Political-communication scholar has a catchy new name for fake news: V.D.


Kathleen Hall Jamieson of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center was a guest on Dec. 23 on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”

In part because of overuse, and in part through co-option by Donald Trump and ardent backers (by CNN anchor Brian Stelter’s count, Trump alone has tweeted at least 210 times about “fake news” in 2018), the term fake news no longer means, to many people, what it initially did: online content that adopts the form of news stories but contains purposeful falsehood, or is constructed entirely of it.

The pedophile ring in the nonexistent basement of the Washington pizzeria Comet Ping Pong, to name one example. The papal endorsement of Trump for the presidency and ISIS’s equally untrue backing of Hillary Clinton, to name two more.

That’s left some, notably political-communications scholar Kathleen Hall Jamieson, searching for an alternative term that’s sufficiently pejorative without lending itself to willful re- or misinterpretation.

Her suggestion:

‘Viral deception.’

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania

She goes a step further, advocating, in an interview last week with “Reliable Sources” host Stelter, that the term become associated with the acronym “V.D.”

“I’d like to use the V.D. acronym, because I’d like to associate it with venereal disease,” Jamieson had explained to Stelter in an earlier episode of “Reliable Sources,” according to a transcript posted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, which Jamieson, who co-founded FactCheck.org in 2003 and is the author of the 2018 book “Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President,” directs.

“We don’t want to get venereal disease,” Jamieson continued. “If you find someone who’s got it, you want to quarantine them and cure them.”

“I want people to say, ‘Eww,’ ” Jamieson said in the more recent “Reliable Sources” show, making the point that fake news not only has now been terminally diluted but was an oxymoron all along. “If something is fake, it’s not news.”

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