Use and Abuse of Fake News



I’ve said it before, usually in regard to politics. “Beware he who uses dubious methods to grant your wishes.” His next target might be closer to home.

And the other side of the coin, “Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean someone isn’t out to get you.”

Take Donald Trump, for example. Is everybody out to get him? Darned right they are. Whether they should be or not is another matter. But the fact is that the US media, the left wing, and a whole lot of international organizations and people are out to get him. And therein lies the danger.

I remember when George W. set out to “get” Saddam Hussein. Everyone agreed that someone needed to take Hussein down a peg, and a lot of people were secretly happy when Georgie decided to take responsibility. And there is now a direct causal line drawn from the resulting Gulf War to the rise of ISIS, because it turned out there were a whole lot of good reasons why Iraq shouldn’t have been invaded.

So when America applauds the media for attacking Trump, they should remember that the media don’t really want Trump gone. Trump has been the biggest boon to media profits in decades. Nothing makes better news than an attack on the media. They go into “First Amendment Mode,” and scream bloody murder, and everyone pats them on the back and says, “There, there,” and buys more papers and watches more TV to be entertained some more.

Is Trump a Bully and a Liar?

Of course he is. But should we deal with bullies and liars by being even bigger bullies, and creating better lies of our own? Politically speaking, over the last 70 years “standing up to the bully,” has undergone a metamorphosis:

  1. “Defending ourselves from the Nazis,”
  2. “Defending ourselves from the communists by supporting repressive regimes all over the world,”
  3. “Attacking our own citizens we don’t like because they might disagree with us,”
  4. “Attacking anyone who is different,”
  5. “Using any dubious methods we need to get rid of Clinton/Trump/Comey/whoever we don’t like.”

Doesn’t sound like progress to me.

The Goal of the Media

A newspaper is not there to present the news. It’s there to sell newspapers. If I were an editor, I’d get to know my reading public. I’d know that x% of my subscribers were tree-huggers and eco-freaks, and I’d make sure that once a week I had a front page headline to appeal to their tastes.

But there’s a limit. The other (100-x)% of my readers are not of that persuasion, and if I cater too obviously to fringe groups, I run the risk of making my readers aware that I have another agenda besides presenting the news. Then they won’t “buy” my news in either sense of the word.

So it’s in the interests of the media to be careful what they print and how they present it. On top of the social, legal, moral, pride-in-your-craft and personal-integrity reasons. It’s just good business.

For Example: Vancouver Sun on Tuesday.

So when the Vancouver Sun, a newspaper that I’m sure considers itself serious news media, (while slightly to the right of the political spectrum) prints a headline on the front page that says, “Surrey’s canopy falls to development as thousands of trees chopped down,” one might be tempted to think that there is a great ecodisaster occurring in a neighbouring city. But then one reads the article. Yes, there are around 10,000 trees felled per year. But the whole front page part of the article circles around this factoid, followed by exactly one sentence of quote from the city’s urban forestry manager stating that “the city’s green infrastructure is in good shape.” It is only if you bother to “See on P2” that you get the rest of the story, which details the city’s replanting program. Boring.

And it conveniently disregards the fact that if you live in BC’s Lower Mainland, you live in a climate designated Rainforest, where the ecosystem shoots up megatons of new greenery on a daily basis. I’d like to know how many trees a year Greater Vancouver would have to cut down to just keep pace with Mother Nature.

But I’m not here to grind an axe against the tree huggers. I’m drawing attention to the media’s objectives. At a time when various news sources are asking for government help, it behooves them to toe the line on what they’re asking for help to do. If they want to cater to the lowest common denominator with “created news” for entertainment, or present dubious information for political reasons, I’d question the utility of putting up government money. If they act like responsible news sources, they might have a case. They might even be able to sell some papers.

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