Tag: bias news

Why is Nobody Talking About the Utah School Bomber?

By Mike McCosker | United States

Monday, March 5, 2018, was a day that many people will forget. That is because most major media outlets were not busy sensationalizing the day of prospective violence that does not fit the anti-gun agenda. However, for students at Pine View High School in St. George, Utah, the news that one of their very own students had planned to plant a bomb, and murder hundreds, should be a shock.

Preliminary reports from the Associated Press stated that an unnamed student brought a homemade bomb to his government school Monday. 1 The unnamed student also replaced the school’s American flag with the Islamic State’s flag in February. 1 According to the police investigation, the materials to make the homemade bomb was found at the student’s house. 2

While the bomb caused no damage and resulted in no damage, other than creating a large amount of fear for the staff and students, the most important piece of information pertaining to this event is absolute lack of consistent coverage by most major media outlets. It should be an easy enough question to answer, but why have the majority of news outlets lost or never had interest in this incident from the beginning? To put it simply, this event does not bring attention.

Modern news reporting has become more synonymous with news making, as single events are dissected, and sensationalized to try and bring more attention to an ad watching audience. The February 14 shooting at a school in Parkland Florida continues to be reported on, and dramatized, even though the event took place close to one month ago. 3 But what makes the two so different?

Both events were terror attacks that took place in schools. Both targeted the youth of America, but, in only one of the events did children die, and like Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Each time a school shooting takes place it is easy to explain away the evil done by a firearm, and that fear of a weapon is turned into cash for gun control lobbying groups. 4 One of the largest, and most aggressive gun control groups, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has donated $0 to any real lobbying effort, despite roughly $346,000 of donations entering into their business for that sole purpose. 5

Inevitably, it is greed that drives the gun control narrative, and it is greed that drives media outlets to continue to talk about a school shooting from a month ago, instead of the underlying issue of student mental health, that is symptomatic in attempted homicide and suicide.

So, like all “good” news articles, let’s end with the “call to action.” Be a good person, be a good neighbor, and if you see fake, emotionally charged news, ignore it, and suffocate the mass media monster of the one thing it truly needs: your attention.


Image source.

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Dear CNN, Harassing People And Censoring Discussions Isn’t Okay

By Nick Hamilton | United States

If it seemed as if the left wing news organization, CNN, couldn’t get any less trustworthy and credible, then you haven’t been paying attention. This week, their coverage of the mass shootings in Florida has caused major outrage from people who don’t like their fake news spoon-fed.

Earlier this week, CNN’s Drew Griffin visited Florida and performed a “gotcha” style interview with Florine Guren Goldfarb, a Trump supporter, outside her home. He bombarded her with questions about her alleged efforts to collude with Russia during the 2016 Presidential Election. Alleged by who, you ask? CNN themselves. They belabored an argument insinuating direct involvement with the Kremlin to sway the election although Goldfarb testified she knew all her people and that they were “all Trump supporters.”

The segment starts off with Anderson Cooper mentioning the Mueller indictment, saying that the Russians only helped President Donald Trump, (which in itself is fake news, the indictment also mentions Russians staging Anti-Trump protests) and saying that a Facebook group called “Being Patriotic” was sharing Pro-Trump messages, and this lady shared one of their posts on Facebook. So rather than doing the rational thing, and asking her to appear on an interview or exchanging courteous and civil emails, like a respected news outlet should, they showed up at her house and started to harass her.

What you’ll see in this video is frankly disgusting, but if you wish to see this for yourself, you can view the video here. However, that’s not the only screw up that CNN has had this week.

Of course, it seems as if everything mentioned in this article done by CNN is absolutely disgusting. But CNN is now using children as puppets to push their agenda. You may be wondering how one could come to such a conclusion. Here’s how.

Colton Haab, one of the survivors of the shooting last week, appeared on a local news station, WPLG, last night after the debate. (View a video here, courtesy of Mark Dice) Haab stayed home because he wasn’t allowed to ask his question. Now you may think his question may have been inappropriate. Apparently, a valid question about hiring retired veterans who are unable to find work is inappropriate by CNN standards in a discussion about protecting the safety of our children. They told this teen to ask one of their “scripted questions.” 

