|It’s the oldest lawyer joke. “How do you know a lawyer is lying? His lips are moving.”
Many people have said the same thing about our congressweasels. And you could say something similar about the mainstream media. If you see it there, it’s probably fake news. But that won’t work because those who disseminate information through these channels are certainly trying to keep you guessing as to what’s real and what isn’t.
So let us look together at a recent news story of the man who stabbed people in Portland, Oregon. Many of the news media reports paint him as a right-winger who loves Trump and is a white supremacist who was ranting against Jews and Muslims and anyone else who wasn’t white.
What the mainstream media conveniently leave out is that stabber Jeremy Christian’s social media posts are heavily in support of Bernie Sanders and suggest assaulting Hillary supporters because Hillary is a “Warhark” (sic) who refused to take in Honduran refugees, and he said he “can’t wait” for Jeff Sessions to be assassinated for intensifying the war on drugs.
I don’t know about you, but Mr. Jeremy Christian sounds like he’s a very confused anarchist. Leave it to the mainstream media to pick what they want and use it to try and associate him with political conservatives when he clearly is not one.
Social media networks in this case show us someone’s true colors, but often are a prime conduit for the spread of bogus news. Rumors get repeated and passed on until they take on a life of their own as supposedly real news.
Remember that governments, political parties, activist movements and corporations pour out massive amounts of “news,” much of it twisted and distorted to best serve their own ends.
Electronic and print media spew fake news indiscriminately alongside legitimate news, making it difficult to distinguish between informational junk and authentic information. We are assailed with misinformation, disinformation, distortions and outright lies mixed in with the stuff that’s really true. Who can you believe anymore?
Even when a story is revealed to be fake, many people dismiss the correction as fake news itself meant to discredit the story they believe in.
The U.S. presidential election last year probably produced more fake news than any other event in modern history, much of it directed to smear Donald Trump.
- After Trump’s election, word spread that many transgender teenagers had committed suicide because he won. No evidence has been found to prove it.
- It was reported that Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s pick for Treasury Secretary, had overseen a company that “foreclosed on a 90-year-old woman after a 27-cent payment error.” Not true, but the story was shard 17,000 times on Facebook and reporters from The New York Times and NBC News tweeted the story with thousands of retweets.
- Time reporter Zeke Miller wrote that a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr., had been removed from the White House when the Trumps moved in. Not true. Miller looked for it, didn’t see it and assumed it was gone. A Secret Service agent happened to be standing in front of it.
Fake news websites, which are responsible for the major share of false “reporting,” may have political or social agendas, but the majority of them do it simply for profit. They post provocative headlines to entice readers to click on the story, which may not even have much to do with the actual headline. The page is loaded with advertising for which the website operators get paid for each user click on the ads. They exist for the sole purpose of tricking readers into helping them get paid to show ads.
Many of the fake news websites have web addresses that look fine at first glance, but look closer. Some will alter the web address of a news outlet by adding a different domain suffix like “.co” or “.website” or make other small changes that are likely to go unnoticed by the less than vigilant web user, especially with browsers now masking most of the URL in the address bar (you have to click in the address bar to reveal the entire URL string). The layout of a webpage may even mimic a legitimate company’s website.
The discouraging fact is that most people don’t have or don’t exercise the critical thinking skills necessary to distinguish between fact and fiction. Or, they have been properly propagandized. I read a study by Stanford’s Graduate School of Education that seems to show a “dismaying” and “shocking” inability of middle school, high school, and college students to tell fake news from real.
The study itself is fake news.
For one task, students had to try and determine whether Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, believed in state-sponsored euthanasia. Students “Googled” and found many articles with arguments from both sides.
But the premise of the task is inherently biased. The youths have already been convinced by the media that “Planned Parenthood,” “Hospice,” “Euthanasia,” “Pro Choice” and “Gentle Death” are all good, right, acceptable and “real.” Euthanasia itself means “good death.” These children are never taught that the state wants to kill of as many non-producers as possible and that all these phrases are merely code words to get them to accept as much death by the hands of the state as possible.
Planned Parenthood is by definition state sponsored euthanasia. Of course its founder believes in it. She does by definition or she would not have founded it. But children are not able to discern this for themselves, just like most adults aren’t, because their entire lives are suffused with fake news.
In another assessment, college students had to evaluate website credibility. The researchers “found” that kids were confused because some of the sites they thought were legitimate didn’t meet the standards of what the researchers considered legitimate. And what do they consider legitimate? By now, you can guess.
Further, according to the study, it’s fine if students believe everything they read in the anti-gun media, rife with articles about how unsafe guns are and endless coverage of why Michael Bloomberg feels they should be taken away despite the 2nd Amendment. But it’s not fine of a student sees an informational chart from a political action committee looking to protect gun owners’ rights.
Exactly who was biased in the Stanford study? The researchers were, through years of propaganda and media “coverage.” They translated that to their study and, wouldn’t you know, “found” many students, who haven’t been as thoroughly brainwashed, don’t know better than to believe those “biased” folks in the alternative media.
So exactly how do you spot fake news?
- Check the URL web address. Many look like legit news organizations but have been altered slightly.
- Check the source and sources. Is it a source you know and trust for accuracy? If not, check the “About Us” link to see who is behind it. Are the sources cited in the item authentic and trustworthy?
- Be wary of unusual formatting. Misspelled words and awkward layouts indicate a suspicious website.
- Examine photos. They may be doctored or simply not show what they purport to show. Photos of the crowds at Trumps inauguration or the number of people in the Super Bowl ceremony picture at the White House are example of how these are used to fool you.
- Examine the dates. Timelines may make no sense, dates may be intentionally altered or events that happened in the past may be connected to current events though they have no relation.
- Study the quotes and sources. Legitimate stories on controversial topics usually have lots of quotes from experts in related fields — professionals, professors, researchers, etc. Decide if the sources are credible. If there are few quotes, that’s a red flag for fake news.
- Confirm with corroborating reports. Look to see if other sources considered legitimate have reported the same story. If several news agencies report the same story, it’s more likely to be true (though not always… sometimes a fake story gets picked up and passed around in mainstream media several times before a keen-eyed newsperson actually checks the facts and blows the whistle).
- Check questionable claims. Unfortunately, Snopes and Wikipedia have their own biases, and Google will certainly show biased results heavily tilted toward their advertisers. I use duckduckgo.com because it protects my privacy, or I use goodgopher.com because it will filter out results from the biased mainstream media.
Yours for the truth,
Editor, The Bob Livingston Letter™