In a world of, imaginative, sensationalized and fake news, discovering the truth can be dubious at best. It can all be quite confusing; and not just for us readers. Earlier this year, a Dominican Newspaper printed a picture of Alec Baldwin, portraying, President Donald Trump, next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. An accident, or proof that life has come eerily close to displacing art?
Sadly, the unbiased reporting of Walter Cronkite appears to be in the past. Journalistic embellishment, at least on the big stages, has become all to normal. Many of the so-called fake news outlets are no more than entertainment sites seeking to entertain and turn a profit.
Much of what is labeled Fake News is actually nothing more than viral social media rumors. Stories that are disseminated by us, the consumers. It occurs, when we irresponsibly tweet and forward unconfirmed, and often unread, information. Our individual desire to be funny and first, feed the machine of misinformation that fuel misunderstanding. By the way, Media Outlets are counting on us to keep it up!
Up-voting does not make something True
Seth McFarlane, of all people, did a rather on point job of lampooning our trigger-happy desire to Up and Down Vote people, using the measure of public opinion. In his show, The Orville, he titled a recent episode,” Majority Rules.” In it, he explores the dangers of people simply clicking a button based on individual personal feelings of guilt or innocence. Later people’s emotions are exploited to extract a verdict of innocence; not based on evidence, but on emotional blackmail. A humorous look at a genuine problem.
In the past several years, legitimate news reporters, Rachel Maddow, Bill O’Reilly and Brian Williams, among others, have all been caught in mistruths and outright lies. In the end, they all apologized, but, that does not excuse, what they did. There was a time when the difference between Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update and World News Tonight was obvious. Not anymore, as the Dominican Republic’s mistake clearly shows. The actions of these trusted reporters, were not Fake News, they were lies and misrepresentation.
The Real Fake News
In 1943, Fake News was, simply, called propaganda. In most cases, it was blatant lying. Walt Disney found himself in hot water, when one of his satirical short cartoons, Der Feuher’s Face used Donald Duck to lampoon Hitler and the Nazis. Many misinterpreted it as a pro-Nazi film. On the contrary, in 1962, when Philip K. Dick’s, wrote The Man in the High Castle, using a distantly similar premise, he won a Hugo award. Sadly, today, both could be disseminated on the internet as Fake News!
In 1996, the Comedy Central Channel would take what SNL started in the 1970’s and crank it to 11! Apparently, The Daily Show, being on a comedy network didn’t dissuade viewers from believing it to be true. The creators blatantly, and unabashedly created . . . Fake News! Sorry Mr. President, they even called it “Fake News” back in 2005! They had an agenda, an opinion and a stage. Their end goal was entertainment, awards and ratings. They leaned left, but gave it to both sides on a regular basis. This is best demonstrated in a segment they called “Fake News.”
Couch Surfing New Anchors
For millions of Americans, talk show hosts are a sympathetic voice box to our own personal agenda. We choose our late-night viewing, based on which host mirrors our own personal interests. For years Johnny Carson and David Letterman dominated the two-party system of late night. You made and lost friendships over watching one or the other.
Over time, the airwaves have become crowded by various talk show host comedians, misperceived, by some viewers, as newscasters. Their monologues are how millions of Americans get their news. Dennis Miller, Arsenio Hall, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert (a Daily Show Veteran), Seth Myer, James (Jimmy), Corden, John Oliver (a Daily Show Veteran) and Trevor Noah (current Daily Show host) and more. Some, take themselves quite seriously, but they all know their ultimate job is to get ratings.
I have long contended that Rush Limbaugh may, in fact, be a closet liberal. He is a great storyteller and provocateur. He is not running for office. To my knowledge, he was never sworn into his position. He never placed his hand on a bible, whilst repeating, Walter William’s 1914 journalist creed, on journalism ethics. He is, first and foremost, a showman. He will contradict himself in order to provide provocative and ratings-grabbing radio.
Today’s Fake News
When a website liked “Funny or Die” puts out a fake news bit, most people recognize that it is humor. However, when publications with names, such as, The Boston Tribune, Conservative 101, NBCNews.com.co, cnn-tending.com and hundreds more post stories, the truth can be difficult, if not impossible to filter.
In 1897, Adolph S Ochs, the owner of the New York Times, declared, “All the News that’s fit to Print.” It was his way of stating the newspapers intent to print news impartially. Sadly, much of today’s news is more about how much money can fit in one’s pocket. Media is a cut-throat, multi-billion-dollar industry. CNN, MSNBC, Fox-News, even Public Radios, NPR, are big businesses. As consumers, we must ingest all information with a discerning and investigative tenet.
The Right Bear Spray Paint
When I turned 18, I was handed the right to vote. Literally, no pre-requisite or course of study. No test. I simply needed to meet an age requirement. How I vote, is entirely up to me, whether I understand the issues or the candidates is immaterial. By turning 18 years of age, it instantly became easier to vote on the next President of the United States than it is to buy spray paint!
When it comes to how the news is disseminated we cannot only blame the source. We must look to ourselves. We must investigate and do our research. Far too often we are quick to forward what we see; often unread. We are just as guilty as legitimate news source trying to get the scoop on our friends.
We owe it to ourselves and others, to read at least 3 contrasting sources on any topic. Before we perpetuate the lies by forwarding, tweeting and aggressive comments. We can all benefit by slowing down, learning and questioning what we see and hear. Consensus is not fact. It is simply a shared opinion. We must be better than that and do the work. There are lies and there are fakes, but they are different. We need Fake News, to take the sting out of the real news. But, we must be wise enough to pick through the lies.
I leave you to pick through the rubble in search of the truth. After all, I may have made it all up. Donald Duck a Nazi? Hmmm. And lastly, in the spirit of Fake News Lover’s everywhere, I leave you with the immortal Weekend Update words of Mr. Kevin Nealon; who, my landlord said, lived in my apartment unit before me. I should check her sources!
“I’m Kevin Nealon, and that’s news to me.” — SNL (1991-94)
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