This is absolutely outrageous. CNN is manipulating the victims of the Florida shooting with a clear intent to push their own political agenda. Someone who survived a tragedy was discouraged to attend a discussion because CNN decided that their own political agenda was more important than the ideas and thoughts of a survivor himself. This is not only a disgrace to media outlets, this is a disgrace to the United States democracy. of course, CNN is denying doing so because apparently they’re just so perfect, and can’t own up to things when they screw up, like adults.

These disgusting acts by CNN shouldn’t be tolerated. Their ratings are falling and I’d love to see that keep happening. CNN is becoming less trustworthy every single day, and frankly, society has accepted it. I’m calling on Drew Griffin and CNN to issue an apology to the lady they harassed. I’m also calling on whoever’s bright idea it was to use children as a political puppet to apologize to the family of Colton Haab, and I encourage anyone else who suffered those same consequences to speak out as well. And my message to CNN: If you’re going to be biased, at least try and act like you’re an impartial network. At least act like adults over there. Because bullying people because of their beliefs is an elementary school move, and censoring certain views from being shared is, again, a threat to our democracy.


Image from CNN.

Is There a Need for Unbiased News?

By Charlie Gengler | USA

During the 2016 presidential election, and Trump’s first year of his presidency, the lid on the media bias was blown open.  Conservatives, libertarians, and honest liberals all voicing their opposition to the bias, and for once they had a voice.  Fox News has long been known to harbor a strong conservative bias, but for a while, people were, perhaps willfully, ignorant of CNN’s, MSNBC’s, CNBC’s, etc.  Yet this raises an interesting question, is this actually a problem?

The majority would certainly say yes.  This is an obvious answer if you want factual reporting and not to have your news tainted with unnecessary opinions.  So we hold reporters to a high bar, a bar of honesty, rigorous research, and completely un-editorialized writing.  There’s only one problem with this, it cannot and will not work.  People have biases, and people will state them.  The vast majority of people in the news will, either intentionally or not, reveal where they stand, and by demanding unbiased news, you prevent them from doing that honestly.  You also have the problem of companies and profit.  When companies see that a large swath of their readers are of a particular political leaning, they will market and have their writers create for that particular party.  This is when you get the company-wide bias that you have with CNN and Fox and MSNBC and so on.  You even get this bias when the people you employ don’t have those same feelings about that subject.  Take Fox News for example, you have liberal employees, yet conservative television.  In Gavin McInnes’ video about his time contributing at Fox, 10 Secrets About Fox News (Now That I’ve Quit), he details how the employees, in general, are liberal saying, “who are we kidding, this building is in New York City these people aren’t conservative.”  And they certainly didn’t support the Republican candidate.  One last problem with this unachievable bar is accountability.  As news outlets expand, more editors are needed, and the once idealistic and strongly in control leaders and bosses, are pushed into more necessary jobs and have less control over their quality.

So what are our options here?  Clearly only highly capable, dedicated, and small news outlets can maintain their unbiased reporting, and even then, they probably won’t last very long.  You can abandon honesty and integrity altogether (quantity over Quality?) and just go for profit.  You can write short and uninteresting articles with little to say, giving your competition a leg up.  Or you can state your biases, let them be known and heard, and then let your consumers read, watch, think with a critical mind.  This is something newer, more internet based websites have been doing.  They let it be known that they are prejudiced to one side or the other and then let their audiences decide if they can handle that.

This is the way of the new generation.  People can accept your news with a grain of salt, the market will decide what stays.  They’re popping up all over the web, and youtube channels of the same nature have been, and are getting more, popular for years.  This has lead to a news renaissance of sorts, with liberals and conservatives stating the facts, and then giving their take.  The most popular form of this is probably the website-wide political consensus, that way your readers don’t have to be superfans and keep track of all the writers’ opinions.

It is clear that editorials will no longer be left in the background, that political commentary will take center stage.  But take warning, your facts must be straight and you must not be lazy in your research.  You must hear both sides, lest you trap yourself in an echo chamber, polarizing yourself from the opposite side.

In a World of Fake, How Can We Find the Truth?

