01 Jan 2021

I’m sure you are tired of hearing the term “fake news”. But what is fake news anyway? Is it simply news that someone doesn’t  like? Or is there something more to it?

The fairness doctrine of the United States Federal Communications Commission, introduced in 1949, was a policy that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was—in the FCC’s view—honest, equitable, and balanced. Then in 1987, The FCC voted down the doctrine in a 4-0 margin. Since 1987, the networks have had the ‘freedom’ to broadcast ‘news’ in any manner they see fit without regard for ‘truth’ or ‘fact checking’ for that matter. So, what we see now is their interpretation of events in a manner that suits ‘their’ interests rather than the ‘public’s’ objective interest This is what Orwell cautioned in his famous novel “1984.” Freedom of the Press is now the Pen of the Powerful…

Fake news stories are more common than you believeI am sure there are ethical journalists. I doubt whether any of them work for the mainstream news – at least not for very long. Any journalist with a shred of ethics would not be able to remain working for any length of time at any of the big, corporate owned news agencies without running into a conflict between right and wrong.

These news agencies include CNN, MSNBC, CBS, Fox News, the Washington Post, the Economist, the BBC, and all the forms of media with corporate owners, a big Internet presence, video news shows, and so forth.

It must sound shocking to hear someone come right out and say that mainstream news is knowingly malicious. Yes, I used the word malicious, as in to intentionally cause harm.

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Let’s look a little closer at this.

The News Focuses On The The Bad

Did you know that over 90% of the news that’s reported is negative?

You don’t believe me? Do an experiment and open up a newspaper, watch a news program or review a news website. Ignoring whether or not you agree with what the article says, note down how many times something negative is reported versus how many times something positive is reported.

As I said, ignore your political affiliation, your leanings to the right or the left, and simply judge what is written or said by the news as being either positive or negative.

For example, there are hundreds of thousands of police officers working every day, doing their jobs diligently and ensuring the general population is safe. The vast majority of these officers are good people doing the best they can to help their communities. Of course, individuals occasionally make mistakes, do the wrong things, and so forth. But on a daily basis, the vast majority just go through their routine, do their jobs, help people, and arrest the bad guys (and gals).

What does the press focus on? The single corrupt cop or unfortunate incident. Reading about the police in the news, you’d think every office was trying to shoot as many people as possible and every police force in the entire country is corrupt. Little to no attempt is made to balance the single, isolate negative events with anything positive.

If you’ve ever talked with reporters, you’ll find they, as a rule, want the glamorous story exposing some huge scandal. This is how they get promotions and raises. I doubt if any reporter ever got praised for doing stories about cops helping communities or the police successfully stopping crime.

News Causes Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression are caused by the media, especially the news mediaIt should be obvious that content in media can affect your emotions. A happy, lively movie can make you feel good, a horror movie might make you feel terrified, and an action movie can make you feel anxious and give you that rush of adrenaline.

It’s true that there are a lot of bad things happening in the world every day. There is always crime, automobile accidents, politics, war, and similar things happening at any minute of any day that you choose. Someone got into an accident this very second while you read this. Someone else was in some way victimized by a criminal, and it’s highly likely that there’s a war going on somewhere in the world while you read the sentence.

But do you really need to know any of that? Is it important that you know about that long car chase on the 101 freeway in Los Angeles? Do you need to understand the ramifications of the terrorist bombing in Iraq that happened 20 minutes ago? Is the riot in some city far away from you important to you and will it affect your life?

By putting these stories on the news, the answer from the media is “yes, you need to know this stuff”. The news media takes the stance that you need to know every single thing that Donald Trump did wrong today or every little fault committed by Hillary Clinton. You also have to know, 20 times over, about the person who died in an automobile accident in Las Vegas, clear across the country from you, and you certainly must have all the details about a police shooting on the other side of the country.

According to the news media, the intimate and thorough details of all of these events are vital to your survival. So vital, in fact, that the news will often show you the same story over and over again.

All this negativity tends to make people anxious, depressed, terrified, and upset. A study in 1997 looked at the psychological effects of viewing negative news items. It found that those who watched negative news bulletins were significantly more anxious and sadder than those who watch positive or neutral news bulletins.

One important step to coping with depression is to stop watching, reading or listening to the news.

