Fake news stories are all over the news these days––in more ways than one.
A friend who will remain nameless (and I'm not talking about fishducky's daughter whose name really is Nameless) said to me a few weeks ago, Did you know that Donald Trump has a secret daughter?
I saw this headline online and knew what it was about. I said, If you mean Tiffany Trump, then she's never been a secret. She's his daughter with Marla Maples, who was his second wife. When they divorced, Marla and Tiffany moved to California. Tiffany graduated from college earlier this year. She didn't make a lot of campaign appearances, but that doesn't make her a secret. It was all over the news when The Donald had an affair with Maples while he was still married to his first wife.
Oh, my friend said.
So let's talk about how to spot a fake news story:
- Don't look at the headline without reading the attached story. Sometimes the story has nothing to do with the headline.
- Is the story from a reputable news source? (I realize some of us disagree about which news sources are reputable.)
- Is the story written in standard English, or is it full of typos and strange syntax?
- If you're not sure if the story is true, look up some background information. I rely on snopes.com to debunk fake stories.
- Does the story seem as if it could be true, or does it sound as if it could be someone's fantasy?
FAKE NEWS, REAL CONSEQUENCES An armed man with an assault rifle entered a D.C. pizza restaurant to investigate fake news claims that Hillary Clinton was running a pedophile ring there. [Marina Fang, HuffPost]
"The restaurant has been the subject of death threats originating from a false right-wing conspiracy theory alleging that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and campaign chairman John Podesta ran a child sex trafficking ring in the back of the restaurant."
No matter how much you hate Hillary Clinton, do you really and truly believe that she ran a child sex trafficking ring? If you do, then I wanna sell you some real estate and a bridge.
Some of the fake stories also appear in emails that continue to be forwarded for years. I used to receive an email regularly that claimed Mr. Rogers had been a military sniper who wore his sweater to cover up his many tattoos.
I never forwarded the email. It didn't seem "right" to me, so I looked into it. Mr. Rogers was never in the military. He went to the seminary and chose children's television as his ministry.
Other stories are "spins" perpetuated by large companies. When a woman spilled McDonald's coffee in her lap and was so severely burned that doctors weren't sure if she would live, the McDonald's spin machine went into overdrive and had people thinking she was an old fool who opened her coffee while she was driving, got burned, and wanted to become rich from it.
I call bullshit! The woman wasn't driving. Her nephew was, but the car wasn't moving when the two of them opened their cups of coffee. The coffee was so ridiculously hot that the woman's burns really were life threatening.
I've debunked this story a number of times. So have other people. The real story is also told in a documentary.
Yet I still see references to "the world has gone to shit because you spill a little coffee in your lap and sue somebody."
What's gone to shit is our ability to empathize with the person who was harmed, along with our desire to question authority––especially faux authority.
Please don't pass around emails or links to stories that could be fake. Do your homework and let the buck stop with you.
Infinities of love,