“Fake News” Prompt

November 12, 2018

The term “fake news” itself originates from authoritarian governments, and has historically been used to silence reporting in favor of state media (media outlets that are run, monitored, and filtered by governments, often at the expense of reporting truth). The term was popularized by President Donald Trump in the United States. While it was originally used to reference entirely fabricated advertising, it is now being used by the president as a term for polls or media articles that show him in an unfavorable light.

How do we recognize the shortcomings of our media without resorting to anti-media sentiments, and how do we know when—if ever—the United States should call what its press publishes “fake news”?

Please respond in the comments below!

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2 Comments

2 Responses to ““Fake News” Prompt”

  1. Mr. Maerzke on December 3rd, 2018 9:01 am

    “Fake News” is such a tricky thing and the phrase itself can easily become a slippery slope, which is why it is probably best not to use it at all.

    If I report that 99% of shark attacks happen in shallow water — near where people are known to swim — I am essentially reporting that it is dangerous to get in the water, and I am might even be implying that sharks are TARGETING humans, since most attacks happen near beaches.

    The problem with this fact is it is TRUE, but it is also misleading. 99% of attacks happen at beaches, because that is where 99% of people jump into the ocean. People could be attacked by sharks anywhere people and sharks are in the water together, that just doesn’t happen very often. A more useful piece of information could be how many shark attacks happen per year, or what time of year most shark attacks happen. This information would help me understand sharks a little better, and also understand how great my risk of being attacked actually is.

    Saying that “99% of attacks happen at beaches” is true. It is also obvious (to anyone who stops to think). And most importantly… it is fear-mongering. If I send this information out to people during beach week, I am not trying to spread facts, I am trying to spread fear. But at the end of the day, can you really tell me that this is “Fake News?” The facts are true and all you can accuse me of is having an agenda, and sometimes it is so hard to put your finger on what that agenda might be.

  2. Mr. Maerzke on December 3rd, 2018 9:17 am

    I think the only solution to this problem is to recognize that all media is biased. I think we know that already, but it wouldn’t hurt for media outlets to be a little bit more open about their bias. It is obviously the responsibility of the citizen to keep themselves informed, and probably the best way to do this is listen to what every media outlet has to say. Hearing that a president has “cut funding from healthcare” starts to make a lot more sense when you hear that that president has “given more funding to public schools.” Obviously one media outlet will call this decision “anti-healthcare” and another outlet will call it “pro-education.” The truth is always more complicated than one soundbite.

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