All the ‘news’ that’s fit to fake

Sounds about alt-right ... Cartoon by Stuart Carlson found on Political Irony.

Sounds about alt-right …
Cartoon by Stuart Carlson found on Political Irony.

Of the many things I’m thankful for in this week of Thanksgiving, I suppose I should be thankful for fake and misleading news, since it certainly keeps me hopping.

But it also keeps quite a few letters off the Voices page.

No, that story about someone being paid $3,500 to protest at Trump rallies is not true. The first clue should be the “.co” at the end of the supposed “ABC News” Web address … and the fact that the logo on the page is oval, not a circle like the actual ABC logo. But sure, close enough.

If you're sucked in by this, you need to admit just how gullible you are. Screen-grab image found on PolitiFact.

If you’re sucked in by this, you need to admit just how gullible you are.
Screen-grab image found on PolitiFact.

And no, Target has not banned “Christmas.” Why does this get passed around every winter??? At just about every retailer, Christmas is in full force, and in some stores has been so since at least a couple of weeks before Halloween. (Memo to Wal-Mart: Please ditch the most annoying version of “Jingle Bells” known to man, or at least don’t play it on a loop. My dreams are jingling now.)

Also no, Donald Trump has not won the popular vote, despite the story by 70News that said he had. As of this writing, about 7 million votes still are to be counted, and Hillary Clinton holds a more than 1.7 million-vote lead. And the report of 3 million illegal immigrants voting for Hillary is also doubtful; when asked for evidence by PolitiFact, the person responsible for the tweet cited as proof provided none. (It couldn’t possibly be from his imagination …)

Did fake news help Trump win? Who knows, but it definitely has given fits to journalists who must take responsibility and face consequences for what they write, such as losing a career if they dare make up their stories (remember Janet Cooke and Jayson Blair).

When you can just make stuff up and get paid for it, why even get a journalism degree? Ummmm ... ethics? Screenshot of LibertyWritersNews found on PBS.

When you can just make stuff up and get paid for it, why even get a journalism degree? Ummmm … ethics?
Screenshot of LibertyWritersNews found on PBS.

Fake-news writers, though, get paid for the number of clicks they get, regardless of what they write, which can be based on nothing but opinion and innuendo dreamed up simply to drive more traffic to sites operated out of their homes, which sometimes aren’t even in the United States (apparently Trump is a big industry in Macedonia). Who needs editors, fact-checking and any other due diligence designed to keep real news writers and their organizations from being sued?

Prolific fake-news writers like Paul Horner, who is responsible for the paid-protester story and whose name turns up frequently as a source in his own stories, can earn $10,000 a month for their fabulism. Horner told the Washington Post that he feels some responsibility for Trump being elected, noting that Trump’s supporters believed everything he wrote. “I thought they’d fact-check it, and it’d make them look worse. I mean that’s how this always works: Someone posts something I write, then they find out it’s false, then they look like idiots. But Trump supporters—they just keep running with it!”

William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer (and BatBoy too) would be so proud!

And of course the fake news never lies ... Editorial cartoon by Tom Toles, Washington Post.

And of course the fake news never lies …
Editorial cartoon by Tom Toles, Washington Post.

Outfits like National Report, Daily Currant and LibertyWritersNews keep cranking the fake stuff out, and people keep eating it up as long as it confirms what they already believe, facts be damned. Others such as Bipartisan Report and Breitbart often take small bits of truth and wrap it in conspiracy and confabulation, complete with breathless click-bait headlines that have little to do with the story. And because we’re too lazy to check the veracity of our news sources, we keep believing the unbelievable (but Obama does want to ban the pledge of allegiance—this story says it’s true!!!!). Even obvious satire from the likes of the Onion and Andy Borowitz hasn’t been immune from being believed as truth (because that satire tag is obviously a plant).

Breitbart, it's really hard to put any trust in you when you keep posting "stories" based on fake news ... do you even check it first? Image found on Snopes.

Breitbart, it’s really hard to put any trust in you when you keep posting “stories” based on fake news … do you even check it first?
Image found on Snopes.

But responsible news sources verify facts before publication. (Yes, there are legitimate alternative sources that do just that, but there aren’t enough that do.) As the Chicago Tribune’s Rex Huppke wrote: “[Y]ou won’t read a story on a newspaper website or watch a news segment on television that is fabricated. You may not like what it says, but your opinion doesn’t override reality. When people lazily trust fake news that serves only to affirm their world-view, they disconnect from the real world. That can feel nice, but it leads us all down a rather dark path.”

Dark paths like making death threats to the staff and owner of a pizza parlor tarred in a fake news story that claimed owner James Alefantis and Clinton campaign chair John Podesta were kidnapping, molesting and trafficking kids at the Comet Ping Pong restaurant (what a name …). The restaurant manager told the New York Times that attempting to swat down the rumors was akin to “trying to shoot a swarm of bees with one gun.”

If you believe the stories, this is the site of a massive pedophilia ring involving the Clintons (and George Soros thrown in in some stories). All they lack is this thing called evidence. Image found on Snopes.

If you believe the stories, this is the site of a massive pedophilia ring involving the Clintons (and George Soros thrown in in some stories). All they lack is this thing called evidence.
Image found on Snopes.

