Monday, March 27, 2017

The problem with "fake news"

In December, Edgar Maddison Welch, a 28-year-old North Carolina man, reacting to a story he had read online, drove to Comet Ping Pong, a Washington, D.C. pizzeria with a machine gun to confront an alleged child-sex ring supposedly involving Hillary Clinton.

When he got there he got a big surprise — the story that inspired him to take action turned out to be false, with no ring in sight.

Last night the CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes” aired a segment about “fake news,” during which unverifiable facts are spouted as news designed to smear someone. It’s not news, as this kind of thing has been going on for some time, but it shows me that folks simply aren’t using discernment.

I first began to notice this in 1992, when conservative media began attacking Bill Clinton when he was running for president; I eventually learned about the conspiracy in the fall of 1995, which was actually reported in legitimate media. Things have gotten worse since, with the focus on online media that report “what the mainstream media won’t.”

Which is true — for a good reason: Real news outlets check, double-check and triple-check their sources. These fake sources don’t even bother.

Last week I confronted someone online whom I know to be a Christian about his posting a video on “Pizzagate” and told him to take it down because I knew it was false. He refused, insisted that it was true and tried to blame me for being “partisan.” (That was beside the point.) When we Christians engage in gossip for the purpose of hating someone for political reasons we compromise our witness.

Solution? We need to come out of our bubbles and not always listen to people who tell us what we want to hear. These days that’s a tough sell — but needs to be done.

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