This article showed up on Spanish news. They are just as bad at slanting news as the English-speaking outlets. Of course it is CNN so what are we to expect. Trump has called them “fake news” and recently upgraded that to the very eloquent “very fake news”. That’s a term I don’t really care for. It’s too broad. It’s too easy to counter. “Fake” means not real and often the news itself is real though truth is a lot of the news actually is fake, literally made up. The made up stuff doesn’t actually bother me as much. It’s the slanted news that really does. A whole lie is much easier to combat than a half truth. That’s what we get with the news so often. The truth with lies sprinkled in. Sometimes that sprinkling of lies is that the story is unbiased, without a slant.
The headline that sparked my reads, “Este médico tuvo que cancelar un viaje a Irán para salvar bebés por el decreto de Trump” which roughly translated is “Due to Trump’s Executive Order this Doctor had to Cancel a Trip to Iran to Save Babies”.
If you want to detect fake news you have to actually read the news, not just the headline. On the face of it that does two things, first it attacks the Executive Order on Immigration and Trump and second it plays on the heart-strings of the reader. Babies! Trump is killing babies! The vast majority of the story isn’t about immigration or travel, it’s about what a wonderful man the doctor is for his service. The whole story is meant to build sympathy, to play on the reader’s emotions. We read on
After the decree, “I spoke to different lawyers, and no one had any clear answer as to what would happen,” Shamshirsaz said.
After days of tense discussions, he canceled his trip to Iran “because of all these uncertainties.”
So it could have been just as likely that it was bad advice from his layers, incompetent layers who couldn’t read the order or a doctor who, while a lovely man working hard to help others, just wasn’t willing to risk not being let back into the country. A country much better than the one he was traveling too – clearly.
Half Truths are Worse than Whole Lies
So the news contained in the story isn’t exactly fake or very fake but that doesn’t mean it’s “just news” either. All this is fine in one way. Newspapers have printed opinions of all kind since there have been newspapers. Part of the reason rich and powerful men want to own a newspaper is the power it gives them. Presidents have the bully pulpit, priests the alter, authors the novel, and rich industrialists have newsprint.
The problem is that for decades journalists have pounded their chests with pride at being objective, untaintable unbiased, and mighty seekers of truth. Truth maybe, their truth, and they want their truth to be THE truth and your truth.
Take this constant refrain on Russia for example. The US election wasn’t hacked. There’s not a single shred of evidence that Russian agents changed a single vote on a single voting machine. If they did it for Trump they did a poor job since Hillary won the popular vote. If anyone is trying to say Russia was able to hack the computers in such a way that Hillary got the popular vote but Trump won the Electoral College that’s something too wild for even a Hollywood movie. But the media has continued to report on Russian hacking of the US election. It fits their narrative and the levers of power they want to pull so they continue to tell it. They know that it’s not true. They know that the US has meddled in numerous elections of foreign powers. Obama did it with Israel and there’s ample evidence of CIA espionage on candidates in France’s 2012 presidential elections. The fake part of the news is that they keep using the word “hacking” which implies illegal accessing voting machines and changing votes to the candidate they wanted to win, Trump. Of course, as pointed out, they did a terrible job of this since Hillary got the popular vote. It bends any sense of reality to think they could hack enough machines across the US in such a way that she got the popular vote but not the Electoral College vote. To be frank, if you believe that you’re already wearing a tinfoil hat.
Extra Extra Read All About It
If you want to detect fake news you have to actually read the news, not just the headline. We’ve come to call a certain kind of headline “click-bait”. If you aren’t familiar with that term it is writing a headline in such a way as to make it sensational to the point that an Internet user gets sucked into it and clicks. Examples might be, “Trump says this to Obama and the results will make you cheer”. That’s click-bait. Modernly, they stem from the fact that ad revenue only comes in if people visit a web site. Even if they don’t spend much time there or find a lie on the other side they go and when they go the site gets to register a click. But, back in the day when print meant something they still served roughly the same purpose, to draw the eye.
Now it’s a click but then it was a nickel tossed at the paperboy to get the latest edition. Or perhaps they were designed to get a particular story read, or if a person wasn’t going to buy or was glancing at a paper across the breakfast table at the corner diner they could see it. Such a headline would supposedly give them the meat of the story. It doesn’t though. You have to read the story.
The Solution to Fake News
That’s the solution to fake news. Though you might not want to hear it. You either have to stop reading the headlines or start reading the stories. Not just read them though, you have to actually consider them, think about them, ponder them, and be aware of the persuasive language or conflicting information or even subtle clues that show the conclusion being pitched by the story isn’t necessarily accurate. Maybe this doctor was stopped by Trump’s executive order, but maybe not. Maybe his not being there means babies will die, maybe not. The evidence isn’t clear and even the doctor states he made the choice himself to cancel the trip. So he wasn’t told by the government he couldn’t.
Times have changed. You are expected to be a detective and you are expected to have a firm understanding of the principles of logic and the use of language to persuade. If we’re going to keep the world in which we live we simply must be these things and educate ourselves in all the wiles of the Masterminds.
If you’ve read this far then it’s likely you are one of the people capable of doing this. If you are then please let me make a suggestion: help your friends who aren’t capable by sharing real news with them or teaching them how to discover the fiction laced in with the fact. Teach your children if you have them. Make it a game. Like Where’s Waldo but with locating bias. That’s worth a bit of your time. Fact is I think it’s the only way we can really save the country. Bring to the light of day the lies and bias being spread, not just in the papers but by the mouths of sneaky and smarmy politicians.
El doctor Alireza Abdollah Shamshirsaz tenía programadas unas operaciones a mujeres embarazadas con alto riesgo en su país, pero la incertidumbre ante el decreto inmigratorio presidencial le obligó…