The danger of the “fake news” label (though there are some)

As published in the Friday, November 25, 2016 edition of the Blytheville Courier News

On Thanksgiving I saw a Facebook meme that quoted President Abraham Lincoln as saying, “The problem with quotes found on the Internet is that often they are not true.”

The same applies to news, just because it is on the Internet and “looks legitimate” doesn’t mean that it is. The first that I heard publicly about so called “fake news sites” was on National Public Radio when talk show host Diane Rehm said, “Donald Trump was the winner in last week’s presidential election, but it’s clear that Facebook and Twitter were winners as well. According to recent research, social media played an important role in shaping public opinion on candidates and the issues in the 2016 campaign, a troubling trend, given how easily misinformation can be spread…We now to turn to the role social media played in shaping public opinion on candidates and the issues in the 2016 campaign.”

Attempting to mostly ignore the crybaby partisan bias on that particular episode, I became greatly alarmed…but probably not for the reason you are thinking. The panel pointed to sites (of course all right wing, since left wing can do no wrong in their eyes) such as Breitbart and others that they accuse of using click bait headlines to drive online traffic, even if the veracity of their reports were questionable or less than mainstream in perspective. They went on to say that the newspaper industry attempts to counter all of this “fake news” but that the industry has shrunk in numbers and that readers should not expect reporters to also be fact checkers. What?!? Say that again? Readers should not expect newspapers and their reporters to be fact checkers too? Are you kidding me?

Other news outlets have tried to justify their erroneous 2016 presidential election projections and their bias. But rather than just say, we broke rule number one and lost our objectivity and was actually a propaganda tool for the Democrats, they want to do a slight of hand show and point to those mostly unnamed “fake news sites”.

Here is the truth. First, if the mainstream media had maintained their objectivity, simply reporting the news and did not act as extensions to the Democratic Party, then they would still be relevant, people would still trust them and readers would not fall for the click bait at smaller “fake news sites”. In other words, if they still reported facts instead of prostituting themselves out as talking heads that give propagandizing analysis.

That is why you hear the same so called news being repeated ad nauseum, but you know in your heart its not news. It is not the reporter’s job to tell me what to think or what to be offended by or what my beliefs and morals should be. It is their job to tell me the who, what, when, why and where of the story. Its my job to come up with the “what is the big deal and why does it matter”.

Now, if that were all there was to it, it would be bad enough. But it isn’t. “Mainstream media” has become so corrupt that we had ABC reporter Martha Radditz arguing (not moderating) with President-elect Donald Trump during one of the debates. We had Donna Brazile with CNN tip off Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about questions in advance of a debate. We had the New York Times have to publicly repent for not being objective and renew its pledge to return to journalistic integrity and many more.

Now the liberal media is calling upon social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to design algorithms that would limit or minimize what they believe to be “fake news” and still yet others calling upon Internet providers and search engine companies to “delist them”. Anywhere else that is called CENSORSHIP.

The freedom of speech and of the press are God-given, according to our founding fathers, and do not have a qualifying test. If there is a litmus test where what is being said is a defining factor of legitimacy, then you have just killed the first amendment and shame on you.

If the test of being “real news” is where on the scale of left and right your political philosophy falls, then you just killed the first amendment.

If the test of being “real news” is whether or not you exhibit bias or whether or not you follow the very basics of time honored fair, true journalism then all television networks just went off the air.

If the test of being “real news” is whether or not you are multi-billion dollar media corporation, then you have consolidated the power, and ended the protection that a free press gives Americans against dictatorship and corruption.

If the test of being “real news” is whether or not they tell you what to think or if they, dare I say it…make readers critically think for themselves, then you are making the choice between propaganda and journalism. The very fact that you can identify what party a network identifies with such as Fox (with Republicans) and all of the other networks (with the Democrats) proves that we have chosen propaganda over journalism. How can I say this? Because these propaganda networks find no good in their opposition and no bad in their associated party. That’s the real “fake news”.

But in order to maintain the freedom of the press we have to allow the “fake news” sites to have the same rights as the “real news” that we like to listen to (because they don’t offend our delicate ears or tax our lazy minds).

Either that, or lets finally demand that news programs and newspapers no longer get away with false advertising. If you are news, then follow true journalistic practices. If you are a propaganda machine, then end each publication with “this was brought to you by…and I approve this message”. If you are just a soap operatic reality show, then let us know its all a scripted fiction.

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost,” President Thomas Jefferson.

“The freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments,” George Mason.

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About Tom Henry 133 Articles

My Biography

I have been fortunate to have held a number of very interesting and diverse jobs over the years. Those jobs have ranged from being a newspaper reporter (twice), restaurant and retail single unit store manager (numerous), restaurant multi-unit manager, a Christian bookstore manager, an online hospitality management recruiter and pastor. I have been used numerous times to turn troubled stores into profitable stores with double digit increases in sales and national top ten rankings (multiple times). God has gifted me with talents, experiences and spiritual gifting that allows me to get “right to the root of the problem” very quickly.

Additionally, I have three college degrees including a Master of Arts in history from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro and Arkansas Northeastern College in Blytheville.

I spend all of my non-work time with the sweetest woman I’ve ever met, Carol. Together we have four children (ranging in age from 19 to 25). She is without a doubt the answer to many years of fervent prayer. I have never been happier than I am now.

In my free time, I enjoy writing, reading, traveling (especially to historic/civil war sites), learning, intellectual discussion and singing/deejaying. Carol and I live an hour north of Memphis and love to go “walking in Memphis, ten feet off of Beale”.

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