The News About Fake News Is Fake

Johannes Vermeer, Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, 1657-59

In the last few days I was looking around for stories that could illustrate what fake news actually is, and I had a nice collection, but then last night Robert Mueller of all people clarified what exactly fake news is better than I could have. At first the BuzzFeed crew that was caught staring straight into the headlights has a feeble response (what exactly was untrue in our article?), but was silenced by the WaPo of all publications: Mueller’s team said every bit of the article was false.

And still I wonder if people now understand better what fake news is. Which I think has a lot to do whit the fact that the term was monopolized by a section of US media as meaning things that had to do with Trump, more or less exclusively. That way, when Trump accused these same media of publishing fake news, they knew their loyal readers wouldn’t believe him.

But in reality they’ve been at it ever since Trump entered US politics, and they dug in ever deeper into their anti-Donald trenches, first for political reasons, later for profit (nothing sells like Trump in America today). And in the process, especially since they published umpteen pieces a day on the topic, they had to use unproven and biased allegations and innuendo. There was never enough real news to go around to feed the monster they created. That’s how we got Russiagate.

Still, of course, like me, you want to know how fake news is recognized, how ‘experts’ tell it apart from real news. Well, despair no more. An actual professor researched it, and was quoted by the New York Times last week, which doesn’t publish fake news, it says. I got to say, personally, I found this highly enlightening.

Older People Shared Fake News on Facebook More Than Others in 2016 Race

The authors were careful in defining “fake news,” a term that has been weaponized by many, including President Trump, to dismiss real news they dislike. “Reasonable people disagree about where to draw the line and we were very conscious of those issues,” Professor Guess said.

As a result, they assembled a limited list of sites that reliably published fake content, based on various sources, including reporting from BuzzFeed News. As best the researchers could tell, the list did not include any websites associated with Russian disinformation efforts, according to Professor Guess. The Facebook and survey data came from a group of about 3,500 people whom the authors tracked during the 2016 election in order to better understand the role social media played in political discourse.

They found that Republicans and those who identified as “very conservative” tended to share the most news from questionable sources. But that tendency may have less to do with ideology and more to do with what those articles said: Users tend to share stories they agree with and the fake news sites were disproportionately pro-Trump, the authors said.

So the researchers distinguish fake news from real news, but they don’t tell us -or the NYT doesn’t- what methods they use to tell the two apart. They do tell us that what Trump calls fake news is merely real news he dislikes. It’s funny how people say that so easily, and never think they themselves might do just that.

“..a limited list of sites that reliably published fake content..” sounds intriguing, but not convincing. That this list partly comes from BuzzFeed is hilarious in view of Mueller’s indictment of BuzzFeed’s article about Trump instructing Michael Cohen to lie. Other than that, the article doesn’t really say much. But luckily Quentin Fottrell, personal finance editor at MarketWatch, elaborates (free advice: Quentin, stick to your trade!)

1 2 3 4
View single page >> |
How did you like this article? Let us know so we can better customize your reading experience. Users' ratings are only visible to themselves.


Leave a comment to automatically be entered into our contest to win a free Echo Show.
Gary Anderson 9 months ago Contributor's comment

Fascinating. But things are muddled by history. So, people of both parties know that some conspiracies are proven. What was tin foil yesterday could be true today. Take the case of COINTELPRO, the effort by the FBI to infiltrate and turn violent the peace movement in the 60's. It was not taken seriously until some brave souls raided an FBI office and found the plan on the premises! Even the courts sided with the raiders, not the FBI. Then there are all the conspiracies and false flags not proven in court. Some may be true and some not and some we may never know at least in this life. JFK assassination, 9/11, Sandy Hook, Obama's place of birth, etc, etc. When the government could be lying, as in COINTELPRO, then determining what fake news is is not so simple anymore. You can't break into the FBI anymore, IMO. As for Trump, we have to wait for Mueller to sort it out. We know many of Trump's cronies have been convicted. If that migrates to Trump himself remains to be seen. Maybe just charging his son and son in law will be enough to unnerve POTUS, and the movie could continue on a different path if that happens. But we don't even know if that will happen. As of now, it is fake news. Down the road it may be real news.

Angry Old Lady 9 months ago Member's comment

Good article which highlights one of the problems with #fakenews - they don't really care if they get outed or not. As long as it generates pageviews, that's all they wanted.

Gary Anderson 9 months ago Contributor's comment

Yes, the economic benefits of fake news is massive. The left does it, but Fox News has lying written into its DNA. And it leads the ratings for the cult of Trump, continually.

Barry Hochhauser 9 months ago Member's comment

And even after fake news has been exposed as fake, countless people still believe it.