Journalist Dan Rather discussed fake news and other topics at Queens University of Charlotte on Tuesday, Feb. 20.
“There are several things to know about that fake news and I would like to put ‘fake news’ in quotation marks. First of all there’s always been some version of fake news. Again you can go back to the ancients, and some people saw this spread of fake news. What’s different today, and I don’t mean just in the last year and a half or two years, is that there has been a growing realization by people who seek political positions that, it is to their advantage to always raise ‘fake news’ when it’s something that you don’t want said about you.
“We’ve now reached the point where this has reached a high degree of effectiveness. I do think most people understand the difference between fake views and real news. A lot of this has to do with my own confidence in the audience, confidence in my fellow Americans. My whole experience in reporting, print newspapers, wire services, radio and television, is overwhelmingly that Americans are pretty smart. They’re particularly, Americans are very good – and I will use the phrase, and it would be well understood here in North Carolina — Americans are very good at distinguishing brass tacks from bull shine. That doesn’t mean that everybody does, but I do think that the country as a whole pretty much understands the difference.
“But it is important to understand that we are, and I may use this phrase several times in my appearances here, that we are at this moment engaged in a great battle for the soul of the country and one of the important battlefields in that battle for the soul of the country is the effort by some forces to move the country into a post-truth political era. An era where the truth doesn’t mean anything. Making the argument that, well, there are always several truths, if not dozens of truths. And part of that has to do with getting the public to accept that there are alternate facts, that all facts are fungible, that there’s no such thing as a solid facts. Now we all know, and again this is where I think our common sense comes into play, that it is not true.
“Two and two equals four. It does not equal five or seven. Water does not flow uphill. I mean, there are facts, solid facts. So in this great battle in a time of, in my opinion, peril for the country, it will be interesting to see as we go along whether I’m right, that the country will reject moving itself into a post-truth political era where all truths are fungible. But that is one of the current battlefields.”
Video of Dan Rather’s complete discussion with students is available on the Queens Knight School of Communication Facebook page.
Above, Queens students Naomi Tellez-Duran, Jayda Brown, and Juliana Amos (from left) with Dan Rather on Feb. 20 in Belk Chapel. Photograph by Jane Wiley.