Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Truth About Fake News It's Not Fake

Of late, my social media is overflowing with dire warnings about fake news.  Those in charge claim that we simple folk need measures to protect us from the horrifying consequences of fake news.  We need our news feeds monitored and filtered.  We need to only read what they deem appropriate.

At first, this seems logical.  I don't want to waste my time with false information.  I don't like being deceived.  No one does.  I would gladly see satirical news sites like the Onion disappear.  Yes, it is funny but more than once I have seen them referenced as truthful and reliable.  To me, the Onion and others like it are the true "fake news" and every piece needs to be clearly labeled as such at the very beginning of the article.  Burying its intent as farce at the end of a very long piece is deceptive.

The real issue is not whether or not we are being misled by fake news.  If it were fake news, the real news stations would disregard it just as they have disregarded the National Enquirer and other such news sources for decades.  The real threat is that we will actual hear truths that someone or some group does not want us to hear.

People who reach a different conclusion or ask different questions are not fake news.  They are a most valuable resource.

In a huge world of activity, why do the major mainstream news stations often cover exactly the same stories and often in the same order?

Yesterday, I watched CNN, MSNBC, and FOX for the first time in weeks.  I was interested to hear their take on the Italian referendum that happened that previous day.  I watched for several hours and flipped between the channels.  The three were still myopically focused on Trump, Hillary, and the election.  Enough with the rehash.

There is a very simple solution to the Fake News question.

Citations.  If the story does not cite sources, skip it.  I get very annoyed when I am reading an article or watching a video and the sources are not cited.  This is most problematic on YouTube where people will just pluck a video and repost it.  I often watch lectures by my favorite researchers but have no idea the date of the recording until I hear some context clues,  I would love YouTube to require source information in the description box.  

If the authors must use anonymous sources, use caution.  Anonymous sources can be reliable and may need to be hidden to protect themselves and their families.  Where did the reporters get the information that broke Watergate?  An anonymous source they named Deep Throat.

It really is that simple.  Learn to discern fact from fiction by checking sources.  Insist that satirical news be clearly identified at the onset as satirical.

Plenty of times news reporters make mistakes when reporting.  That doesn't make them fake.  That proves they are human.  The honest reporters will issue corrections and retractions.

What of the times when reporters and networks purposely deceive us?  It happens.  Google it.  Anderson Cooper's nose disappearing in a green screen when "on location" at Sandy Hook.  Two reporters communicating via satellite but actually in the same parking lot with the same cars passing them.  Implying they are standing in front of the crime scene by erecting their own police tape.  These are just a couple of the more obvious example.

The more I hear about fake news, the more I research to find the truth.  So far what I have found has shattered me worldview.  That view was naive and filled with overly simplified versions of truth and outright lies.  This is the first is a series of posts about what I have learned.