Fake News: Credibility in the age of the internet and social media

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There has been so much discussion everywhere (online, on television, on social media, in person,with our children and our families) about whether or not we can trust the media.  It is becoming way too easy to dismiss the thoughts of entire news networks because of a perceived political slant.  It is also way too easy, despite the unprecedented number of sources available to us, to completely avoid news that is critical to our country.  We can hide news in our Facebook feeds that we don’t wish to see.  We can choose to only view certain news networks because we don’t wish to hear the thoughts of pundits on other ones.  We can comment on anything we wish online, anonymously, and not have to put forth any credible sources to back our opinions, perpetuating rumors and disinformation.

This is not a new phenomenon, but it goes back hundreds of years to George Washington’s presidency when there was fierce disagreements between our two original political parties.  Benjamin Franklin’s own nephew, Benjamin Franklin Bache, published a series of forged letters supposedly written at Valley Forge in an attempt to sway people of the time towards his party’s views.  However, to hear the way people speak now, it’s as though we’ve never had to question the veracity of information we receive and we should be able to just trust those who provide information.

I believe that the average reporter wants to do a good job and report the fair news; however, I also believe that news networks are owned by corporations and that people wish for personal success in the form of news stories that go “viral”.  These competing factors often lead to a reporting of events that leave out pieces of information or treat opinions as facts.   We see this on both sides of the aisle and this is not a “liberal media” problem or a “conservative news problem.”  We, as the consumers of news, need to do our due diligence and fact check before we mindlessly re-post information we see in our news feeds or take as fact things that we have no personally validated.

If you need examples of a major event we haven’t seen reported in the mainstream media, let’s talk about the Dakota Pipeline and the Standing Rock protests that have been going on since April 2016.  I have yet to see these protests featured on any major news network.  The only reason I knew these protests exist is because of information I have seen in my Facebook feed and people taking their protests into the digital age.  If you’re interested in more information on these extremely important protests, please see https://daplpipelinefacts.com.

Why is an important movement such as the Standing Rock Protests not featured on any news networks?  Why are we not pushing for these things as consumers of information?Because it’s hard.  It’s hard to take a minute and research what is going on before hitting the Share button on our Facebook feed.  It’s hard to disagree with people and find truthful information to dispute others.  It’s hard to debate with others who refuse to use facts and not go a little bit crazy inside.  But the fact is, we can’t stop pushing.  When people say something that seems unreasonable, don’t just dismiss their ideas, look into them.  Who would have thought a massive oil pipeline through a Native American reservation wouldn’t be on the news?  Yet it’s not.

The news media does a valuable service in whetting our appetite for the truth; however, like junk food, we can’t subsist on a diet of only mainstream news.  We need to keep reading books, magazines, and opinion pieces.  We need to continue to speak to people with backgrounds and experiences different from ours in an effort to expand our horizons.  When we hear our president telling us not to listen to the news because they’re all liars, let’s ask ourselves why he would push this agenda.  At the end of the day, this gets back to critical thinking and our ability to reason and think for ourselves.  We cannot relinquish our ability to think for ourselves and to question those in a position of power who have a personal stake in discrediting or repressing important information.

 

 

 

Keeping me up at night . . .

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 Blame it on current events, blame it on the pint of ice cream I ate, I have had a lot of trouble falling asleep at night lately.  That time between wakefulness and sleep gives me plenty of time to think about where we are and where we are going as a community Americans and as human beings.

Lately, most of these thoughts have centered around this year’s presidential election and the issues that Democrats and Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives, have fiercely debated.  Here are some of the thoughts that I debated with myself last night after the latest round of news coverage on the protests, the marches, Twitter, and our new Press Secretary’s latest press conference.

1) Protesting is not a bad thing.  In fact, our country was founded on protests against a ruler out of touch with his populace and one who was causing a great deal of economic distress through his taxation policies.  Flash forward to the Obama administration when people on the Republican side of the aisle decided to form a Tea Party to voice their dissatisfaction with the Democratic agenda.  Protesting is the thread that weaves our present and our past together as Americans.

2) Back to the idea of the Tea Party . . . . It is NEVER okay to destroy property or to hurt another human being in the act of a formal protest.  However, it is easy for people who feel passionately about a topic to get out of hand and cause these issues.  Again, it is NOT okay to destroy property or to hurt another human being in the fight to be heard.  However, the Boston Tea Party, one of the seminal events in the birth of our nation was just that—a violent protest where personal property (tea) was thrown into Boston Harbor by a bunch of people disguised as Native Americans.  In fact, this event was so important that the Tea Party decided to NAME THEIR MOVEMENT AFTER IT.  So while it is not okay to do this, we have a historical precedent for this type of thing that is so well regarded as an act of Patriotism, that a party two hundred and fifty years later named their own movement after the event.  Food for thought.

