Satire, Fake News and Bias

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A recent piece of satire from a The Out And Abouter is called Concerned, But Not Wanting To Offend, Canada Quietly Plants Privacy Hedge Along Entire U.S. Border.

“And we’re happy to pay for it,” say a united front of Canadian premiers, national leaders, mayors, citizens, and casual acquaintances, of the newly planted hedge that has sprung up seemingly overnight, running unbroken for 6,416 kilometers, along the world’s longest undefended border.
– The Out and Abouter, January 2017 –

Snopes, the fact checking site, has clarified that the story is False but points out that the Author of the site clearly states that he/she writes Satirical Commentary.

The Message from the Queen – Revoking American Independence was satire too, though the name of the original author remains elusive.

…the aim of satire shouldn’t be about fooling people; it should be about making them laugh. “We’re always looking at our headlines and thinking, ‘Could someone actually believe this?’” he says. “And if it does [seem believable], then we haven’t done our job properly.”
– Rhodri Marsden, Independent, July 2015 –

Worldnewsdailyreport.com is a bit different duck, in that it looks like a real news site. You have to read their entire disclaimer (on a separate page) to discover the fictional nature of the content. The headline “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is getting prepared to accommodate nearly 250,000 American refugees if Donald Trump is to be elected US president in November” is entirely fictional.

(The ‘immigration truth’ is – Canada accepted the most Americans during the Vietnam war (it is estimated that more than 400,000 Americans took up Canadian residency between 1968 and 1978).

CNBC,  in a round-up of Fake News Stories in 2016, pointed to these untrue headlines: “Pope Francis Endorses Donald Trump for President” and “Ireland is now officially accepting Trump refugees from America”. Politifact determined that this story was false: “Thousands of people at a Donald Trump rally in Manhattan chanted, “We hate Muslims, we hate blacks, we want our great country back.”

Of course, Donald Trump himself was the source of many falsehoods, most of which he repeatedly refused to be embarrassed about. He knew that his most ardent supporters would accept him, and understand him – in the same way they would support a friend who sometimes says things without having facts to back up what they are saying. (Politifact and other fact checking sites  have lists of falsehoods made by Barack Obama, Donald Trump and other politicians.)

Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has undoubtedly uttered a few falsehoods too, though it is hard to classify what his sweet-sounding praise of Fidel Castro was, or how his government tripled the projected deficit once in power…

But if we’ve come to expect and even joke about office-seekers who seem truth averse (“How do you know a politician is lying? His lips are moving”), many of us have given little thought to our own fibs and to how they compare with politicians’ deceits. What if PolitiFact looked at what we say to our spouses, friends and bosses?
– New York Post, April 2016 –

Here in Canada, Federal politicians are investigating ‘false news’ as part of a broader study by the Federal Heritage Committee into the impact of digital technology on journalism. While various sections of Canada’s CRTC regulations prohibit the broadcasting of “false or misleading news” by radio and television licensees, it obviously can’t control or regulate news that is broadcast from the USA or is delivered through the internet.

So if you spot someone sharing something that you know is outlandish, strike a blow for truth and let them know. But be nice about it. After all, we’ve all had our moments of gullibility, and we certainly haven’t had our last.
– Rhodri Marsden, Independent, July 2015 –

How do we, as citizens of our respective countries, respond to this web of falsehoods? Some people speak or write mean, spiteful, horrid things about President Trump, his family, and other politicians. Does that achieve anything? If you have ridiculed, shamed, hated, scorned, or belittled someone, does that make you a better person than they are?

But every time someone quips like Donald Trump does…they reveal a streak of that same character in themselves. You tumble closer to the bottom of the pit where Trump resides. And by signaling your comfort in saying it, you give tacit permission to others to do the same. Quickly, we all find ourselves lower than before.
– Nate Hopper, Time, October 2016 –

There are many ways to express your opinions without being abusive. First, though, you should make sure your opinions are NOT based on, or propped up by Fake News.

How do you fact check? Do you know which news outlets are satirical, which ones are make up fake stories, which ones have strong bias either left or right? (This site has some good lists to get you started – Media Bias/Fact  Check.)

My list of Government/Political quotations is at The Quippery – Politics and Government.

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18 thoughts on “Satire, Fake News and Bias

  1. That first headline was marvelous! And thank you for the Media Bias link, that is quite helpful.
    One thing that concerns me about accusations back and forth, with no regard to fact-checking before reposting, is that it takes our focus away from real events worthy of our attention. And I’m not talking about Trump tweets either. They need less focus, not more!

    Like

    • You are right – there are many real events worthy of attention. There are also so many good things happening in both our countries, but they sure don’t make the news. We live in a culture where fear is the driver – and while that is one way to herd people, it doesn’t create a culture that is sustainable.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s a qualified like, I gave. I retain the right to say things about people when said people show a singular lack of concern for others. Some of the things I will say will be derisive (most) and some people might see them as mean.

    “If you have ridiculed, shamed, hated, scorned, or belittled someone, does that make you a better person than they are?”

    Luckily I’m too old to care about what people think. Besides, I’m not trying to be a better person than they are. I want them to be better persons than they are.

    Appealing to reason, honor, honesty, and integrity has shown itself as useless. Now, I’m just going to have fun with it.

    Like

    • So you subscribe to the ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ philosophy. Makes me think, for some reason, of the George Bernard Shaw quip: “Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.”

      Like

    • There is an updated quip that is more appropriate: “Arguing with an engineer is a lot like wrestling a pig in mud. After a few hours, you realize the pig likes it.”

