The Collapse of the Real and the Imaginary | Research Critique

In the Washington Post article about Michael Flynn’s resignation, President Trump’s tweets can be seen as diversion tactics. He
responds to the controversy by assigning blame and shifting focus to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Trump shows blatant affirmation of media outlets that agree with him. In contrast, he labels critics as “fake news”, thereby casting doubt on their credibility. Furthermore, Trump brushes off reported facts as “conspiracy theories” fuelled by prejudice and “blind hatred”. He repositions these media outlets (i.e. the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN) as unjustly plotting against him, reframing factual criticism as victimisation.

Two days after, Trump goes further by proclaiming that the “FAKE NEWS media” (sic) is the “enemy of the American people”. This not only discredits the opposition, but indirectly suggests that Trump is, conversely, the ‘ally’ of the people.

Breitbart, Online Media & the Spread of Alternative Facts
Screenshot of Breitbart article

Similarly, the Breitbart article uses caustic writing, coupled with a potent but rather partisan word choice. Breitbart’s wide following makes it all the more dangerous as it propagates ‘alternative facts’ and worrying conspiracy theories such as the powerful hidden hand of the Deep State. This irresponsibly sows seeds of anxiety and
distrust among people. The article also presents interpretations and biased projections as infallible truth. It references sources at its own convenience, only bringing in that which supports their views.

The spread of such fake news has been accelerated by online and social media, which has become a go-to access point for many (be it for food recommendations, news or entertainment). An unfortunately apt illustration of the proverbial ‘empty vessels make the most noise’, it spreads news information through content virality — attention-grabbing thumbnails and headlines generate more interests and views. This coupled with our friends’ approvals through a ‘share’ or ‘like’ affirms its credibility.

What is worrying about platforms like Breitbart is how believable it sounds. To navigate current murky information waters, users need more than passive reading and instead require an investigative spirit to search for verification and source reliability.

Still from SNL sketch, featuring Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer

I believe humour can be a great entry point to these divisive issues. Satire and parodies like the SNL sketch comment on recent events with fresh perspective. Ironically, their use of exaggeration creates clarity — it probes dialogue by revealing and magnifying behaviour and subtleties that may have gone unnoticed. It also looks for the humour in an otherwise tense political climate.

A Singaporean Aspiration
Screenshot of the Online Citizen article
Screenshot of Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index 2016

In a short 50 years, Singapore has become a unique and
unprecedented phenomenon of economic success. However, this came at a cost; for one, there’s a clear monopoly in our news media. Many of us look up to the United States as the pinnacle of free speech, and an aspiration for young nations. However, with the
recent (mis)use of online media and President Trump’s views on press platforms, this Singaporean can’t help but wonder if the
longstanding edifice of the free press is crumbling, or perhaps was it only ever an idealistic facade?


Ashley Parker, Trump says Flynn was treated unfairly, a day after Spicer said he was fired because of a lack of trust, Washington Post, February 15, 2017.

Nolan McCaskill, Trump tweets: Press ‘is the enemy of the American people’, Politico, February 17, 2017.

Virgil, The Deep State Bumps Off General Flynn. Who’s the Next Target?, Breitbart News Network, February 15, 2017.

Video news report on Saturday Night Live’s satire on the TRUMP administration: Sean Spicer responds to Melissa McCarthy’s SNL performance, February 7, 2017.

9 thoughts on “The Collapse of the Real and the Imaginary | Research Critique”

  1. Excellent and thorough analysis of the readings and video. In your review of the Breitbart essay, you mention how you need to keep a critical eye open in order to see through the fake reporting. Of course, Breitbart depends on an audience that often lacks this criticality. It demonstrates how important it is to educate the people, to insure that they have the critical skills to differentiate between the real and the imaginary.

  2. I think it was finteresting how you brought up the use of “conspiracy theories” in the description of fake news. It feel reminiscent of magazine like “The National Inquirer” which have been regarded as fake news for many years. However, most of these stories centered around celebrity weight gain/loss scandals, alien abductions, or unexplained monster sightings (leave Bigfoot alone).  How did fake news make fish transition from the literally monstrous to the politically monstrous?

    1. Well put, the scale of fake news has increased exponentially!

      LOL nice pic 🙂 We laugh now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Trump uses that as his next diversion tweetic!

    1. Mr. Trump,

      Not everyone voted for you, because I did not vote for you, and the 3 million more people who voted for Hillary Clinton did not vote for you. You are not my President. YOU are the enemy of the American people, because YOU refuse to accept your loss. YOU are the loser, because your so-called empire will crumble when you finally expose your failure as a business man by failing this country. Stop trying to blame CNN for your failures, Mr. Trump, because, from now on, your failures are my country’s failures. But you are not my president, Mr. Trump. You are my shame.


      The Opposition

  3. Your point about the “Likes” and sharing by friends on social media is interesting because it shows how individuals can become unwitting accomplices in the spread of fake news. Of course we give more credibility to those news or information items that are supported by our friends. Maybe everyone is depending on everyone else to fact check…and no one is fact checking?

    1. That’s a great point Laura! Perhaps it’s complacency or due to everyone leading such busy lives, but we sometimes expect our friends to exercise due diligence on our behalf… let’s stay virgilant against such fake news!

    1. Mr. Trump,

      In your petty universe of alternative facts, when you say WRONG!, I hear RIGHT!, and so does anybody with a lick of education. How about you get off Twitter for a night and do your job.


      The Opposition

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