It seems to me that we are becoming more aware of what has been termed “fake news”, that is, reports that are apparently valid accounts and descriptions of happenings, but in reality are fabrications either in part or in whole. Trying to sort out fact from fiction is difficult these days because, with instant communications, falsehoods as well as facts are rapidly disseminated through social media and are treated as equals. To further complicate matters much of the fake news has a kernel of truth somewhere in it. Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) put it this way, “…a lie which is all a lie may be met and fought outright – but a lie which is part a truth is a harder matter to fight.” True then, true now.
Well, I got to thinking about all this and wondered how difficult spotting a fake news item might be so I figured to give it a try. Accordingly, I have selected several “news” items for readers to look at. Please note that one or more may be “fake news” with the other(s) being authentic. Might be kinda hard to tell the difference.
News Item One. Several sources have now revealed that the owner of an NFL football team had a closed door meeting with the team, including the coaches and trainers. The subject of the meeting was the growing practice of players refusing to stand during the performance of the national anthem prior to games. The owner acknowledged the right of players to express their disrespect for this country – even to the extent of characterizing our nation as a racist, bigoted society that condones law enforcement officers killing innocent young black men.
The owner reportedly continued that demonstrations of disrespect and contempt for this country have no place on the football field. He reportedly commented, “You are all simply paid performers on a stage and that field is my stage! You will stand, with your hand over your heart and with respect, when our country’s national anthem is being played or you will no longer be a [member of this team], a coach. …. or have any association with [this organization]. I will immediately fire you, no matter who you are! You can make your political statements off the field, but while you’re employed by me and I’m signing your check, I demand that you make our fans proud and not embarrass them.”
News Item Two. The assault on statues and memorials of historic white men has reached further into history with the beheading of a Crawford County, Ohio, statue of Colonel William Crawford. Colonel Crawford (1722 – 1782), a contemporary and colleague of George Washington, was a surveyor and military officer who served in the French and Indian War among other frontier campaigns and also in the Revolutionary War against England. Col Crawford became a celebrated figure in frontier history when he was captured by a tribe of Native Americans, tortured extensively, and burned alive at the stake. Thus far neither motive nor responsibility for mutilation of his statue have been identified.
News Item Three. Reports continue to surface that the hack of the Democratic National Committee’s computers in 2016 was not the result of Russian intrusion. A group of former US intelligence officials contend that the hack of the Democratic National Committee’s computers in 2016 was an inside job. According to news reports, forensic experts and former national security advisers have, ” determined the DNC email hack … was conducted from within the DNC. ” The group found that “there was no hack of the Democratic National Committee’s system on July 5 last year – not by the Russians, not by anyone else. … In short, it was an inside job by someone with access to the DNC’s system.”
Fact or fiction? Well, Items Two and Three are valid reports while Item One is a total fabrication – it never happened. On the subject of NFL player protests, however, Cleveland TV reports, “Just days after a group of Cleveland Browns players took a knee during the National Anthem in Cleveland, all of the players stood for the National Anthem on Saturday ahead of their preseason game against Tampa Bay. Browns radio said that Browns legend Jim Brown spoke to the team and told them to “not disrespect” their country or the flag.”
Well, there you have it – a small sample of the dilemma we face, trying to separate fact, fiction, and opinion – which often masquerades as reporting. Unfortunately we, as a nation, have become so polarized that almost any information that tends to support a person’s own views is considered valid while that which runs counter to those opinions are dismissed – and this is tearing our country apart. At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.