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What is “Fake News”? Satire, Hoax, Click-bait, Conspiracy, and Outrage-bait

November 16, 2016

A list of “Fake news” sites is making headlines:

http://www.wlox.com/story/33713839/professor-compiles-list-of-fake-misleading-news-websites

The “Fake News” List is mostly not fake shit

The problem isn’t The Onion and Breitbart, it’s confirmation bias. People automatically believe anything they read that confirms their views without even a 5-second google search or just rudimentary skepticism.

Fraudulent websites that are impersonating legitimate news are already illegal and should be prosecuted.

While click-bait and outrage-bait are annoying, calling them “fake” is a big leap. Plus the fact that this list includes Breitbart but not Huffington Post indicates a double-standard.

I think some Satire (especially Borowitz report) is so poorly-written and unfunny that it blurs the line between satire and misinformation.

Anti-Science “News”

My sister-in-law recently unfriended and denounced me publicly after I debunked an anti-vaccination article she shared from some bogus “holistic medicine” website. I had written that I was disappointed that she was spreading dangerous misinformation because I knew she’s smart enough to check the claims being made in the article.

She angrily said in her public call-out post that she “doesn’t have time to fact check every little thing that pops up on her news feed and that when she sees something interesting she shares it and in the case of the anti-vaccine article she hadn’t even read it yet.” Seemingly acknowledging that the article was fake, yet doubling-down on her decision to broadcast it to her friends and family. She routinely shares hoax-science articles, like last year when she shared an article claiming that Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo is toxic.

Deliberate Left-Wing Hoaxes and Myths

The Anti-Science mindset is frightening – the lack of skepticism, the confirmation bias, and the self-righteous ignorance. What’s WORSE is what I see in the Left Wing where hoaxes and false-flags are deliberately engineered and then disingenuously spread as true stories by those who know or suspect they’re false because “they speak to a larger truth.” Like a podcast host said recently when faced with evidence that the gender wage gap was a myth: “[the wage gap is] gonna be up for debate […] [but] the wage gap statistic speaks to a larger rage and injustice.”

I faced enormous backlash for expressing skepticism of the tales of post-election hate crime wave being reported in anecdotes on social media. “How dare I, a straight white man, doubt the experiences of vulnerable people?” I had one (tranny) friend ask me rhetorically “Do I have to DIE to prove to you that bigotry is happening?” to which I explained that I know and trust him, but my trust does not extend to every single trans or non-white individual by virtue of their group identity.

Right-Wing Conspiracy “News”

The Right Wing fringe, on the other hand, with their trust in Mainstream Media at an all-time low, frequently end up in crackpot conspiracy territory, Alex Jones’ Infowars being the fountainhead. It seems fear, mistrust, and ignorance feeds the right wing hoaxes, more than the far left-wingers who promote hoaxes deliberately as a political tactic.

“Fake news” and hoaxes come from both political ‘sides’ – and from non-political anti-science angles as well. Be skeptical.

Michael Moore hoodwinked me so hard it made me a lifelong skeptic

When I was 15 I watched Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine. At this time I was a mohawked anarchist and this film confirmed everything I already believed and really fired me up. I was outraged by the injustices detailed in the film. A little bit later I was doing internet searches about the film when I read a detailed debunking. The film (like all of Moore’s films) is a shrewd work of fictional propaganda – with entirely fabricated pieces of disinformation designed to appear true. I felt stupid. I felt used. I vowed to be more vigilant next time. It was a formative experience for me that I’m thankful I had.

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