Monday, January 9, 2017

Fake News and Post-Truth: Does truth matter… or even exist?

“Does truth exist?” When I stumbled on this question on GoodReads, I rolled my eyes. Sophomoric, dorm room rap-session stuff.  But the more I thought, the more I realized the inquiry relevant in contemporary “post-truth” society, rife with “fake news.

My take is that facts matter, since they get us closer to reality.  So by ignoring facts, fake news is dangerous. You cannot even run a household without facts. Like your checking account balance and electric bill amount.

Imagine ignoring those facts. You don’t like your utility, so you skip paying your electric bill. And you “pretend” your balance is higher than listed, so you write checks over your real balance.

The result? Checks bounce, and they cut-off your electricity.

Rationalizations and emotional fantasies DO NOT alter reality. In fact, they often lead to reality sneaking up on and smacking us. So basing political opinions on fake news can be dangerous.

Problem I see is that fake news exploits emotion. Consider that Facebook’s most shared “news story” over October was fake, containing conversations and emails that never happened. It’s untrue title is bombastic --  "Wikileaks CONFIRMS Hillary Sold Weapons to ISIS… Then Drops Another BOMBSHELL!" Worse, this is only one of many fake news stories that floated around Facebook in the election’s final weeks.

It’s one thing to dislike Secretary Clinton for her record or personality. It’s another to dislike her due to lies.

Put metaphorically, “Don’t write a check on a fake report. It’ll bounce.”