Tag Archives: fake news

Convinced Against Our Will

“A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

–old saying, used by Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends and Influence People

The newspaper columnist Leonard Pitts explored a few fake news items of the recent past (“Truth, sadly, is not something we all value,” The Seattle Times, Oct 8, 2017).

One fake story led to a shooting in an innocent pizza parlor by an individual who believed ridiculous stories about the business, repeated on propaganda sites.

The fact that Barrack Obama has a legal birth certificate from Hawaii or that his birth was reported in a verifiable news item does not stop birther stories that he wasn’t born in the United States.

Pitts lists reputable groups (newspapers, schools of journalism, fact checking sites) all attempting to bring discernment to our decisions on what we read and believe.

He’s a pessimist, pointing to research suggesting that people tend to “double down on the false belief” when facts prove them wrong.

Our worth seems tied to what we believe. We find it difficult to think that we can be imperfect, that we can be duped. We seek, not truth, but validation of our perfection.

We are in need of listeners. We need to listen, not just to what our neighbors say they believe, waiting impatiently to argue our side. We need to understand why our neighbors believe as they do, to be touched by the needs they express. If we understand each other, we may be able to move closer to finding truth.

Not Your Grandmother’s Cold War

“I Led Three Lives,” a TV show in the 1950’s, was based on the story of an actual person, Herbert Philbrick. He lived as an American businessman, a Communist spy, and an American counterspy for the FBI. In those old days of the Cold War, the different sides used espionage and radio broadcasts.

Today, hacking and cyber warfare have overtaken the earlier methods.

Some worry that politics surrounding the testimony of former FBI director James Comey will blind Americans to Comey’s warnings about the serious Russian intrusion into our elections.

“The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle,” Comey said. “They did it with purpose. They did it with sophistication They did it with overwhelming technical efforts. And it was an active-measures campaign driven from the top of that government.”

Whatever Donald Trump and his election team did or did not do, the evidence overwhelmingly indicates the interference of a hostile power in our election process. European democracies have also been attacked. These attempts should be taken seriously by all political parties.

It seems like an age since the end of the old Cold War in the early 1990’s. Today’s young people weren’t around, and the over thirty crowd have forgotten the euphoria in Europe and the United States when Eastern Europeans danced in the streets and reclaimed their countries from the Soviets.

Americans were going to have a peace dividend and beat their swords into plowshares. Russians were going to have free elections and a free press and join the rapidly escalating democratization of the world.

Instead we seem to have fallen, like Alice, through a rabbit hole into a crazy place of fake news, hacked political systems, and the rise of strong men with dictatorial powers, like Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Erdogan, and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte.

Our governments, national and local, are tasked with developing technical methods to neutralize cyber attacks. Citizens, however, have the duty of reading widely and responsibly. Fake news disappears without followers.


Actually Leaving Facebook?

A news columnist, Froma Harrop, announced her intention to leave Facebook. She’s leaving because she believes Facebook has become a platform for fake news.

At the same time, Mark Zuckerberg, head of Facebook, has posted (on Facebook) an announcement that his company is acting to curb false news stories. It is, he said, developing new tools to detect and classify “misinformation.” Further, he has said, the company won’t accept adds that are “illegal, misleading or deceptive.”

Possibly the problem is with the “friends” concept. Facebook may fit comfortably among a group of actual friends, brought together by some kind of kinship. It runs aground when it becomes an advertising center for businesses or political parties. Calling customers or potential voters our “friends,” when we do not even know them, degrades the word.

For the moment, I am still on Facebook. I have decided, however, that I will not like or click approval of any product or any unknown opinion piece. In fact, I will limit my viewing to personal notes from actual friends. And my time on Facebook will be minimal.