Author’s Note: The term ‘fake news’ has become a famous/infamous buzzword in the past 2 years as its been used by everyone from Donald Trump to Mainstream Media sources that still have their panties in a twist about the results of the 2016 election. So what do they mean when they call a source or a story ‘Fake News’? Is it consistently applied? How does one not fall victim to ‘Fake News’ stories?
This article will cover what ‘Fake News’ is and, unlike the half-baked bull$hit articles put out by mainstream media organizations on ‘How to spot fake news’ (which are laughably absurd), I’m going to cut through their crap and deliver a better set of guidelines in helping readers identify what’s Fact and Feces as far as News is concerned.
So, what is ‘Fake News’?
Well, that’s going to depend on who you ask. On one of the mainstream media sites that try to ‘help’ people identify ‘fake news’ they list mostly nonsensical ‘giveaways’ like ‘domain name’ and the ‘about section’, which is just completely phony. None of the major media news organizations give a detailed rundown of their entire staff and where they donate politically. They only list the past reporting credentials of their editors that sound professional but fail to disclose the most relevant aspect of their news view: the degree of their partisan alignment.
Hell, even worse, is that they only list the editors of their online stories and fail to explain that network executives are the ones who drive the direction of editorial staff who then drive the direction and phrasing of news stories delivered by reporters. Wikileaks revealed that direct collusion between ‘respected news sources’ and political candidates was a major issue in the 2016 presidential campaign with CNN (especially) and Hillary Clinton.
Probably the most honest of the online sources on ‘fake news’ call articles that are “hyper-partisan in tone” and “designed to make you angry” ‘Fake News’. Which means that nearly every news organization out there that’s trying to take a dump in Trump’s morning coffee with the constant hyperbolic denunciations of what he’s doing in office that isn’t significantly different from the actions of previous presidents is….Fake News. So, by that definition, MSNBC, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS (and let’s not forget Fox) are all Fake News.
If that is indeed the case, Donald Trump has been correct in calling them out for any number of stories that they’ve run in the past 2 years. (Full Disclosure: I don’t much care for the guy. I think he’s an arrogant, petulant, boisterous, self-worshipping boob who somehow bumbled, stumbled, and fell into the presidency. His only redeeming quality is he seems to correctly Call Things as They Are far more frequently than can be attributed to random chance.)
While I do agree with the general premise of the USA Today criteria on Fake News, I feel that it doesn’t quite tell the whole story on ‘Fake News’. Which is, ironically, probably the best definition of Fake News: that it doesn’t tell the Full Story or the Truth about an event (and that it attempts to selectively generate public outrage for some public figures that engage in certain behaviors while sweeping the same situations under the rug for others).
So, how does one spot ‘fake news’ in a world that has mainstream news organizations attempting to whip you into a frenzy and manipulate you at every turn of the page and click of the channel? Well, I’ve come up with some guidelines as far as that’s concerned….
Guideline #1: Believe nothing that you read and maybe only half of what you see.
This one is pretty straightforward. People lie. They lie to themselves, they lie to their loved ones, and they lie to strangers. They lie whenever it suits them. It’s what people do.
People also love drama. They can say that they don’t, but they’re probably lying (see above). Most people are gossiping high-schoolers (of any age) and they want to hear the juiciest rumor about people or positions that they don’t like. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not and if it’s not true, all the more reason to just make something up.
News organizations know that you want to hear certain stories that reinforce your skewed view of the world. It’s why they only report certain stories or angles on NBC, MSNBC, CBS, etc., and why they only report certain stories or angles on Fox News. Media organizations are more in the business of manipulating people than actually reporting on the events of the day. It makes them buttloads of money and they know that you’ll segregate yourselves out to the ‘correct’ network to indoctrinate yourselves based on your preconceived notions on the world. In that (and in other ways) media organizations suck, but it’s what they do.
Know that your media source of choice is not telling you the full story or the full truth when they report on a topic because they gain more by twitching your puppet strings and manipulating you than letting you know what’s really going on in the world and you might be good. (Though, probably not. You’re probably still screwed.)
Guideline #2: If a story seems ‘shocking’ or ‘unbelievable’, it probably is.
Adolf Hitler once said, “The masses will more easily believe a great lie than a little one.” I think we all know how that turned out. History repeats itself because the masses never get smarter or better informed. Don’t be ‘the masses’. (Because sometimes, the ‘m’ is silent.)
If you hear a story that seems ridiculous, shocking or unbelievable, don’t be a lazy twit and just accept it. Do some research on the matter and look at multiple sources. Remember above where I mentioned that media machines are in the business of feeding you bull$hit because they know you want to swallow it? Same thing applies here. Stop biting on the ‘juicy’ stories and swallowing the crap that they’re feeding you until you’ve exhausted all the sources you can find.
