More and more people around the world, and particularly in the U. S. are turning away from looping images of a shooter running into a school to seemingly obscure persons and media outlets willing to report on similar topics with information claims that suggest more accepted media outlets are somehow inadequate. The reports on these online media sources are often ad populist, appealing to readers’ emotions about race, crime, immigration and the like.
Recently, the defense minister of Pakistan tweeted a nuclear threat aimed at Israel after he had read an article that Israel would be sending troops to Syria. The article quoted the Israeli Prime Minister, Moshe Yaalon as saying he would “destroy” Syria. This statement prompted the Pakistani Prime Minister, Khawaja Asif, to tweet his response to Israel with a veiled threat to retaliate for any such action.
The problem? Israel’s Prime Minister never said any such thing. The information was false just like the New World Order site that published an article about the Obamas buying a Dubai home.
The whole concept of “fake news” is oxymoronic. One news journalist reported on NPR radio recently that “news” cannot be fake because it is, after all, news. So, what is fake news and how does one fight a war against plastic?
Words like “viral” have become the norm with more and more folks taking to social media sites like Facebook to get their news fix. Facebook has noticed the uptick in false reports, and has pledged to crack down on fake information. What is less and less the norm are the sensationalist news outlets that rose in prominence in recent decades. I remember 9-11 and the days long reports of no reports at all. The pattern was pervasive on CNN, MS-NBC and so many other notable media outlets.
But what about the enticed reader who decides the information is worthy of the split second it takes to click on the link? Or, what about that other split second it takes to click “share” after only reading the headline of an article.
Think critically. The finger on the hand of the person that clicked the fake news site has a duty to be informed about those seeking to “inform”. This is where critical thinking skills work best. Sure, nay-sayers are quick to point out the endangered notion of the existence critical thinkers, especially online. I assure you, they exist albeit not in the mass numbers hoped for to combat the army of bait clicker and sharers that threaten to topple decent human discourse. The worse thing about fake news is not the fact that it was written in the first place, but that so many knee jerk reactions to the headline powers the ad hominem “discussions” of “You’re and idiot” and “Oxygen is wasted on you” comments to any element of thoughtfulness that might seem through from some misleading article. Far too often, all in the conversation are deplorably duped because they failed to fact check before posting. Some may even say that the idea of such is wishful, comical, and crude. With headlines like “The Real Story Behind J.F.K” and the subtler ones like “Israel Threatens to Invade Syria” are click bait, proving to be wonderful reads.
Finally, consider the source. I posed the thought to a group of Facebook friends, and one response to my post was that it is a deliberate attempt to mislead. Though this is a good way to describe false news, some of the writers of this inaccurate deceit may view their fiction in other ways. It is just that the rise of social media means something that is not true can travel faster than the speed of light – well, almost as fast. What takes longer (By the way, we don’t like longer.) is a concerted effort to simply use a search engine to uncover an author’s background or the origin of the publisher of an article. Sure, 30 seconds is a long time, but it will save a pizzeria or two.