Hello all, welcome to the second edition of So Right It’s Wrong. If you read last week’s article, you know who I am, and you know why I am here.
This week, I’d like to dive into a two-word phrase made ever so popular (or loathsome, depending on who you ask) by former President Donald Trump: Fake News.
Initially, when I heard President Trump use the phrase “Fake News,” I took it literally — that the reporter/news station was pumping out fabricated reports. In some instances, I would say that this may be the case, but after some consideration and a few years of being consumed by political theater, I realized that fake news is more clever than blatant lies. As tiresome and rotten as I think national media outlets are, they haven’t completely abandoned journalistic integrity, but they have unquestionably distorted and abused it.
Now, you may ask, “If they aren’t lying, what are they doing, and why?” The “why” is very simple: Everyone has an agenda. My agenda is shining a light on what I feel troubles our great nation. Big media’s agenda is determined by whoever signs their checks. For example, have you ever noticed the plethora of pharmaceutical commercials that bombard you while watching Fox News or CNN? Now let me ask you, have you ever known of either news provider to ask valid questions about vaccines or mention the fact that most medications have a list of side effects that are sometimes much worse than whatever the drug is intended to treat? With millions of viewers and billions of dollars on the line, national media outlets are going to report what serves themselves the best and ignore a story that could cost them money, no matter how important.
What’s big media doing to be considered fake news, if they are not outright lying? That’s where they become clever. They use click-bait titles and blur the lines between what is a rock-solid fact and an opinion. It’s purely sensationalism that’s intended to invoke an emotional response. Click-bait, for those that don’t recognize the term, is a headline or link with some outrageous and misleading phrasing, such as “Barack Obama is a communist” or “Donald Trump hates people of color!” They’re both overly broad and opinionated statements, meant to get a visceral reaction. Many times, headlines like this are attached to a story that — if read in-depth — will produce a tiny nugget of truth that somehow validates the outlandish headline.
Aside from using speculative and misleading headlines, reporting of events will oftentimes be “spun” so that the subject matter is viewed in a particular light. As an example of such tactics, I’ll share what I found in a Fox News article this past week. The headline read “Mariupol, Ukraine Mayor says ‘This is the new Auschwitz.’” That’s a pretty heavy statement to make, right? It grabbed my attention immediately, and I had to read further into it. Essentially, the city council in the Ukrainian city is claiming that Russian forces are using mobile crematoriums to dispose of bodies and cover up war crimes. Now, I’m sure there are atrocities being committed in the Ukraine even as I type this — it is war after all — but a handful of people on the other side of the world giving a statement does not make what is happening even relatively close to the horrors experienced during the Third Reich. The article contradicted the fact that the Russian army was burning civilian bodies when it later stated that the Russians were refusing to allow The Red Cross access to the city for fear of the civilian bodies being discovered. Well, which is it Fox? Are they burning the bodies, or are they leaving them in the street? These stories raise plenty of questions but provide few answers.
All this said, some may feel the need to abandon news all together. I know I did at first. Staying on top of the events of the time is imperative to making informed decisions for yourself though, so as opposed to abandoning the click-bait-infested, agenda-driven cesspool that is national media, I have a few suggestions on the best way to navigate murky waters.
First, take headlines and opinions with a grain of salt. We all know the old saying about opinions and everyone having one, and just because a journalist has accreditation to their name does not mean that their views can’t be skewed or incorrect. Not all members of the media are going to be as forthcoming as I am with the notion that they may be wrong and that their opinion is simply that, an opinion.
As for another strategy to staying current with the times without getting sucked into fake news is curating a group of independent journalists that you trust. One of the finer occurrences during the boom of social media is the birth of alternate media. Whether it’s podcasts, social media or local news outlets, there are ways to avoid the programming that comes with Fox News (or as I like to call them, Faux News) or CNN (Craig’s News Never).
Smaller media outlets with less reach tend to have fewer dollars thrust at them in quid pro quo circumstances, therefore making them more trustworthy. There’s no Rupert Murdoch or AT&T corporation in small-town media, sending their schemes and agendas down the line to news anchors or journalists, expecting them to push their beliefs on their audience.
I’d like to encourage all of us to read and share news more carefully. Take the time to pick out the nuggets of truth and forget about the inflammatory, emotionally-charged language that’s only meant to skew the facts and pull us apart. While reading the news, consider who is writing it and why they would want to present it in the manner they have chosen. Consider what the other side of the story may sound like if it were reported by those on that side. Big media is just another tool for those in power that benefit from our people being set against one another; let’s take that power away from them with a conscious effort.
Until next time…