First Amendment Violation–Or Responsible Action? Re: Fake News Sites

FakeNewsInfoWars

Alex Jones of the InfoWars web site has posted a video claiming that the “government has announced they want to shut this site (InfoWars.com) down.” Other fake news sites are running similar articles, including one called “TheBostonTribune” claiming that President Obama signed an Executive Order to “shut down the alt right” and other “alternative media” sites. The article even posted an Executive Order 13749 (and even gave the link to a government page listing Executive Orders (https://www.archives.gov/federal-register/executive-orders) where there was no Executive Order 13749 (as of this writing). So this “story” seems to be just more fake news.

The reason these sites exist at all in the U.S. is because of the First Amendment protections for freedom of speech and expression. Unfortunately, people who run these sites abuse their First Amendment rights by posting irresponsibly and dishonestly by spreading misinformation and personal and political bias and bigotry (and racism, sexism, xenophobia). Alex Jones is one of the more prominent purveyors of fake news and gross bias.

Perhaps, since these sites do not post truthful or reliable news, they should – instead of being shut down – be required by law to make a clearly and prominently visible statement to the effect of: “Articles published on this site are not vetted or sanctioned by any official U.S. news organization and are predominantly the authors’ subjective opinion, are spoofed or fake, and/or are satirical in nature and therefore can not considered as being 100% truthful or accurate.” This would be the responsible action.

How fake news sites work: They take truths and weave false stories around them to make it appear as if it was a legitimate piece of news. But it is dishonest and pernicious. As several mainstream news articles have been reporting, “fake news has real world effects” – and those effects are potentially dangerous (like the person who took a firearm into a pizza restaurant in Washington D.C.).

Many of the political fake news sites serve to promote often exaggerated right wing (Republican) ideals and even far right wing fanaticism, and to bash the left wing and “Liberals” – both of whom they often call inflammatory names like “libtards” and other derogatory pejoratives – and tell usually false and inaccurate pseudo-news that mischaracterizes and condemns the left (Democrats). And people keep falling for this crap! Even after all the media attention regarding fake news sites, people still fall for this stuff, and even defend it. The sites that post fake news call their sites “alternative media” – which is misleading. This “alternative media” is usually posted by people with an agenda – to promote their bias and bigotry and to make money off of advertisers who advertise through these outlets and off of begging for donations.

A tech author and writer, Bob Rankin, (often featured on the PC Pitstop web site), wrote an article to help identify fake news sites:

“Fake news is spread mainly ON Facebook and Twitter. Both social media platforms have pledged to do more to identify fake news and stop its spread. But fake news is not spread BY Facebook or Twitter. It’s spread by the human users of these services. Check out these tips to help you discern spot the bogus stories.

Avoid sites whose names end with “lo” such as “Politicalo” or “Newslo.” They all belong to a network of sites that inject false “facts” and misleading interpretations into true stories, then distribute the poisoned fruits.

Domain names that end in “.com.co” are usually masquerading as legitimate sources. The same goes for “.com.cc” or any other “.com” name that has additional letters at its end.

If mainstream media is not reporting a story, it’s more likely that there is no story, than that the MSM does not want to report it. Be suspicious of any story that complains, “MAINSTREAM MEDIA IS IGNORING THIS!”

That’s Outrageous!

Beware of headlines and body text that use lots of capitalized words. All-caps text stirs up angry, anxious emotions in readers, making them more inclined to share without thinking.

If a story is written in a tone of outrage, it is likely to make you very angry too. Take a deep breath and check the story’s claims via Google before sharing it.

The lack of a date, location, or author’s name in an article should move your BS-detector’s needle. If your BS-detector is missing or faulty, try the B.S. Detector browser plugin. It checks every page you visit, comparing the domain names to a database of domains belonging to unreliable or questionable news sources, and will alert you with a banner across the top of the page if what you’re reading is potentially bogus. Links are categorized as Fake News, Satire, Extreme Bias, Conspiracy Theory, Rumor Mill, Junk Science, Hate Group, Clickbait, and Proceed With Caution (sources that may be reliable but require further verification).

Check the comments left on a story, if any are available. You may find someone has already debunked or verified the story.

A picture has more emotional impact than 1,000 words, and pictures can be faked too. I detailed several ways to evaluate the authenticity of images in my article, Is That Picture Real? Google Image Search is your best tool for learning where else a given picture appears.”

(Read the whole article here.)

Fake news (“Alternative Media” or “Alternative News”) has grown into a major problem, and many believe it has unfairly influenced the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. It is believed that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government has been a promoter of fake news with the intent to interfere in the 2016 American electoral process and, has possibly done so since as far back as 2008.

