Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tools for resistance: on the lookout for fake news

In the time of Trump, the rest of us don't need to be passing around conspiracy theories. As smart media reporters have explained, the point of Trump's and his handlers' lies is not to replace truth with their falsehoods, but to persuade as many as possible of us that "everything is a lie."

This works better in a campaign than in governing. Reality bites in the real world. Running hard up against reality -- families broken by deportation, lost health insurance coverage, shuttered food stamp offices -- makes for painful encounters with undisguised truth.

Still, we can work not to play along with the disinformation environment. Let's leave the false stories to the other guys and strive to be sure that we are aren't buying into tales that just aren't so.

Several points:
  • If a headline grabs your attention -- and particularly if it is something that feeds your political assumptions -- CHECK around a little. Do you know the publication/site that it came from? Is any other well known source also reporting the story? The big newspapers and CNN have lots of faults, but they don't (usually, though occasionally they'll print a conspiracy fable-maker) run with completely unverified rumors. If something seems just too juicy, or too prejudicial, or too satisfying, to be true, it might be false, even in the age of Trump.
  • When you make yourself a source of information (say you write a blog), think hard about how you "know" what you "know." The American Press Institute describes an instructive, easily understood, "hierarchy of accuracy" that journalists can use before deciding to spread something around.

    Some facts, quotes, assertions and color are more reliable than others.

    The stuff that comes from an eyewitness is better than that which is second-hand.

    The stuff that you know for yourself is better than the stuff someone else supposedly checked out … or did they? ... Beware of the idea that you have to post a story because it’s “out there” — floating around.

  • Learn from others who are wrestling with evaluating stories for accuracy. Amnesty International has launched an international Digital Verification Corps working to

    blow the whistle on inauthentic materials depicting human rights violations. But equally important is our work at using advanced digital methods to curate reliable multimedia data that can be used to demand accountability for human rights atrocities. The relevance of this work cannot be overstated, especially in an era where everyone with a cell phone camera is a potential news reporter.

    This is an inspiring project.
WNYC's On The Media podcast pointed me to many of these references; Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield provide a regular reality check. #trypod

1 comment:

Hattie said...

Yes, this is very good.

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