The News About Fake News Is Fake

If you ask me, it’s peculiar to make statements about politics that heap ordinary Americans together with politicians, but at least that paragraph doesn’t say Republicans are more likely than others to [fill in your preference]. But then we’re off to the races again:

[..] What’s more, baby boomers are more likely to be conservative and ideological, according to data crunched by Pew. “In both 2015 and 2016, about one in 10 baby boomers identified as conservative Republicans — the highest percentages dating back to 2000,” researchers Shiva Maniam and Samantha Smith wrote for Pew. “In both years, conservative Republicans made up the largest single partisan and ideological group among boomers.”

Wait. The logic here is that baby boomers are more likely to be conservative and ideological because 1 in 10 baby boomers say they’re conservative Republicans. But that means 9 out of 10 does not. This doesn’t even make a single sliver of sense. Yo, Quentin (and professor Guess), we need some help here.

To be fair, older Republicans share more news in general, and fake news gets caught up in the mix. Members of Congress with very conservative or very liberal voting records both shared news links in about 14% of all their posts, but members with more moderate ideology scores shared links to news stories in just 6% of their posts, Pew found.

That starts out with older Republicans in general and then seamlessly veers into members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, with either very conservative or very liberal voting records. Not fully self-contradictory, but darn close.

There may also be a political explanation: A trickle-down effect from the president’s own remarks about the liberal media. Older Republicans could feel more emboldened by Trump’s comments and, as a result, assume stories that support their causes are accurate.

That’s the first time I explicitly read Quentin saying that fake news is linked to Trump. But other than that, there is no sign that older Democrats don’t feel ’emboldened’ by DNC or Hillary or Pelosi comments just as much as Republicans do by Trump. Quentin and professor Guess only pretend to make a point, but there’s nothing there.

The president has doubled down of late on the view that the mainstream media’s negative coverage of his administration is rooted in bias. “The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and often times false attacks and stories,” Trump said last year.

“Confirmation bias” helps outlandish theories and reports gain traction on social media. And that, psychologists say, is where fake news comes in.

Since there is nothing that indicates one political side is more prone to confirmation bias than the other, fake news will necessarily also occur on both sides. Why you would have psychologists define fake news I don’t know. Oh, and I think that Trump comment makes a lot of sense.

With so much noise on social media, how can people distinguish between rumor and reality? Psychologists say people develop defense mechanisms to cope with an uncertain world early in life, but this also draws people to information that seems to confirm their own beliefs and world views and to ignore reports or opinions that contradict their perceptions.

“At its core is the need for the brain to receive confirming information that harmonizes with an individual’s existing views and beliefs,” said Mark Whitmore, an assistant professor of management and information systems in Kent State University’s business school. “In fact, one could say the brain is hard-wired to accept, reject, miss-remember or distort information based on whether it is viewed as accepting of or threatening to existing beliefs.”

Older Americans may be less likely to question authority

However, many people effectively rationalize the irrational in order to avoid going against values and ideas they were taught by their parents. “Children’s learning about make-believe and mastery becomes the basis for more complex forms of self-deception and illusion into adulthood,” Eve Whitmore said. When people are faced with absurd and conflicting messages, her husband added, “It becomes easier to cling to a simple fiction than a complicated reality.”

[..] Ultimately, however, it may come down to our trust in the internet, rather than institutions or belief systems. “People who have grown up with the internet have experienced things that are not necessarily truthful. They have had experiences on social media or they have witnessed friends dealing with false information, which has made them more skeptical about what they read versus the baby boomers who did not grow up with the internet and have, therefore, limited experience.”

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Gary Anderson 4 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 4 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 4 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 4 months ago Member's comment

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