Combating Fake News: 4 Strategies to Separate Fact from Fiction

AN ESSENTIAL GUIDE FOR NAVIGATING THE POST-TRUTH ERA

This fake-media toolkit was originally published by Stand Up Republic, and has been reprinted by permission. 

The digital revolution has fundamentally changed the way we produce and consume news. Technology has brought about unmistakable progress on many fronts, but it has also introduced new opportunities for exploitation and attack.

It’s fair to say that disinformation has long challenged our ability to discern truth in media. But the 2016 presidential election exposed to the public a new strain of the virus, and it’s one that requires increased vigilance to remedy.

Today’s abundance of “news” invites us to indulge our inherent prejudices on demand, even when facts disprove our feelings. Anonymous social media profiles (including bots) enable the wildest ideas to spread across information networks, even appearing on the @POTUS account at times.

Fake news stories are sometimes funny. They are often benign. But they can also have serious and terrible consequences.

As our society adapts to this new landscape — one the President aggravates by labeling any media that challenges him as “the enemy” or “fake news” — foreign adversaries look to spread their own propaganda. Their disinformation campaigns exploit our free and open media, sowing chaos and eroding democracy in the process.

When consuming media from any source, and in particular online, one must navigate our digital world carefully. Know what to look for, and help your family and friends avoid spreading misinformation too.

Here are four strategies to help you identify fake news.

1. EXAMINE THE SOURCE

First, look at the URL: have you ever heard of breakingnews365.net before? If you haven’t, be wary of the site’s contents.

The Internet’s open and accessible nature means virtually anyone can publish an official-looking website. Someone with basic web skills can have a site up and running in a matter of minutes, with almost no cost.

The producers of fake news have political and financial motives. During the 2016 presidential race, for example, the Denver Guardian — an entirely fake news site — generated between $10,000 and $30,000 a month in ad revenue.

Of course, sites that mix real journalism with distorted (or blatantly false) information blur the line between fact and fiction. Here’s a list of the worst offenders.

2. CHECK YOUR SHOCK LEVEL

Did the article you just read shock you because it’s inconsistent with known facts? Did it seem designed to play on your emotions? If a claim or story seems outrageous, don’t take it at face value. It’s possibly twisted to confirm your worst fears and suspicions, or simply made up altogether.

Why do so many people fall for this trap? Because fake news purveyors — including advertisers — seek clicks and shares of their content, and they know appealing to raw emotion elicits a greater response in our brains.

Bottom line: take a moment to analyze what you just read and ask yourself if it seems too “out there” to be true. If the answer is yes, proceed with caution before internalizing, clicking or sharing.

3. CONSULT GOOGLE (or maybe Bing?)

When something happens, news organizations race to publish. Every bureau chief wants to be the first to post or to secure the next exclusive. So when important national events happen, multiple sources cover it.

Different outlets may, of course, offer their particular analysis of an issue. But at the end of the day, the root facts of an issue — its essential truth — will shine through.

As a rule of thumb, check to see if other outlets are talking about a given subject. If at least three different, well-known publications have reported on the same topic, there’s a good chance its core facts are legitimate.

Example: Fox News, MSNBC and the New York Times each published an article about President Trump and Steve Bannon around August 15, 2017. While each source frames the story differently, it’s probably safe to conclude that this is real news.

4. COMPENSATE FOR MEDIA BIAS

It’s true — media outlets on both sides of the aisle present the news with bias. But, as with Tip #3, we can overcome this by challenging opposing viewpoints.

Where do you gather your news, generally speaking? If it’s largely through TV, consider reading a newspaper. If you typically read Fox News articles online, consider watching CNN.

Too often, we choose to ignore ideas that compete with our preconceived notions. By varying our sources and consuming those with which we disagree, we are more likely to get to the truth than if we only participate in the partisan echo chamber that too often reaffirms false narratives.

 

This link should be bookmarked for future reference!

BREAKING – Milo Yiannopoulos Resigns From Breitbart

When it rains, it pours.

