Fake news is a scary phrase not unlike False Truth. I will not take your time to lecture you on our 24 hour newscycle or advocational journalism on the right or left, because neither of those items really matter when it comes down to telling the truth. The consumers of Fake News may not know what is real and what is not real, but, one supposes, the purveyors of Fake News know when they move away from actual occurrence.
At least, one hopes.
In a day like ours, when power and money center in the hands of a very few persons who still need to have followers in order to continue in power, the real question for me, is this, “How do we know when someone leads us astray?” In short, how do we tell the fake from the news?
I am going to suggest our education process, including what we are taught at home, at school, in media and in any other forum where opinion is shaped, should, by design, help us discern truth. Education and experience ought to enable each of us to say, “Uh, wait a minute there…”
Let me suggest there are at least three questions we ought to ask when some news item causes the hair to rise up the back of our necks. To wit:
- Is this too good to be true? I will not worry you too much about the messages asking for your help to get some money out of somewhere in order to save some royal family and promising you a big cut of the proceeds. If you fall for that one, you probably stopped reading this column a long time ago. No, I mean the little factoids by which you and I immediately think, “Well, goodness, no one would ever vote for a person like that.” Sadly, there are many things someone could say about all our public figures (did you know there were sexual predators in Hollywood? or that some rich people buy their child’s way into college? or that ____________ you fill in the blank) without resorting to lies, but lies are so, well, fulfilling because they tell us we were right all along. If some juicy item just seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. Don’t follow a liar or repeat a lie.
- Does this bit of news appeal to my basest emotions? Hillary Clinton, who will not be President, was the victim of vicious gossip during her campaign, as was Mr. Trump, as was, you get the idea. If you are reading something, or hearing something or viewing something that stirs your lowest, basest emotions, watch out for the Devil’s trap. I don;t remember who said it, but I like the phrase, “Take the high road. There is always less traffic there.”
- If I swallow this line, who will pull me into their boat? I declare to you there is only one boat in whose sheltering decks I wish to sail. If you have been disappointed by preachers, politicians or pundits, you have learned to be careful whose lure you strike. Look behind the report to the reporter. Don’t sail off with someone who may soon throw you overboard. Don’t sail in a leaky bottomed boat.
Think for yourself. It is harder work but the result will be worth it all.