Saturday, July 25, 2020

"Not Real," looks at the fake news of the week.

by Rod Williams, 7/25/2020 - In economics, there is a law, "bad money drives out good money." In information, I fear "false news drives out real news."

I have at times applauded the decline of the major news networks and the rise of alternative sources of news. However, over the last twenty years or so, and at an accelerating rate, we are seeing a dumbing down of America. Part of this can be blamed on the education establishment that has gone from sound education to indoctrination. Most of it however, is more organic and cultural. People are simply not as informed as in a previous age. They have shorter attention spans and they want news that reinforces what they already believe.

We may have the world at our fingertips but people know less about what goes on in the world than in previous generations. We have several 24 hours news channels but if you actually watch them, there is not much news on the news channels. If is across the spectrum too. From far left MSNBC to Fox News, most of the time is taken up with talking heads giving their take on the news of the day. It is bombastic or snarky TV personalities promoting a point of view and demonizing the other side, or a panel of "experts" spending hours talking about something that may be pretty inconsequential.

I think what has happened is that newspapers declined because reading a news paper is reading yesterday's news. CNN is instantaneous news. The format of TV news however is such that people want visuals. As people watch more TV news, their attention span shortens. TV has no time for deep explanations the way a newspaper story can cover the news. As people quit reading newspapers, revenues fell and newspapers had to cut staff and could do less in-depth reporting, so even more people dropped their subscription. Most cities now only have one newspaper and some large cities have no newspapers. That is not good for a democracy.

It is nothing new that a lesser important story gets knocked off the front page when a more important story happens, but it seems to me, that we have reached a point at which we can only pay attention to a couple topics at a time. Take the current news climate. About all we are hearing about is the civil unrest or Covid-19. Those are for sure important topics. But, that is not all that is happening in the world. What is the daily news out of Hong Kong? We are witnessing a democracy with a population of seven and a half million people on the verge of being taken over by a despotic regime. If this happens, we may see millions sent to reeducation camps and thousands killed. There may not be anything we can do about it, but we ought to know about it. We ought to witness it.

When is the last time you saw a news story about Venezuela. It is still there. The last I heard there was a stand off between the dictator and the person the National Assembly declared to be the president. What is the latest? Months ago people had resorted to eating cats and dogs. A recent story I saw on BBC says the fuel shortage is so severe that funeral homes are having trouble getting fuel for hearst to drive bodies to cemeteries. This is a major drama playing out in our backyard and we don't know it.

Back in the decade of the 80's I served in the Metro Council. At that time we had The Tennessean and the Nashville Banner and they would compete for stories. They had real investigative reporters. In addition, each of the three local TV channels had news reporters and radio stations WSM and WLAC had reporters. At an event, there would be a gaggle reporters trying to get a quote. Reporters competed for the "scoop." Now it seems that the coverage is so superficial and the news is mostly press releases sent to the papers. There are not many investigative reporters left.

Local TV news has gotten bad along with the newspapers. If you watch the local news you will see a lot of sports, a weather lesson when all I want to know is it going to rain tomorrow, and a car wreck and a crime. There is very little delving into issues or exposing corruption or scandal.

While news has been on the decline, what has been growing is "fake news." I am appalled at the things reposted on Facebook. And, more and more people get most of their news from social media. People believe lots of things that are simply made up.

A new feature from AP and Nexstar and carried locally by WKRN called "Not Real," looks at the fake news of the week. Here are the fake news items of the past week. You probably saw these stories on Facebook. I saw most of them.

  • There is no coin shortage. Coins get recirculated, they don’t just disappear. The government is trying to usher in a cashless society.  
  • Former President Barack Obama signed the law authorizing federal agents to “snatch” protesters off the streets in Portland, Oregon. 
  •  A video from a 1985 hearing exposes Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden for using the N-word, stating: “We already have a n—– mayor, we don’t need any more n—– big shots!” 
  • Black tour buses wrapped with “Black Lives Matter” were seen in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, bringing in Black Lives Matter and antifa rioters for protests. 
  • In a July 17 tweet, President Donald Trump says he is “SO MAD” the Pentagon abolished the Confederate flag and calls the flag a symbol of love. 
  • NASA has officially announced a 13th zodiac sign, Ophiuchus, after discovering a new constellation, meaning your zodiac star has changed. 

Don't believe someting just because you read it on Facebook. Check out the source. I try to be careful, but I have on occation clicked "share" without checking a source. If I do post something false, I welcome having it pointed out and if it is false, I will remove it. None of us should want to be gulity of spreading lies.

Stay informed and stay skeptical.

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