Guideline 3: When you’re trying to research how truthful a story is, look for repetitious phrasing in the sources to identify those who copy others’ story and establish which media organizations are working together.
People in media are just as lazy as the people who aren’t in media. If they can get away with simply copying someone else’s news report and simply rewriting a few sections, they’ll do it. What’s most important to note in these situations are the words that are copied and pasted from one report to the next. Media narratives (and propaganda) only work by repeating the same stance or story over and over. Media psychologists have shown that if you can repeat a story or a lie often enough to people, they will eventually believe and accept it, regardless of how True the story is. They also know that if the lie (or story) deviates too much with each new telling, people have a harder time keeping track of it and start questioning the story.
This is why I say that you should look for the same phrasing showing up in different sources’ ‘news reports’. These are typically political agendas that media organizations are trying to force you to accept as being true. They aren’t that concerned with the generalities of the news stories that they feed you so much as they are with you internalizing and accepting their talking points as ‘true’.
Guideline 4: Skip the Snopes and Politifact websites out there.
With the rise of ‘fake news’ has come the rise of ‘fact-checking’ websites. To be fair, they used to be about checking the veracity of the claims of public figures. But as with all endeavors that initially have ‘good’ intentions, they gained the trust of the masses and then turned into worthless piles of garbage run by political hacks who aren’t interested in The Truth.
The majority of the fact checker sites I’ve perused lately don’t list any facts or cite any sources for their ‘fact checking’. Instead, they look to spin the particulars of the claims being made in such a way as to discredit them without really providing any hard evidence to the contrary. Which pretty much ensures that they aren’t going to ascertain the Truth of a claim.
(Want proof? Check out this article and this Snopes ‘fact-checked’ version of the same article. Notice the linguistic and interpretive gymnastics that are at work to ‘debunk’ the claim? Snopes and other ‘fact-checking’ sites don’t bother citing any sources for their de-bunkery. It’s almost like they’re entirely fabricated…)
These fact-checking sites have become more about helping to push a political narrative for ‘their’ party than cutting through the collective crap and Telling It Like It Is (and the feelings of their friends and political ‘bros’ be damned). The Truth doesn’t have an agenda and it is just as cutting to one group as it is to another. The Truth takes no sides.
And yes, I know that this makes it harder to verify what’s ‘True’ in news by ditching these phony ‘fact-checker’ sites. It sucks more than a Shop-Vac® on High that there aren’t sites out there that are truly dedicated to helping people make sense of what’s really going on in the world that are truly non-partisan, but that kind of crap gets expensive and I don’t have the time, money, or a trustworthy research staff available to set something like that up.
Guideline 5: Don’t start off mentally rigid on what you think you know about a topic or story before all the information is in.
What’s actually True is largely a matter of likelihoods or probabilities. Initial reports have a low probability of getting the story completely right because not all the information has been gathered. Getting set in the mental rut of ‘this breaking news story is 100% True and nothing anyone can say could possibly change how this story may play out’ is more than likely going to make you look like a stupid a$$ when all the information comes in.
This guideline might be the hardest to explain and the hardest to adopt so I think an example would be easiest. Remember the Trayvon Martin case? How it initially blew up in the media? The story started off with ‘poor little innocent black youth Trayvon Martin’ getting ‘viciously gunned down in cold blood’ in an ‘unprovoked attack’ by some ‘White guy’ named George Zimmerman.
Most of the dumba$$ public (as opposed to the ‘regular’ public) lost it when the initial story came out because, ‘well, damn… a name like ‘George Zimmerman’ sounds like a White Guy Name and everyone ‘knows’ that ‘all’ white people are ‘inherently’ racists and other races can’t possibly be racist, so it was definitely another case of ‘systemic racism’ and white-on-black crime’.
Add in how the media ‘creatively edited’ Zimmerman’s 911 call to make Zimmerman look Super-Racist (with Tolerance and Understanding as his Kryptonite) and how the media refused to show the photographs of Zimmerman taken immediately after the attack in order to really push the whole ‘innocent black teen’ angle and you get a Perfect Storm of Ignorance. Social Justice Wormiers and Black Supremacist groups started ‘organizing’ and chomping at the bit for ‘justice’ (justice or ‘just us’? what do they really want?) to show ‘solidarity’ with poor, ‘oppressed’ Trayvon. These groups bit on the initial story and refused to wait for all the information. Idiots.
But then some previously ‘missing’ information was made available to the public. First, the neighborhood where the whole altercation went down had several armed break-ins and burglaries in the weeks leading up to the shooting. Then, it became known that the altercation took place at close to 3 am while Zimmerman was performing a neighborhood watch sweep. Then, it became known that Trayvon was behaving erratically and attacked Zimmerman first and that Zimmerman shot Martin last. Then, the audio and transcript for the full 911 call came out. Then, it was revealed that Zimmerman was Hispanic and not White and, once a broader picture of the event had been painted, it suddenly wasn’t a racially-motivated Hate Crime for an older Hispanic homeowner to address a young black male, who, was wandering around and acting strange in a neighborhood that had been recently beset by crime at 3 o’clock in the morning, who then proceeded to physically attack said Hispanic man before getting shot.