Milo Yiannopolous–tech editor at Breitbart, but more widely known as an agent provocateur of the “alt-right” movement–tendered his resignation to Breitbart today in the wake of inflammatory videos that recently surfaced of him seemingly excusing pedophilia between grown men and young boys as a rite of passage rather than serious abuse.  This comes in the wake of several Breitbart employees reportedly threatening to resign if Milo wasn’t forced to leave, and on the heels of CPAC rescinding its invitation for him to speak at its annual conference and Simon & Schuster canceling his upcoming book Dangerous.

“I would be wrong to allow my poor choice of words to detract from my colleagues’ important reporting,” Milo said at a press conference, “so today I am resigning from Breitbart, effective immediately. This decision is mine alone.”

“When your friends have done right by you, you do right by them,” he continued.  “For me, now, that means stepping aside so my colleagues at Breitbart can get back to the great work they do.”

There’s been some speculation that Evan McMullin’s group Stand Up Republic footed the bill to dig up opposition research on Milo that it put out as a high-profile political hit job on the unabashed Trump supporter, whom Milo has referred to as “Daddy” in interviews.  McMullin, never one to shy away from publicity, only seems to be stoking the rumor personally:

So is that McMullin’s knife sticking out of Milo’s gut, or is he just twisting it a little for fun?  Who knows?  While it’s obvious that the #NeverTrump holdouts are still angling for scalps, exactly how much value there is in taking out Milo is debatable.  He’s not affiliated with the Trump Administration in any way, and even among mainstream Trump supporters he’s considered more of a liability than an asset.  As for the alt-right, they still only represent a small fringe of the Trump base–so if McMullin thinks that killing off their poster boy will wound Trump somehow, he’s engaged in some wishful thinking. Then again, perhaps McMullin is just hoping this will make him look like a tough guy.  In politics, anything is possible–no matter how strange.

Either way, Trump is better off not having guys like Milo around to muddle the message.

How Breitbart, Bannon and The Lügenpresse Elected Hillary

99.8 percent.

That’s the raw truth, before FiveThirtyEight applies their statistical correlation (i.e. “miracle”) factors. Hillary Clinton will win the election barring some swing-state demographic phenomenon beyond predictable limits.

Trump rallies have become an anti-media frenzy of rage. Physical attacks against media have become more commonplace (the fact that they were ever commonplace at Trump rallies is most troubling).

Media hatred is one of the central themes Trump has beat like a drum for over a year, but the drumbeat is now louder than ever since the petulant man-child has lost any reasonable chance of being president.

CNN’s Jim Acosta told Wolf Blitzer, “Just a few moments ago, a woman hit me with her sign.” This behavior is tolerated and incited by Trump. The so-called “alt-right” (let’s just call them Jew-haters and racist pigs, okay?) has begun using the Nazi term Lügenpresse–literally German for “lying media”–to describe what Trump has called them all along.

Except for Breitbart. Since the ethnic cleansing that followed former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s assault on Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields, Breitbart has moved further and further in the direction of Trump, specifically giving haven to the new Birchers, the “alt-right,” and its disgusting thug-worshipping neo-Nazis.

I’ve always given Breitbart the largest possible benefit of the doubt. I used to be a frequent reader, and followed their advocacy of 2nd Amendment, freedom of speech, religious liberty, and opposition to Obama’s abuse of power. They did some good reporting.

I recently took up for Breitbart on this site, when Boston talk radio host Curt Schilling joined their team with a podcast deal. I still like Schilling, but it seems Breitbart is determined to make me look silly for defending them. They don’t want to be rehabilitated (Erick said that, and I have to agree).

From the beginning, Breitbart News has championed Trump. Now they’re embroiled in what might be the biggest campaign scandal this cycle–if not since Watergate. Hillary Clinton’s campaign used Democratic activists to stir trouble and protest at Trump rallies, attempting to draw Trump supporters into violence while videoing it. The same activist also apparently coordinated with Breitbart when he disrupted Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz events.