By Joshua | USA

Throughout the history of American politics, there have been truths and falsehoods disseminated and published on both sides of the political divide, usually in an attempt to persuade voters to vote for or against a specific candidate. However, with the advent and adoption of the internet, these motives have diversified and become much more cunning. Fake News is defined as “a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media. Fake news is also written and published with the intent to mislead in order to damage an agency, entity, or person, and/or gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention.” (Burshtein). While the concept of inaccurate news has been around since the invention of the printing press, the term “Fake News” and its malicious undertones have only been a common term since the 20th century and has been further redefined in the last two decades alone. However, in today’s connected world, the stakes are much higher, and information travels much faster. Fake News in American politics poses a unique threat to citizens of the electorate, in that it distorts the democracy and hampers accurate political discussion. No entity is immune to inaccuracy, whether it be an individual, or even news outlets themselves. And with Fake News being distorted and adopted by government officials themselves, we find ourselves slowly transforming into the society that George Orwell describes in his book “1984”. Fake News affects the daily lives of Americans, often indirectly, and has forever changed the way social media and news outlets operate. Fake News has revolutionized American politics, damaging trust, misleading, and confusing voters, and has played a dangerously tangible role in major events of the 21st century.

Background of Fake News

“Fake News” is the term used to reference information and websites on the internet that are covertly falsified, for either the purposes of deceit, profit, or satire. While the term “Fake News” has several meanings, the “Fake News” label that politicians and other media figures assign to unfavorable news coverage and opinions that they dislike should be differentiated from actual inaccurate news that is misrepresented as being legitimate. These Fake News articles are often framed as being from legitimate news organizations, complete with fake credentials and corroborating fake news websites to add credibility. Examples of this phenomenon would be ‘The National Report’ and ‘abcnews.co’ with the latter utilizing the same website design and layout as the real news organization, and only becoming obvious as being a fraud upon close inspection of the URL, which is uncommon for most site viewers. There is no law preventing individuals from impersonating a legitimate news organization, and as such several notable copycat news sites have popped up in the last decade alone.

Most Fake News articles have inflammatory or salacious headlines, such as “CALIFORNIA LAWMAKER INTRODUCES RESOLUTION TO BAN ‘KILLER ROBOTS’” (Infowars) and “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton transferred 20% of US uranium to Putin’s Russia as 9 investors in the deal funneled $145 million to the Clinton Foundation” (Breitbart.com). In the case of the former example, the headline is formatted in all caps to increase the emotional impact. Articles similar to the headline from Breitbart’s home page are often designed to appeal to the reader’s sense of legitimacy by using fake statistics and detail in their articles, and using unverifiable, yet normal sources, such as ‘an insider’, ‘a top aide’, or ‘an anonymous official’ which are all used by legitimate news sources in order to protect identities. Articles that run along the lines of the Infowars example often primarily utilize emotion as a way to bypass a reader’s common sense, using attention-grabbing keywords and inflammatory word choice to get the reader to share the article with others, or even take direct action, furthering the reach of the original Fake News. Often times, the inaccuracies in Fake News articles are only obvious upon close cross-examination of other websites, something the average viewer is unequipped to do.

Even legitimate news sources aren’t immune from Fake News. During the 2004 Presidential Election season, several doubts were raised by the media and by voters, about President George W Bush’s military record, something he had touted numerous times during his first term. On September 4th of that year, 60 Minutes published an explosive article containing supposed documents that showed Bush’s absence in several physicals that were mandatory for military personnel, and several legitimate-looking documents that suggested that Bush’s story wasn’t as watertight as he had first held (Munger). However, after closer analysis, the documents turned out to be covertly falsified by a previous source, leading to a media crisis, and the first accusations of “Fake News”.

Methods By Which Fake News Has Affected American Politics

Recently, Fake News has been pushed by heavily partisan organizations, in order to advance political agendas, by individuals attempting to make a profit from advertising and merchandise-related sales, and by foreign entities attempting to interfere in American politics. Almost all Fake News websites have a partisan agenda, whether it is obvious or not. An example of a site with hard-right views would be Infowars.com, run by notable conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, which pushes an alt-right, anti-globalist, anti-semite agenda; the website also contains a plethora of featured advertisements as well as an entire online catalog of Infowars-affiliated merchandise. He also pushes his products numerous times during his shows. A second example would be The National Report, which  publishes false and satirical articles with a right-leaning agenda, an example being a featured article on the home page titled “Man Shouts ‘Allahu Akbar’ Before Blowing Up Friend’s Inbox” (thenationalreport.com) while at the same time running numerous ads around the homepage and on all main pages of the site. These advertisements are the life force that keeps these websites alive because, for most Fake News sites, advertising is the only method of income. This has resulted in sites writing any manner of article in order to get more viewers, including articles with dangerously misleading content, notably about Muslims, which has inspired several hate-attacks on Muslim citizens in the last year.

