Harvard University has picked up on a Merrimack College professor’s list of “fake news” sites, including the Daily Caller, the Drudge Report, Breitbart News, the Washington Examiner, the Washington Free Beacon, Independent Journal Review (IJR), and even Bill Kristol’s relentlessly Never-Trump The Weekly Standard. FrontPage Mag, Jihad Watch, and Truth Revolt also make the list. It sure is great to have our intellectual betters at Harvard explain to us what are “illegitimate” sources of news, but there’s just one catch: the “fake news” list doesn’t contain even a single site that is the slightest bit Left of center.
That’s right: BuzzFeed, with its fake dossier on Donald Trump, didn’t make the list. Nor did the New York Times or the Washington Post or CNN, despite all their no-there-there hysteria about Russia “hacking” the 2016 presidential election. Nor does the Huffington Post or Salon or Slate or Glenn Greenwald’s fact-free Intercept. Harvard’s list is clearly intended not to warn people away from hoax news sources and stories, but to demonize, stigmatize and marginalize the perspective of the half of the American electorate that American electorate that voted for Donald Trump.
It’s a clever presentation: there are actual fake news sites on the Harvard list, sites that publish wholly false or unsubstantiated stories simply as clickbait in order to generate revenue. But to add to them some of the most prominent conservative sites on the web makes the agenda clear: Harvard, and the Leftist intelligentsia in general, is trying to stigmatize and marginalize every point of view except its own. Merrimack College’s Melissa Zimdars and those who take her list seriously at Harvard and elsewhere apparently think that if they call every perspective they dislike “fake news,” they will be able to destroy the influence of such perspectives, and attain the hegemony of their own point of view.
If I called Harvard a “fake university” and Zimdars a “fake professor,” few would take me seriously, but when they call my work “fake news,” they have money, influence, power and prestige, if not facts, to back up their claims. Harvard’s “fake news” list, like charges of “hate speech,” is a tool in the hands of the powerful, used to silence dissent from their line. The only problem with this is that their line contains so many obvious falsehoods and fallacies (Islam is a religion of peace, poverty causes terrorism, etc.) that it will continue to falter at the bar of reality, and people will continue to look to these so-called “fake news” sites for the truth.
The list contains subcategories; Zimdars labels my Jihad Watch as “Unknown.” This classification she explains thusly: “Unknown (tag unidentified): Sources that have not yet been analyzed (many of these were suggested by readers/users or are found on other lists and resources). Help us expand our resource by providing us information!” So a site that purports to identify “fake news” relies on unsubstantiated rumor, hearsay and innuendo to make its classifications. Doesn’t that make Zimdars’ Harvard-endorsed list a quintessential example of…fake news?
Harvard’s list is another example of how the Left today, and particularly the academic Left, is authoritarian, intolerant of dissent, and increasingly intent on demonizing and destroying its opponents, rather than engaging them in rational debate. Liberal journalist Kirsten Powers, author of The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech, recalls that when she was growing up, “I can’t remember anyone ever suggesting that conservative views were illegitimate and unworthy of debate.” Now, that is all Leftists ever say. David Horowitz has, of course, argued that the Left is inherently authoritarian, and that any Leftist regime will move to crush dissent; now Harvard is proving him right once again.
This is generally because as Leftists envision establishing a truly just society on earth, those who oppose them are inevitably stigmatized as morally evil, and consequently are accorded as little tolerance as the medieval Roman Catholic Church gave to those it considered heretics. No less a luminary than St. Thomas Aquinas argued that because the Catholic state had to be concerned with the moral and spiritual wellbeing of its people, as well as their material condition, heretics were enemies of the state, and thus were deservedly executed. If today’s Left had a patron saint, it would be Aquinas, for that alone.
The contemporary Left so closely identifies its agenda with all that is good that it considers those who oppose its imperatives to be beyond the pale of reasonable discourse and decent human beings. The foes of the Left must therefore be shouted down, discredited, and destroyed altogether. Harvard is busy doing just that.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The Complete Infidel’s Guide to Iran. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.
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