Fake News

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:

  1. Consider the source (to understand its mission and purpose)
  2. Read beyond the headline (to understand the whole story)
  3. Check the authors (to see if they are real and credible)
  4. Assess the supporting sources (to ensure they support the claims)
  5. Check the date of publication (to see if the story is relevant and up to date)
  6. Ask if it is a joke (to determine if it is meant to be satire)
  7. Review your own biases (to see if they are affecting your judgement)
  8. 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:

Bible

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:

story

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.

18 thoughts on “Fake News

    1. Why thank you. I agree. I think common sense should be taught to all of our children. 🙂

      Seriously though, I don’t think enough people stop and think about how dangerous it can be to accept anything on faith alone. Finding truth should be of the utmost importance and faith is not a pathway to truth.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. In a twitter study of over two million tweets, false reports and fake news traveled faster and farther (about 70x deeper in the threads and shares than true stories. People hate bias in others, but hang on to their own without a concern in the world. I agree with Farmer. This tendency to believe anything that agrees with us can only be broken by awareness.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I don’t know if I will ever fully understand this tendency of so many people to be so gullible, so devoted to a particular idea that they will even vehemently deny actual facts. Of course this is nothing new, it’s been going on for as long as people have been around. And I’m not really sure how it can be prevented. Education can help, true. Teaching kids how to engage in proper research, teaching them critical thinking skills, etc. is absolutely essential. That can help but it isn’t going to eliminate the problem.

      I don’t think much of anything is going to happen unless we can clean up the political system. Right now our whole political system is pretty much owned outright by special interest groups which are, in turn, funded almost exclusively by a handful of ultra rich individuals and corporations. And, yes, religions. The catholic church pumped millions of dollars into lobbying campaigns to try to prevent state legislatures from extending or eliminating the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I’m certainly not above it all, but I do try. Since about 2010 I quit following the news or politics at all. That helps my own sanity because I realized everything I lent towards was skewed—badly (most likely led to my unbelief s well) But so is yours. So is every belief system. I watch both parties from the sidelines now and their both wrong. I’m not able to be a nice person and be involved in those biases from both sides. That is where I personally, have to operate. There is no more civility in it and that is against my baseline nature. I like people. The whole thing is designed to divide and I won’t do it. I also should note that most people, if left to their own are pretty cool. I would however, support a platform that allowed total autonomy within a broad framework, that what you do can’t infringe on another’s. The personal journey is now controlled by mass everything where people fight. We’re all going to be dead soon and nothing matters but peaceful love right now—but who will have it?

        Liked by 3 people

    1. I think the biggest problem I have with this example is that it is still just one source that people are arguing over. There are many manuscripts listed as sources for this on the Wikipedia link you provided such as “Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus, Papyrus 123”, etc… The issue is that these all stem from one source and are copies of copies of copies, dating back to the earliest record of the text. They are not different independent sources, but rather copies of the same one source. And the original source was written many years after the stories were being passed from person to person in oral tradition. Not the best way to preserve accuracy.
      The scholars listed on that link (3 of them Christian apologists and theologians and 2 of them supposed skeptics) only talked about the date of the text in question, not the veracity of the words contained within. I have no doubt the texts exist and I have no issue even saying that they could have been written close to the death of Jesus. But having one source of an old text describing an event does not prove the event occurred. Old written text derived from oral tradition does not prove the supernatural or the divine. In the link you provided, Gary Habermas (a noted Christian apologist) said this, “Essentially all critical scholars today agree that in Corinthians 15:3–8, Paul records an ancient oral tradition(s) that summarizes the content of the Christian gospel.” All that says is that people used to say this stuff out loud and then at some point years later, it was written down. What exactly does that prove?
      Where is the historical record of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus? Where, outside of Christian tradition (both oral and textual) does this exist? People were recording history in many cultures back then and in many different languages. Why is there nothing about this miraculous event preserved for all to see? If Jesus existed, did miracles and then died and rose again, even skeptics would be moved to believe…yet they didn’t. The majority of Jews of that time certainly didn’t believe this was a miraculous event, as they denied his messiahship and still do to this day. To them, Jesus was (and still is) just a man.
      I appreciate the comment and the link you provided, but we are still talking about the Bible as a source with nothing to compare it to. Dating when it was written says nothing about whether or not the words (derived from oral tradition) are true. If a text exists from antiquity, such as 1 Corinthians, so what? Nobody is arguing that ancient words regarding a belief system do not exist. The Bible is a collection of very old texts. The issue is that these words about certain events and the belief system derived from them exist in only one place. The rest of the ancient literary world is silent on such matters. Miracles back then, as they would be today, would be big news and impossible to deny if they were witnessed by both believers and skeptics alike.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Ah, but it is the “Good Fake News” surely?