A 60 Minutes Special Investigation (aired (3/26/17) included the interview of the owners of two Fake News websites, including the owner of the site that invented “Pizzagate”. They discovered that the common themes between the two owners were “money” and “to inform viewers” with the latter motive being akin to “pushing a political agenda”. The owner that responded that money was his primary motive has good reason to pursue that goal: in an interview, Jestin Coler, who runs several Fake News websites (most notably The Denver Guardian) told a reporter for National Public Radio that he made as much as US$30,000 per month from advertising that rewards the high traffic that Fake News stories draw. After posting a Fake News article about an FBI agent who leaked Hillary Clinton emails being inexplicably murdered, Coler said that “over [the subsequent] 10 days the site got 1.6 million views. He says stories like this work because they fit into existing right-wing conspiracy theories” (Sydell). His site is not alone. Many of these sites attract upwards of tens of thousands of viewers, with more popular sites such as Infowars.com receiving over 31 million visits in November 2017 alone (Infowars Traffic Statistics), using tactics similar to Coler’s: using existing information and mindsets to create a Fake News story with enough facts and buzzwords to appeal to a reader’s confirmation bias, while at the same time planting enough inflammatory content to keep the reader hooked and continuing to spread the article to others, where the cycle usually repeats.

Fake News often has permanent, real-world consequences, and constitutes a direct danger to everyday Americans, both directly and indirectly. During the 2016 Presidential Election, a Fake News website run by Mike Cernovich published a series of stories detailing a secret child pedophile ring inside a Clinton-linked Washington D.C. pizzeria. Some of the details of the story were allegedly obtained by codebreakers who analyzed actual emails leaked from the Clinton campaign, John Podesta, and the DNC by Russian hackers through Wikileaks in early 2016. These false articles quickly spread throughout other Fake News sites and republican forums and social media networks, including Facebook, inspiring copycats and mutations of the story, complete with: added documents related to child orphans from Podesta’s previous activities in earthquake-stricken Haiti in 2010, images allegedly from inside the pizzeria, including a below-ground storage room where the children were supposedly being held, and images of the children themselves. Some of these images, in fact, came from the restaurant’s Facebook page and from random social media pages (LaCapria). This resulted in an armed gunman (who had been following the Fake News story on several republican news platforms) storming the Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria on December 4th of the same year, brandishing a loaded assault rifle, and firing several shots off, endangering not only himself, but dozens of other diners, who panicked and rushed out of the restaurant into the street and into nearby businesses. This instance alone demonstrates the tangible danger that inflammatory Fake News poses when it gathers steam and runs unchecked. In addition, although no comprehensive study has undertaken the task of verification, it is speculated by many media outlets and Americans that Fake News led to the election of Donald J. Trump, both directly through Fake News spread by his supporters to discredit his opponent, and indirectly through the pushing of inaccurate claims and articles by conservative outlets such as Fox News.

Fake News Effects On Social Media

Social Media has been a key catalyst in the spread of Fake News by both the right and the left, corrupting Americans’ news intake at their most frequent source: their social network. Facebook, a platform consisting of primarily older Americans (Baby Boomers and Gen X) was the source or vector for most Fake News articles. This was, in part, because of the greater confirmation bias and low scrutiny demonstrated by these main demographic groups, Facebook saw the highest amount of Fake News sharing, and was ground zero for many of the Fake News stories, which then spread to other platforms such as Twitter and Instagram (Strong). However, that is only one distribution avenue; “Many more come from people we now term the “alt-right”, who cook up stories on boards such as 8chan, 4chan, and social media, and are then co-opted either by genuine right-leaning sites or shill sites, and are then shared again on social media” (Parkinson). Facebook has also been the epicenter for the spread of Russian propaganda, with Facebook itself saying that “as many as 126 million Americans may have seen content uploaded by Russia-based agents over the past two years” (BBC). Facebook has also been criticized as of late for allowing Fake News and propaganda to spread on its platform and taking entirely too long to address the problem before it grew out of control. The article goes on to explain how the Russian Fake News content blended in, stating that “many of the pages such as Heart Of Texas, Being Patriotic and Secured Borders were designed to look like they were created by US citizens” (BBC). These pages often appealed to partisan values, such as a Facebook page titled ‘Army of Jesus’ that compared Hillary Clinton and a handful of her supposed political views to the Devil, whilst likening Donald Trump and several core conservative values with Jesus, invoking emotions and stereotypes held by most conservatives about Democrats, and fusing them with Fake News designed to keep the reader hooked. These Russian Facebook pages were continuously added to with a steady stream of misinformation and confirmation bias which duped millions.