      Yes, an engineer be I.

      Seriously, when I speak of insulting, ridiculing, and belittling I refer more to someone’s ideas and beliefs and not making fun of their physical appearance. Not Trump, be I.

      On that, I’ll stand my ground. We must challenge ideas and views counter to the advancement of society and short of raising a fist to someone’s face, the battle is actually fought for the minds of people who may not be wholly invested in the issues. In that, I think there is no better approach than employing humor and pointing out the smallness of ugly and harmful notions. Mock we must when reason fails.

      Think of Mark Twain — not that I compare myself to him — or think of scores of comedians that through quite outlandish and often “offensive” humor are, nonetheless, forcing people to think.

      “All in the Family” was a show that did that well; it showed a mirror in front of a generation entrenched in their beliefs and made them pay attention by basically insulting and ridiculing said beliefs (something that, apparently, is not ‘politically correct’ these days).

      Mocking is a legitimate form of resistance, and it sure beats taking up signs which are then used to beat people carrying different signs.

      In the long run, minds are what we need to win over. But, yes . . . I’ll also mock people resistant to evidence, resistance to self-examination, and always, always mock people seeking to govern from ideology as opposed to facts.

      Like

  3. Fake news has been around since the very first newspaper paraphrased what a witness told them. If it isn’t reported verbatim, it’s got an element of subjectivity to it. That’s assuming the witness didn’t embellish in the first place just for the attention. It’s a short trip to fake news from there. Having said that, it used to be that news agencies would at least give the impression they had done their fact-checking homework. That no longer seems to be a constraint for them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are right – truth is a moving target! This is what makes biased reporting so interesting. Usually there is relatively truthful information readily available, but a strong left or right bias will pick only the facts that support their bias, and discard the facts that don’t fit. They start with an opinion, and pick the facts that fit.

      Like

  4. My siblings and I were raised with the mantra, “bring others UP to your standards….don’t LOWER yourself to theirs.” My dad also asked us (often) “If everyone else jumped off a cliff does that mean you should?”
    To be honest I do find myself responding sarcastically, at times, to news reports. I guess I need to work harder on those things dad tried to teach me.

    Like

    • Somewhere along the way I also learned that discussions about religion and politics should be avoided in some circles!
      I think we all have a right to express our opinions, but I think it is counter productive to try to demean the person who thinks differently than we do. When a journalist calls a candidate an ‘ugly’ ‘weird hair’ ‘racist buffoon’ – I don’t trust anything else that writer has to say.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hey Margy
    I like the new spelling of your name. It helps distinguish you from the many other like-named folks.
    I’m wondering about 2 of your newer blogs. On my rss links page I’m getting a message; “Unknown Feed, An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.”
    Let me know if it’s a technical issue or if you shut them down.
    Wishing you a warm week of sunshine.
    🙂

    Like

    • I didn’t put enough thought into how to spell my blogger name – even though it was my childhood name. I guess that became the point of changing the spelling – feels more like a grandma name now…
      As for the links – the links on the menu near the top of the page are the right links. I did some switching around and abandoned the links you must have. Sorry about that. I think I’m all set now for another 7 years of blogging!
      Hope you have a warm week too! We’ve had some fairly cool weather here in AZ – got down below freezing 3 nights in a row. Daytime temps were hardly warmer than what our family was experiencing back in Alberta!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Very interesting. Just yesterday I replied to a friend on Facebook who shared a post about a situation with native Americans protesting the building of an oil pipeline. It was accompanied by a picture of teepees burning and his 2-cents addition was “this is something our government doesn’t want you to see.” I clicked through to the blog (it wasn’t a “news” item) and that same picture wasn’t there. On the very bottom, in fine print, they said they had taken down the picture because it was from a movie. Too many people didn’t read through the entire piece, they complained, so they would know it was merely “illustrative” of how terrible our guvmt is, and that the author had not claimed it was an actual picture of something the guvmnt had done. Imagine readers being so stupid.

    I gently suggested to my friend the govt wouldn’t mind us seeing this. In fact, all we had to do was rent the movie on Netflix. I cut and pasted the disclaimer from the blog. I was nervous about doing it, frankly – usually I keep my mouth shut because people are simply RABID. But the guy had the grace to say “thank you for pointing this out.” Some of his other friends, however, basically said “who cares? the other side makes stuff up, and the guvmt is still evil.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know how you feel, and I agree that we should all speak up and point out this kind of ‘misinformation’… except it never seems to end. I can almost predict which of my Facebook friends are going to post something that is either extremely biased, or is just a pack of lies.

      As for the oil industry, my province is Alberta, home of the hated Oil Sands. I don’t know why people can’t comprehend that the oil is still going to flow for some time, and a pipeline is far preferable to rail cars.

      I’d be very happy if all my Facebook friends went back to Farmville requests and photos of funny cats…

      Like

  7. The link you posted looks extremely helpful. I’m interested in the work Canada is doing to combat “fake news.” I have recently started a similar blog for a class I am taking. The blog is about helping to detect bias in news articles. Could you take a look at my post outlining some of the things viewers should look for and let me know what you think? Feel free to offer any suggestions, I am still working out the kinks and doing some research. Thank you! https://mirroredmedia.wordpress.com/2017/03/08/think-critically/

    Like

    • What an interesting concept for a blog! It is good to see a move towards open discussion of bias and fake news. Of course, in a world of instant, unverified journalism, the challenge is how to make the real story as popular as the ‘fake’ one.

      I posted the link you mentioned in a comment on your post.

      Like

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