There is a lot in the news about fake news. What I don’t understand is, Am I supposed to believe the news about fake news or am I supposed to believe the fake news about the news.
What is fake news, and how do I know it is fake? How do I know it is news, for that matter?
Not that long ago, pre-2016 presidential election, fake news referred to websites that purposefully published hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation as real news. Two such examples of fake news websites are DCGazette.com and NewBiscuit.com. The purpose of fake news websites seem to be an attempt to play on gullible people who do not check sources and will just pass the news on as if it were really true.
Another form of fake news are satire websites. The difference between satire websites and fake news websites is that satire websites are sites that make fun of the news. The stories are typically over the top and meant to be funny. Two famous satire sites are TheOnion.com and WeeklyWorldNews.com. My favorite satire website is BabylonBee.com, because it pokes fun at the “Christian/Church/Evangelical Culture.”
A third type of fake news are conspiracy theories, sometimes referred to as clickbait websites. These sites take bits of true stories, but insinuate, and make up other details to sew fear. Two examples of these fake news websites are 21stCenturyWire.com and, another one of my favorites, CoasttoCoastAM.com. (If you ever on a road trip late at night, scan the AM dial and see if you can find the Coast to Coast radio program. I promise it will keep you awake as you drive. Very entertaining.)
And then there is the fake news that Pres. Trump talks about. For Pres. Trump, fakes news seems to be news he doesn’t agree with, or news that is less than flattering to him. He seems to use the term “fake news” to silence negative news about himself and his administration. This, in my opinion, is the most dangerous definition of fake news.
Here is why:
I recognize that all journalist have a bias in one way or another. I think most people know that CNN and MSNBC lean to the left and FOXNews leans to the right. I also think most people know that CBS, NBC, and ABC, are a little left of center. I also think most people trust their local news more then they do any of the stations mentioned above. No one, myself included, can be totally objective about everything all the time. All of us bring our biases into the equation when reporting, and reading, news. (I was taught that one of the best ways to be as objective as possible is to be honest and up-front about your biases.)
But news is news, facts are facts, and opinions are opinions. Someone put it this way, You can have your own opinions, but you can’t have your own facts. I think I can distinguish between the facts of the news and the opinions of the person giving the news. I think I know the difference between news reporting and news commentary. I think critical thinking is a lost art in our society. But the key to recognizing fake news from real news is developing your critical thinking skills.
For example: The fact is Gen. Michael Flynn talked to the Russians between the election and the inauguration, and then he was less then honest about it, especially with Vice Pres. Pence. I think it is also safe to assume Pres. Trump knew about his conversations with the Russians, maybe even authorizing the conversations. (Read those last two sentences again. One sentence is fact. The other sentence is opinion. Can you tell the difference?) Furthermore, the fact is someone leaked that information to the media. That is not fake news! Now, the left leaning media may interpret those facts to mean Pres. Trump is in bed with the Russians and is hiding all his business holdings in their country, and so, he and his administration are corrupt. Those conclusions are not fact. They are opinions. Nothing of the sort has been proven. But the fact of what Gen. Michael Flynn did, and the fact that as a result of what he did he had to resign, is not fake news.
On the other hand, the right leaning media may interpret the same facts surrounding Gen. Flynn to mean that the main stream media is out to destroy Pres. Trump, or that Pres. Obama is behind it all, or as Pres. Trump himself said in a tweet, “This is the dems trying to cover up why their candidate lost so badly.” Again, those conclusions are opinions. Nothing of the sort has been proven. The facts are the facts. Accepting the President’s opinions as fact is fake news.
There is grave danger when the President of the United States claims that all negative news about himself is fake. There is tremendous danger in the President of the United States trying to control, manipulate, and bully the press, even if the press is bias against him. What is even more dangerous are his supporters laughing about his bullying and saying, “Yea, go get those corrupt journalist. This is why we voted for you! We love it when you speak your mind.” It’s dangerous because it is just one step away from the administration forming their own media team and only allowing their own media team access to their administration. If and when that happens, we will never know the truth and we will be totally dependent on propaganda. We will then be no different than North Korea or Germany during the time of Hitler. That is extremely dangerous! In the words of our national war hero, John McCain, “Surpassing the press is how dictators get started.”
The fact that those who support this administration cannot see the dangerous game the President is playing is baffling. (No, wait, that’s opinion.)
“When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice;
when the wicked rule, the people groan” (Proverbs 29:2).
That’s a fact!
NOTE: I have made the decision to remain off Facebook through Easter. So, if you like this post, please copy the link to your FB wall. Thank you.