Home Editorials Real News, Fake News, the President, and the First Amendment

Real News, Fake News, the President, and the First Amendment

Photo by gabriele82, Creative Commons Licensing.

During the last election, the internet was flooded by stories put out by phony “news” organizations. The stories seemed so real that many bought into them with little or no research into their origins and legitimacy. Yet, the stories were pure fairy tales cooked up by people that were far from being journalists and closer to used car salesmen in integrity.

They used their home desktops with very clever internet skills to make the lies they were peddling appear very real indeed. Some even came from foreign countries. Thus, the term “fake News” was born.

The effects this so called movement had on the election are still being studied. Yet, it appears to have had a negative outcome in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Some of her opponents took full advantage of it during the heated and controversial general election of 2016. There are some who believe that these fake news outlets were one of the main reasons behind her loss to President-elect Donald Trump.

The internet is the electronic version of the fabled Wild West. While it boasts of the wonders of the universe, with stunning pictures of Pluto from the deep space probe “New Horizons,” or the latest stunning find of a dinosaur here in Alaska. Even the thrill of a long awaited victory of the Chicago Cubs of the World Series after 108 years.

There is an equally negative side to it as well, though, with the plethora of internet trolls, hackers, conspiracy nuts, extremists, sexual predators, and porn sites that float about in cyberspace. Now add “fake news” sites to that toxic mush. It is enough to try the patience of saint, let alone the average citizen.

It reached an all time low during that train wreck of a press conference held by Trump. There was heated exchange between Trump and CNN reporter Jim Acosta. Trump refused to allow him to ask a question.

“Not you,” Trump said. “Your organization is terrible.”

All the while, Acosta tried in vain to defend his news service and to get a word in edgewise. Trump ended it with: “I’m not going to give you a question. You’re fake news!”

It was, frankly, a stunner.

Jim Acosta is a member of legitimate and credited news organization; CNN. For the future leader of this nation to single him out falsely in a stinging public rebuke was simply appalling. Trump’s hostility towards the free press is chilling to say the least. Some may say it is understandable after the BuzzFeed debacle that occurred days prior to the press conference. They should never have released that unverified and equally dubious dossier to the public in my opinion.

That event, and all the damage fake news sites out there have done to real legitimate news media organizations, caused quite a bit of hurt. There will be consequences, as some are espousing. According to Esquire‘s Peter Boyer, senior officials within Trump’s transition team are seriously thinking over a plan to evict the White House Press Corps and relocate them either to the White House Conference Center or to the Old Executive Office Building next door to the White House.

One unnamed senior official was quoted saying; “They [the press] are the opposition party. I want ‘em out out of the building. We are taking back the press room.”

Taking back to what is disturbing. Yet, according Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, ”There has been no decision” about the plan. “There has been some discussion about how to do it.”

The reactions by the Trump administration and the flood of fake news are a direct threat to the First Amendment rights as spelled out in the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights. The rights of free speech and equally a free press are coming under fire. The anger and the bullying attitude, plus the proposed action of the Trump White House, directed at legitimate news organizations, is clearly a threat and it sets a very dangerous precedent.

The flood of the fake news makes the job of the true journalist much harder to deliver the stories to the public. And the public must struggle to figure out what is the true story and what is not. Remember, not everything you see on the internet is true.

Here is what I do to confirm a story. Perhaps this will help the average Joe.

If a story or event is repeated on two or more of my news sources then chances are it is a true one. What are my sources? News sites like CNN, BBC, NBC, NPR, CBS, Reuters, the Associated Press, The New York Times, The Seattle Times, The Alaska Commons, The Frontiersman, and The Alaska Dispatch News.

Some are going to say, “But that is main stream news!”

Yes. It is. All of them hold themselves to the highest standards of reporting the news accurately, verifying every story. Most have decades of holding to these examples that is trusted by many like myself. They are not perfect — just like the people reporting for them. News and opinion are truly human endeavors and they can fall subject to mistakes and, yes, even some bias. Most of the organizations I listed here are pretty fair minded. Checking stories using Snopes or Politfact can be a quick and accurate resource that is proven to be a valuable tool to use as well.

I know some will balk at that, instead trusting sources that are one-sided or of very doubtful standards for reporting truthfully. They fall prey to the “fake news” nearly every time. Sadly, it appears this is not limited to the average citizen but even the highest levels of our government. You know who I am talking about. Research and verifying a story renders “fake news” powerless time and time again.

I’m gong to leave you to ponder this with a request to pass it on. Hopefully it will land in Donald Trump’s lap. He needs to read and understand this big time.

From the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution: The First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”