What exactly is Fake News?

fake newsIf asked to defined the term “Fake News” then like many of you I would have suggested that this describes a story that is presented as “True” but is not. It turns out that this is wrong and that to me was a great surprise.

A recent Gallop poll has revealed something I had not full appreciated before. Like you, I did perhaps appreciate that technology has advanced in a manner that has enabled us all as individuals to connect up in an unprecedented manner. It is clearly disrupting the way things once were. Good ideas can now penetrate into previously insulated subcultures within society, but unfortunately so can misinformation, and it is that misinformation that is causing a great deal of strife. (Fox “News” we are thinking of you).

So what did I get wrong?

The new insight is that the way in which some define the term “Fake News” is very different than the normal definition of that term.

The Gallop Poll: Views of Trust, Media, and Democracy

The revelation comes via the publication of a new poll.

You can find the full poll online here. (Be aware; that link leads to a 67 page document that articulates a great deal of detail).

What did this Gallop poll do?

  • They conducted a mail survey, so be aware that this is not wholly scientific, and yet the insight gained is also fascinating
  • Roughly about 19,000 US adults were involved

What did they discover?

That basically lots of people like ice cream and apply pie, or to be a tad more accurate, they discovered that rather a lot of people do hold rather unsurprising blindly obvious views such as these…

  • More than eight in 10 U.S. adults believe the news media are critical or very important to our democracy.
  • Seventy-three percent of Americans say the spread of inaccurate information on the internet is a major problem with news coverage today; this percentage is higher than for any other potential type of news bias
  • A majority of U.S. adults consider “fake news” a very serious threat to our democracy
  • Americans are most likely to believe that people knowingly portraying false information as if it were true always constitutes “fake news.”

But there is also a very Big Surprise

This was a revelation. To be honest I missed it, and now that I know, it is of course obvious, so perhaps it was just me and you had already grasped this.

The way some define the term “Fake News” is not the way most people define it (emphases mine) …

  • Four in 10 Republicans consider accurate news stories that cast a politician or political group in a negative light to always be “fake news.”

4 in 10 is 42% of them. About here is the right place for you to pause and clean your monitor because you just might have splattered coffee all over it when you read that.

This is so monumentally insane that I need to replay that once again. In essence, you can accurately and honestly report that Trump lied about something. You can perhaps explain why it is a lie and lay out the precise details of what is actually true as a contrast to what he said in a manner that can be independently verified via multiple sources … and yet because this is relaying a fact that is negative about him then that is deemed to be “Fake News”.

That is beyond being utterly absurd, it is literally batshit crazy stupidity on steroids, and yet that is actually how the term “Fake News” was defined by 42% of the Republicans who were surveyed.

Dig into the Details and the surprise grows even bigger

This comes from the first item above…

Most adults agree that false information portrayed as if it were true always (48%) or sometimes (46%) deserves the label “fake news.”

46% actually embraced the idea that a bold outright lie is only “Sometimes” Fake News … seriously!

.. and then there is also this from the last item within the picture above …

most Americans also say that accurate stories portraying politicians in a negative light always (28%) or sometimes (51%) constitutes “fake news.”

Again Seriously! – a truthful story accurately describing somebody is Always “Fake News” according to 28% and Sometimes “Fake News” according to another 51% – simply because they do not like what it says.

WTF is wrong with these people?

We don’t just live in an age where democracy has been hijacked, we also appear to live in an age where the language we speak, the very meaning of the words we use, has been hijacked and grossly abused.

What else do we learn from the Gallop Poll?

Much to worry about, but nothing as dramatic as the nugget I just described.

Examples include …

By 58% to 38%, Americans say it is harder rather than easier to be informed today due to the plethora of information and news sources available.

More Americans have a negative (43%) than a positive (33%) view of the news media, while 23% are neutral.

Republicans who can name an accurate source overwhelmingly mention Fox News

… and yes, that last one above is yet another facepalm moment.

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