(UnitedVoice.com) – Since 2016, President Donald Trump pointing out the prevalence of fake news has changed the way people think about the media. It has polarized the country into liberal and conservative viewpoints. Worse yet, the Russian hoax, the Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings, and even COVID-19 have exposed how the liberal media will go to any length to help, or even lead, the Democratic party.
What many Americans may not know is that the media and political parties have always had a mutually beneficial relationship. In the early years of the country, newspapers were used to shape the news for partisan political purposes and they were often subsidized by political parties leading up to the Civil War. It wasn’t until the 20th century that most newspapers stopped being party loyalists, yet one wouldn’t know that from our hyper-partisan, activist form of news.
The Origins of Fake News
The origins of fake news have their roots in the American Revolution. Benjamin Franklin attempted to keep rebellious colonists in line and supportive of the American cause by publishing stories that the British were paying American Indians to scalp men, women, and children. Even George Washington was not immune to the partisan press. In his first term, Washington was so irate at newspapers for accusing his wife of being a British sympathizer that he threatened not to run again. Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson had to talk him into running again in the best interest of the new country.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t all Washington faced. Benjamin Franklin’s grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache, ran the Aurora newspaper. It was said he delighted in attacking Washington and that his mission was “to destroy undue impressions in favor of Mr. Washington.” Bache accused Washington of being arrogant, stupid, a lover of monarchy, a lousy general, and an incompetent president, among other things.
In 1801, Alexander Hamilton founded the New York Evening Post (now the New York Post) for the explicit purpose of expressing his political beliefs. That was not uncommon in the 1700s and 1800s. Newspapers and political parties worked hand-in-hand. The parties saw them as tools, or even extensions, of their operations.
In 1828, papers in opposition to Andrew Jackson viciously attacked him for marrying a woman before her divorce papers were finalized. One paper said Jackson, “tore from a husband the wife of his bosom.” Other papers that were more pro-Jackson said he was innocent and accused parts of the media of violating his privacy.
The 1950s and 1960s was an era of impartial news. By the time of the Vietnam War in the 1970s, things were changing as some of the media outlets took anti-war stances. Combine that with the ongoing increases to partisanship and it’s clear to see that the press has circled back around to be an apparatus for political parties instead of unbiased reporters of truth.
By Don Purdum, Freelance Contributor
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