Monday, January 2, 2017

Random Rant #1 :: Full Version

WARNING :: There hasn't been a finite definition for some of the terminology discussed here yet, so Wikipedia was used in some cases. Furthermore, the views and opinions seen here are not necessarily those of the TXP-Network as a whole. This article is protected under copyright - do not use without proper citation. If for commercial use, please send a permissions request through the TXP-Network to contact the author of this excerpt.

If we were to ask you, 'What's going on in the news today?', how would you respond? Maybe the 2016 election (triggered)? Or the recent Steelers' victory over the Ravens? Possibly, the results of a recent court ruling? Or even something not mentioned here, which is also extremely likely. The world is quite large, after all. Whichever one you decided to mention, you obviously saw it as 'something worth mentioning', right? But how did you come to that decision? You encountered it while watching TV, listening on the radio, or browsing your newspaper. Or maybe, you heard it from someone else - a friend of yours? A recent link on social media? And when you encountered it, you used some form of reasoning to discern whether or not it was worth your time, I would suppose. Of course, I could also be simply assuming this. Of course, I don't know how in-depth you the reader went into verifying your information. If you did make an attempt to verify, however, I am somewhat revealed - for now. Because, it appears as though many people online cannot discern fact from fiction - and that is quite bothersome, seeing that most grade-school curriculum used to cover the basics of performing simple research and information verification/analysis. The current rave about 'Fake news' and 'Click-bait' tactics is nothing more than than an indication of a societal issue.

People do not know how to think for themselves. At first glance, the previous statements may come off as offensive. However, if you continue to read along, you may find that it is more of a somber statement of reality, and is not worth laughing at. More-so, it may actually be something to be genuinely concerned about. A quick preview of Wikipedia on the subject reveals the following:

Taken from here
- "Fake news... (also referred to as hoax news) deliberately publish hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation, using social media to drive web traffic and amplify their effect. Unlike news satire, fake news... seek to mislead, rather than entertain, readers for financial or other gain."
Taken from here
- "News satire, also called fake news, is a type of parody presented in a format typical of mainstream journalism, and called a satire because of its content... News satire relies heavily on irony and deadpan humor."
- "Two slightly different types of news satire exist. One form uses satirical commentary and sketch comedy to comment on real-world news events, while the other presents wholly fictionalized news stories."

Before advancing any further, I do not condone the use of Wikipedia as an official, infallible source of general information. I do, however, believe that this online encyclopedia has the premise behind the concepts of 'Fake News' and News Satire down to a plausible description that can be applied to most general cases. It also reveals an issue that is had by many Americans at large - people cannot tell the difference.

Allow me to highlight a key section - "News satire, also called fake news,...". If you took the time to read through both quoted passages from the sources, I am grateful. If you went the extra mile and read the entirety of the two sources, I admire your drive - don't lose it. By its very admission, the passage states that 'Fake news' and News Satire are easily confused for one another. Taking this a whole step further, I now ask this - can the same be said for actual news and false information ('Fake News')? The answer, quite frankly, is yes. But, there is a difference.

The difference between 'Fake News' and New Satire lies in the author's intent. One is intended to misinform and mislead, while the other is meant to entertain and tickle the mind. If the difference lies in intent, would this also mean that the authors of both have distinct motives? One is motivated to mislead while the other is inclined to give comedic commentary. One is speaking out about a current topic via means of comedic discourse. The other, however, places a veil over the eyes of the reader, and twists (or completely throws out) truth - for reasons I have yet to encounter (really? I think we all know). Therefore, being able to tell whether a source is 'Fake News' or News Satire would lie in the reader's ability to detect the author's intent and biases. They both communicate an idea, but do so via differing means.

With this in mind, it is now also necessary that the topic of bias be covered. Bias, quite simply, pertains to an unbalanced leaning or favour toward or against a given party/entity. If one were to account for bias in the news at large, almost all mainstream news could be taken as soft cases of 'Fake News'. Allow me to go into further detail. Remember the high school lesson you probably took on Rhetorical Appeals?