The same s#it happened with Michael Brown in Ferguson. Dumbasses went all-in on the initial reports of a white authority figure killing an ‘innocent, non-threatening, young, black male’, immediately leapt into outrage and started rioting and looting ‘peacefully protesting’. Then, once more information came in about the attacks that corroborated the officer’s story, these groups turned into spineless little chickens#its who started worming their way out of accepting that they were wrong in the first place with all manner of excuses: ‘Oh, it’s just a conspiracy by the cops….or white people…or the mayor….or ‘systemic racism’…or… or… or…’
Or, it’s just a ‘conspiracy’ (is it really a conspiracy if everyone knows about it?) by the media that has an angle to run, that knows that they can manipulate you because you always respond with the same dumbass knee-jerk reactionary nonsense to these kinds of stories. Maybe you could try getting all the facts before taking any action that would make yourselves look stupid on national television. Or you could just keep doubling down with increasingly convoluted conspiracy theories as to why you’re always on the wrong side of a story, I don’t care. It’s not my reputation, people, or cause that’s being destroyed.
Guideline 6: The more complex and convoluted a ‘news story’ has to become in order to arrive at a final position, the less likely it is to be true. An additional point of consideration: if the ‘story’ uses the terms ‘potentially’, ‘allegedly’, ‘probably’, ‘may have’ or other terms that waffle on the strength of an event being true, especially if they’re used multiple times in the same article, IT AIN’T NEWS. It’s known as ‘Conspiracy Theorizing’, ‘Propaganda’, ‘Fake News’ or ‘Horse Crap’.
The best way to explain this guideline is, once again, with an example. And the most compelling example of this happened late in 2016 when Hillary lost the election through her own incompetence.
Not two days after the election, Hillary claimed, and the media helping to corroborate, that ‘she lost because of James Comey’. When that didn’t stick, she/they made the claim that ‘the Russians sabotaged her and aided Trump’ because Wikileaks got their hands on countless emails from her campaign and the Democratic National Committee that showed just how corrupt she and the DNC were leading up to the election.
Prior to the election and as the emails started being released, Hillary and the DNC initially went into damage control, as the emails painted a very disgusting picture of what the DNC and Hillary were doing behind the scenes in her campaign. How did the Mainstream Media report on the matter? That the emails ‘may have been altered from the original text to give the ‘wrong impression’ about her/them’.
Notice the waffling language? It’s not an outright denial that the emails were original and unaltered but it helps to give the impression that the emails may not have been legitimate. Wikileaks (and other security specialists) confirmed that they were originals and unaltered. But that went largely unmentioned in the MSM, making the previous stories on the emails ‘maybe being altered’….Fake News. Didn’t stop the big media companies from reporting it as a possibility. (Strange, I thought they cared about the integrity of the news?)
After that, the story switched to how it was The Russians who influenced the election away from Hillary by releasing said emails. Except Wikileaks, Russia, and a number of security experts stated that Russia was not the source. THAT ‘story’ was Fake News because it wrongly attributed blame for Hillary’s loss towards something that was completely meaningless.
Claiming something is the cause for an event when it most assuredly isn’t is lying and/or inaccurate. Reporting lies or explanations for an event that are clearly incorrect IS Fake News.
It didn’t matter where the emails came from, what mattered was what was in them. The ‘story’ became needlessly over-complicated to explain why Hillary lost. Russia didn’t hack the voting booths to throw votes to Trump, as numerous voting security experts clearly confirmed that it didn’t occur, people simply voted against Hillary because of the things that she had said and done in person and in print. Voters looked at her track record of scoring huge sums of money by selling influence in the U.S. federal government. They looked at the gross missteps she made in Benghazi and in the email server fiasco. They looked at the fact that she had no solid plan or answers on how to address issues like the spread of the ‘Islamic State’, the fundamentalist Islam-inspired terrorist attacks around the world, illegal immigration, law enforcement, human and drug trafficking within the U.S., the trade deficit, how to bring jobs back to America, or the tax code. THAT was the ‘why’ of why she lost. THAT was why Trump won. THAT should have been The Story.
But no! We have to keep hearing about how, since Trump (as a businessman, prior to running for the presidency) did business with an international clientele list (which may have included Russian businessmen), he probably colluded with Russia to win the election. The MSM made the ‘story’ far more complicated than it needed to be to explain how an event occurred. Fake News. There is literally no logic or reason to that statement and no evidence was actually presented to justify such allegations, just shadowy ‘sources within the government’ that made the claim. Translation: an overly complicated explanation for why an event occurred that is only corroborated by ‘shadowy government sources’ that can’t or won’t provide solid evidence to substantiate the claim is reported by MSM. Fake News.