3) Can we please stop vilifying Margaret Sanger for a minute?  Can we please remember what it was like 100 years ago in terms of family planning?  No one had control over their reproductive cycle—including married men and women.  Can we please reflect for a minute on what it would be like if you wanted to be intimate with your partner, but had to weigh whether or not it was worth it to risk being pregnant?  Can you please couple that with the Great Depression when so many people were out of work and starving?  If we can please look at her “agenda” in these terms, the quotes that are taken out of context make a lot more sense.   To go a step further, if you’ve ever read her book (and yes I have), you can read the letters coming to her from women who needed help (white and minority women) because they were literally dying a slow death from multiple pregnancies in too short a window.   “BUT SHE WAS IN FAVOR OF EUGENICS”—a lot of people were debating this idea and deciding what place, if any, it had in modern science.  We have since learned that it is not the right thing for humanity (I think most everyone can agree that the Holocaust was a great example of why this is a bad idea on a large scale), but at the time, it was a respected theory multiple progressive people were contemplating.   If we view historical figures through the lens of modernity, many would not hold up.  Let’s think for a minute about our founding fathers who owned slaves and fathered children by these slave women—I don’t see us throwing out their ideals or their discourse because of these things.  Nor should we discount the large amount of positive work that Margaret Sanger did during a time when people were trying to figure out how best to use science to serve humanity.  We can agree that some of her ideas are not correct and should not be adopted, but we can’t shut down her body of work because of them either unless we’re willing to do the same with all of our historical figures.

4) “NOT MY PRESIDENT”—unfortunately, this is not the case if you’re a citizen of the United States.  While you may not agree with him or his ideals, and while your heart hurts at the idea of four years of a Trump presidency, if you REALLY wish to get rid of the possibility of a man losing by 3 million popular votes yet still winning the electoral college, you need to fight to get rid of the electoral college.  This is the thing to do, not to make statements that make your cause seem petulant and ignorant.   See point 1—you can protest, and please do—it’s your right and your privilege; however, protest the things that are thoughtful and make sense in the context of our Democracy.

5) Speaking of protesting the things that make sense  . . . The Women’s March was wonderful and exciting on a global scale.  A global scale, how amazing is that?  What we need now is a Liberal March.  I refuse to say Democratic March because this party has failed us “hugely” in the words of our new president.   This party and its system of Super Delegates decided that Hillary Clinton was the candidate that should run, damn what the people wanted.  In fact, Hillary Clinton almost beat out Barack Obama back in 2008, which would have been a tragedy for our generation, because of this system of Super Delegates.  The Democratic National Convention decided that Hillary Clinton was the candidate and that is why we are here today.  If the people’s voice were really heard, we would have seen a race between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump and we would likely have had a very different Inauguration this past weekend.  We know this to be true through emails from Debbie Wasserman Schultz herself.  This is not fabrication, this is factual manipulation of the party system to position their own entitled candidate in place.  Whether or not you are a fan of Hillary Clinton, this is the truth, and while it would have been amazing to have a woman candidate at the front of the Democratic Party, this was not the will of the people and should not have been pushed down our throats. In and above pushing their own agenda to have Hillary be the nominee, let’s talk about the fact that Donna Brazile gave Hillary Clinton the questions before the debate.  In this point, I can agree with Donald Trump (better turn up your furnace, I think Hell just froze over).  Could you imagine what would have happened if Donald Trump had received the questions in advance?  He would have been skewered and run out of town on a rail; however, with Hillary Clinton, this was hardly mentioned and seems to have been completely eradicated from the Democratic conscience.

6) Let’s talk about Donald Trump for a minute.  Can we all agree that the man has a thin skin?   The whole conversation between he and Billy Bush—“oh, he was a private citizen just trying to look cool with a young Hollywood guy,” “oh, he didn’t really mean it,” “oh, it was just locker room talk, no big deal,” “oh, Bill Clinton did that stuff, etc.”  The fact that a 67 year old man who is now the leader of the free will has so little self-esteem that he needs to speak that way in any context with a younger man is absurd.  Hard stop.  His immaturity and ego issues are apparent in his use of Twitter.  Yes, again, a 70 year old man who is the leader of the free world uses Twitter as his platform to bash others and to bully.  I’m 35 years old and think I’m too old for Twitter.  “Oh, but the media is so dishonest that he has to use Twitter to be heard.”  Really?  There is no other way to be heard than Twitter?  This is part of a calculated plan to discount the media and to make everyone distrust what is being shared.  Is there slanted reporting that needs to be called out as such?  Absolutely.  However, to discount the world press because of stories that were not favorable to you or because of a few cases of sloppy reporting is disingenuous and self-serving.  Again, read George Orwell’s 1984 if you want to see how this is playing out in real life.

7) And we’re still talking about Trump. . . “Oh, everyone is just jealous that he has a lot of money and his wife is beautiful.”  He has money?  Good for him!  His wife is beautiful, yes she is, and good for her.  However, the whole “doing this for the people” thing that his platform was built on is absurd.  His cabinet nominees are super wealthy, under-qualified, and have given his party large donations.  He spends his time on Twitter, yes we’re back to that again, bullying people who don’t agree with him.  We the taxpayer are paying for his wife and son to remain in New York because it’s more convenient for them.  Could you imagine if the Obama Family had done that?  Good grief, there was already a hue and cry because Mrs. Obama’s mother was getting a pension for her work as the children’s’ nanny, never mind that it wasn’t even true.  Oh, and the best part of this whole remaining in New York thing?  The Secret Service have to pay for rooms in Trump Tower—we’re literally paying our new president’s family for our Secret Service to be able to protect them.

One thing that can be said for our time is that it is not dull.  We cannot forget the foundation upon which our country has been built and we cannot be distracted from the truth by sensationalized stories.  Please continue to talk about and to fight for issues that are important to you and I will do the same.

I’m 35 years old and deciding to create a blog for the first time. Why am I doing this? Because I feel like I need a voice somewhere other than my own house and my own head. Because I have a lot to say and hope that my children can look at this as a record of my thoughts and actions at a time in our history when there is so much to observe and for which we can fight. I look forward to the discourse and I hope that we can use words to find common ground or to debate our differences in a positive and constructive way.

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