There has been a significant level of discussion and coverage on the relatively new phenomena of what traditional news organizations and politicians have coined “Fake News”. Your perception and definition of “Fake News” depends on many things. I was recently engaged in a “passionate discussion” with some of my close family members and I was asked point blank whether I believed that Breitbart News was “Fake News”. Now at this point it is probably worth mentioning that myself and the family members in question reside in very different quadrants of the political spectrum. We are good people and given our French/Acadian heritage, we are very impassioned people…we come about it honestly – we come from the same amazing grand-parents.
Well that question was timely because I have been thinking about this subject for some time and the implications and influence “Fake News” (and information in general) has had on the way we perceive our world. We live in a time of unprecedented information, both in it’s accessibility and exponential growth. I read somewhere that it is estimated that every 2 years the amount of information available doubles in size. But, our capacity to suitably consume and interpret said information has not moved in step and realistically, how could it?
In terms of a political construct, the term “Fake News” has itself become a euphemism to characterize information that you don’t like or agree with. This applies equally to both corners of the political spectrum; I am guilty of it without question. This proliferation of information has come with an infinite number of institutions that have a vested interest in how you perceive it (news, politicians, bloggers, and FB friends). It’s human nature to gravitate toward cultures, ideals, principles that you are most familiar and comfortable with, those that best align with your individual beliefs, perspectives and moral conditioning. We do it every day…unconsciously…and that will always be part of human nature. But given the scope of the information and more importantly given the agenda driven industrial complex that works continuously to shape and influence how we perceive it, we really do run the risk of further divergence as a people.
Alright, back to the challenge. Yes, “Fake News” is a real thing without question. Stories are conceived out of thin air and spread through information mediums like wildfire and then eventually it is determined that they are 100% false. We do have a way of policing grossly inaccurate stories and they are often debunked before they really do much harm (but not always). What I believe to be the larger problem is the proliferation of “Agenda Driven” or Advocacy based information and it’s myopic presentation, delivery and consumption by a sycophantic adoring target audience. Information in the form of “news” that is most often constructed to serve a political agenda then disseminated through channels perceived by the consumer as “safe sources” because of their values alignment. Again, both sides of the political spectrum are guilty to varying degrees; on the left are sources like CNN, Vox, Vice, Slate, Huff post, Buzzfeed. On the right there’s Fox, Breitbart, InfoWars, TheRebelMedia, Blaze. All are guilty of advocacy reporting and altering the narrative to one in which suits their agenda. When you think about it these institutions are just a collective of people with like belief systems and is it a surprise that they “spin” in a way that aligns to how they have perceived it themselves? I test this theory all the time by watching and reading news sources from all edges of the spectrum and it is absolutely amazing how different the same news story /information is presented.
Finally, in answer to the question… as an institution do I believe Breitbart is “Fake News” and the answer is no. Just as I feel that Buzzfeed isn’t a wholly “Fake News” institution. I believe they are both agenda driven advocacy news sources that will release stories on occasion (mistakenly or intentionally) that are absolutely untrue and almost always debunked quickly. It’s the consciously manipulated presentation of agenda driven information that is way more dangerous.
Thanks for reading, I welcome your comments below.