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This week in media: fake news, Tom Wolfe, and why Vice is (again) suing the FBI

REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Tom Wolfe

Your Friday review of the week in media news.

Facebook has enlisted a handful of news organizations and fact-checkers to blunt the flood of fake news through its system. The suspicion is that none of those being brought in —,, Politifact, the Associated Press and ABC News — have much credibility with the crowd slurping up stories like this one, where, according to (not) “CNN: Drunk Hillary Beat the S**t Out of Bill Clinton on Election Night.” But anything is an improvement over what’s been going on.

This AdWeek story​ lists the half dozen steps Facebook has taken. Among them:

1. You can report fake news with a couple of actions. 
Some Facebook users will start seeing the option of flagging posts that come from phony sites such as​,, and They can even send a message to the person who shared the post.

2. Fact-checkers will step in. 
Facebook will then utilize such reports, along with other detected fake-news signals like questionable URLs, to send stories to Poynter’s network. If the fact-checkers identify a story as phony, it will get marked as disputed and be served lower in news feeds.

As I say, this is good, but unlikely to have much appeal to those who, frankly, don’t care if what they read and share is true as long as it is weaponized enough to damage the opposition, aka, the “reality-based” public.


Tom Wolfe, icon of New Journalism, a form that contorted traditions in service to more compelling tales, was at a book event in Manhattan the other night. (His classic, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” is being re-released in a $350 autographed version stuffed with his original notes and photos of the escapades of Ken Kesey and The Merry Pranksters.)

Never one to conform to culturally-accepted wisdoms, Wolfe was asked for his reaction to the flood of fake news.

In a piece by ​Lizzie Crocker at The Daily Beast​, Wolfe responded: “Marshall McLuhan made a prediction in 1968 and it was the wackiest thing I’d ever heard at the time, but it turned out to be true. He said that the new generation, people in their twenties, had been raised on television and it has changed the neural order of their perceptions. It’s turned them tribal… [and] it’s outstripping what journalism used to be. Nothing is checked anymore in those mediums. I’m not surprised that this great moment of fake news has arrived, which I think is a laugh and a half.”

Crocker adds, recalling Wolfe classics like ​“Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s” ​or his novel, “Bonfire of the Vanities”: “Trump could be easily confused with one of Wolfe’s fictional creations: garishly wealthy, a distinct creation of the New York City class system, and someone who loves power — and tweaking powerful liberals.”

You have to hope Wolfe, now 86, hangs on long enough to exploit the satirical material Trump is about to disgorge.


Vice News, the (well-funded) Brooklyn-based journalism insurgent ​has sued the FBI​ — again. According to Vice, it’s asked the agency for records disclosing: 

  • ​Allegations of the FBI violating the Hatch Act by allegedly using its authority to influence the course of the 2016 U.S. presidential election
  • Internal discontent at the FBI regarding the bureau’s Hillary Clinton investigations
  • ​All leaks of information by the FBI to the media and political operatives about FBI investigations of Clinton
  • ​All FBI communications with Breitbart News; Breitbart executive chairman Steve Bannon, who Trump named his chief strategist and White House counselor after Bannon served as his campaign CEO; former Trump campaign manager Corey R. Lewandowski, Fox News, and Fox News hosts Bret Baier and Sean Hannity; former New York City mayor and Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani; and Republican strategist and Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone
  • ​​White nationalist Richard Spencer, his National Policy Institute, and the ‘alt-right.’

The story adds: “This is the fourth Trump-related FOIA lawsuit VICE News and Shapiro have filed since September. We sued the FBI, Secret Service, and IRS for information concerning a pair of incendiary comments Trump made on the campaign trail last summer — including one in which he called on Russia to track down 30,000 ‘missing’ Clinton emails — as well as audits of Trump’s tax returns spanning more than a decade.”

Vice also notes that “the FBI failed to respond to our requests for expedited processing.”

While only the most naive will hold their breath anticipating the FBI and IRS serving up such juicy secrets, the suit is a good indication of where other determined — and less self-aggrandizing — investigative journalists are probing. 


Finally, Philipp Meyer’s novel, “The Son,” a much better than average epic of a Texas oil family, is finally coming to air as a 10-part AMC series. Filming was delayed when Sam Neill had to be replaced as the lead character, Eli McCullough. Pierce Brosnan was brought in and shooting has been going on around Austin, Texas with a premiere set for some time next spring. Here’s​ a teaser link​ with Pierce in full Texas accent.

Said Janet Maslin in her review of the novel for The New York Times, “Mr. Meyer, the author of​​ “American Rust,” has told interviewers that Eli’s part of ‘The Son’ is not what came to him first. He began by writing about later generations, with Eli’s story just a mythic part of their memories. Only later did he realize how vital these myths were to the changes in Texas culture, politics and economy; to the flowering and destruction of Indian warrior societies; to the strutting of latter-day Texans who made oil fortunes but mimicked the sartorial style of grunt-worker cowboys who herded livestock; and to the revisionist history embraced by Buffalo Bill Cody’s audiences and readers of Bret Harte.”

And, “The greatest things about ‘The Son’ are its scope and ambition, not its strictly literary mettle. It’s an enveloping, extremely well-wrought, popular novel with passionate convictions about the people, places and battles that it conjures. That ought to be enough.”

Meyer wrote the screenplay, so it has a shot at being something special.

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