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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 178,711

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Fake News

When I first heard about fake news on the Facebook "News Feed" I thought it was some feature of Facebook that I wasn't aware of. Then I looked down and saw that the little blue icon was the "News Feed". I never imagined that Facebook would be seen as a source of news. I just took as the daily postings and random thoughts of people I've met along the way in life. Some funny, some informational, many with links to clickbait multi-page lists, but not news. I had a couple of people (mostly guys I served with in the Army) who'd tag me on the latest spin from C-league conservative sites. The odd part about that is the lists of the most influential fake news websites didn't include any of the sites they posted. I figured that youngcons/ijreview/etc were near the top of the lists. Nope. There's a giant pile of these fake news sites out there and a lot of it comes from Macedonia of all places.

Personally most of the mainstream news to me seems fake anyway. I don't mean this in terms of the "6 corporations that control everything you see" (which they do), I mean this as my reading of the major news organizations -print and television- that instigate fights and division and then sit back and report on it. We have no large news operations in this country. Their product, especially on television, is drama not news.

A short list of fake news we've seen:
WMD and the other reasons given for the war on Iraq
PFC Jessica Lynch - that was actually a staged fake news story
The toppling of the Saddam statue -also staged
The "Mission Accomplished" speech and it made for TV reporting imagery
IRS scandal
Birtherism- any reporting on that was promotion
The daily promotion of The Tea Party in its infancy
The list goes on and on

Oddly the root of fake news goes back to "60 Minutes" which was considered the gold standard of TV news. The reporting was great but it did something no other news show had ever done, it made a profit. Walter Cronkite didn't have commercials on his evening news when 60 Minutes debuted. He wanted to be free of sponsors complaining to the network chiefs and controlling what and how stories we reported. The repeal of the Fairness Doctrine then made news subjective. The opinion pieces no longer were at the end of the newscast in the form of a point-counterpoint or a clearly labeled editorial usually by the old guy who used to be the anchor. U2 prophetically sang "When fact is fiction and TV reality" on their 1983 album "War". The Fairness Doctrine was repealed in 1987.

The next big leap was the creation of entertainment "news", specifically "Entertainment Tonight". At one point in the mid 90's a survey came out that something like 10% of the public thought ET was "the news". I've had several co-workers who confirmed this. They didn't watch or read anything that would normally be considered news. Mary Hart's legs were insured for $1 million which in itself actually became a news item. They'd moved the desk so you could see her legs and the "news personality" became part of the news.....which, you could see this coming, lead us to Fox News. Flashy graphics and BLONDES AND LEGS!!!! As Annie Savoy said in "Bull Durham", "a guy will listen to anything if he thinks it's foreplay". Sex sells. It brings people into listening range of any nonsense Fox News was putting on the air. Fox News became number one in cable news and the other networks followed them down rabbit hole after rabbit hole trying to keep up or increase ratings. Profit in what used to be a required public service until 60 Minutes.

We now have the ability to choose our own news and apparently people choose to lie to themselves. They create their own reality. An actual news story from this week sadly ties in with people deciding to escape reality and live in a fantasty dream world - there have been more drug overdoses this year than people killed in car wrecks or (separate) by guns. We've simply checked out so falling for something as ridiculous as the pizza-prostitution story is almost understandable.

I guess I'm just a news junky (sorry not meant in jest to the above) who's developed an ability to read/watch "the news" and filter it back to something that makes sense. Or, rather, I just do what people used to do - read a story with a critical eye, weigh the validity of the source, and cross check it to other sources.

The "Information Age" has become the mis-information age.

"Post-Truth" is the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year.

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