Taking Back ‘Fake News’

Enough with the #FakeNews, people. Everything you disagree with is not fake news.

Make no mistake, fake news exists. But, thanks to America’s commander-in-Twitter, the term has been so bastardized that people now make casual sport of slapping “fake news” in the cesspools of the comments sections and disregarding the contents of true stories by reputable media outlets. It may seem harmless to brand a story about climate change, or Russian bots, or the hypocrisy and absurd humorlessness of otherwise well-intentioned social justice warriors, as fake. But all we’re doing by feeding the fake news beast is advancing the cause of those of our enemies who would like to see American society disintegrate.

This may sound like a stretch, but it’s not.

If we can’t agree on what is true, we can’t make informed decisions as a people. If we can’t make informed decisions, how can we govern? We can’t, at least not effectively. We have to be able to agree on certain objective truths to establish the common ground required to make decisions for our collective future.

While it may be easy to blame the left or right wing, depending on the shade of your feathers, in the case of fake news, both sides are to blame. So stop pointing fingers and start paying attention to what you’re consuming and sharing. Never heard of the news outlet that’s claiming Marco Rubio is an amphibious alien from the waterless planet Kromagg Prime sent to Earth to steal our water resources? Give that story a Google. If it’s been debunked by Snopes or PolitiFact or some other reputable fact-checking organization, look no further.

Of course, sometimes a story or claim hasn’t yet been debunked, or hasn’t been deemed believable enough to even warrant fact-checking. In those cases, use your common sense. Doesn’t it seem too good to be true that Hillary Clinton was photographed sitting in George Soros’ lap, singing, “I See the Moon in Your Eyes,” whilst Bill Clinton plays a mean jazz saxophone? Well, other than the jazz saxophone is clearly the wrong instrument for that song, perhaps the absurdity of the circumstances alleged warrants a little further investigation. If digging a little deeper fails to answer your questions, just hit the pause button on clicking “share,” or even “like.”

As we approach midterm elections, it’s more important than ever that we get past the bane of fake news and on to real discussions about real problems, armed with real facts, even if we argue about their importance, or the methods of collecting, or the data set, but otherwise agree on. This is how we the people govern our country. If we believe in farce and refuse to believe in truth, we may experience a very rude awakening the morning after Election Day. I’m certain many of you reading this know exactly how that feels.

This may come across as alarmist, but make no mistake: When it comes to fake news, the stakes are high and rising.

In an effort to be part of the solution, on March 29, I’m participating in the Fake News Awareness Day Forum at a local library. The moderator asked me to come up with a question for the panel and audience to explore. This is my question: “What, other than reporting the truth, is the media’s responsibility to combat fake news?”

It’s a little-known fact that, competitive as we may be, and insanely jealous yet admiring when one of our colleagues gets a big scoop, the people who deliver the news to you day in and day out operate as a loose fraternity committed to the truth and to the public. Our views are informed by our personal beliefs, of course–we’re only human, after all, no matter what the trolls may think–but almost to the person, we are driven to serve cold, hard doses of facts. That’s the difference between people who write fake news, and want only to disrupt and cause chaos or to get clicks; and a legitimate outlet whose reporting you disagree with ’cause we called the KKK a terrorist organization, or said that climate change is caused by humans or, gee, I don’t know, called out a politician for voting against their proclaimed position.

Yet it’s one thing to not share an article, or to report it to Facebook, which presents its own set of problems; it’s another for media to proactively endeavor to counteract fake with fact.

Honestly, I’m not sure what I think the appropriate response to fake news should be for those who have a platform and position to dispel fiction with reality. So I’m legitimately curious about the responses to my question. Clearly, everyone encounters fake news on the regular. But what do you want us in the media to do about it?

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Fake News Awareness Day, 7 p.m., March 29, Pablo Creek Regional Library, 13295 Beach Blvd., Intracoastal

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