Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Fallout of Fake News

The disturbing rise of "fake news" is an inescapable trend that's not going away any time soon. You can post something on social media without a shred of evidence as to its legitimacy. That post gets shared "x" number of times on Facebook, Twitter, etc. and, before you know it, you wind up with "Pizzagate" or some other over-the-top emotional response to a fictional story.

Fake news, however, is not exclusive to social media. It seems that the mainstream media, as well as other media outlets, are sometimes tweaking stories to fit their own agendas and raise their respective profiles. In his final press conference yesterday, President Obama expressed his own concerns with the fake news phenomenon:

If fake news that’s being released by some foreign government is almost identical to reports that are being issued through partisan [U.S.] news venues, then it’s not surprising that foreign propaganda will have a greater effect. It doesn’t seem that far-fetched compared to some other stuff folks are hearing from domestic propagandists.
I do hope that we all just take some time, take a breath... to just reflect a little bit more about how can we get to a place where people are focused on working together based on at least some common set of facts.

My particular focus on fake news has to do with an email I received today from the Daily Kos with an article written by Walter Einenkel. The headline reads: Trump's thanks African Americans for not voting, tells white people that's a good thing." Here is the quote in question that the Daily Kos focuses on:

And the African American community was great to us. They came through, bigly. Bigly. And frankly, if they had any doubt, they didn’t vote and that was almost as good because a lot of people didn’t show up.

Let me translate, if I may. What Trump is obviously saying is that more African Americans voted for Trump than most people anticipated. Whether that's true or not is beside the point. African Americans not voting or anyone else sitting it out, for that matter, wound up benefiting Trump in the end. And as far as Trump passing this information on to white people only, as though he were speaking at a klan rally, is so disingenuous it's almost laughable.

And, yet, my biggest criticism regarding the news, I reserve for Donald Trump himself. When it was reported that China had seized a U.S. underwater drone(which, in this case, turns out to be true), President-elect Trump tweeted out that the drone had been "stolen" by China in an unprecedented act(China returned the drone without incident). This wouldn't be a big deal if Trump was still just a wealthy, outspoken businessman, but he's not. Knee jerk reactions to news stories is nothing new. The Commander in Chief, however, wears many hats, one of those being the hat of diplomacy. Firing off tweets at every news story, fake or otherwise, with no regard as to the consequences can be as dangerous as firing off actual missiles. The only "unprecedented act" occurring right now comes from a man who is doing more damage to the presidency even though he has yet to be sworn in.