At best, this was shameless cheerleading by Breitbart, but at worst (which seems more likely) it’s Breitbart taking the Democrats’ bait and running out the fishing line, hook and sinker in its mouth. From Patterico at RedState:

I want to conduct a little hypothetical thought experiment with you. Imagine that you watch these O’Keefe videos and see Black, Koval, Creamer et al. bragging about their contrived and scripted protests and their efforts to goad Trumpers into violence. Then you learn that CNN had actually worked with these folks, and been tipped off when Black & Co. went to do a phony protest. CNN filmed it, a CNN correspondent mocked the elderly guy who was defending himself, and then CNN had the dirty trickster on an interview show.

And then the President of CNN became the CEO of Hillary’s campaign.

You’d be calling for a boycott of CNN. You’d be calling for the heads of Hillary’s campaign CEO and Hillary herself. You know you would.

How is this any different?

It’s well known that Hillary wanted to run against Trump, because she had the greatest chance of beating him. She was most scared of Marco Rubio, whom she had no chance of beating (and would likely make an awesome president).

Now the evidence points to Breitbart, and Stephen Bannon, actively helping Trump, using a Democratic activist, to defeat the GOP’s best chance to beat Hillary. Then Bannon joined the Trump campaign, displacing Paul Manafort, who for all his liabilities, served as a voice of moderation for Trump’s distressing media bashing.

Bannon encouraged Trump to double down on his “rigged” conspiracies and “lying media” accusations. Objectively viewed (which is nearly impossible, but we can try), this might look like a conspiracy to destroy conservative media, devastate the GOP’s infrastructure and donor base, and hand Clinton the White House in a landslide which she can claim as a mandate–along with the Senate and a big chunk of the House.

Clinton is as corrupt as they come. But the real story should be the suborning of journalism, the arms of government power, and the electoral process to effect a stunning takeover in what should have been a year when conservative values swung back into the White House. The main stream media isn’t really reporting it because they are complicit in elevating Trump during the primaries, and holding stories against him until he was the nominee and they could be used to help Hillary.

Trump is now self-destructing, advocating rage and violence against the media, which will lead to the Democrats and the main stream media feeling completely justified in shutting down and shunning legitimate conservative outlets. When Hillary takes office, look for a revival of all that “fairness doctrine” talk. They want to shut down conservative talk radio, turn Fox News into a slightly less liberal CNN, and relegate real conservative news to the same cobwebby corners where 4chan and VDARE lurk.

The main stream media is absolutely biased, and complicit in helping Hillary. But they could not have done it without Stephen Bannon and Breitbart’s help.

The best thing Bannon could do right now is resign. It probably won’t help Trump win (almost nothing can help that right now), but at least it might help save conservative media after the election.

Schilling To Join Breitbart: No, They Are Not The Devil

Curt Schilling is joining Breitbart, according to a New York Magazine report.

On Monday, Breitbart plans to announce that former Red Sox pitcher and Trump supporter Curt Schilling will begin hosting a daily online radio show featuring political commentary and calls from listeners. The broadcast will eventually include a video livestream.

Yes, Breitbart has become a shameless shill for Donald Trump. Yes, Stephen Bannon proudly works for the doomed Trump campaign. Yes, there will probably be some morphing or merging of Breitbart into a Trump media property post-election (but not named Trump.tv).

And yes, Schilling is considering a Senate run in 2018. I would still vote for him, and support his candidacy if he runs.

Why? You might ask, because I, from the beginning, have been a quintessential NeverTrumper. And Breitbart is all about everything Trump, even sacrificing practically all their journalistic ethics for the cause of one man’s moonshot.

Here’s why.

This election will soon be over, and Breitbart is not beyond redemption. As I wrote in my post about Schilling’s run:

When people like Schilling–and there are sure to be others–show the courage and interest to defend those issues, we conservatives need to be there to support them. We need to forgive and forget, even when the sins were committed in the name of baldfaced commercialism and self-interest.