I know, some people want to believe the unbelievable, and they don’t want to think. Yet that’s what we have to do: We have to become adept at sorting news from opinion and be skeptical enough to want proof (and no, proof isn’t what Crazy Cousin Earl told you last week … or how much alcohol he can drink). We need to have an objective eye to recognize what may be nothing more than partisan fancy heightened by emotion. And we need to be honest with ourselves and others about information we share.

You don’t really believe the pope endorsed Bernie Sanders … or Trump … or Hillary—do you?

Now tell me what I'm supposed to be outraged about, but provide no proof, OK? Image found on dianedimond.net.

Now tell me what I’m supposed to be outraged about, but provide no proof, OK?
Image found on dianedimond.net.

What causes even more headaches is when partisans remove all context (and inconvenient facts) so that something goes viral, such as the mostly conservative uproar over a list of “fake news sites” being passed around. Checking closer, one would find that the professor who compiled the list did so for students in one of her mass communication courses, and that it was not simply “fake news sites” but “fake, false or regularly misleading websites.” Additionally, sites were coded as to what sort of shenanigans went on, including “click-baity” headlines (one reason Breitbart made the list). And yep, liberal sites were also on the list. Funny how that was sorta glossed over …

Now the professor has removed the list from Google Docs because of threats and harassment.

Yep, that really speaks well for us when anyone who hopes to encourage people to seek facts is shouted down. Believers in truth, exit the stage, please.

Advertisements

14 thoughts on “All the ‘news’ that’s fit to fake

  1. I posted your column on Facebook today and added that my son blames me for his compulsion to fact check “everything.” I thought you would be proud. I hope some of my non-fact checking friends and relatives will read your column and see themselves, but I also know I need to be extra diligent myself.

    On another note, Micah Qualls, the teacher from Mills HS I mentioned in my letter to the editor, posted a “thank you” to me on her Facebook page. One of my co-workers is a friend of hers and showed me her post. She appreciated the compliment of her Safe Space, and she bought a paper when she heard about the letter. Thank you for printing my letter.

    Like

    • I’ve gotten to the point where everything sounds unbelievable (especially now), so I’m spending way too much of my own time checking stuff out … but if only more people did!

      Yea! I’m so glad she saw the letter, and I was so happy to print it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Some people just cannot handle reality (or Handel Baroque music because they are too Bach-ward). I think they need to read some science fiction (talking about believing the unbelievable). Do you think that might help them?
    So the believers in the truth should exit the stage? Which side of the stage? Or does the side of the stage depend on their political beliefs? As in right side or left side?
    My impression of Pope Francis is that he is too smart to make the mistake of endorsing any political leaders or politicians.
    Maybe the Trump supporters who are running with the fake news will trip and fall on top of their fake news?
    Jingle Bells? When I first learned about spoonerisms at age eight, I began walking around the house singing at the top of my voice: “Bingle Jells, Bingle Jells, wingle all the jay. Of fhat wun it is ro tide in a slorse open heigh.” For some strange reason, my parents tried to distract me and find something else for me to do. I don’t know why (he said innocently).

    Like

    • I think the truth-believers might just have to jump off the stage at the center just to avoid having that discussion (though it appears to me that most of the fake news came from the alt-right).

      Dang it! “Bingle Jells, Bingle Jells …”

      Like

      • If you think what I did to “Jingle Bells” was bad, you should have heard some of my other spoonerism experiments over the years. However, this time I will be merciful and not share any of my experiments with you.

        Like

      • Thank you so much, dear friend, as I’m very susceptible to earworms. If it’s something like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” great … but it rarely is … damn musical hooks! 😉

        Like

  3. Yesterday, my high school grand-daughter said she read that the OED has added a new word–post-truth–and asked what that meant. I gave her the bad news.

    As to the transition from Halloween to Christmas, where are the voices complaining about “The War on Thanksgiving?” Politics aside, there are still things to be thankful for. We should give thanks while we still have those things.

    And finally, I need to note the snarky reference to Cousin Earl. I resemble that comment.

    Like

    • MWAHAHAHA, Cousin Earl! 😉

      Every year I wait for the War on Thanksgiving. I fear it’s a casualty of the War on Christmas … the turkeys and pilgrims need better PR people.

      That the OED would even have to add “post-truth” is depressing. I suppose I should just retire to my chair and shout into the tornado …

      Like

    • There are worse things people could say to you Earl Babbie. All of my life, I have had to listen to a lot of teasing about “Lawrence Welk” or “Lawrence of Arabia” or “Laurence Olivier” or “Martin Lawrence” or “Lawrence Taylor” etc. I remember reading somewhere that Olivier actually preferred to be called “Larry”. When people learn that I am a musician, they usually drop the other four names and just call me “Lawrence Welk” and I do not play the accordion nor do I like champagne (I prefer to drink beer).

      Like

      • 😀

        I just got the very creative rhymings of my last name from my grade-school classmates. I’ll always remember the suggestion that I invent the “Super-duper Looper Pooper-Scooper.”

        Like

  4. The fake news news came as a bit of surprise to me since I don’t frequent social networks and get my news from what I’ve known for years are reputable news sources. Even they kind of blew it during the campaign, IMO. Now I’ve mostly abandoned them too, simply because I simply can’t stand to hear any more news about you-know-who.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s