Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Fake News

In the aftermath of Donald Trump wining the election, it has become customary to deride any dissenting view as "fake news".  As a way of purging the Internet of fake news and fake news sites, self-appointed thought policy such Mark Zurckerbeg are going after the "alt-right"…translated, the white supremacist, racist, anti-Semites that are hated by except themselves.  But this is a thinly veiled attack on ANY dissenting view.

Case in point, there was an attack last week on Ohio State campus.  Immediately, the headlines were reporting an "active shooter".  Liberals and anti-gun proponents swung immediately into action labeling the attack a result of "voting for Trump" and the lax gun-control laws that Trump supporters demand.  Except……the attacker didn't use a gun, he used a car.  Crickets chirping then.

Earlier that day, on the opposite political spectrum, much was being made about this sign;

The sign in posted in the window of Schuler's Bakery in Springfield, OH (just up the road from where I live).  Local stations and papers were posting headlines about how many people were protesting this sign and how is was causing an outrage…..except no one was really protesting this sign, especially no one in Springfield.  All of the "protests" were from social media by people who didn't even live in the area.  It was a non-story made possible through the modern marvel known as social media.  Another way fake news is created, posted something on social media and just sit back and wait for Internet trolls to become offended.  Then repost said comments as "breaking news" and voila!   Instant news.  Works for both conservatives and liberals alike.

NPR, which tries to portray itself as above such subterfuge, ran a piece yesterday on Vladmir Putin's Russia and what it will mean now that Donald Trump is becoming President.  The guest was a Russian who had some tremendous insights into Putin and how his anti-American rhetoric shapes Russian foreign policy and actions.  Yet the host could not help but try to spin this into how Putin was somehow responsible for generating "fake news" stories that were almost always against Hillary Clinton.  Furthermore, the host could help himself and lead listeners to believe (or at least affirm their suspicions) that Putin is why Hillary lost.  Fake news within fake news.

"Fake news" doesn't apply only to those stories that disagree with your point of view.  A fake news story can also be created to agree with your point of view.  For example, I personally believe that the US military has been at war too long without a reset of personnel and equipment and thus its ability to conduct operations against another opponent is greatly diminished.

So now Mr. Trump comes along and promises to make "American Great Again" and this includes strengthening the military.  Sounds good but where is he going to find the money?  Higher taxes?  Well apparently the work has already been done for him.  In 2015, then Deputy Defense Secretary Robert. O. Wok commissioned a study to improve efficiency in the DoD.  It found that there are over 1 million contract personnel employed by the Pentagon, wasting over $1.25 billion!  Mysteriously, the report got shelved.  All Mr. Trump has to do is dust it off, make a few Tweets, and PRESTO!  Instant jump in his approval ratings!  Yet, did he really do anything?

Right now the headlines are filled with reports about the fire in Oakland that has killed at least 36 so far.  We saw the fire chief moved to tears as she reported on the efforts of her firefighters and the gruesome details of recovering remains by the bucketful.  Except…..now it starting to come out that the city of Oakland KNEW about the death-trap conditions of the art commune for at least 2 years and did not close it down.  Tears for the dead or the guilty?  Watch as more fake news gets created around this situation and how it keeps your attention from other news stories.

Going back to my example of the attack at Ohio State, the news was reluctant to associate the word "terror" or "terrorist attack" with the deaths and were even more afraid to point out the suspected attacker was a Somali man.  While all eyes focus on moisten at the deaths in Oakland, we are being led away from the potential that terrorist attacks may be on the rise.  Just this morning, it was announced that Los Angeles has been threatened with a credible attack on the LA Transit System.  The news always reports anti-Muslim pieces but what gets lost is there are plenty of anti-American or anti-Christian Muslims as well.  It doesn't justify either side but our reality is more and more shaped by only hearing one side of the news.

What can you do?  Always ask "why" is a particular headline being reported (even if it's one you agree with).  Look at foreign news reports and contrast how they are reporting a story compared to American news reports (or vice versa).  And remember, now more than ever what you tend to see on your phone and computer has been filtered based on your previous likes and interests.


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