Wednesday, April 5, 2017

What Is "Fake News"?

I have always believed that misinformation on the Internet was going to have serious repercussions at some point in time. The election of 2016 proved my point, and now the misinformation is only getting worse. The biggest problem is that we have a proliferation of what is being called "fake news" on sites like Facebook, and people are not bothering to do any research before believing what they read. I have an issue with the term "fake news" and I still believe there should be a confirmation button on every social media site that forces the poster to confirm that they did their homework before trying to misinform the public.

Social media is the new American dialogue, and this dialogue includes everyone. Instead of people discussing issues presented in the news among their immediate circle of friends and family, Americans are taking to the Internet to let their opinions be heard. Opinions, in and of themselves, are not a problem. The best discussions and debates are started by opinions. It is when people insist their opinions are facts that everything goes off the rails. It gets even worse when misguided people insist that other people's opinions are facts.

George Takei has been complaining non-stop about Trump since the election ended and, honestly, I don't blame him. He is using his celebrity as a platform to try and get people to listen to reason. Of course, not everyone is listening to reason and a lot of people are pointing to what they call "fake news" as a reason to ignore actual facts. If some website posts something negative about Le Grande Orange, then it must be fake news. But what the hell is "fake news"?

CNN has been the biggest target of the "fake news" brigade and CNN deserves to have accusations of "fake news" thrown at them. It was CNN who went back and forth on Florida in the election that eventually made W our president. Things changed in terms of calling election results after that (which is weird because now they seem to be calling election results even faster - sometimes before the polls even close), but CNN really did not get the reprimand it deserved.

CNN and the other 24-hour news channels love to stir up conjecture during an ongoing event that confuses people completely. If you want to see the closest thing to fake news, just watch CNN during a breaking news story and pay attention to how many times CNN is happy to publish speculation that winds up being completely wrong. Fox and MSNBC do it as well, but no one publishes more fake news than CNN.

Do you want to know why speculation (which I will call fake news from now on) is so dangerous? Because during 9/11 I had family members calling me in tears because they saw on CNN that terrorists were executing gas attacks in colleges and blowing up other buildings around the country. CNN incites national panic when it uses fake news, but yet CNN is never reprimanded for it. CNN gets its cameras into riots to get the best images, and that inevitably ramps up the violence. Criminals love to perform for CNN cameras, and a sure way to escalate a riot is to let CNN into the area with its cameras. I keep hoping that one of those smoke canisters the police fire into a crowd hits Chris Cuomo, but no luck so far.

CNN's speculation is not the only fake news that exists, and CNN is not the only network that does it. The latest fake news was a rumor that Trump handed German Chancellor Angela Merkel an invoice for $300 billion (some media outlets said million) for charges associated with NATO. I am no Trump fan, but that never happened and it should have never been reported by so many media outlets. That was fake news.

CNN is very capable of reporting confirmed news stories, and it happens all of the time. The fact that there is an FBI investigation into Trump's ties is real news. But Trump and his minions call it "fake news." Why? Because it is a negative Trump story. So the pop culture definition of "fake news" is any story that is anti-Trump, regardless of the reality.

The problem is that a lot of the stories Trump is calling "fake news" are all based in facts. Maybe CNN could help out a little and stop publishing speculation when they are covering an ongoing event. If that happened, then everyone could trust CNN and this whole "fake news" nonsense would be confined to the minds of Trump and his minions. But as long as CNN actually does broadcast fake news, then it opens itself up to this kind of criticism and the whole thing just confuses everyone.

George N Root III is a Lockport resident who hates fake news. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or send him a message at Those are facts.