Fake news is a term that we have heard an awful lot of. But is it really all ‘fake’? Can we really trust journalists because they appear to be credible or represent a media outlet that appears legitimate from the outside? Are influencers and public personalities credible just because they have a platform with a ridiculous number of ‘likes’ or ‘follows’?
Speakers & ‘Influencers’ who need to invent credibility because their arguments have none:
Like most subjects being knocked around in the forums of public debate today, fake news is just another ridiculous umbrella term that has been coined by someone who wants to dismiss the arguments or facts being given by someone they disagree with, and they felt the need to be able to hide the inadequacy of their own views or ability to engage in a sensible debate by hiding it behind terms that people go along with – because the term sounds credible and they are afraid of what will happen if they don’t.
In this specific sense, throwing around terms like fake news just to dismiss someone else’s point of view is not only lazy; it is pretty much the same resorting to being nasty or calling people names when you are desperate to hide the truth in what they have to say.
Alternative Truths or Perceptions of the same experience or things:
OK, so fake news is a broader church. But that broader church is most often the difference that exists between one person’s truth, and the truth or true perspective on the same situation or topic as observed or experienced by someone else.
It doesn’t matter how persuasive an argument from one side can be. From the perspective of the individual, none of us experiences the same thing in exactly the same way. Indeed, even in an accident where only you are involved, there are always at least two truths: what actually happened, and then there’s how you experienced it yourself – ie your own.
Opinion presented as News:
Finally, there’s news which is actually opinion. And no, opinion is certainly not news in itself. Unless that is you were quite literally reporting something very subjective such as a story about a celebrity making a public statement about which political party they are going to support.
Regrettably, journalism within the mainstream has either become so poor or so corrupted by the wishes and aims of media platform owners, that very few of the so-called professionals that we access through supposedly credible channels every day, either don’t have the self-awareness to discern between what is the news and their own opinion, or they are deliberately pushing their opinions and abusing their position to influence the public in any number of different ways.
Learning to be a Critical Thinker:
Any one or all of the above may be at work within the news sources that you watch, read or listen to. It is therefore very healthy for us all to watch, read and listen with care.
Pick out the facts. Acknowledge and respect the content and presence of the opinion. But above all, do not let the opinion you have heard then influence how you feel about or how you have interpreted the news.
The easiest way to learn critical thinking – if you have not been taught and you don’t have the time to study the skill by reading a book or studying a course – is to follow and where possible read as many different sources on the same topics as you can.
Just by following different journalists and media platforms from right across the spectrum, you can quickly begin to appreciate the common themes – which on a universal basis will probably be the real news – and then begin to see the opinions, biases and yes – the propaganda at work.
Whatever you do, don’t let tribal thinking stop you from watching, reading or listening to media sources that are outside your ‘bubble’ or sit outside the mainstream. This is how echo chambers are created. It’s how we easily fall into group think. It’s how the destructive processes of relying on confirmation bias to legitimise views and perspectives is born.
It would be fair to say that even the most objective of writers will present their stories with a little bias – even if it really is the lightest touch. Simply because we communicate outwardly with the world based upon our past experiences and what information and interpretations of everything we have experienced we have then taken within.
However, once you can break down the structure of a news report, an interview or even a Facebook Post or a Tweet, you will soon realise that all forms of news and information about current affairs can be a much safer place that we are being told or than it would immediately seem.