Fake news is bad news. Please check your sources before you re-post any “news” stories – on Facebook or Twitter or other social media site – or in your blog – especially if they seem a bit hard to believe, or if they anger you or raise your blood pressure … don’t fall for the lies and misinformation.

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Let Them See, Those Who Have Eyes …

 

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The members of the Electoral College need to be made aware (if they’re not already) that Donald Trump is a genuine menace and a potentially great danger to our great nation. In his own environment (business) he may be very successful and with his family, he may be a great father. I suspect he may be a good friend to many, as well. But as a President of the United States … he is terrifying.

He may be the President-elect, but already he is saying and doing things that are causing serious divisiveness and disruption – not only within the United States but in the global community as well. As just one example, recently, his phone call with the Taiwanese leader represents a major diplomatic faux pas, and has angered China and may have damaged our relations with China. As you know, China is considered the second largest economy and the second largest military in the world. China combined with Russia could form a collaboration of countries that would represent an extremely formidable super power. Add North Korea, and the volatility of its brash, leader Kim Jong Un, and you have three nuclear powers that, between themselves, have considerably more nuclear weapons than the United States.

As you also know, US relations with China are strained, US relations with Russia are often being referred to as another “Cold War” and relations with North Korea are almost as bad as they’ve ever been. With a Donald Trump as president, with consideration of his “shoot from the hip” style, his lack of finesse, his naïveté with regard to the workings of politics from the perspective of a world leader, and his penchant for taking things personally (as indicated in his 3 AM tweets) and you have an extremely volatile mix.

Then, let’s consider another alarming factor: Donald Trump has a penchant for believing and perpetuating, and even originating, conspiracy theories. It is believed that Trump listens to, and takes seriously, websites like Breitbart news, Info Wars, (etc) – and many other fake news that have been proliferating throughout the Internet and social media as of late. Donald Trump was a major figure in the “Birther Movement” against Pres. Obama, and has repeated information suggesting that he has bought into a number of conspiracy theories regarding Hillary Clinton and even Bill Clinton.

Trump claimed he was going to “drain the swamp” – but is now surrounding himself with people who actually represent the swamp. His selection of Steve Bannon, formerly of Breitbart news, as an advisor alone should give people pause. Bannon is a former Goldman Sachs banker who has been known to either create our perpetuate fake news stories, is a divisive far right-wing pundit, has been linked to white supremacy groups, and, under his leadership, Breitbart news has promoted racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry, xenophobia, and other inflammatory, derisive views of people and groups he, and Breitbart news, has taken aim at. Trump chose, to head the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt – a move that signals Trump’s intent to undo President Obama’s work to curb climate change. Then there is the CEO of Hardee’s/Wendy’s restaurants, who opposes the $15.00 per hour minimum wage, and opposes paying overtime to salaried people who make less than 47,500 a year.

Then, as his Treasury Secretary, Trump has selected a former Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin, who profited from the housing meltdown.

He has named Rep. Tom Price to head the Department of Health and Human Services. Price is an outspoken critic of Obama care, and wants to privatize Medicare, is a member of the Tea Party, and is a very scary choice for all those millions of people who depend on the federal Medicare health program. These people now stand in fear of their health benefits being reduced, made more costly, or lost altogether.

He has selected Sen. Jeff sessions from Alabama as his new attorney general. Sessions has been reported as making racially insensitive comments to a former colleague, Thomas Figures, ad African-American. Sessions told him to be careful what he said about “white folks” and “made a comment sympathetic to the KKK.”

As of this writing, the remaining cabinet positions have not been decided yet, but the kind of people Trump is surrounding himself with sends a very scary message about Trump, and about the pain and hardship he intends to inflict upon the American people. Trump and his cabinet are all members of the “one percent” and they represent what I think of as perpetrators of “the war against the poor.”

No Electoral College members have ever voted significantly against the candidate with the most pledged votes. Despite the fact that Hillary Clinton won nearly two and a half million more popular votes than Trump, the Electoral College system will vote the candidate with significantly fewer actual votes. To me, that represents a slap in the face to the voters, and an abandonment of what “majority vote” stands for. It is un-democratic.

It has been proven again and again throughout recent history that if enough people stand up against unfairness from the government, it can cause changes to happen. The most recent example it the Dakota Pipeline protest: at least for now, the pipeline construction has been delayed – and may be reevaluated and another path taken for the land the pipeline is built across, saving the potential for poisoning of groundwater and impingement of sacred Indian land.

I wonder … if enough people stood against the Electoral College, if the right thing might be accomplished – and elect the person who actually won the popular vote.