Sunday, December 4, 2016

No, You're Fake News!

There seems to be a "buzz" about "fake news" these days.  I don't understand the problem.  Nobody wants "fake news"... well wait... we do... sometimes.  The Onion used to be good entertainment.  We knew it was fake, and enjoyed it... but over time, that changed.

For me, it was when I started noticing that the "real news" wasn't keeping up with what I was seeing in "social media".  I believe the recent elections brought this to focus for a LOT of people.  Social media reported a lot of things the mainstream media refused to report.  

I have to admit, as a Bernie Sanders fan, I wasn't too focused on the Trump media circus.  I was busy watching what the Democrats were doing to control what CNN and others were reporting.  It became obvious to me that I was getting far more accurate news coverage on Twitter and YouTube.  The silence of the mainstream media about the shenanigans at the DNC made it obvious to me that I needed to look elsewhere for information.  The parroting of "chairs were thrown" at the Nevada convention by the mainstream brought this to sharp focus for me.  

That "chair-throwing" nonsense made it suddenly MY responsibility to discern what is "real news" and what is "fake news".  Not an easy task.

So, how do we cut through the crap?  The first thing I did was to set some ground rules for myself.   For example, when I select an article to read on-line, the first thing I do is see if comments are allowed.  If not, I won't bother reading the article.  If the writer cannot subject his work to criticism and review by others, they're pushing "fake news" as far as I'm concerned.  CNN, as an example, stopped allowing comments on their articles.  Additionally, if comments are allowed, I scan through them to see if anyone has refuted anything in the article... or if comments mention heavy moderation.  

Another thing I do is look for "anonymous" sources.  If the sources in the article are anonymous, I want to be sure to view them with suspicion IF they are providing hear-say and not evidence.  I like sources that supply evidence.  I follow the links that support what the article is saying.  Are they real links or just links to fake news?  Is the reporting being done by an investigative reporter, or just re-tweeting something?  Is there a reason behind the fake news story?

Well, let's not be silly about this.  We already know that the mainstream news in in the hands of a very few multi-billionaires.  And it makes perfect sense that the news would be adjusted for us by them.  And seriously, what's up with Snopes these days?  So, does social media even have a chance against the Washington Post's the MSNBC's and NYTimes' of the world?  Maybe...

I'll tell you when I first realized the power of social media.  It was, sadly, the day someone videotaped the tragic beating of Rodney King.  All too common now, those images were gut-wrenching to those of us who saw them.  All hell broke loose as people were outraged... for good reason.  And as more and more people started video-taping, social media brought the scope of this type of systemic abuse to our consciousness.

Standing Rock 
Today, investigative journalism has become a thing of the past for the mainstream media. They have been told what to say and more importantly, what NOT to say.  Standing Rock is a good example of a story the mainstream media has been told not to cover.  Fortunately, we have investigative journalism on the front lines at places like Standing Rock, by journalists like Jordan Chariton, from The Young Turks, and Amy Goodman from Demcracy Now!  They covered how the police escalated the violence at Standing rock starting with attack dogs and sound cannons and moving to water cannons and pepper spray, and finally to the point where a concussion grenade almost took off the arm of a young woman, and a tear gas canister was fired at the face of another woman, blinding her in one eye.  

Mainstream media were involved in covering this up, getting "both sides" of the story.  The water cannons were being used to put out fires (watch the videos)... and protesters were aggressively praying at the police, some armed with feathers that could, possible, poke an eye out (according to anonymous sources).  Well, that great big Occam's razor is a lot sharper than these mainstream reporters.  How do I know they are full of crap?  NO reporters on the ground.  

So, the mainstream media has lost the confidence of its viewers, and wants to gain it back.  I think this has become obvious.  Stuff gets out there that they can't report on, so they simply don't want people to know about it.  And, indeed, the mainstream media is in a good position to ensure some things never see the light of day... at least they were at one time.  It seems that now, however, that in trying to shore-up their own credibility problem, the mainstream is caught between a rock and a hard place... they simply are NOT ALLOWED to report the truth on some things.

Then there's Pizzagate, a story too bizarre to be true.  Originally growing out of John Podesta's leaked emails (he lost his cell phone so maybe "misplaced emails" might be a better description) - the emails were revealed by Wikileaks, an information service with a perfect record for accuracy (*much like the Washington Post, except perhaps a little better).  Occam's razor is going to get tested here... but... Surely we can find evidence to suggest there's nothing to see here at our good friends over on Snopes... right?

Here's EVERYTHING they say on the subject:

"A detailed conspiracy theory known as "Pizzagate" holds that a pedophile ring is operating out of a Clinton-linked pizzeria called Comet Ping Pong."

Way to debunk this nonsense, Snopes!  Now THAT'S investigative reporting.  Whew... I was worried there might be something to this stuff.  And the mainstream media flagship, the New York Times put a puff-piece reporter on the story to confirm this.  And now that reporter's work has come into question by social media.  

So, unless you do your own research, and on this particular topic, I can well understand why you wouldn't want to, you won't get the story... if it is a story... and if it's a true story, and not "fake news".

The Elections
It wouldn't be fair to talk about "fake news" without mentioning how it impacted us recently in the elections (and the primaries).  It became evident that the media outlets were taking out all the stops in their efforts to try to control the elections.  As I mentioned earlier, the primaries on the Democratic party side were my focus, but there are suggestions that the rise of Donald Trump's popularity on the Republican party side was due primarily to the free media coverage he received.  At least he was a popular candidate.  The Democrats were faced with a much bigger challenge, getting the public to believe their unpopular candidate might win the election.  They definitely rigged the primaries... and even the formerly-respected Associated Press helped with that - releasing a story on the eve of the California primaries that certainly was intended to impact voter turn-out in favor of Hillary Clinton.  There is no question in my mind that Bernie Sanders would have beaten Donald Trump in the general election.  So, thank the media for Trump.  

So then, on to the general.  Hillary, according to the mainstream media, was a shoe-in. Funny, how Cenk Uyger, of The Young Turks, a social-media news network predicted a Donald Trump victory.  Did social media have a better understanding of the election dynamics than the mainstream?  Um... (as Cenk would say) OF COURSE?  

Bottom Line
Many of us are coming to the realization that we have a state-run media and that when we "Google" news, what we're going to see is what the state wants us to see.  That's actually good information.  If I look at what the big papers are writing about... and it seems less-than-newsworthy, I can pretty much bet I need to dig into social media to find out what is NOT being reported.

*I Like Sarcasm