Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Why You Want Lots Of Things To Be Fake News

The conversation is happening in all quarters--as Facebook plans to flag fake news and use fact-checkers to determine what is fake and what isn't--conservatives and some of the further left liberals have joined forces in denouncing the attempts of intermediaries to judge the truthfulness of news. Here, a Bernista writes an article deciding that some legitimate news will be suppressed by the fake-news filters:
The news I’m referring to in the above [real news that will be suppressed] instance comes from only-recently-reviled-by-the-left WikiLeaks. Just today the U.S. government chastised and lectured the media for having “reported on information they know to have been stolen” & “effectively having acted as a Russian propaganda wing.”
He's not the only one. Here are some examples where people want to put things into the fake news bucket that they think probably won't go in:
  1. Media reporting on faked hate crimes.
  2. The Rolling Stone rape story which turned out to be incorrect and poorly reported on for ideological reasons.
  3. People who don't like positioning from a given media outlet.

Why These Reasons Are Bullshit

In each case the example is something that isn't actually fake news. Fake news is pretty easy to define (yes, there are edge-cases--but these aren't them) and people who don't like the above want to make it fake news for ideological reasons. For example:

The Wikileaks Incident

Although the Sanders-Left article writer doesn't call it out explicitly, the case where a MSM National Security expert tweeted that readers should be careful of the Podesta-Email as there was fake stuff in there was not part of an MSM ploy to suppress the truth (as was claimed by both The Intercept and Russia's propaganda outlet Sputnik)--it was instead a zero-day error of the kind that all media outlets make when dealing with an evolving situation. It also wouldn't trigger a fake-news filter as ten seconds of research would clear it up.

Hoax Hate-Crimes

We have a current real-life example of an activist Muslim woman claiming she was harassed and assaulted by Trump supporters. It was reported--and then turned out to be fake. We've seen this in other cases too (the anti-gay Publix cake claim, for example). The charge that this is fake news, though is baseless. In the case of the reporting they are (1) reporting on real events (the 'victim' said 'X-happened' and the 'victim' did, in fact, actually say that) and (2) there is no clear evidence that the bar for publishing these stories is lower than other kinds of crime reporting.

It's just that cases where ideological crimes are uncovered to be fakes are more sensational (the same way that non-fake ideological crimes are more sensational).

The Rolling Stone Case (and Other Bad Reporting)

This is a case of bad reporting. The reporter did her research--but she didn't want to expose the victim out of ideological concern for her safety / privacy. This is Exhibit A in the "always believe the victim" position but it isn't fake news. The reporter didn't fabricate the case or report in an intentionally disingenuous manner.

The Truck Did It

This is more of a snide comment than a real analysis--but it illustrates the point as to why the guy wants to classify the reporting as fake news: Because he doesn't agree with it. He wants the news outlet to say that the people were killed by a refugee, by radical Islam, or any other category that will give him political rhetorical advantage.

Why You ('You') Want To Make Things Fake News

The last point is what it's all about: when the news outlets don't want to spin things in the way that is rhetorically politically advantageous to you--or ideologically pleasant to you--deeming it fake is both a way to fight back and, if fake-news-suppression actually works, could be a way to take some ideological bite out of "the other side."

Of course that's because you're on one side and not the other. People who complain about hoax hate-crimes don't usually complain about Breitbart reporting on The Knock Out game--wherein there is a (fake) epidemic of black youths assaulting white people for no reason other than to "score points" by knocking them out in one punch.

People who complain about knock-out game reporting don't usually complain about Trump-Crime hoaxes.

However: center-left liberals will not (generally) defend continuing to tell the fake story after the hoax has been revealed. Conservative Breitbart readers will continue to support the epidemic KO-Game-As Legitimate News narrative even if presented with stats that say it's not relevant to anything, in many cases isn't even actually a knock-out game style assault, and is pretty clearly used to inflame racial animus.

Why? Because reporting on the KO game justifies their racial animus.

The same for Radical Islam. The people who most hate that Obama wouldn't call out 'Radical Islam' weren't conservatives--it was Daesh (and if you think ISIS doesn't care about what they're called, keep in mind that they execute you for calling them Daesh). The frustration with ABC saying the victims were killed by a truck is not that it "doesn't help defeat ISIS"--it's that it doesn't give people who want to paint all immigrants as terrorists a pleasant feeling when they read it.

For the Rolling Stone story, again, the issue was not the mechanics of the creation of the story but, instead, the forwarding of the seen-as-left men-get-away-with-rape narrative. While it is true that report exposed a weakness in the counter-narrative, the idea that it's not that hard to get away with rape (assuming you are not caught in the act and there is no evidence of violence) isn't really up for discussion.

The Bullshit Information Front

If you don't be clear about what fake news is (wholly fabricated news--absent any journalistic process--that is presented as real) then your option is this:

This is a search engine called "We Are The New Media" that explicitly searches the "free media." Simply put, what's being peddled here is bullshit--of many different dimensions (perhaps the Bitcoin link is less bullshit than wishful thinking)--but it shows you the scale of the problem. These are sources that, combined, millions and millions of Americans consider credible. 

The key to this is that they're all lumped together. If you think Breitbart doesn't deserve to be on that list (for example) what does it mean to you that it's also on this list:
InfoWars News Map
The answer is that these are more alike than you might want to think. The Daily Caller, for example, isn't the same kind of bullshit factory that Prison Planet is--but the levels of bias involved are similar. The difference is that The Daily Caller employs a set of journalistic practices that Prison Planet doesn't--but the distinction is invisible to most readers (who, if the understood how those practices work would flock to the left of the map rather than to the right who it's aimed at).

The point is that there is an entire ecosystem of toxic information and targeting specifically fake news is with its actual fake-news focus is necessary to prevent a much, much wider net that wouldn't just entrap left-wing journalistic sources but vast, vast swaths of the right as well. The fake news focus will, kind of ironically, prevent that from happening.


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    -- Ω