Spreading Fake News Undermines Everyone’s Credibility
Spreading Fake News Undermines Everyone’s Credibility
October 22, 2017
It’s time to talk about fake news. The phrase became en vogue during the presidential campaign of 2016, popularized by Donald Trump, and with good reason. There’s no doubt that media coverage of his campaign – and really of any conservative or Republican candidate – is, and generally has been, absurdly skewed.
Was there any point at which we could honestly look at journalism and hold it up as a bastion of objectivity? Probably not for a long time, if ever. Journalists are people, and just like any person have their own views on politics. When I was in grad school, Ted Galen Carpenter’s “The Captive Press,” was assigned reading for one of my classes. As Carpenter astutely pointed out, media objectivity is also tainted by the nearly parasitic relationship the media has with those in power. How many former government officials land on network news channels as “experts? How much of the reporting the media broadcasts relies on that exclusive? How much does “access” dictate how stories are written, and how much is access an enticement for the media to publish what those in power want, putting a spin on the news in order to lick the boots of their masters?
At the same time, the emergence of the 24-hour news cycle, the Internet, and global media access is driving competition among outlets to be first, to garner the most views, and to do so by tapping into the collective outrage of the masses, who by and large have access to mass amounts of information around the clock, and who many times are too lazy to verify before they screech. Yes, the media outlets need to tap into that in order to stay competitive in today’s market.
We also have the bloggers. Stoked by their successes in trumping the mainstream media from as far back as 2004, when guys in their “living rooms writing in their pajamas” exposed the asshattery of CBS and its false documents about George W. Bush’s military service, much to the consternation of snotty CBS execs, the bloggers have become a vital part of the information superhighway and the search for the truth. I doubt the discovery of the government’s failure in the “Fast and Furious” operation would have happened without the efforts of gun rights blogger David Codrea and the late Mike Vanderbaugh. Say what you want about bloggers not being “real” journalists, but they’ve contributed to the efforts to hold government officials accountable. And if you doubt me, look up Alexei Navalny. He was “just a blogger” too.
Here’s the problem: everyone wants clicks. Clicks mean money, and clickbait farms are huge money and an economic basis for entire cities in eastern Europe. In order to get those clicks, headlines need to be catchier and more outrageous, and news is twisted to fit the narrative – whether intentionally due to political bias, or simple laziness and refusal to do research.
All this is to say that fake news exists. It’s a real phenomenon, and now – more than ever – we need to be critical of everything we read.
Unfortunately, critical thinking appears to no longer be taught in America’s schools. It’s replaced by outrage and confirmation biases so deep, they make the Pacific look like a dirty puddle after a summer storm, and if you think that’s only a phenomenon on the left, I have news for you: it’s not.
More and more, I’m seeing my conservative friends share absolute crap without checking sources. It seems that as long as the URL has the word “conservative” or “freedom” in it, and it bashes the usual targets (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Michael Moore, etc.), conservatives share, and reshare, and reshare fake news, because it strokes their confirmation bias boners, without even a shred of effort to fact check the story and the source.
It’s gotten so bad, that I run every single domain name through a search to ensure I’m not giving traffic to some click farm in Macedonia. In some cases, the disclaimer that the site is satire is well-hidden, but at least extant on the site. In the case of sites such as “libertyinfo.net” that recently published a false story about Chuck Schumer claiming he SLAMS Trump, because it’s “racist to only allow citizens to vote.”
Digging a little deeper, we discover the site domain was created 9-07-2017 using anonymized registration through Denmark company Ascio Technologies, Inc. The owner is a blind alley without insider access, listed as Domain Privacy ApS.
But there’s more! A site called “libertytoday.net” shows the exact same blind registration of domain name, same blinds and registering company, but created in July instead of September. Their website has similar clickbaity content, and also uses similar themes from the same theme shop and also uses WordPress.
Their Facebook name is “Liberty Today” and their only “team member” shown is a Viktor Kolevski residing in Kumanovo, Macedonia.
I realize it’s a pain in the ass to do this amount of digging with every single story, and some of them are quite obviously fake, so only a perfunctory check is needed. But when you have fake photographs and posts being circulated by immoral, unethical jerks with an obvious political agenda, and that impact such important topics as Gold Star families, fact checking becomes not just prudent practice, but vital.
Case in point:
A friend shared a supposed screen shot of Gold Star widow’s Facebook post allegedly condemning Rep. Frederica Wilson for politicizing President Trump’s phone call on October 17th. To be fair, Wilson is a moron. She’s a rodeo clown with rank, who is, by all accounts, one of the biggest race baiters in Congress, and who a few years back referred to the Tea Party – her fellow Americans, who just happen to disagree with her politics – “the real enemy.”
But some unscrupulous ass badger decided to inflate the story, and fake a screen shot of Myeshia Johnson’s post on the day Trump made the call, accusing Wilson of politicizing La David Johnson’s death. There’s no doubt that’s exactly what Wilson did, but to fake this photo and use this grieving woman for political purposes, is foul, and it’s exactly what this fake post condemns.
And yet, not a single person who shared it bothered to find out whether this post was fake. I did examine Mrs. Johnson’s page closely, and it contains no such post from 2017. Additionally, Snopes took the time to debunk it. Yes, I know Snopes is not particularly objective when it comes to politics, but their assessment of the post is dead on.
While the date of the post corresponds with that of the 17 October 2017 condolence call, the time listed is actually more than an hour before the reported time of President Trump’s phone call, which was 4:45 p.m. Eastern time.
The post is quite obviously fake, and yet, when I stated so, citing the Snopes analysis (and my own assessment), one herpapotomus, immediately went into “You cited the fascist Snopes/straight out of the Saul Alinsky playbook/Hillary voter/liberal/CNN fake news/you insulted me” mode.
Yeah, OK. No one, but a deluded, froth-flecked chimp could possibly mistake me for a liberal, but apparently, that’s how he rolls. Anyone who disagrees with anything he says is apparently a horrible, evil lubrul, who is trying to take away his First Amendment rights.
Folks, what I’m saying here is that this kind of stuff undermines our credibility – not just as individuals, but also members of the conservative movement. It paints us as ignorant, biased, and unwilling to admit our mistakes, which is exactly how the left paints us.
Why give them the ammo?
I know it’s easy to copy/paste any story that strokes our outrage boners. It’s much harder to check sources, check for corroboration from other news sources and ensure what we’re sharing is accurate.
We cannot criticize CNN as “fake news,” and then share complete bullshit from places such as “LastLineOfResistance.com” and insist it’s real news. It makes us look ignorant and pathetically desperate – as if there just isn’t enough real news to support our views! Just because it supports the narrative, doesn’t make it true, and spreading obviously false news paints our entire movement with the idiot brush, let alone showing us to be heartless jerks for sharing obviously false narratives using a Gold Star widow for political hay!
If we are to have any credibility as a movement, we need to be smarter, stronger, and better than the opposition.
If you spread the fake, you’re not helping.
Marta Hernandez is an immigrant, writer, editor, science fiction fan (especially military sci-fi), and a lover of freedom, her children, her husband and her pets. She loves to shoot, and range time is sacred, as is her hiking obsession, especially if we’re talking the European Alps. She is an avid caffeine and TWD addict, and wants to own otters, sloths, wallabies, koalas, and wombats when she grows up.
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