I first took my son to Disneyland when he was about five. It was a father’s joy to see his eyes pop wide open when he saw all the creatures on the jungle cruise, the talking and singing Tiki birds, and the ghosts flying through the haunted house. All great fun. But for days after that visit, every time he saw a bird or a dog or even a flower or a tree he would ask, “Is that real?” He had been an early victim of fake news. He got over it quickly but to this day we still can’t get over “It’s a Small, Small World” music. And as it turns out, it is a small world now and fake news can cover a lot of ground.
Today we are all facing a crisis of truth that has worked its way into the mainstream: fake news, alternative facts, or as former President Barack Obama labeled it, “a dust cloud of nonsense.” But that cloud is not only here in the United States. It has blinded the truth from Austria and Myanmar to Taiwan and the Ukraine. The made-up stories have polarized countries, reversed political discourse and in some parts of the world, caused panic.
Pizza-gate, Kellyanne Conway’s Bowling Green Massacre (which she admitted was a mistake only after we lived with it for several hours) and those are all the subtle ones. My favorite is President Trumps “many many many many people have told me…” How many? Which people?
There seems to be a new one every day and my only explanation is that millions of people never took civics class. The latest, and I assume this will continue, is that MSNBC and CNN claim to have disinvited Kellyanne Conway from an appearance on their political shows. At least I think that’s what happened.
And there’s the problem. We never know and the answer is to be vigilante in double-checking our own President.
Fake news has been around since George Washington said “I’ll never tell a lie” but that was years before chopping down the cherry tree surfaced.
Actually we are part of the problem as we believe everything we read on Facebook or Twitter is true. That’s the easy way out. The intelligent way out is to question and research and look for alternative sources.
Otherwise “fake news” will have to go back to its old name: bullshit.
Originally published at medium.com