If you’re like me, you have been bombarded with headlines about fake news.
These have been exceptionally prevalent lately, and there has even been a large resistance to those stories by people who dislike the mainstream media, or may frequent sites known to dabble in “fake news.”
This has created a divide in our population, and has caused dialogue to slow to a standstill. These silly fights are not necessary, and after careful deliberation, I think the problem falls largely on not having a clear definition of what news is fake vs biased.
So What is Fake News?
The media has broadly defined this, which is the reason we have this unnecessary conflict.
In my opinion, the best definition has nothing to do with biased narratives, and everything to do with reliable sets of facts. If a story is based on facts, there will be links available for you to research the source material that story is built on. There will be evidence for all the claims made, and that evidence will be substantiated beyond chain emails and hearsay. If a story has no source documents, no links to backup claims, and is purely based on rumour and opinion, it is effectively fake news that holds no value in a bipartisan dialogue.
Is All Partisan News Fake Then?
Not at all, in fact many partisan sources are willing to pursue narratives that the more mainstream sources view as too controversial.
The difference as discussed earlier, revolves around what is provably true. We all too often disregard sources from the other side of the aisle outright because of the partisan narratives they build into the stories. However, if these stories are well sourced, there is often much to be learned about other perspectives and schools of thought.
What matters isn’t that every opinion piece out there agrees with you, what matters is that they are based in fact, and not meant to skew reality so much that it is no longer worthwhile in helping the dialogue progress.
How Do You Take in News?
First, if there isn’t sourcing and links for the claims made within, the site you are reading isn’t doing their job to keep you informed and confident in the information presented. Those sites are likely trying to manipulate your opinion one way or the other, without providing any evidence to support their viewpoints. Ignore these sites, because they are polluting the waters and our attempts at progress.
Second, once sites with good sourcing habits have been identified, learn what kind of biases they have. For example Huffington Post has a very liberal bias, where Fox news is very conservative. Knowing this, you can follow source materials listed within the articles, and effectively filter out the opinions from the facts presented. Studying the facts within a given article does not mean you have to accept the viewpoint of the author, or their conclusions.
Why Wouldn’t I Just Ignore All Opinionated Sources?
In this modern era, there really isn’t a such thing as a totally unbiased news source. Furthermore, only taking in news from places that agree with you creates a bubble of sorts. It decreases your ability to understand the thinking of half the country, and in turn prevents you from being able to understand and connect with others in important conversations we as a society need to have.
We will never find ourselves at a place where we all agree on the controversial issues, but if we can all agree on the facts of the matter, we can make progress towards solutions and compromises that make the world a better place, and we can all live with. The toxic political environment we have watched develop over the years isn’t magically going to disappear, we have to do the work ourselves. Agreeing on the facts, and respecting others opinions when they are based in those facts is a great start towards tearing down the walls that now separate us. If we make up our minds and decide to work together, we will continue to become the dominant superpower leading the world and our species in a positive direction.
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