For all the frothing and howling here in DC over “fake news” I must say I’m not concerned. First, because while the amount of this garbage seems to be up lately, it’s not really unprecedented. The practice of passing off propaganda as news has been around for ages, ensnaring the gullible, the angry, and the hopeful among us. But the second reason I am unworried is I have a surefire test for catching counterfeits: If your source for news doesn’t piss you off about every three days, it’s probably fake.
Think about this. Not everything in the world is exactly the way I would like. It’s probably not the way you’d prefer it either. So if anyoneishonestly covering what is happening on this planet — or in your state, county, or town — a fair portion of what they report will involve things that make you bristle.
It may be a story about education, or religion, or business, or taxes, or politics. It could be poll numbers you don’t want to accept (ahem) or sports scores you can’t abide (looking at you, Falcons fans). But the presence of these irritants in your news stream is one indicator you may’ve found a genuine source of information not just affirmation.
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I once asked some grad students at Georgetown University where they got their news. A young women listed several left-leaning websites and I asked why she liked them. Her answer: “Because I agree with them. They tell me I am right.”
“Are you always right?” I asked.
“Well, no,” she replied.
“Then why,” I asked, “would you want someone to tell you that you are? Isn’t that choosing ignorance?”
I want my news sources to inform me with facts, and whether those facts make me happy or reaffirm my opinions is inconsequential. Want to avoid fake news? Search for journalists who cover the left, right and center with equal skepticism, who routinely make you reexamine your beliefs, and who make it clear they don’t give a damn how you feel about it.
Fakes don’t do well in that environment. And they won’t trouble you much anymore.