I think something’s coming. The signs are beginning to appear. We are being told we are facing a terrible monster. We are being told this monster can take an ordinary person and turn them into a rifle toting madman. We’re being told it currently threatens the fabric of our nation, of our communities. Actually this monster has been around for a while, lurking on television and radio networks, within our newspapers. But now it seems the monster has found new fertile ground. It’s no longer staying within the confines it’s long time masters have kept it in. Others are toying with it’s favors. So does this monster have a name? Yes it does. It goes by the moniker of “fake news”.
As I wrote, it’s not a newcomer to our lives. It was present when the Gulf of Tonkin incident took place. It has led thousands, maybe millions, to their deaths. Many report seeing it’s DNA in the information which came from the JFK assassination, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the events of 9/11. Others have reported seeing it lurking in some of the “alternative” news sites on the internet. It has been elusive, slithering around, striking sometimes to no avail, but sometimes it strikes when we are most vulnerable. And as history has shown us, when it does strike it isn’t always seen for what it is. Often it has defenders rallying around it, proclaiming it’s veracity.
There is no question fake news presents a real problem to us. However, for some it has also been a tool to forge opportunity. It’s good to keep in mind what is written in the Book of Matthew, 7:18; “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” What comes from lies, from “fake news”, most likely isn’t going to take us somewhere we really want to go.
Recently a young man picked up a rifle and invaded a pizza parlor reportedly because he had been affected by “fake news”. Bear in mind we’ve fought at least one war in which hundreds of thousands died based on “fake news”. Now someone has invaded a pizza parlor, no one was shot, but now it’s getting serious. Why all the hullabaloo now instead of when we learned the report that began the Vietnam war, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, was fake news?
Considering all the fake news we’ve been exposed to in the past; via television networks, radio, newspapers, one has to ask the question; why now? Why the battle at this point in time? As time goes on and more comes to light, the probability is getting quite high that the invasion of Iraq was manipulated via fake news; WMD’s and the official story around 9/11.
I think it is reasonable to ask: is the reason fake news is a major issue right now because with the internet the average person now has the ability to participate in the creation and dissemination of fake news? Because it no longer can be as controlled by the elite as it has in the past? You know, when fake news was for our own good…right?
What is the particular piece of allegedly fake news that reportedly sent this young man into a mental tailspin? Well, it even has a name, appropriately enough; “pizzagate”.
I did some searching on “pizzagate” and I have learned two things. 1. It seems to have originated with a release of John and/or Tony Podesta emails by Wikileaks. And 2. A lot of sources, in what seems a knee-jerk fashion, label it false. Why? Is it entirely unthinkable that a public figure such as Hillary Clinton would be involved in such a thing? What, if any, is the evidence supporting or refuting the allegation that there has been a pedophile ring and that Hillary Clinton has been/is involved? Is that an unreasonable question? I believe some would say it is, others would not.
I need to add here, I have not personally examined the material around “pizzagate” in depth. I’ve looked at a few articles. I am not writing this to try to establish any validity around “pizzagate”. I am writing this because I am concerned with what I see brewing in terms of a possible attempt to censor Facebook and other internet social media/sources under the banner of protecting us from “fake news”.
If someone writes an article, a “tweet”, or a Facebook post about another person and makes allegations of a horrible nature about that person having committed a crime, having harmed other people, the person writing those allegations can be taken to court for libel (written false accusations). There are existing means for addressing such false accusations. The consequences of slander or libel can be very financially severe. Think about it. If someone wrote an article accusing Hillary Clinton of involvement with pedophiles and pedophilia and that person found themself in a courtroom losing everything they had worked for all their life because they had made a false accusation; I think that would go a long way toward dampening that “fake news”. I think it would go a long way in dampening fake news in general.
However, and this is a wrinkle in our reality we need to understand; there is a risk to taking an accuser to court. Once a case gets to a courtroom there are rules of evidence. A defendant or plaintiff can issue subpoenas, call witnesses, request documents, things can come to light. What if there are things, possibly criminal behavior, which one of the parties doesn’t want to come to light? That is a motive to stay out of a courtroom. This is not to say that every famous personality that does not take people making false statements about them to court is hiding guilt of something. But it is another real consideration in the analysis of what is going on.
People in positions of wealth and power, like Hillary Clinton, often (always?) have attorneys at their beck and call. It wouldn’t be hard at all for her to take the person making false allegations, if they’re false allegations, around “pizzagate” to court. How many successful prosecutions of people making false allegations would it take before such allegations dried up? One? Two? Sure there would still be people talking in bars etc., speculating about things. Being able to voice what may be our wild ideas with friends, colleagues, and receive their feedback, can be valuable. It is probably necessary for our personal intellectual development. But there is a difference between blowing off steam or speculating in an informal setting and publishing or saying specific allegations in a public venue for the world to see.
So if new laws were to be created to control “fake news” on the internet one thing we could very well see happen is censorship of reports which somebody in a position of power does not want to see the light of day. Because someone, somewhere would be making the decision, actually would be getting paid to make the decision. They would decide what gets labeled “fake news” and what doesn’t. We cannot, must not assume a report is “fake news” simply because the subject matter is distasteful, because it seems unlikely, or because it makes an allegation involving a public figure. We cannot even assume a news item is false because there is no evidence to support it. “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” If somebody is making false allegations of heinous behavior on the part of another person, as mentioned earlier, we already have legal recourse available, easily available to anyone with wealth, to deal with that.
Sometimes a public venue may be the only venue in which a victim of an alleged crime can begin the process of seeking assistance. Sometimes a victim has no evidence. The evidence is found in the investigation of the allegation, if there is an investigation. Sometimes there are false allegations. And there again it is the role of an investigation to find that out. It would be a great public disservice if victims who had no evidence were silenced because of censorship or worse under threat of penalty from laws around “fake news”. However, it is only fair to say we may need some additional penalties for individuals who knowingly, recklessly and/or maliciously make false allegations.
Having real information about our world, authentic news, is foundational for healthy individuals and a healthy culture. It is absolutely essential to a viable democracy.
Even if we had the most diligent news organizations that humankind is capable of, some fake news may slip through the cracks. It seems to me that we should be as or more concerned with developing effective critical thinking skills. We all need to learn how to effectively analyze information. It needs to be taught in elementary schools and on up. We need to teach people to vet news before we act on it. Doing so may even have prevented wars. Fake news has been used successfully to manipulate the public in the past and it will probably be tried again. In all likelihood we will never be able to ensure we are 100% immune from fake news. However, it is certainly true that allowing someone else to make the decision for us as to what is real news and what is fake news, to determine what we are exposed to and what stays hidden, carries just as high a risk in terms of potential manipulation of our hearts and minds as any fake news that may come along.