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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 12/19/16

Fake News? Undefined, It's a Danger That's Courting Censorship (Republished from Los Angeles Progressive)

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Message Larry Wines

Reprinted from LAProgressive

Fake news definition: A definition, desperately needed, appears right here.

The first step in addressing any problem is recognizing you have one. Unless that's closely followed by defining the nature of the problem -- what it actually IS -- then there's bound to be a lot of Chicken Little.

And that flapping and squawking, with plenty of hands dumping bags of extra feathers to cloud the view, is precisely where we are. This entire notion of "Fake News" is serious, and for some, that justifies calls for censorship. For us, it's too serious to allow such ad hoc self-serving exploitation.

"Fake News" is suddenly the most ubiquitously over-invoked, fear-fomenting, vilifying term in every mainstream news cycle.

Right now, we're dealing with a nebulous term, so it warrants the qualifying quotes. "Fake News" is suddenly the most ubiquitously over-invoked, fear-fomenting, vilifying term in every mainstream news cycle. It may be the most widely used label for anything that never acquired a clear definition before attaining mass dissemination. It is a chameleon portrayed as a rattlesnake. In fact, it's whatever you want it to be.

We're risking Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's definition of pornography, when he said he couldn't tell you what it is, but "I know it when I see it."

This can't succumb to that. Journalism has rules and standards. They've flapped in the breeze with cable news practices. The collapse of competing daily newspapers brought a lack of alternative voices. The web, though apparently addressing that, did so from perspectives with little or no real journalism experience and no specific commitment to the same communities. Being serious on the web requires being even faster than cable, except the challenge has been met by speed instead of accuracy, because you can always post an update that erases the original content. Setting type for a printed page had an air of certainty--even if the paper ended up in the cat box.

Still, standards of real journalism, though stretched thin by cable and then internet outlets, were not immediately abandoned in favor of supermarket tabloid celebrity gossip and fantasies of aliens landing in the city park. But these days that isn't so certain.

That ridiculous crap that infested your email in the double-aughts began to take on the appearance of news sent from the paper in your drunk uncle's small town. Art and page design software arrived before social media exploded. Then everything was about sending selfies, making your cyber social world all about you, and demanding your "friends" (though you'd never laid eyes on them) are instantly responsive to your every stray thought. And they are, because social media's algorithms surround you with an echo chamber of like-minded friends to keep you feeling validated and online to feel more of that and enrich the sites through the data they stole from you to bundle and sell.

Your world became a place where reality played second fiddle to virtual reality. Even at work, there was time for cyber immersion. The lines blurred, then vanished.

Anything nebulous works to the advantage of those who want to manipulate it, and to the exploitation of everyone else. In any earlier age, we'd see that as detriment. But drinking the Koolade made it desirable. The nebulous nature of it is central. If I tell you, "I like that flower," is it a perennial, an annual, or made of plastic? Or is it the brand I use to bake biscuits -- it being "flour"?

Shakespeare observed that a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet. Similarly, a skunk by another name does not have diminished stink. Make no mistake: the notion of "Fake News" is being manipulated by someone selling you the illusion of sweet intoxicating petals of their content, their roses. Which are probably plastic. Others, protecting the supposed integrity of their competing product, will tell you to avoid and fear something from "the other" because it's the turd in the punchbowl. Usually, it's actually something they're afraid may eclipse them, so they must ridicule or vilify it to dissuade you from it.

"Fake News" is like politics itself. It's out there with no regard for testing the veracity or falsehood of anything, so there is no ethical consistency.

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editor of the Acoustic Americana Music Guide, and a former newspaper political columnist,
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Fake News? Undefined, It's a Danger That's Courting Censorship (Republished from Los Angeles Progressive)

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