The rise of Fake News has spurred controversial reforms on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, with users voicing concerns and anger over disenfranchising policies that affect profitability and censor content. After identifying the thousands of bot accounts and falsified pieces of content on its site (both foreign-oriented and domestic), Facebook has undertaken the task of clearing as many of them as possible from its platforms, as well as changing algorithms and user feed mechanics that determine what users see, negatively affecting content creators and users by decreasing their traffic flow. A prime example would be the case of Cyrus Massoumi, who ran both a questionable right-leaning website and a website that catered to liberals. He made sure it abided by Facebook’s stricter rules, especially concerning clickbait — headlines manipulated solely to attract page views, a common characteristic of Fake News. Even with all of these precautions and content changes, Massoumi’s liberal website, TruthExaminer, was hit hard. “When Facebook changed its algorithm to disrupt the financial incentives for fake news, the tweaks had a collateral effect on the whole ecosystem of businesses built on its news feed, including Massoumi’s liberal property. Traffic for TruthExaminer went down 60 percent starting in March and hasn’t recovered, according to Nicole James, his editor-in-chief. “We never broke the rules that were constantly changing,’’ James said. “I did everything I’m supposed to do. We don’t steal, we don’t cheat. But I get people who message me and say, ‘I don’t see your posts anymore.’” ” (Frier). Massoumi is only one of many content creators that have effectively been rendered invisible by the content reforms that Facebook has enacted in response to Fake News, and he is in a better position because his other sites have generated enough income for him to ride out the storm for the short term. Many other legitimate news sites aren’t as lucky.

These anti-Fake News reforms are also causing a torrent of criticism and anger from conservatives, who argue that some of these reforms, such as “fact-checkers” have a liberal bias and a history of being very un-impartial. When Facebook announced in December 2016 that they were partnering with “impartial” fact-checking organizations such as ABC News, Snopes, and Politifact, the conservative community immediately became alarmed that these fact checkers would discriminate against conservative content. Ben Shapiro, a prominent conservative commentator and editor-in-chief of the conservative outlet The Daily Wire, criticized the decision, saying “This is a disaster for news coverage. It’s an attempt to restore gatekeepers who have a bias as the ultimate arbiters of truth” (Heath). These fears are not without merit. When asked how exactly Facebook would guarantee that the fact-checkers would be 100% impartial in their decisions, Zuckerberg could not give a firm answer, simply remarking that the network would “proceed carefully”. Another top conservative journalist, Katrina Trinko, explained a common sentiment shared by many conservatives: subtle bias exhibited by these same organizations in the past. “When you look at the signatories on the Poynter list (a group of “impartial” organizations), you’ll find seven from the United States: ABC News, The Washington Post, Snopes, Associated Press, FactCheck.org, Climate Feedback, and Politifact. Talk about the devil being in the details. These are hardly unbiased fact-checkers—conservatives have raised alarms about several of them” (Trinko). Many “impartial” news organizations have been at loggerheads with conservatives for decades, fueled by various inconsistencies such as the controversy surrounding former President Bush’s war record and the Clinton Benghazi incident/subsequent investigation. The measures being put in place in order to drive away Fake News are inadvertently driving away conservatives who feel that these social media sites and news organizations don’t represent them or their values; this ironically has the potential to increase traffic to “alternative” news sites, which are more prone to being the Fake News that the original policy was designed to prevent.

