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davidn3600's Journal
davidn3600's Journal
November 27, 2016

Russian influence, "fake news," and the news media..... who is really to blame?

As we are now starting to blame Russia and the fake news out there for the election loss, I think it's important to keep some things in mind about this...

For most of our history, we would only get our news in the newspapers each morning or the newscasts at 6:00 when we got home from work. Those were the old days of journalism some old timers here probably remember. And most people back then at least had some belief in the media. And most of these journalists took pride in investigating and getting to the truth, at least for the most part. But it's unlikely that everything written in the papers was true and accurate.
Fake news isn't a new phenomenon. It goes back in our country to the Revolution. Benjamin Franklin wasn't always loyal to the the truth in stories he ran. Neither were other writers. Even way back then, governments knew the power of information. In fact, one of the reasons the founders didn't like the idea of a popular vote for President is because they feared the people would be too easily swayed by such information!

(See more here if you are interested in Franklin's use of information propaganda... it's interesting history)

But now, technology has given us information overload. We have instant and infinite communication literally at our fingertips. So much information is flooding into our lives that we can no longer "fact-check" it all. We have multiple 24-hour news networks. We don't just talk to our neighbors about politics anymore, we are now on the internet and talking about the issues with each other even though we may be thousands of miles away. We can pick up our smartphone even in the middle of the night and read articles and blogs on any website from Mother Jones to Daily Kos to DemocraticUnderground, to CNN to Russia Today to Breitbart. Journalists and entire news networks are now openly displaying biases. We don't trust the mainstream media anymore. We don't know who or what to believe anymore. And we are vulnerable to confirmation bias due to our infinite choices. When someone in the media says something we don't like, whether it is the truth or not, we can always go somewhere else that spews the "truth" we want to hear.

So what is the solution to this? Of course the opposite of this problem is "1984" where the Ministry of Truth is telling us about how we are winning the endless war against Eurasia. One only has to look at state-controlled media in China, North Korea, or Russia to see the problem with that idea. Control of information is at the heart of practically every dystopian story ever written. So government being the final arbiter of fact and fiction is certainly not the solution to this problem. However, it seems to be the way Angela Merkel in Germany wants to go. She is now calling for some internet censorship especially on social media in order to get rid of the "fake news." After Trump's win, she is now afraid of it interfering in their elections next year potentially giving rise to something far more scary.

But censorship isn't a solution for America, anyway. We have a first amendment. We have freedom of speech and freedom of the press. So we can't go down that road even if we wanted to.

Ultimately....when you live in a free country, and especially if you are a voter in such a country, you have an obligation to understand the issues and understand what's going on. Issues and information should be approached with a reasonable, open, and scientific mind. Most Americans today on all sides are too lazy for this. Most prefer to be told how to think than to actually do the work. I worry at the fact 1/3rd of high school seniors can't tell you who won the Civil War. I worry that we know more about the Kardashians than we do our own leaders who make real decisions every day that impact our lives. We blame Vladimir Putin for influencing our election and Mark Zuckerburg for not censoring our news for us on Facebook. But who's really to blame for this? Who's being lazy?

Just something to ponder....

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