally untethered from factuality; and many longtime readers will tell you that their very favorite Reason article was a February 1981 investigative shocker titled "Love Canal: The truth seeps out."
Won't you help us expose even more of the mainstream media's fake news? Don't you love it when we impel The New York Times public editor to cast aspersions on The Paper of Record's own reporting? WILL YOU NOT, AT LONG LAST, MAKE REASON SPICER EVEN HAPPIER?