Writing for Yahoo News, National Political Columnist Matt Bai provides a suggestion to combat the so-called “fake news” epidemic that has become a major talking point of the mainstream media since Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election. According to Bai, we should be “teaching our kids how to consume” information in an age where the internet has provided a press to anyone with a computer and a router.
Within his article, titled “The real problem behind fake news“, Bai calls fake news a “searing hot topic these days” and mentions the infamous WaPo article which cites a shadowy, anonymous organization known as PropOrNot (Propaganda or Not) that smears many legitimate conservative and libertarian news sources like Zero Hedge, Infowars, Breitbart, World Net Daily and The Ron Paul Institute as Russian propaganda.
That WaPo article highlighted what was the second blacklist of websites to make its rounds in the mainstream press last month. The first list was put together by a nobody liberal professor from Merrimack College (let me tell you how worthy of circulation that is).
The emergence of “fake news” is a searing hot topic these days, as you’ve probably heard — a new, truth-free media to go with our new, truth-free politics. The Washington Post reports that a lot of these phony stories, some of which probably influenced the election in at least a tangential way, originate with Russian “bots” programmed to confuse American readers. (Payback, I guess, for all those years when Voice of America did the same thing.)
Under enormous pressure, Facebook and Google have now promised to do a better job of curating the content that populates their sites. Which is all very comforting, if you really want software engineers assuming the role of civic arbiter that has traditionally fallen to journalists. I don’t.
And the problem with cracking down on social media sites is that it’s a little like the war on drugs. You can try to stamp out the supply of garbage news, but the Web is a vast place, and as long as someone can make money off misinformation, it will always find a crack through which to seep.
Aside from citing the WaPo hit piece on basically all effective news outlets outside the MSM realm, Bai is being reasonable. Most will agree, it is better not to have Facebook and Google taking on the role of civic arbiter and information gatekeeper. And the promoting of a crackdown on social media could lead to the very slippery slope of censorship.
The Yahoo News journalist goes on to writes:
No, the long-term solution here is about stemming the demand. The answer doesn’t lie in hectoring tech companies into policing content, but rather in teaching our kids how to consume it.
Bai says that “navigating the news media isn’t intuitive anymore” and compares it to flying a plane rather than driving a car.
“A Big Bang at the genesis of the Internet age” has fractured the entire (Media) industry and its audience into a million pieces,” he says.
“The proliferation of social media and the rise of mindless aggregation” is also causing this problem of “fake news” reaching the masses, Bia writes.
My kids will spend months of their young lives studying the Revolution and the Civil War and the advent of mass production, which is fine. In grade school, they spend some part of every year revisiting the social movements of the ’60s, which is noble and important.
But what’s called “media literacy” in the education world — the ability to consume torrents of information with some level of competence and sophistication — is still an outlier in social studies curricula, despite having been discussed now for decades. Even when it’s taught, it’s crammed into a high school unit, by which time today’s grade-schoolers will have been surfing YouTube for half their lives.
It seems like a great idea, teach kids how to objectively analyze the media. But, if we are to take the mainstream media’s labeling of “fake news” seriously, we will find ourselves telling our children that only big networks like CNN and MSNBC are trustworthy sources.
The real problem with the entire fake news narrative is that “fake news”, by PropOrNot’s definition, is really not a problem at all.
The mainstream media is telling everyone that since Google’s algorithm made a mistake by linking to a false news report, individuals now must surrender their ability to look at things objectively and only trust the big news networks.
Just look at PropOrNot.com’s blacklist, it is full of alternative news sites that now have large enough audiences to bang heads with the corporate controlled press. And considering that the trust in the mainline news is equal to that of trust in congress, this can only be seen as a way to discredit the grassroots news organizations that are threatening the old media’s reign.
The labeling of fake news should be left up the internet user who might stumble across some wrong information or even some disinformation.
It would be foolish to allow the mainstream press, an unknown organization that hides its identity and a leftist professor that teaches feminist media studies, to provide what is real and what is not.
I would also not be too enthusiastic on the public school system, that runs off federal funding, embracing the rise of alternative voices in media that are usually critical of government (the way it is suppose to be).
Matt Bai ends his piece for Yahoo with a very laughable thought.
Here’s a radical thought: If President Trump is looking for a bold and useful education initiative that might serve the incidental purpose of redeeming what’s left of his soul, media literacy would be a pretty good place to start. Getting behind a nationwide push in K-through-12 classrooms could be an important and unifying priority for the incoming education secretary, Betsy DeVos.
Willingly or not, Trump has done more than anyone else to expose the problem. The least he can do is begin to address it.
You mean the Donald Trump that absolutely ridiculed the mainstream media during a meeting last month over their blatant bias coverage of the election and misrepresentations?
Hate to break it to you Matt, but if Trump were to do that many of the websites on the PropOrNot list cited by WaPo would be presented as “real news” to our children. CNN and ABC would be identified as the establishment government lapdogs that they are.
I hope Trump takes your advice.