Fake News

The only acceptable solution for the fake news “epidemic”

Readability

The only acceptable solution for the fake news "epidemic"

Media out­lets across the coun­try have been buzzing about “fake news” being a prob­lem ever since the Democ­rats’ plethora of losses on elec­tion day. This prob­lem didn’t pop up because of the elec­tion. It was ram­pant well before the first batch of can­di­dates announced they were run­ning in early 2015. In fact, it’s been around since the early days of the inter­net. The fact that it has such a promi­nent spot­light on it today is a bit­ter response by the left to point a fin­ger at any­one other than Hillary Clin­ton and Demo­c­ra­tic leaders.

That’s not to say that the prob­lem isn’t real. As some­one who reads every head­line from over a hun­dred sources every day for my con­ser­v­a­tive news aggre­ga­tor, I can ver­ify that fake news has been an actual prob­lem for a long time. It comes in dif­fer­ent forms, the most promi­nent being the spin­ning of minor news into apoc­a­lyp­tic click-​bait head­line writ­ing by sources des­per­ate for adver­tis­ing dol­lars, but the core prob­lem is uni­ver­sal: the only way for smaller pub­lish­ers to com­pete with big­ger ones is to be very aggres­sive with their bull­horns and quite loose with the truth.

The biggest prob­lem is that it works. Medium-​sized sites like Salon and Con­ser­v­a­tive Tri­bune are build­ing lit­tle empires from it. Big­ger out­lets like Buz­zfeed and Bre­it­bart are get­ting rich from it. While I’m per­son­ally not crazy about the tech­nique, it’s effec­tive and as a small-​government Fed­er­al­ist I will defend their right to present their ver­sion of the news any way they wish. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t a problem.

Our soci­ety has been con­di­tioned to search for solu­tions when­ever there’s a prob­lem to be solved. That’s nat­ural, but for what­ever rea­son most have missed the obvi­ous one. It shouldn’t require sites like Face­book or Google to cen­sor news from this site or that one, though as pri­vate busi­nesses it’s their pre­rog­a­tive to do so if they wish. There’s no need for peo­ple to pub­lish black­lists to help “vic­tims” avoid the embar­rass­ment of shar­ing sto­ries that aren’t com­pletely true. It def­i­nitely doesn’t require the gov­ern­ment to step in and decide what to con­sider fake news and what to con­sider real. That’s a form of cen­sor­ship that would take us all down a very dark road.

The solu­tion is sim­ple. Just like we should let the busi­ness world work out its prob­lems through free mar­ket cap­i­tal­ism, we should allow the media to work out its own prob­lems with free speech jour­nal­ism. Let the media police the media. Let the peo­ple make deci­sions based upon trust and research. Just as some­one can choose whether or not to buy at Wal­mart or Tar­get, they can also choose whether they want to read their news on the New York Times or Infowars.

Sites like News­busters and Media Mat­ters work the “truth beat” for their respec­tive ide­olo­gies. News­busters points out the flaws of main­stream media and left­ist media pro­pa­ganda. Media Mat­ters high­lights every con­ser­v­a­tive per­spec­tive and tries to spin it as evil. That’s free speech jour­nal­ism. That’s how it’s sup­posed to work.

Instead of try­ing to find solu­tions to the fake news prob­lem, the media needs to police itself and the peo­ple need to be dis­cern­ing. Just as “caveat emp­tor” has been a call of pru­dence for con­sumers, per­haps “inspec­toris dis­cernerem” should be the ral­ly­ing cry for news con­sumers to be more care­ful with what they read and share.

Media outlets across the country have been buzzing about “fake news” being a problem ever since the Democrats’ plethora of losses on election day. This problem didn’t pop up because of the election. It was rampant well before the first batch of candidates announced they were running in early 2015. In fact, it’s been around since the early days of the internet. The fact that it has such a prominent spotlight on it today is a bitter response by the left to point a finger at anyone other than Hillary Clinton and Democratic leaders.

That’s not to say that the problem isn’t real. As someone who reads every headline from over a hundred sources every day for my conservative news aggregator, I can verify that fake news has been an actual problem for a long time. It comes in different forms, the most prominent being the spinning of minor news into apocalyptic click-bait headline writing by sources desperate for advertising dollars, but the core problem is universal: the only way for smaller publishers to compete with bigger ones is to be very aggressive with their bullhorns and quite loose with the truth.

The biggest problem is that it works. Medium-sized sites like Salon and Conservative Tribune are building little empires from it. Bigger outlets like Buzzfeed and Breitbart are getting rich from it. While I’m personally not crazy about the technique, it’s effective and as a small-government Federalist I will defend their right to present their version of the news any way they wish. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t a problem.

Our society has been conditioned to search for solutions whenever there’s a problem to be solved. That’s natural, but for whatever reason most have missed the obvious one. It shouldn’t require sites like Facebook or Google to censor news from this site or that one, though as private businesses it’s their prerogative to do so if they wish. There’s no need for people to publish blacklists to help “victims” avoid the embarrassment of sharing stories that aren’t completely true. It definitely doesn’t require the government to step in and decide what to consider fake news and what to consider real. That’s a form of censorship that would take us all down a very dark road.

The solution is simple. Just like we should let the business world work out its problems through free market capitalism, we should allow the media to work out its own problems with free speech journalism. Let the media police the media. Let the people make decisions based upon trust and research. Just as someone can choose whether or not to buy at Walmart or Target, they can also choose whether they want to read their news on the New York Times or Infowars.

Sites like Newsbusters and Media Matters work the “truth beat” for their respective ideologies. Newsbusters points out the flaws of mainstream media and leftist media propaganda. Media Matters highlights every conservative perspective and tries to spin it as evil. That’s free speech journalism. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

Instead of trying to find solutions to the fake news problem, the media needs to police itself and the people need to be discerning. Just as “caveat emptor” has been a call of prudence for consumers, perhaps “inspectoris discernerem” should be the rallying cry for news consumers to be more careful with what they read and share.