Conclusion

After extensive research, it is clear that Fake News has completely revolutionized the American political climate. It has had a significant effect on almost every area, from where and how voters get their news, to how they filter it, and how they apply it to their daily lives and civic duties. Fake News has proven to be extremely dangerous under certain circumstances which are becoming more commonplace as Fake News is allowed to fester, such as the Pizzagate incident. It has also been demonstrated that Social Media and its vulnerable users played a huge role in extending the reach and scope of Fake News, and the subsequent investigations have caused voters to become much more skeptical of ‘social media news’; these investigations and polarizing political tensions have also had the unintended effect of creating a thick cloud of animosity overall news networks, both partisan and impartial. This has the potential to create an even more uninformed electorate and affecting the future in uncertain ways. The reforms put into place to eradicate Fake News are also slowly eroding conservatives’ trust in social media, with the installation of organizations that are seen by them as oppositional to their views being placed in positions of often indisputable power over free speech on some of the biggest media platforms. Overall, though many other forces have been at work changing American politics, the phenomenon of Fake News has radically mutated the relationship between the electorate, social media, and the news organizations that they all depend on, with no solution in sight.


Works Cited

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2017, www.bbc.com/news/technology-42096045.

Burshtein, Sheldon. “The True Story on Fake News.” Intellectual Property Journal, vol. 29, no.

3, 2017, pp. 397-446, ProQuest Central K-12,

https://search.proquest.com/docview/1934912990?accountid=9899.

Frier, Sarah. “He Got Rich by Sparking the Fake News Boom. Then Facebook Broke His

Business.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 12 Dec. 2017, www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-12/business-takes-a-hit-when-fake-news-baron-tries-to-play-it-straight.

Heath, Alex. “Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook Will ‘Proceed Carefully’ with Fighting Fake News

and Won’t Block ‘Opinions’.” Tech Insider, Business Insider, 16 Dec. 2016, www.businessinsider.com/mark-zuckerberg-on-how-facebook-will-fight-fake-news-2016-12.

LaCapria, Kim. “FALSE: Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria Home to Child Abuse Ring Led by Hillary

Clinton.” Snopes.com, Snopes, 4 Dec. 2016, www.snopes.com/pizzagate-conspiracy/.

Munger, Michael. “Truthiness and the Origins of ‘Fake News.’” Learn Liberty, IHS, 15 Nov.

2017, www.learnliberty.org/blog/truthiness-and-the-origins-of-fake-news/.

Parkinson, Hannah Jane. “Click and Elect: How Fake News Helped Donald Trump Win a

Real Election | Hannah Jane Parkinson.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 14 Nov. 2016, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/14/fake-news-donald-trump-election-alt-

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Strong, Mark. “Fake News on Social Media in 2016 Election.” American Government,

ABC-CLIO, 2017, americangovernment.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/2079496. Accessed 2 Nov. 2017.

Sydell, Laura. “We Tracked Down A Fake-News Creator In The Suburbs. Here’s What We

We Learned.” NPR, NPR, 23 Nov. 2016, www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/11/23/503146770/npr-finds-the-head-of-a-covert-fake-news-operation-in-the-suburbs.

Trinko, Katrina. “Facebook’s Fact-Checkers Have a Liberal Bias.” Opposing Viewpoints Online

Collection, Gale, 2017. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/QFURIP828001891/OVIC?u=carmelhs&xid=95fc806d. Accessed 10 Nov. 2017. Originally published as “Facebook’s Reliance on Liberal Fact-Checkers Means Your News Is About to Be Censored,” The Daily Signal, 15 Dec. 2016.

Infowars Statistics: https://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/infowars.com

The Danger of Fake News

By Michael Kay | USA

In a world where 57% of the US gets its news through the television and other mainstream news sources (CNN, Fox, Breitbart, BuzzFeed), it becomes critically important that the information is accurate. However, with the rise of Donald Trump, the media has to make a decision: Will it be the messenger of facts, or will it be a political tool?

First, some background.

