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November 29, 2016

The Real Source of Propaganda & Fake News. (It’s not who you think.)

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“If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the public understand that difference, and choose their news sources accordingly.” ~ Thomas Sowell

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After watching a fake news story about CNN broadcasting porn go viral recently, I’m wondering how on earth we got to this place of rampant fake news, propaganda and biased and selective media coverage.

I also recently had an experience where I wrote about the arrests of journalists at Standing Rock. In the first day the article was shared over 1,000 times, yet only 153 people had actually read the article. 

I was blown away.

What happened?

The answer comes to me easily enough: welcome to the digital age. The age of click “like” and share. The age where anyone with a computer can create a website or blog, and then go on to publish anything and everything they feel like writing. And because they can hide behind a computer, and they aren’t technically doing anything illegal, they get away with it.

And we the American people just eat it up. Ever since 9/11, we have been conditioned to tune into the 24-hour news media channels which pick and choose which story they will sensationalize that day. We sit on the edge of our seats awaiting developments. It’s a constant bombardment of fear, threat, edginess and tragedy. I remember doing it myself on September 11, 2001. I lived just across the river from Manhattan and we were terrified. We glued ourselves to the TV and waited for the story to unfold.

Since then, I’ve witnessed propaganda and biased reporting shift to straight up fake news.

In a time where corruption in government is at an all-time high, with corporations running amok and taking over our “democracy,” militarized police working for Big Oil, election fraud, hate and bigotry, we need real journalism more than ever. We need truth. Society needs truth. Journalists are warriors of truth. They bring true information to the people, and information is what gives us our power back.

Without information we are just living as sheep. The trouble is, in an age of information, much information being presented as fact, is not. The challenge then is separating the true information from the false. And ignoring the sensationalist stories that are being used to distract us from what is really occurring.

A journalist goes on a mission to uncover a story. Journalists seek out the facts. They report the story. Walter Cronkite stormed Normandy with the 101st Airborne Division. Brian Williams flies around in a helicopter in the Middle East, and then lies about getting shot at. He lies. Rather than deliver facts, he fuels a war.

That was 15 years ago, and since then, it’s gotten much worse. People remain trapped in the Facebook matrix more and more often these days, and it becomes their source for news. That in itself is a bit scary because why would anyone want to get all their news from one place? And why from a social media network? Have we completely, as a whole, lost the ability to critically think and assess the information we are consuming and where it is coming from? Do we just mindlessly consume whatever news pops up in our news feed as truth?

The sad and scary part is that the answer to this seems to be yes—on a very large scale we Americans do exactly that. I’ve done it. I’ve shared stuff that was three years old because there’s no publication dates on so many of these articles. I can still get sucked into reading a story and have an emotional response to it. So I start to react to it.

My temper starts rising, and I begin to feel outrage. I want to share it all over social media because I’m angry. And then just before I hit that share button, I remember the times we are living in. And I go back to read it again. I google the story to find other versions of it. I check the article for citations and sources. And I actually click the links on those to see where the information comes from. And I read those.

Yes, it is quite an exhausting process just for the truth of one news story. Sometimes, I don’t even bother anymore. My go to response these days is, “I don’t believe it.” And that’s with pretty much any story coming out as news. There’s always more to the story and we are never being told an unbiased version of events these days. That’s a safe assumption.

When I was a little girl, I used to watch the reporters on the evening news and think, “Wow, now they have a cool job.” I saw them as detectives, sorting for the truth, getting to the bottom of what was really going on, and then delivering it to us in such eloquent ways.

Those were the days of Larry King, Barbara Walters, Walter Cronkite and Tom Brokaw. I grew up with them on the nightly news. Then I went to school and I learned about guys that came before them, like Woodward and Bernstein, the reporters who broke the Watergate scandal.

To me, they all represented tenacity, determination and the propensity for getting the truth to the public. They showed me that it took ethics, work and integrity to be classed as a journalist. I respected that. And I thought maybe, one day I could be like them.

Delivering truth to the world, and digging deep to find it. Going above and beyond to deliver that story. I always believed journalism was key to evoking a change in society when needed. Now we just have pretty faces on 24-hour news reading whatever the teleprompter is telling them and we have information terrorists spreading false news at every turn.

The responsibility of the journalist is to the public, not to the government and not to the corporations. The American Press Institute’s The Elements of Journalism states that: “Journalism has the unusual capacity to serve as the watchdog over those whose power and position most affect citizens,” i.e., to keep the big boys in check and to report to the public their goings on.

Where and when did this all change? It changed when anyone with internet access could present any jumble of words and opinions as factual news. It changed when we became entrapped and glued to our smart phones and Facebook instead of being present to what is occurring in front of us. It happened when we gave up our ability to critically think and assess what someone is telling us in favor of being spoon fed the information they want us to consume.

Coincidence? Most likely not.

Gone are the journalists of the good old days who would get the story out no matter what. Barbara Walters went to Cuba in 1977 and spent a week with Fidel Castro. That is journalism. In its place has sprouted a nasty, twisty maze of weeds and misinformation we call media. Major media channels are handcuffed by the corporations that own them, whom are in bed with our politicians—all of whom the media is supposed to be holding accountable. Now that’s a nasty threesome destined for failure.

I hear a whole lot of opinions on major news outlets and not a whole lot of story. I believe that liberal and conservative are labels that should not be able to be applied to our media! Case in point: you all know which is which on major news. And beyond that we have official sounding news platforms all over the web promoting sensationalist and divisive stories, and they all come from the same unchecked sources.

The truth is out there, you just have to search for it. Independent media exists and heralds truth. My point is this: Be selective what you want to take as truth. Search out the real stories.

Don’t be tricked into believing the lies as your own thoughts. We are more intelligent than that. Any time someone debates me with something they heard on major media, I cringe. And I see the depth to which they cling to that fact as their own thought/belief. This shows me the propaganda machine is working. It’s time for us to put a wrench in the machine.

As humans,  we have the  ability to use logic, solve problems, think for ourselves and make decisions. The great Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh discusses how we are what we consume. Beyond the food we put in our mouths, our eyes and ears consume on a daily basis. They consume media, ads and the world around us.

The media machine would have us consuming the idea that we are powerless, and that the only solution is to consume more. That we need to be scared and we need to remain divided. It would have us eat up the idea that we are all separate. It would sway us to the right, or sway us to the left, so that we falsely see each other as the enemy, rather than see the real enemies.

This is why I support indie journalism. This is why I stop when something catches me on major news or social media, and ask myself, “Okay, let’s go find the real story.” It’s out there. So, be a journalist in a world of propaganda and fake news.

Find the real story in a world of hype. Dig for the facts. Then spread those around amidst the idle mind numbing gossip we have all been sucked into. Plant a seed. Be the change. Spark a thought. Be a warrior of truth.

What’s the craziest fake news story you’ve heard lately?

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Author: Lindsay Carricarte

Images: Flickr/theNerdPatrol

Editor: Travis May

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