David Briceno: ‘Fake News’ is bad news
“There’s a lot of Fake News out there.” — President Trump (Feb. 19)
Most people don’t think anything of what’s now regarded as “fake news” (in lowercase letters which differs somewhat from Trump’s capitalized “Fake News” meaning). And if they do, most Americans aren’t all that much concerned about it.
It’s not so serious simply because most people have already concluded that one simply shouldn’t believe everything that’s on the internet — meaning a lot of what one reads, hears and views online. The accepted fact being that the internet’s loaded full of misinformation (Still don’t think so? Visit http://www.snopes.com sometime for indisputable proof and to get a good idea what Snopes must always deal with fact-checking media information).
So it makes little sense to most why others are, or even would want to be, so concerned about fake news since quite a great deal of misleading internet information should just be either ignored, rejected or taken with a grain of salt. It’s no biggie. No problem. So no worry. Who cares anyway?
But it should be of concern.
Nearly half of America (46 percent) regard the media, in general, with strong suspicion and/or anathema. It’s because the public doesn’t particularly appreciate being lied to purposely. Besides, knowingly being deceived by the media leads to negative consequences. Fake news makes for bad news for the media.
Fake news remains a big problem. And fixing it isn’t that easy. Ironically, even as bad as fake news is, attacking it is even worse. It becomes even more dangerous. Here are the hows and whys.
Whereas diplomacy is known as the art of the possible, politics the art of compromise, propaganda is the art of persuasion. Many instead say manipulation. Whatever one’s politics, “Fake News” (when capitalized) simply means political propaganda. Its media article fabrications are designed mainly to discredit someone or some group or idea for political purposes.
To put it another way, Fake News (German Nazis despisingly called it the Lugenpresse: “lying press”) contains biased, one-sided, untruthful “hit pieces” without basis in fact that’s disguised as genuine news (usually in regular news format), which are used to smear persons or attack ideas of opponents to maximize influence and to gain support for their cause in order to further some political objective(s). So basically, Fake News contains false content to convince others of something for something in mind. It fools. Propaganda’s negative goal is to convince the unsuspecting for a reason.
When false propaganda becomes indistinguishable from true information by being incessantly disseminated, it finds a large and believing internet audience. That’s what can make it so dangerous: If people believe Fake News lies as truths, vice versa truths can be believed as lies. Media truths can’t compete with media falsehoods when lies carry more weight.
And when people discover or strongly feel that they’re being fed packs of lies, it seriously undermines the credibility of the press. Unfortunately, it’s already happened.
Since Trump assumed office, journalism has entered the Top 10 professions that people look down on, joining with the same seedy company as unpopular shyster lawyers, greedy Wall Street traders and crooked politicians.
Trump hasn’t helped matters any. He politicized Fake News. And made it his political defense weapon. As a result, the media’s reputation has suffered because he doesn’t subscribe to “verba, sed audi.” It means he’s always shooting the messenger not the message itself. What happens is constantly shooting at “the enemy of the people” (his description, not mine) makes democracy more vulnerable to conspiracy theories, illegitimacy, and subsequently media’s demise. Even worse, if widespread enough, attacking the “lying press” can lead ultimately to the erosion of faith in America’s form of government and to its destruction.
People no longer complain of not having enough information. Many Americans nowadays complain of “information overload” instead. There’s too much online information to weed through it all. Not only is most fake news hard if not impossible to spot, but determining if online info is true or false still remains a huge challenge. It’s best to always check an opinion’s source.
Attacks on Fake News will increase. This election’s gonna be one helluva ride for both media and democracy. And that ain’t fake news.
David Briceno lives in Alta Sierra.
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