Please read this Quick Review of the Rhetorical Appeals before going forther if you aren't already familiar with the concept - it's important.
If you read the article this time, you already know where I'm heading. Most major news sources use these appeals to grab your attention and sway you to one side or the other. And bias has to do with partiality. Add to this the fact that all humans are tainted with this bias, and you're left with one nasty outcome - all information has some degree of bias

"Unless you're reading textbooks", the younger Me interjected. Sorry, but even those have it! There's no way around it.
The skewed pictures of reality that these information sources provide are nothing more than that - incomplete stories. And what was the concept behind 'Fake News' again?

'Fake News' authors seek to mislead.
The only problem here is, even so-called 'credible' authors can end up doing that. Publishing information before it's confirmed or making assumptions without verifying their statements with a primary source, constant use of hyperbole and over-exaggeration, withholding information from press releases - it's all there. Poor publishing standards pervade our news sources, and no one is safe from it. Mainstream news, to keep it short, is twisted, sensationalized, and oversimplified. It's done this way to:

  1. Keep you hooked
  2. To get a desired response from you

Allow for me to emphasize the issue here - 'to keep you hooked'. Attention span. Since people don't seem to have the patience to read a full article, they listen to the snippets and blurbs tossed around instead. Words that have been ripped and torn out of context without a second thought, and left to face the full scrutiny of an uninformed audience, who is either too lazy to analyze the entirety of a situation, or is too easily swayed by one particular factor to logically hold judgement until all possible factors are accounted for. It's how unwitting readers allow mainstream news writers think for them - no matter what side of politics you're on. The bad part is, people keep falling for it. And even when it's not written to poor standards, the biased nature of people will always bleed into all forms of communication longer than one sentence. In a sense, almost everything ever written can be called a partial interpretation. And since partial interpretations can mislead people, almost anything can be called, 'Fake News' - unintentionally. The crux of the issue lies in the loose constraints of what is considered 'Fake News'. It's nothing more than the perfect censoring scheme for those with influence. It's an excellent way to remove American liberty. And it's all because Americans simply can't tell them apart.

  1. cannot differentiate between actual information and faulty information
  2. cannot differentiate between satire and misinformation
  3. cannot be bothered to verify information for themselves

Add to this, the fact that America also institutes standardized tests with the likes of the SATs, and I am forced to come to a daunting conclusion:

It is now expected that Americans simply do not know how to think for themselves, and now must be taught how to 'Think Critically'. Furthermore, since Americans cannot 'Think Critically', how can they possibly hope to discern what is and isn't valid information?

I now draw the line between fact and fiction, for the unsuspecting reader. What you previously read between "It is now", and "information?", is false. And someone else may have known this as well. I do, however, have this to say:
Americans are becoming lazier by the day, and do not take the time to actually dissect and scrutinize what they read and hear. This lack of thorough reasoning is why it is so easy for throngs of American citizens to be swayed by propaganda. If people actually took the time to scrutinize and research information for themselves, maybe I wouldn't be sitting on the soap-box right now.
Hint: You may actually have to read and compare/contrast multiple articles and sources to get a definitive idea of what actually happened in some cases. Try Steps 1-5 of the basic Research Process.

Or even these two checklists:

If you noticed a trend in the content linked, that's great. Most of the content linked here, excluding the last URL, was most likely covered in grade school. All information sources need to be treated in this manner. If more people actually took a second to analyze the information they receive from the internet, instead of relying on Fox, TheBlaze, CNN, or MSNBC to handle the thinking for them, maybe we wouldn't need to have the discussion of whether America should start encroaching on people's First Amendment rights in the first place. American citizens need to do the mental work themselves, and should never allow someone else to start making choices for them - let alone decisions to silence others. In fact, that should never become a topic of discussion. Because any historian knows where this $#!+ can go next.

"Dort, wo man B├╝cher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen."
How ironic, that things like this can come full circle. People label and belittle each other, only to become what they project on to others.

1 comment:

  1. Shortened version here: