Thinking About Fake News

The current fuss about fake news is, to some extent, itself fake news.

Thinking about fake news; Not that people do all that much, think that is when they read or watch news. If they did, they would realise that much of today’s news is biased at best, deliberately presented in a way to catch your emotions rather than to tantalise your critical thought.

They, the producers, journalists, politicians, governments are fully aware that the brain prefers to accept something and link it to the last similar occurrence rather than to take the effort of really analysing and deciding whether the information is correct or not.

Which is why the simplest brainwashing technique of all, repeating a message over and over, works so well. After a while, if I don’t take the very real effort of thinking critically, I believe it because I heard it yesterday and the day before that.

Is fake news fake news?

So it is with the current fake news story. Of course there is real fake news, that is to say deliberate misinformation put out by individuals. Social media such as Twitter and Facebook are easy targets for such activity. Reining it in without frank censorship is hard if not impossible.

However much of the current fake news story is itself fake news. Put out deliberately by governments and others to hide or confuse reality. Some is straightforward propaganda, we’re the good guys and they are the bad guys. Some is to hide something that is going on elsewhere (compare the reports on civilian harm in Aleppo and Mosul).

It is a well established fact that governments lie. It’s called spin and for reasons that I don’t understand most people consider it perfectly reasonable. Less well known is that governments, or at lest their spies, deliberately mislead both the enemy and their own civilians. I don’t know why it’s less well known, it’s been stated often enough.

Who gains? Why? Really?

The defence against all this requires effort. You need to think when you are fed news stories, not just swallow them regardless. One simple trick is to ask: who gains? Similar to but much broader than follow the money. Other useful questions are why and really.

Take the Trump Tweet on Air Force One. He wanted to cancel the contract to build it because it was going to cost four billion. Who Gains? Trump because he gets paid if he flies in his own plane which the US would have to pay for to both improve and hire. Why? Gives a similar result, but adds the fact that giving work to Boing is not bad for growing the US economy, which Trump claims he is going to grow. Really? Would bring out the fact that the current costing for two planes, not one, is 3.2 billion, not 4.

So the next time you read or watch the news, try thinking about fake news. Ask yourself who gains, why and really.

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