    On Sun, Jun 9, 2019 at 10:23 PM Life After Religion wrote:

    > Ben posted: “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” >

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Good on ya, Ben. Lies and fake news: As Sam Harris wrote in the End of Faith “Of course, one senses that the problem is simply hopeless. … And yet, it is obvious that an utter revolution in our thinking could be accomplished in a single generation: if parents and teachers would merely give honest answers to the questions of every child.” GROG

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So many Christians simply dismiss Sam Harris as just being a sinful blasphemer. But if you actually listen to his words and use some common sense, you would see the wisdom there. I love Sam Harris. He is both brilliant and relatable….which is why I wasn’t such a fan back when I was a believer myself. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I would argue that there is a strong correlation between your finely illustrated fake news source, and the susceptibility to other sources of fake news.

    Once you get accustomed to swallowing B.S. it gets easier as you go.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “Did you review your own biases to see if they are affecting your judgement? ”

    Do you think it is only Christians who read the bible in a biased sense and never atheists? Can you give some examples of atheists being biased? If not then it might just be you are biased yourself.

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    1. I never once said that atheists cannot be biased. In fact, many are. I was specifically talking about a specific issue within Christianity. Suggesting that I was only saying Christians are biased is a dishonest accusation. I would hope that wasn’t your intention. I always keep an open mind when it comes to reviewing evidence. I am somewhat “biased” when people start throwing Bible verses and quotes from Jesus to prove a point though. When someone use the Bible as “evidence” I am not likely to consider them credible. That’s not a true bias however, but rather me still waiting for someone to prove the Bible to be true. It’s skepticism, not stubbornness. The Bible is a collection of unprovable stories, unfulfilled prophecy and inaccurate scientific observations. Why believe? Because of faith? Faith is not evidence. Faith is belief without evidence. I am more than willing to be proven wrong. I am absolutely willing to review evidence that could show those ancient stories are true. But more often than not, I just hear that I need to have faith and I just need to believe it’s true. That’s not enough.

      Can you show me something outside of the Bible that corroborates the stories within? Not names of people or towns. Some of those things written about in the Bible did exist. I’m talking about the supernatural claims or the instances of miracles. Do those exist outside the Bible? Was Jesus divine outside that book or was he just a man? Why did the rest of world leave out those stories of miraculous events when they recorded history? Basing your beliefs and worldview on one source (the Bible) is not what anyone should be doing unless there is sufficient evidence to back it up and more than just feelings to confirm it.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “Can you show me something outside of the Bible that corroborates the stories within? Not names of people or towns. Some of those things written about in the Bible did exist. I’m talking about the supernatural claims or the instances of miracles. Do those exist outside the Bible? Was Jesus divine outside that book or was he just a man? Why did the rest of world leave out those stories of miraculous events when they recorded history? Basing your beliefs and worldview on one source (the Bible) is not what anyone should be doing unless there is sufficient evidence to back it up and more than just feelings to confirm it.”

        When you say corroborate outside of “the bible” You are saying yes but where is your proof outside of these 27 books. (new testament) If we have 27 books corroborating something that happened 2000 years ago that is pretty good.

        The fact that the church decided to put those 27 books in our bible does not diminish the historical importance.

        Beyond that I am not sure why you mean. I can not even give you evidence where and when my grandfather was born and he was born in Ireland likely around 1905. It seems the birth certificate and baptism records are missing due to fires. Some of the records I do have contradict – does that mean he never existed? We have to look at history with some understanding of what evidence we would hope to find.

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      2. “I never once said that atheists cannot be biased. In fact, many are. I was specifically talking about a specific issue within Christianity. Suggesting that I was only saying Christians are biased is a dishonest accusation.”

        This blog did not mention anyone else being biased other than Christians. So only Christians were mentioned. I am merely pointing out that as a Christian who enjoys discussions with atheists I find much or the same biases. If you mentioned Atheists being biased in this blog and therefore the blog was not only about Christians being biased please let me know. I simply missed it.

        Here is what you said right before posting a picture of a bible:

        “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”

        In any case yes I think we can all agree no group is immune to biases but we should all at least learn what they are and therefore understand how they may be effecting us. I did a blog on some biases that I frequently see on atheist and Chrisitan blogs. I read more atheist blogs than Christian blogs so perhaps that is why I see it more on atheist blogs:

        https://trueandreasonable.co/2019/06/26/wearing-the-juice-overconfident-atheists-and-the-dunning-kruger-effect-and-other-biases/

        Like

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