Don't Let Our "News" Be Fake.
Distrust of conventional news sources by the public has been rising; that comes as no surprise, as people increasingly see mainstream media as in cahoots with big business, and with government (http://www.gallup.com/poll/157589/distrust-media-hits-new-high.aspx). If anything, this seems largely a matter of people realizing what is actually happening in society. At the same time, there are still honest news sources, with journalists and reporters who strive to present unbiased portrayals of the news. It's just that they are too few and far in-between, and the polarization has has beset American society has become obstinately fixed in place. In fact, from my perspective, the most unbiased news comes from people who my political opponents would consider left-wing mouthpieces -- people such as Thom Hartmann and other progressives in the media. Aside from these few emitters of shining truthbeams, the news media has lost its shine, and its way -- except when it comes to reporting such momentous stories as why the Patriots' footballs were underinflated two weeks ago, or what the stars will be wearing to the Oscar awards.
Fortunately, we have the internet to help us discover what is really happening in the world -- or do we?
Well, that depends. As I discovered a few months ago, there is much that is being presented as news on the internet, that isn't really news. In fact, it's not even true. Some such sites have disclaimers saying that they don't necessarily report the truth -- in other words, they bill themselves as satire sites. Others, however, either never had disclaimers, or they ditched their disclaimers. Here is a list of some of the better known "fake news sites," some of which -- such as World News Daily Report and National Report -- have very legitimate sounding names (http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/handy-rundown-internets-fake-news-sites). Even though some of the headlines from these websites seem quite ludicrous to me, a great many people believe them. In some cases, people continue to believe stories that have been disproven, in fact. Thus, people have their own gullibiliity to blame as well for the spreading of false stories and the rise of such sites that spread false news. Much of the dissemination of false stories occurs on Facebook. I think people need to be better schooled in the use of critical thinking. The following article discusses the spread of false information on Facebook: http://www.theverge.com/2014/10/22/7028983/fake-news-sites-are-using-facebook-to-spread-ebola-panic.
The rapid spread of such sites is very perturbing. Why would anyone want to create a website that spreads false infomation? Actually, there are several reasons.
The most obvious, and probably the most common, is for propaganda reasons. They present a particular viewpoint, most often conservative, through the use of so-called "news stories" which are dubious at best, outright lies at worst. However, I will mention here, a couple of progressive websites with very appealing names -- Collective Evolution and The Mind Unleashed. I find these sites as well to be biased and presenting stories which the authors may know are inaccurate, because they fit the site's agenda. For instance, I see education bashing stories on these sites. This may be politically correct in the social milieu of these sites, and I know that education can be much improved, but every study of education's effects, shows the opposite of what is being argued. More educated people tend to be more open minded in general, less brainwashed, better critical thinkers, and so forth -- not mindless corporobots. I also have observed education's positive effects personally.
A second reason is financial. These sites generate advertising revenue; the more "clicks" they get, the more revenue. The more sensationalistic their stories are, in turn, the more "clicks" they get. The truth is usually not nearly as sensational as what a person can create through imagination. Stories of alien abductions, the implantation of devices in our bodies to track and control us, or some type of mind rays for to turn humanity into a seething mass of mindless, Big Mac eating zombies, for instance, or stories of nefarious, secretive mastermind elites plotting to kill off billions of "useless feeder" humans, probably get far more attention than the latest small research breakthrough at a university somewhere in the world, or statistical charts showing recent political trends.
The third reason is that the creators of the website and its authors seek attention and notariety. This is a very easy way to do that for many people.
Fortunately, I did find an article which gives helpful information for spotting fake news -- although due diligence in doing research should be enough even if common sense isn't. As I am sure we are aware, it is all too easy to just "llike" something as well as "share" it on the internet, without critically examining its truth value. The suggestions in this Hoax Slayer article (a very helpful website it appears) of course take a little work, but not neccessarily much work (http://www.hoax-slayer.com/identifying-fake-news-articles.shtml).
So, next time you are on the internet and "friends" are sharing exciting new news stories, please beware, be a little skeptical without verification, of the stories. Don't trust them just because they are presented as true news, or just because good, presumably trusted friends, share these stories with you. Pass up on a heaping helping of sensationalism, unless absolutely verifiable. In fact, caution when it comes to what to believe from any kind of media, may be essential to your mental health, as well as collectively, our health as a society.