Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"All We Want are the Facts Ma'am"

That was a frequent line in the very old TV series Dragnet, created by Jack Webb and spoken by his character on the show, Sgt. Joe Friday.
Do facts still exist and whose facts do you believe? They are commonly denied by those that disagree with them as being either fake,misleading or coming from a source that they simple don't trust, especially the government. We are deluged with information and it is at our fingertips with various social media applications, 24/7. If it comes from a favored source, it is believed without question. Then it gets shared with many others and on and on it goes. In the end, facts have become meaningless.
This is dangerous, as decision makers apply these "facts" as they choose them, to create law and make public policy. Scary dangerous.
The FBI and CIA both agree that Russia was behind the email hacking in the recent election, but fake news site Brietbart calls it "left wing fake news."  Rush Limbaugh takes it even further by saying that all so called " main stream news" is fake. President -elect Trump and some in Congress don't seem to believe our intelligence experts either and have not committed to even being open to investigate the possibility that Russia may have interfered with our national election.
It used to be that just about everyone who shopped at a supermarket and saw the National Enquirer on the rack with outrageous headlines ( "Titanic Survivors Found on Board!") would chuckle and perhaps pick up a copy for laughs.
Today however, it is not so funny.  The National Enquirer published a story early this year with the claim that Ted Cruz has had affairs with at least five women. Cruz denied the report and blamed then GOP front runner Donald Trump as being behind the story. 
In an interview with ABC back in March, Trump said "Really, I don't care, the National Enquirer did a story. It was their story. It wasn't my story. It was about Ted Cruz. I have no idea whether it was right or not. They actually have a very good record of being right."  
No proof of Ted Cruz having any affairs has ever been reported. Considering what was true and reported about our President-elect, perhaps Cruz having a few affairs may have actually bolstered his campaign. 
Matter of Fact with Soledad O'Brien had these shocking statistics: "Social media experts note that fake news could have influenced this year’s presidential election. The top 20 fake news stories on Facebook received significantly more traction than the top 20 news articles by established news organizations. According to a BuzzFeed analysis, 75 percent of U.S. adults are fooled by these fake news headlines and according to Pew Research, 20 percent of social media users report changing their political stance due to material on social media. With 62 percent of Americans using social media as a news source, there is a potential for a significant number of voters basing their political decisions on false headlines."
Of course, if you don't trust that news source, you won't believe the analysis either. 
Where do we go from here? We do have many respected news sources, that still practice the art of journalism. We have on the polar opposite, bogus news sites with wildly distorted versions of the news, In the middle, consumers of information have to differentiate between fact and fiction. So do our political leaders.
No silver bullet that I can see on the horizon. As Facebook and others work on flagging fake news, the sources for these stories keep producing them to either sway public opinion or to make money, and at times both. 
Facebook has come up with a five part plan that will rely heavily on the public to combat this media epidemic. Will it be successful? I for one hope so, but it won't happen overnight.
I'll leave this with a famous quote from one of our great Presidents:




3 comments:

Independent voter said...

Trump has said he will make America great again. He tells us that the low unemployment rate and 3% economic growth are total fiction. He takes credit for the Wall Street boom. How will he measure greatness?

Anonymous said...

We live in a world of radical ignorance.
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160105-the-man-who-studies-the-spread-of-ignorance?ocid=ww.social.link.twitter

Anonymous said...

The publisher of National Enquirer is a personal friend (if such exists) of Trump. In the checkout lane the current stories are flattering of Trump. Not so much of current pres.