Fake News? What About Blind News?

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Fake news is a real thing.

Wait. That sounds wrong.

Let me say it this way: Fake news is an actual problem.

We’re not talking about “The Onion” style satire news here: We are talking about stories actually meant to fool people.

Falsified “click-bait” news stories have been around for a long time. They are the reason “Snopes” has existed since 1995, as long as the Internet has been widely available. But beyond urban legends, was fake news to blame for the 2016 election results?

Team Hillary would like to think so. And they have some good evidence: The New York Times told the tale of Eric Tucker, a man with 40 Twitter followers who shared evidence that an anti-Trump protest was fake. He turned out to be wrong, and deleted his tweet … but not before it had been shared 16,000 times.

Here is what Turner tweeted:

eric-uckert

Not true. But it is the “fake news” from before the election that caused the most alarm. Fake news like this:

denzel-washington

And this  …

pope-francis-backs-trump

Team Hillary has a right to object to this. Many people still uncritically share news they read, often after reading a headline without reading the article. But it is by no means a problem only with Trump backers. The Huffington Post published one clever piece of subterfuge to prove this to people. Here are three iterations of the piece:

sanders-trump

But when you read the article, it says this:

There is no loophole that allows a random person to assume the office of president. That’s pretty basic common sense but yet you clicked or even shared this article anyway. Now that right there is the real point of this post …

There will be many people who clicked share on this post because of its headline. They may not even click to open the story. They will never actually read these words. Ironically these are the folks who need to hear it the most.

The “fake news” problem arises from the echo-chambers we create in real life and online by surrounding ourselves with only those who agree with us.Liberals who read only The Huffington Post, Salon and Slate fell prey to this. Some did so even while pointing out the problem in others (click here to watch this):

prediction2

Ideologically driven people find their own opinions so obvious that they easily believe news that confirms them. Thus, “blind news”  becomes a danger just as significant as “fake news.”

Some on Team Hillary are recognizing their own problem with fake news, as this excellent Current Affairs report demonstrates. But many are not. After all, overwhelmingly Democratic news sources reporting on the way they think things should be instead of the way they are, has an even longer, more powerful and more mainstream pedigree than conservative “fake news” sources. The newsletter of National Review’s Jim Geraghty gave these examples:

Or ask Brian Williams about his war stories. Or ask Rolling Stone about those ritualistic gang rapes on the University of Virginia’s campus.

We haven’t seen anything like this “fake news” on social media since… Katie Couric’s blatantly misleading editing in her documentaryUnder the Gun.

Or Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke’s fictional 8-year-old heroin addict.

Or the tall tales of Jayson Blair at the New York Times.

Or USA Today’s Jack Kelley’s wild tales from abroad.

Or Stephen Glass’s New Republic reporting on the hacking of “Jukt Microtics.”

Or Jonah Lehrer’s made-up quotes from Bob Dylan.

Or those Research 2000 polls that may or may not have been conducted.

Or the trucks rigged to explode on NBC’s Dateline.

The false accusations against the pizzeria are abominable but not unprecedented: just ask the Duke lacrosse team, Richard Jewell, Ted Stevens, and the Central Park Five.

 And that’s not even to mention my favorite example: Dan Rather’s CBS News report documents on George W. Bush’s deferment. Despite the demonstrably false echo-chamber/wishful thinking origins of this report, a whole movie was made rewriting the history of those who pushed these “falsified but accurate” documents.
The answer? One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was, “Keep a critical eye when you read the writers you agree with, and keep an open mind when you read the writers you disagree with.”
For starters, that means you have to read people you disagree with. Just make sure it isn’t fake, when you do …

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org

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About Author

Tom Hoopes, author of What Pope Francis Really Said, is writer in residence at Benedictine College, in Atchison, Kansas, where he teaches in the Journalism and Mass Communications Department and edits The Gregorian, a Catholic identity speech digest. He was previously editor of the National Catholic Register for 10 years and with his wife, April, of Faith & Family magazine for five. A frequent contributor to Catholic publications, he began his career as a reporter in the Washington, D.C., area and as press secretary for U.S. House Ways & Means Chairman Bill Archer. He lives in Atchison with his wife and those of his nine children still at home. The views and opinions expressed on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Benedictine College or the Gregorian Institute.

2 Comments

  1. I appreciate the coverage of the so-called “fake news.” But I have come to believe that this term was devised by the mainstream media to project on Republicans what they themselves are guilty of. What about the fake news aired on CNN, MSNBC, and the NYT, which continually attacked Trump for breathing the wrong way, while giving Hillary a free pass? Is this not fake news on a far more massive scale?—certainly more so than a few tweets and one-off articles?

    • I agree but it also applies to the very people complaining about fake news ie: Hillary claiming to have to duck and run as they were under fire. If you are going to perpetrate fake news then you cannot turn around and complain about fake news.

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