Who spews “fake news”? The conventional media, as Trump and his pals insist? Or the alt-right propaganda mills?
I suggest the answer might be all of the above.
From the dawn of civilization, mankind has wrestled with the concept of truth. It’s an elusive notion.
Truth is as subjective as beauty. And that’s the truth as I see it. Your concept of truth might be quite different.
Facts are concrete. You can measure a man and report that his height is six feet. But is he tall? To you and me, perhaps. But not in Holland or the Sudan, where the average male height is over six feet.
We see the world through the prism of our personal experience. And, of course, that varies widely.
But there’s more to fake news than individual perception.
As a news reporter for most of my life, I tried to give accurate accounts of the events of the day. And despite the intense pressure of deadlines, I repeated what I had learned without distortion. But it was usually what I had learned, not what I knew.
Reporters seldom witness the “news” unless they’re covering a speech or meeting, or some other event. They get their story from some presumably authoritative source or sources. And you can bet sources aren’t always truthful. They often “spin” the facts to benefit themselves.
I notice there’s a lot more “spin” today than there used to be, especially in political “news.” And a lot of today’s political news is coming from unnamed sources. I submit that if you know you won’t be identified you might be tempted to doctor the facts – or even make up “facts” of your own.
Also, today, with so much of the media owned by corporate and political interests, there’s a high probability of pressure on reporters to conform to a preordained agenda (Fox News is a blatant case in point.)
Of course, some fake news is totally made up. Occasionally, stories are meant as satire, which it seems few readers understand.
But I am sure the alt-right “news” mills aren’t being misled by sources. And they aren’t playing satirical games. I believe they are obviously and deliberately feeding us lies designed to influence public opinion.
It’s up to us to take everything we hear or read – or even see – with a few grains of salt.
We have to check and double-check as much as we can. We have to consider the source, if it’s provided.
And even then, we have to trust our own instincts. If a story smells fishy, it probably is just fake news.