In Charlottesville, Virginia, a controversial statue of Robert E Lee, the infamous Confederate leader stood. The state of Virginia (or municipality of Charlottesville) elected to remove this statue, on the basis that it gave honor to a horrible person who fought on the wrong side of history. However, as is usually the case, there was opposition to this, in this case coming in the form of neo-Nazi white nationalists. They decided to protest this statue’s removal by protesting with tiki torches late at night, and then proceeding the very next day to assemble in a rally, complete with flags with swastikas, and shouting obscenities such as “Jews will not replace us”. The problems with this kind of rhetoric are obvious, but none the less, technically legal under free speech laws. In addition, however, an anti-fascist group known as Antifa showed up in counterprotest. The showed up wearing all black, with ski masks, pepper spray, and other tools for a riot.

What followed was one of the scariest riots in the last decade. People were pushing, shoving, throwing rocks, hitting each other with flags, and of course spraying pepper spray. At the peak of the riot, (insert car driver’s name), a neo-Nazi, drove a car into the crowd, injuring 19 and killing one.

However, it’s important to recognize that these aren’t random occurrences. These events are fueled by a fire of emotions, and those emotions are controlled by the media. I think that both sides are to blame for this. On the right, organizations such as Breitbart, Fox, and Infowars, all organizations who have the potential to be truly informative sources, and who, for the most part, are honest media sources, often demonized, and exaggerate certain political ideas, and opponents. The right isn’t alone in this, though, as the left is just as bad, if not worse. Media organizations such as NBC, ABC, and CNN, who used to be credited as great, honest sources, now have turned into 24-hour news corporations, who will overblow any story in order to fill some time. But this is also exacerbated by social media sites like Facebook, which trap us into echo chambers where we only hear views which we identify with, and agree with.

This obviously seems theoretically harmful, given that we value truth and honesty in society (or at least we say we do), but there are also real-world impacts of the polarization of the mass media. In most healthy democracies, but also in productive discussion, opposing ideas are disagreed with (obviously) but treated with respect, and at least some legitimacy. However, increasingly, as a result of the polarization of media, we see opposition ideas being misconstrued as opposing individuals, and those individuals being viewed as an existential threat. This is a problem on both sides of the political spectrum, and most major media outlets are equally to blame. But moreover, this makes it incredibly difficult for the average person to be moderate, which has its own set of political consequences. For a highly intelligent person (as I’m assuming most of you reading this are), critical thinking, comes easy, and so we don’t take the media as the single truth. However, the average American has an IQ of about 98, and then you must consider that half of those people are even dumber than that. So for many people, we cannot assume they will dismiss news as “fake” even when the information being received has no logical background. If I simply take information from CNN, to be honest, and more importantly accurate, I then must reject information from Fox as lies treachery. But even if I wouldn’t normally do that, a great amount of the mass media, such as the Daily Show with Trevor Noah and The Colbert Report, depicts a large amount of the opposition (to their ideas) as bigoted, and wrong, which pushes viewers into a position where they can only agree(and hate the opposition), or disagree (in which case they feel targeted, and often become bigoted). If a person feels like a major establishment is demonizing values which they identify with (such as coming from a Southern state), they are much less likely to truly engage with the opinions of the media, which would start a potentially fruitful discussion, and more likely to instead go on the defensive, and reject all notions that the “left” (or in the case of FOX, the right) is in fact bigoted, and the enemy.

So why do we actually want more moderates? This question is best answered by characterizing why someone IS a moderate. We don’t actually need the person to identify as moderate, but rather we want people to at least listen to the opinions of others, in order to fully consider all options. I don’t mind someone who is radical if they are able to engage in productive discussion with the opposition, but unfortunately, in practice this in incredibly rare, and we instead end up with many bigots.

In terms of solutions, I think they are relatively simple. First, balance production staff, with people all over the political spectrum, that way there in input from all sides. At 71 Republic, despite openly calling ourselves a news site directed towards libertarians and moderate conservatives, we have a proud Democrat as one of the executives. If the intention of a given site is to propagate a specific opinion, that’s fine too, but A) make it explicitly clear that that’s what your intentions are (so that people know to also look elsewhere if they want a balanced approach) or B) From time to time feature commentators with opposing view in order to at least give your viewers/readers a taste of opposition that isn’t written by someone who is actually from the opposition.

At the end of the day, this is an incredibly complex issue, but I think that for the average reader, the best thing to take out of this article is that you will never hurt yourself looking through opposition news and that often it will actually make your opinions and arguments stronger, now that you truly understand what the opposition looks like.