Guideline 7: If a political or public figure is involved in potentially morally ambiguous dealings (i.e., they’re corrupt scumbags), look for disproportionate levels of outrage or emotional manipulation efforts to find the perpetrators of Fake News.
People are prone to failure of all sorts. It’s what they do. Corruption is bound to show up in politics at some point. What’s important to understand is that it happens across all political parties and affiliations. There are also a series of political ‘understandings’ within Washington D.C. that allow those who have been caught in such acts, the ability to withdraw from consideration for political appointments and fade into retirement/obscurity. ‘Yes, you got caught with your hand in the cookie jar. Yes, you abused the public’s trust. Yes, you took money from the wrong people, now go on your way, we won’t put you in jail, but you’re a liability to us, so we don’t want to see you again.’ (To be clear, I’m not a fan of this kind of behavior. In the Pledge of Allegiance that I said growing up, it said ‘with Liberty and Justice for All.’ Somehow, that’s not this country anymore.)
Fake News always rides in on its White Horse to rescue these people from obscurity by alleging that they’re ‘proof of some heinous conspiracy’ between this administration and whichever new ‘archenemy of the United States’ exists in the current political climate. Fake news will always come from the same media organizations that are willing to ‘denounce’ such behavior now but had no qualms about the same behavior when their team was running the show. Some outrage is probably warranted in these stories. Excessive amounts for comparatively smaller offenses is a clear indicator that partisan hacks are pushing an agenda.
Case in point: Michael Flynn and Bill/Hillary Clinton
Michael Flynn is currently a hot topic in the news as he accepted money as payment for a speech he gave back on December 10, 2015 to Russia Today, a “Russian government-owned English-language media outlet on which he made semi-regular appearances as an analyst after he retired from U.S. government service”.
Sounds bad, right? All the media chatter says that he violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution which, according to 37 U.S. Code § 908, states that:
“Congress consents to the following persons accepting civil employment (and compensation for that employment) for which the consent of Congress is required by the last paragraph of section 9 of article I of the Constitution, related to acceptance of emoluments, offices, or titles from a foreign government:
(1) Retired members of the uniformed services.
(2) Members of a reserve component of the armed forces.
(3) Members of the Commissioned Reserve Corps of the Public Health Service.
(b) Approval Required.—A person described in subsection (a) may accept employment or compensation described in that subsection only if the Secretary concerned and the Secretary of State approve the employment.”
But what about those who are civil servants and not ex-military? Equal treatment under the law means that the same measures that are aimed at retired servicemen and women should apply to those who have served in the civil service side of our government. In other words, what about those who may have served as, oh, I don’t know, President of the United States? Or Secretary of State? Or Senator? Let’s stick with the President, as, technically, he IS the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. military structure, so it’ll make this whole argument simpler.
Why is Bill Clinton, a Democratic president, allowed to collect $500,000 for a speech he delivered in Russia, on behalf of a Russian state-owned corporation, that was seeking to obtain controlling interest in a company for their mining rights for uranium (a strategic military asset) in America and abroad (while his wife is Secretary of State) and is also on the record as giving hundreds of other speeches for millions of dollars, including some on issues that contradicted official U.S. policy in some regions (again, while his wife is Secretary of State), and he can be seen as a ‘good guy who did nothing wrong’. Yet, a retired member of the ‘uniformed forces’, and lifelong Democrat who happens to work for a Republican president, who gives a speech on the state of the world on behalf of the same country, gets paid significantly less for it, and he is suddenly a National Security Threat and a violator of the Emoluments Act but Clinton is not? How does that work out?
I’ll tell you how. Because this is Fake News. If you treat those who break the same law differently because of who they are or which ‘team’ they play for, you’re a Fake News pusher. If your outrage is at who did the law breaking or who they work for and not at the law breaking itself or the consequences of their questionable behavior, you’re a fake news aficionado and a partisan hack who is part of The Problem.
The point is, I’m getting tired of hypocritical phony outrage and fake news stories coming from mainstream media Fake News sources who are actively trying to manipulate and control the public. And I’m tired of hearing them b!tch about how other ‘fake news sites are corrupting the outcome of events’ when people don’t just do what they want them to do. It all seems just a little too fake for me. (I like my News like I like my Women: Real, honest, direct, and insightful. And there better be some funnies that come with it.)
Media is run by people, people lie, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. If you want to stay accurately informed and avoid the strings that media and politicians are trying to tie to you to turn you into their puppet, you’ll have to learn how to identify the tricks that they employ to get you to put their strings around your neck. Hopefully, the above set of guidelines will help you identify and avoid fake news sites going forward. Best of luck…