Friday, December 16, 2016

Fox And Fake News

I just had a lengthy social media exchange that brought up a grievance of conservatives. Trying to represent one person's view as best I can, he said that I fail to understand that many conservatives have been so frustrated with "liberal bias of the mainstream media" that they now feel it is gratifying to see us "complain about fake news" -- finally feeling their pain, so to speak.

But my problem with this is that he conflates bias with fake, which is a big problem.

This exchange also touched on my concerns in a blog post I had drafted but never finished -- now is the chance.

There has been much on the idea of fake news. Most interesting is the Planet Money story on Finding the Fake New King. It became an even more surreal story when covered on Full Frontal a few days later. This is all disturbing, but I can't help worry that it has shifted attention away from Fox News and it's role in the growth of fake news.

I know, I know...this has been dragging on for years and I am sure I sound like just another liberal who can't get out of my National Public Radio, New York Times and New Yorker echo chambers. That is exactly what the person in the above-mentioned exchange told me was my problem. But Fox is and has always been different -- my most recent posting about this being just prior to the election. I don't mind media having a leaning to the left or right. The real crimes are in the demise of journalism. One of the reasons I like The Economist is that is often prefaces its editorial content with a disclaimer about ideological beliefs on free trade or open borders or other elements that affect it's content. But that is not what Fox does. Every time I watch -- and I force myself to do so -- I feel like it's an exercise in bad journalism. Leading questions, implicit assumptions and just half truths.

To be honest, in recent weeks I've really valued and enjoyed reading right wing media that I rarely consumed before. The National Review and Wall Street Journal have some great points and remind me what it felt like to actually have a debate. I feel like my assumptions are challenged. But that isn't how I feel with Fox.

It didn't take me 30 seconds to find clips on Fox that suggest the same talking point that was made to me in this social media exchange I mentioned. Listen to this nonsense on Fox. More shitty reporting! If anyone on Fox took the time to listen to Planet Money or this great interview on Fresh Air with Craig Silverman of Buzzfeed or the countless other investigations on this, they'd understand why the distinction between "fake news" and bias is critical.

What is important about the Fresh Air interview is that it shows pretty clearly why Fox wants to conflate the issue -- conservatives benefit from it! Indeed, I'd say fake news, is the logical outcome of bad journalism, for which I think Fox is the poster child. Can anyone find me a liberal media outlet that is dismissive of "fact-checking"? I only hear this from conservatives.

This was the most interesting bit of the interview with Sliverman was this comment about how Facebook is considering it's role in combatting fake news, by which I mean the shit that is made up by someone for the purpose of making advertising revenue in selling hoaxes.
When you flag something as offensive on Facebook, it's possible that it may automatically then be scanned by an algorithm and realize that that is an image, for example, maybe they've already banned. But a lot of the time it ends up in front of a person on their content review team who has to make a judgment call. And I can tell you from speaking to people in conservative media, [emphasis is mine] they are extremely concerned.
One, they view Facebook as a liberal organization. They think it's biased against conservative points of view. And two, they're extremely concerned that if Facebook starts trying to weed out fakes, they're going to have people with a liberal point of view who disagree with an article potentially suppressing it. And so there is risk now of suppression of free speech and suppression of different points of view if these things were to go in the wrong direction.
The President-elect has shown and shows on a daily basis that he has no problem lying, just like many politicians do (as pointed out by that nonsense Fox clip). The challenge to the media and to those of us who consume it is to believe in facts, or at least that the pursuit of facts is a worthy goal, not matter what Fox's "fair and balanced" news tells you.

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