Fake news! Fake news! You hear this all the time now. It has become part of the culture since Donald Trump took over as the President of the U.S. However, fake news has been around for far longer than just the last few years. It has been around as long as news has been shared.
So what exactly is fake news and how can we separate the truth from the fiction? Fake news is also called “junk news” or “pseudo-news.” It is propaganda used to deliberately mislead those who read it or hear it. Here are some characteristics of news that is considered to be fake according to the Fake News Wikipedia page:
1.) …”written and published usually with the intent to mislead in order to damage an agency, entity, or person, and/or gain financially or politically, often using sensationalist, dishonest, or outright fabricated headlines to increase readership.”
2.) …”at times used to cast doubt upon legitimate news from an opposing political standpoint, a tactic known as the lying press.”
3.) …”has no basis in fact, but is presented as being factually accurate.”
4.) According to Michael Radutzky, a producer of CBS 60 Minutes, his show considers fake news to be “stories that are probably false, have enormous traction [popular appeal] in the culture, and are consumed by millions of people.”
5.) From Guy Campanile, also a 60 Minutes producer “What we are talking about are stories that are fabricated out of thin air. By most measures, deliberately, and by any definition, that’s a lie.”
6.) False context (“when genuine content is shared with false contextual information”)
7.) Impostor content (“when genuine sources are impersonated” with false, made-up sources)
8.) Manipulated content (“when genuine information or imagery is manipulated to deceive”)
9.)…Fabricated content (“new content is 100% false, designed to deceive…”)
The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions made a check list to help identify potential fake news. It is as follows:
- Consider the source (to understand its mission and purpose)
- Read beyond the headline (to understand the whole story)
- Check the authors (to see if they are real and credible)
- Assess the supporting sources (to ensure they support the claims)
- Check the date of publication (to see if the story is relevant and up to date)
- Ask if it is a joke (to determine if it is meant to be satire)
- Review your own biases (to see if they are affecting your judgement)
- Ask experts (to get confirmation from independent people with knowledge)
I think that paints a pretty clear picture of what constitutes fake news and how to check for it. If you need a bit more help understanding what it is, I will give you a visual example from history. It is a well known publication that has been read by billions:
Now I know some of you reading this are getting enraged right about now. I assure you, I do not mean to offend or intentionally cause anyone harm. I am merely stating facts. If you disagree, then I encourage you to follow the checklist above with regards to the Bible. If you are sincerely wanting to defend it, then you should be able to follow the checklist and emerge from that endeavor with your faith intact. So…
Did you check your sources? Did you read beyond the headlines written on the pages? Did you check the authors to verify that they are both real and credible? Did you find any supporting sources to corroborate the stories? Did you check the date to see if the stories are still relevant? Did you ask if it was meant to be a joke? You know, like satire or a parody? This next one is very important: Did you review your own biases to see if they are affecting your judgement? In most cases where people defend the Bible vigorously, they already had preconceived notions about it and strong indoctrination that swayed their opinions. Finally, did you consult an expert? Not your pastor who was trained to preach . Not just your parents who raised you to believe. Not just Ken Ham or William Lane Craig who are unwilling to even entertain the idea that they may in fact be wrong. Did you check with someone who doesn’t have a stake in this? Someone who is not a believer perhaps? Did you consult actual scholars of literary history? Old and New Testament scholars? Scholars of antiquity? Did you check with any independent source at all? Only using Christian “scholars” to defend the Bible is extremely disingenuous.
If you just take the Bible on faith, what is stopping you from taking all news on faith? What is preventing you from filling your mind and heart with fake (and potentially dangerous) news from any and all sources? We all, from time to time, accept hearsay as truth. It’s human nature to trust the stories we hear from sources we feel are genuine and accurate. But without proper verification, we are susceptible to being taken advantage of. I’m not one for preaching, but I’ll make an exception this one time and preach for diligent study. You need multiple sources to properly authenticate news of any kind. Using one source leads to all sorts of misinformation (some deliberately misleading) being taken as fact.
If you want to read a story that is genuine, trustworthy and filled to the brim with meaning, I would suggest trying this:
When you write your own story, you will never have to worry about the source. You will never have to worry that it isn’t genuine. You will never have to question the motive of the author. You can make yourself the hero if you wish or just a supporting character. You can be whatever you want to be and do whatever you want to do without fear of damnation or rejection from someone who doesn’t have your best interests in mind…because they aren’t there. You won’t have to hit your knees and beg forgiveness just for being you. The story you write yourself will be the most rewarding story you will ever read. Not only that, but others will see it bursting from within you and want to be part of it as well.