By Kevin Price, National News Editor, USADC.
“Fake news” has become a popular theme in US politics today. Although it seemed to begin as a phrase promoted by Donald Trump, it has become a message of people of all ideological views. Simply put, the reality of “fake news” is in the eyes of the beholder. If a conservative sees an article with a progressive take, that reader sees “fake news,” this is true of the liberal reader looking at a conservative article — “fake news.”
The problem of this issue is clearly seen with the partisan look at the recent Congressional testimony of former FBI agent Peter Strzok.
In one headline, the conervative Townhall reports “Trey Gowdy Rips Peter Strzok for Claiming He Isn’t Biased.” The sub-headline stated “Trey Gowdy Destroys FBI’s Peter Strzok: Why Did You Talk About Impeaching Trump a Day After the Special Counsel Launched?”
It was a powerful exchange:
Among progressives, there is this headline from The Daily Beast: “Republicans Thought Peter Strzok Would Be a Punching Bag. He Just Knocked Them Out.” It goes on to say “He was supposed to be a key in the imaginary conspiracy Trump’s congressional lackeys and media fantasists have desperately tried to write as history. He was having none of it.”
Not surprisingly, CBS News offered a more liberal take than Fox News.
The headline from CBS makes one think that Strzok owned the day. Watching the longer video from C-SPAN tells a different story.
This is just one of many stories — with different headlines — posted on a daily basis on websites and newspapers around the country, that are approached with very conflicting headlines. It is easy to see why people of all persuasions cry “fake news.” How one thinks determines what is fake and what is real, in their eyes.
What is the cause of “fake news”? There are many factors.
If people are looking for someone to blame for our current “fake news” they can begin by looking at the government itself. The vast majority of Americans (approximately 85 to 90 percent, depending on the source) were educated in government schools. That means a significant amount of information they have on how to interpret news came through their education before they became journalists. Also, the general population’s gullibility when it comes to the news stems from what they learned in school. If they were well educated, they would not have these type of problems. Fake news would be quickly dismissed if we had a population that could actually think critically.
Not that many years ago there was a clear distinction between editorials and the rest of the news. Most publications had an “Opinion” (for an example) section and it was suppose to be clear to the reader that the writers there had an ax to grind. Over time there grew a hybrid of news and opinion that became known as “analysis.” These type of articles were clearly biased, they were just more subtle about it. I rarely see this distinction now. Today, virtually every news site — including the large ones — have article after article by individuals with an agenda. The vast majority of these articles are largely opinion. We are suppose to believe that sites with significant traffic are legitimate, while those that do not, are not. Such thinking is the epitome of argumentum ad populum, which means “If many believe so, it is so.” In logic, this is called a “fallacy.” The truth is, many sites have massive traffic, but extreme opinions. Salon.com and the Drudge Report are polar opposites, but have large followings, each of which would find the site they do not follow, “fake news.” People ask me what are the most dangerous sources of fake news and I believe it is the ones that are huge in their followings, but still promote agendas without a disclaimer.
The truth is, there should be an attitude of “buyer beware.” The last thing we should have is the government nannies protecting us from what might be harmful in print. Smart consumers of news and information should take the following actions.
Be skeptical of what you read, starting with the headlines. False news stories often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points. If the story sounds unbelievable just from the headline, it probably is.
Investigate the sources. Make sure the story is written by a source that you trust and if you are not familiar with it, go to the “About” page and learn more. In the videos above, watching the original source clearly showed that Gowdy owned that exchange, regardless of one’s worldview. However, most people will not watch 28 minutes of a single exchange. Look at original sources if you don’t trust the news sources.
Watch the timelines carefully. If the events in the timeline do not add up, the story is probably fake.
Check out the evidence and the sources.
Compare the story with other reports. Comparison shopping is smart — especially when it comes to the news.
Think critically. If the writer clearly has an agenda and does not have much to back it up, there is a likelihood it is fake.
Kevin Price is host of the nationally syndicated radio show, The Price of Business. He has been a guest on national news programs, including Fox News and Fox Business, and has written extensively in national sites, and is an editor on several sites. Learn more about him at PriceofBusiness.com. Part of this article is derived from a piece Price wrote for Huffington Post.