Like many of you, I get a substantial amount of my news from the Internet. Recently, I found several online items accusing Hillary Clinton and John Podesta (chairman of Hillary’s presidential campaign) of running an international pedophile ring out of a pizzeria in Washington, D.C., called Comet Ping Pong. Also implicated were the heads of state of several European countries and my Aunt Minnie. (Just kidding about Aunt Minnie.) The items seemed quite sober but upon further consideration, it occurred to me that the whole wacky mess could have been the product of Mad Magazine. An international child sex ring? The Clintons? Comet Ping Pong? Is someone pulling my leg?
Well, as a dyed-in-the-wool skeptic, I did a little research but could find no corroboration of the Ping Pong tale in any mainstream news outlet. Not that this would have been the first time that mainstream media failed to report important news. My new book—In Lies We Trust—describes how the media distorts the truth, omits key news, and lies outright, but this Ping Pong story stood out as just plain screwy. Guess what? It is screwy. The entire thing is a monumental lie, a shining example of what is now known as “fake news.”
There is nothing new about fake news. Satire has been a common ploy of the media since day one. A good example is Samuel Clemens (better known as Mark Twain), who was the author of many hoax articles. In fact, “Comet Ping Pong” is not the first fake news story to attract my attention. For some time, I have noticed an increase in far-out stories on the Internet. One storyline that made me laugh out loud alleges that Obama is planning a martial law takeover of the country with his own secret police force.
Where is all this insanity coming from? Frankly, who knows and who cares. The important thing is to be able to distinguish “fake news” from real news or at least from news that is commonly distorted by the mainstream media. Here are a few questions to ask that will help you recognize “fake news” when you see it:
Unfortunately, we are seeing so much lying and distortion from the mainstream media that the question of what is “fake” takes on new dimensions. Personally, I am more tolerant of “fake news” than biased spin from the Times, Washington Post, CNN, NBC, etc. The latter is more difficult to identify because the sources have more gravitas. Mainstream media spin is what we really should be concerned about.
Ed Brodow is a negotiation expert, political commentator, and author of In Lies We Trust: How Politicians and the Media Are Deceiving the American Public.
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