Political reporting has always been suspect. This type of journalism seems to rely on more lenient standards than “hard news” reporting.
The practice of using unnamed sources, for example, is prevalent in political reports. Yet you seldom – if ever – come across a crime story where the reporter uses quotes from an unidentified witness.
“A source familiar with (whatever)” is dubious at best. But I can understand why political sources don’t want to be named. And it’s turning out that the information they’ve been providing lately is almost always accurate.
The real “fake news” is to be found on right-wing web sites.
There, you will not only read “stories” based on raw speculation and wild surmise but on totally concocted disinormation.
For example, recent “alternative news” includes a report that President Obama’s elder daughter Malia was arrested for beating up a 97-year-old woman. According to the story, she was in a gang of crowbar wielding Harvard students who descended on the old woman as she was leaving her church.
The report is accompanied by photo-shopped pictures, supposedly documenting Malia’s arrest.
The site that first ran the “story” has an almost invisible disclaimer warning that it is “satirical.”
But the story was picked up by other right-wing sites, and expanded to include the claim that the police officer who arrested Malia was “found dead under suspicious circumstances.”
I know what you’re thinking. How can anyone get away with this kind of blatant lying? You might think the purveyors of such trash would be arrested – or at least sued for libel.
But who knows where these fakers are? They could be in Madagascar. They could be in Nigeria. They could be in St. Petersburg, Russia. As recent evidence in the Russian hacking scandal shows, a lot of false news originates with paid Putin provocateurs.
I recently read that the comments flooding social media might not even come from humans. Automatic “bots” are churning these comments out to influence public opinion.
That’s the weakness of the web. You have to take what you get from it with a huge helping of salt. Especially when what you’re reading sounds too preposterous to be true.