Fake news, trolls and the facts of life

From 538 Significant Digits:

559 pages and 251 accounts (and my bolding)

It’s not only Russians who can troll. Never ones to be outdone, Americans, too, are getting in on the act. For example, an American blogger spread fake stories on Facebook after Christine Blasey Ford’s Senate testimony, including that her lawyers were bribed by Democrats. Yesterday, Facebook said it had identified 559 American-run pages and 251 American-run accounts spreading false and misleading information, and that the company would remove them. [The New York Times]

And here’s the Times story.

Meanwhile, I’m still sitting around wondering why anybody would believe fake news. It’s relatively easy to learn the facts — real news.

Let’s say you see a story on Facebook or a Twitter link, such as the one reported above. And let’s say the “secrets exposed” fit into your view of politics? And your view of politics nowadays includes the suspicion of dark and deeply buried secrets that would, if made public, absolutely destroy the person(s) you hate the most in this world?

Very seductive. All our problems will disappear if only the story were true.

I often read exciting pieces or hints of Big Truths on Twitter and/or some of the opinionated web sites I frequent. Today, there were several agitated reports of a notorious white supremacist group meeting last night at GOP headquarters in New York City (my first reaction: “The GOP has a headquarters in NYC???”). Before the meeting, the headquarters was vandalized by presumably left-wing protesters who left a political screed, a fact not obvious in the Twitter-linked stories.

After the meeting, according to the Twitter stuff, the white supremacists — called a hate group by the SPRC — viciously kicked and beat up protesters and then took pictures of themselves while grinning.

“Hm,” I said to myself. “Looks nasty.”

My follow-up comment to myself was, “I’ll pay attention to this only when another news organization, a mainstream one, also publishes this story, and it’s followed up by the other credible news organizations.”

Then I saw the story about the meeting in the Daily News*, my local tabloid, a good resource for this kind of NYC street story. I read through the whole four-column coverage. The big meeting consisted of maybe 50 people; there were around 80 protestors outside the building.

Here’s the entirety of what the Daily News reporters wrote about the violence:

Aside from a fight after the event between a protester and a Proud Boy and a flare-up before the talk between a man recording the protest and a demonstrator, the evening was peaceful.

And that’s what to do with shocking revelations, and stunning new info. And secrets revealed. Wait until you get all the facts.

Oh, we get excited, we do. But please do not spread the word until some other credible news organization confirms the word.

And be skeptical about the facts until you get that confirmation.

Every day I’m gratified that big real news stories are indeed picked up and confirmed by all credible news sources. So when I scroll down Twitter, for instance, I’ll see versions of the same story many, many times. So it’s not as if there’s some big news story buried on anybody’s back pages, or on anybody’s Twitter and Facebook feeds — you know, one of those Deep State stories that nobody is reporting on except that post you’re reading, encouraging you to believe you’re one of the few who KNOWS this TRUTH. If you’re one of the few who KNOWS a TRUTH, it ain’t a truth.

As one of my favorite New York Times readers who comments regularly on articles wrote in response to the Times article (linked above) on American trolls:

Anybody who relies on Facebook for news isn’t interested in the truth.

I don’t know if people are willingly gullible or simply conspiracy minded, but I do know this: the reason this country is falling down on any number of social and economic parameters is people aren’t interested in developing critical research skills.

And it isn’t even that difficult. Simply wait until a credible, mainstream newspaper publishes the story.

If you don’t, shame on you.

*For anyone who harbors the retro notion that the Daily News is pro-GOP, its editorial persistence in going after Trump and covering his madness have infuriated its right-wing readers.

And the Times reported the story, too, with a similar take on the violence.

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