News Misdirects

A major problem in our news media is that the reporters in the mainstream media are extremely partisan,  distort facts and omit data to reinforce their political beliefs or the agendas of the organizations for which they work.

For example, the big networks are not happy with Donald Trump. A survey by the Media Research Center reports that their study of 1,007 news media stories about the Trump White House on ABC, CBS and NBC found that 92% of the coverage of Donald Trump was negative and only 8% was positive.

According to the report, “Over the summer, the broadcast networks have continued to pound Donald Trump and his team with the most hostile coverage of a president in TV news history”. However, during that same period, the press largely missed that the economy was doing a lot better under Trump’s administration. There were numerous other good things that the president had done and administration accomplished but they were largely ignored by the mainstream news.

What’s the point?

If you want a balanced coverage of the Trump administration, or anything else for that matter, you need to look elsewhere than the mainstream press. You’re not going to get balanced anything from the news.

News Exaggerates Corruption

All types of news media exaggerate corruptionThe news focuses on the exceptions, the glamorous or the extreme because that makes ratings higher. Apparently, at least in the way of the thinking of the news, no one wants to know about the police officer who walks his beat every day, stopping crime, preventing violence, and building up his neighborhood. That’s actually what happens with the majority of police – they do their jobs and help people and communities.

However, the news feels that the masses want to see and learn about the exception – criminal actions, racial attacks, and even unkind remarks by police officers. The tens of thousands of officers who do their job every day following the rules and doing their best are ignored because of the racial remarks said on social media by a single officer. Worse yet, the news often implies that there is deeper corruption within the police, sometimes by simply saying an investigation has taken too long or has not gone in the direction towards proving the officer was at fault.

Of course, it would be boring to tune into the news and have the anchor state that all the police officers did their jobs satisfactorily today. This would make the majority of news days as dull as can be because on most days most everyone is doing their jobs is best as they can, following the rules as much as possible, and not doing any harm to anyone.

The problem is not that the news reports on corruption – yes, we do need to know about corruption so it can be dealt with – but that th media exaggerates the corruption and implies that the entire structure is rotten to the core. The media does this often by choice of words – adjectives and adverbs – that makes the problem seem much more intense than it really is. News writers take advantage of logical fallacies and cognitive biases of their own and their audiences to warp isolated events into nonexistent patterns and failures of entire systems and communities.

The net result of this is people who watch the news tend to have very negative opinions about subjects on which the news reports. Even though the vast majority of police officers are simply doing their job and doing it well under difficult conditions, the community might feel, because of the news media, that the entire Police Department is corrupt and needs to be thoroughly investigated and everyone fired.

This leads to feelings of anxiety and terror around police officers that is unnecessary and unwarranted by actual circumstances.

News Is Presented Without Context

The news media constantly take things that are said and happen out of context. This occurs quite often in videos of police shootings. The only thing that shown on the news is the shooting itself. You don’t get to see what happened before and will happen after.

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The above video is an example of the news media taking comments out of context. If you watch the whole thing, you’ll see that she did interviews where only small portions were used to illustrate points the reporters wanted to make even though those points had nothing to do with what she said.

News Is Shallow

The quick news cycle causes journalists to write shallow news storiesThe new cycle demands a constant flow of the new and different every single day. because of this, the news media doesn’t tend to provide any in-depth knowledge or details about anything. Their articles tend to be shallow and laced with bias and opinion.

A journalist finds out there is a story. They have limited time to interview, research, write and edit the story. They are looking for the most “sexy” and glamorous approach, and once they find their angle, the story is written. By the next news cycle they need to find new things to write about.

What this means is when you watch or read the news, you are getting a very shallow view. You won’t get much, if any, follow up information (unless it’s a big story) and you won’t get a well-researched, balanced narrative.

The news media is not the place you want to go if you want to get any depth of information.

News Reinforces Echo Chambers

Social media causes a phenomenon known as echo chambers. Social media wants to show you posts, articles, pictures, videos and so forth that are related to your interests. This is intended to get you to remain on the social media platform and showing information related to your interests is a great way to keep you glued to your computer screen, smartphone screen, or whatever.

As you comment on, like and share articles, images, videos and so on, social media build up a picture of what you want to see. Once the platform has this picture, it seems you similar information.

As a result, your worldview tends to become warped because social media is continually hitting you with data that it believes you want to see, and that data has been trained based on what you’ve already looked at.

This means if you enjoy articles that lean towards the left, the only articles you’ll see on social media will lean towards the left. This presents a distorted worldview, which is self reinforcing and causes you to become very biased about life and reality.

The news media feeds directly into these echo chambers, reinforcing whatever bias they happen to carry at the time. The media attempts to understand what the majority of people want to see, and report on that, which becomes an echo chamber in its own right. If the media is slanted to the left, then you’ll see articles that are biased to the left (and vice versa).

The video below is an example of how echo chambers work and what one man did to overcome them.

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Echo chambers are extremely damaging to society because they mutate the opinions and beliefs of vast groups of people to the point where those people believe what is said without question. they are hit with the same basic message over and over and over again, day after day, month after month, year after year from whatever echo chamber they live in.

These echo chambers make it very difficult for people to change their minds and form opinions of their own. The “facts” that they believe are real from their own echo chamber give the appearance of being truths supported by a vast amount of opinions and evidence.

And the reality is, sadly, that the echo chambers are simply another form of groupthink psychology and are always wrong. That’s a strong statement, I know, you can prove it for yourself. Your echo chamber is always wrong. The way you prove this is to leave your echo chamber, gather your own facts, and come to your own opinions and conclusions. This can be very difficult – sometimes the only way to do it is to eliminate the news media and social media almost entirely from your life.

News Is Addicting

Have you noticed that if you watch the news regularly, you feel like you’re missing something if you don’t tune in, read or otherwise get your daily dose of the news media? The news is addictive, and it’s almost as hard to give up as any other hard addiction.

I should know, because I was addicted to the news on all types of mass media from newspapers to television. Every single day, I jumped onto the Internet to watch several different news channels, read articles, and look at what was happening and what people were saying.

I’d quit this addiction several times, sometimes for months on end, and then something would happen in the world or in the country that I felt that I needed to know. Then I would just have to go look, and get absorbed into whatever story was going on, and watch the talking heads until I couldn’t take it anymore.

The last time this happened was the 2018 midterm elections. I just had to watch a news story, which upset me, and then I had to watch another and another and another after that. I found myself sucked right into the news. Within a short time, I was looking at the news on Twitter, Facebook, the various news sites, YouTube, and anywhere else I could get it.

After a couple of weeks, I found that I was so upset at what was going on that I simply had to stop watching, reading or listening to anything related to any news at all. The entirety of the news literally was insanity. Everything said by the left, the right, the middle, and everything in between on the news would be perfectly at home in an insane asylum.

News Reinforces Group Think And Mob Mentality

Groupthink psychology is similar to mob mentality But what about politics? Don’t you need to know that? Wouldn’t it be better to go to the politicians actual website, attend their events, listen to their speeches, and read source documents about the actual accomplishments then to read and listen to the radically biased, often uninformed opinions of so-called news anchors?

The problem with our political system these days is many of us get our information from the news media and social media, none of which have any relevance to actual data, facts, and real-life situations.

If you want to get real information based in fact about political candidates and issues, turn off the news and keep it off. You are not going to get any facts from social media, the news media, or any political action groups. They are all going to be biased strongly in one direction or another.

Let’s take an example of the recent flap over the so-called caravan coming from Honduras to Tijuana. These people were used by all sides of the political spectrum for their own ends. The right said they were a danger, the left said they were poor people fleeing from horrible economic conditions.

The garbage spouted by the news about the caravan is biased towards their own agenda.

But what’s worse, is the news encourages groupthink symptoms and mob mentality. The mob of people on the left scream, as a group, that the caravan consists of people who are fleeing from hard economic conditions and should be allowed into the United States freely and without resistance. The mob of people on the right scream, again as a group, that the caravan is an invasion and needs to be resisted with as much force as needed.

Both of those viewpoints are groupthink examples.

Group think is always wrong. According to Psychology Today, “Group think fosters a strong ‘us versus them’ mentality that prompts members to accept group perspectives in the heat of the moment, even when these perspectives don’t necessarily align with their personal views.”

Group think occurs when a group of well-intentioned people make irrational or non-optimal decisions that are spurred by the urge to conform or the discouragement of dissent. This problematic or premature consensus may be fueled by a particular agenda or simply because group members value harmony and coherence above rational thinking. In a group think situation, group members refrain from expressing doubts and judgments or disagreeing with the consensus. In the interest of making a decision that furthers their group cause, members may ignore any ethical or moral consequences.

The problem with group think is issues become “you versus me” or “us versus them”. People no longer work together to find solutions or work through problems. Instead, individuals allow the group to think for them, and that is always extremely dangerous.

The news media tends to go with the group and reinforces group think – in fact, it magnifies group think because the media can reach entire populations instantly. This article about Communication Theory explains groupthink theory in greater detail.

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News Empowers Small, Vocal, Dangerous Voices

Journalists are on the lookout for “interesting”, glamorous or alarming events or people for their stories. Because of this, they often look for opinions from the fringe of society, giving recognition to small but vocal minority groups because they’re loud and have definite opinions.

The calm, encouraging voice doesn’t get much news play. The radical, screaming, foaming at the mouth, highly opinionated, almost insane person gets the microphone and the exposure because they are loud, obnoxious, and “interesting”. The voice of calm is not interesting. The voice of reason is not interesting. To a journalist, the voice of insanity is what is interesting.

Why is this a problem? Because what is needed in emergencies and difficult circumstances is the voice of calm. The person who takes control of the situation and does their job competently and efficiently, without shaming or slamming other people or groups is exactly the person that we want to hear from. We don’t need to hear from the fringe groups or the loudmouths or the people who claim they have been done wrong by everyone else. We need to hear from those who are succeeding at handling whatever’s going on.

News Encourages and Supports Terrorism

The news gives terrorists a force magnifier to terrorists, giving them extreme powerThink about terrorism for a minute. In most cases, the attack is small, isolated and the casualties are few, if any. A bomb might go off in a garbage can or some white powder is an envelope sent to some highly placed individual.

Those minor events are magnified a hundred thousand times because the news reports them over and over and over again. Turn on the news media after one of these minor attacks, and you think the world ended. Experts are being interviewed, police are being told to take action, the president of the United States makes statements (or Tweets), and political candidates weigh in with their opinions on the effectiveness of the police and military forces.

Terrorists depend on the news media to be their ally in their terrorist attacks. Yes, I use that word intentionally. The news media is an ally to terrorism, because without this massive reporting on terrorist attacks, it’s arguable that terrorism wouldn’t be able to exist. At least, it wouldn’t have the effect that it does. News encourages terrorism.

This might be the simple facts of the attack: “a small bomb went off in a trashcan a mile from an airport, two people were wounded, and the police are investigating.”

In reality, nothing else need be said. There is no reason to panic, no need to call out the National Guard, and everything is actually being handled by the police department and other services just fine.

But that wouldn’t make for good news. Oh no. The news media, in its infinite wisdom, feels it must magnify this by reporting it time and again on show after show for days. The feeling of panic, anxiety, terror and alarm throughout the community, the state and even the entire country is brought to a fine boil. Without a doubt, the current US president, whoever he or she is, will be blamed for the attack, and the vitriol will spread throughout social media.

Yet based on the simple fact of the matter, nothing significant happened. More than likely, the police will have the culprit in custody within a few days.

What is Fake News?

The whole point of this article is that the news media is not healthy for your intellectual, mental and emotional state. The media is strongly biased, shallow, and often wrong in its conclusions. Reporters are heavily influenced by the owners of news agencies, often big corporations, and are often told in one form or another what they need to write about and the slant they need to take on their articles.

If you want to live a happier, healthier life than eliminate the news and never look back.

If you feel anxious or depressed, perhaps the first thing you should do is turn off the news and stop reading the newspaper.

If life appears overwhelming and hostile, again, stop reading the news.

By not exposing yourself to the news media, you will free your mind and find other methods for getting information. If you look, you will find sources for information that you want that are more unbiased (there is always a bias of some kind), more factual, less shallow, and less focused on glamorous events and people.

Wouldn’t it be better to find your own sources of information that don’t depress you, don’t give you anxiety, and give you actual, real information instead of the garbage fed to you by the news media on a regular basis?

Decide for yourself, if you are still capable of doing that.

In summary, to answer the question, “What is meant by fake news?”

All so-called news presented by the mainstream news media should be considered fake until proven otherwise.

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Ashish Jaiman

fascinating read!

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