Post-Trump, we need to be mindful that Breitbart stood for values we conservatives believe in. Just because they did some rather dumb things (publishing a defense of the alt-right being one, not to mention the entire Lewandowski/Michelle Fields kerfuffle) isn’t reason to call them the devil and wish “away with them!”

There will be a lot of recriminations on both sides of the Trump divide after November 8th. It’s incumbent on all of us to remain calm and carry on, not impute every character flaw of Donald Trump to each of his supporters.

So Schilling joining Breitbart is good for Breitbart, and good for Schilling. I wish them both success. After the election, we will need them fighting for conservative values, not against us because of Trump bitterness.

Trumpaganda Ministry: Reason 3,123 Why Trump Must Be Shunned

Taking lessons from Joseph Goebbels and Dmitri Shepilov, Trumpbart Breitbart News decided to take some journalistic liberties with Trump’s Jacksonville, Florida rally.

Properly called out for using a photo of Cleveland Cavalier fans swarming after their team won the NBA championship as a stand-in for Trump’s rally, they changed the photo.

We really can’t blame Breitbart. Andrew is gone, as well as anyone with an ounce of journalistic integrity. Even Trump supporters left over the organization’s pivot to be Trump’s official propagandist.

And they’re just taking after their Master (God/Idol/King/Fuhrer), who loves to spin tales that would make Brian Williams buy a round of drinks at any bar.

“Now, here’s the amazing thing: Over there, where that plane landed, top secret, you don’t have a lot of paparazzi. You know, the paparazzi doesn’t do so well over there, right?” Trump said, seeming to refer to Iran and not Switzerland, where the footage was recorded. “And they have a perfect tape, done by obviously a government camera, and the tape is of the people taking the money off the plane. Right? That means that in order to embarrass us further, Iran sent us the tapes. Right? It’s a military tape; it’s a tape that was a perfect angle, nice and steady, nobody getting nervous because they’re gonna be shot because they’re shooting a picture of money pouring off a plane.”

He was talking about b-roll file footage that all news organizations use to fill space during a newscast. The Washington Post–a mostly-real news organization, followed up after letting the Trump campaign know the boss was drooling down his own neck again.

“Yes,” spokeswoman Hope Hicks responded in an email. “Merely the b-roll footage included in every broadcast.”

These are just more reasons for the media to just stop covering Trump. Let Twitter correct Breitbart, but just stop. My face is tired from cringing.

Nolte Quit 2 Months Ago, Breitbart’s Loss Is Everyone’s Gain

Breitbart Editor-at-Large John Nolte last filed a story on March 11, following Donald Trump’s then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s manhandling of reporter Michelle Fields.

It turns out that Nolte did in fact quit two months ago, along with Fields, fellow editors Ben Shapiro and Jarrett Stepman, reporter Jordan Schachtel and publicist Kurt Bardella. Practically alone among that crowd, Nolte has remained steadfastly in Trump’s corner.

He posted this on Twitter Monday.

I have nothing against Nolte for keeping his personal job situation to himself. That’s his right. It’s really none of our business if he keeps it private, and we should respect his privacy. I do wish him (and offer my prayers) the best, and his wife a quick healing from whatever ails her.

That being said, it was somewhat disingenuous of Breitbart to leave Nolte’s name on their author list as “Editor-at-Large” for 2 months while the man was no longer associated with them. It might have been awkward to do anything else, but they knew the news would eventually come out, and good management dictates staying ahead of such problems.

It is obvious that Breitbart lacks good management.

There likely hasn’t been a news organization in one candidate’s pocket as much as Breitbart is in Trump’s except for Pravda. Arguably, Drudge Report might also be in the same category, but at least they link other stories as a news aggregator. Breitbart does its own original reporting–but now they’ve compromised not only their journalistic integrity, but also their management integrity.

I don’t even read Breitbart anymore, which is sad, because they do some really good reporting.

Honestly, the main reason I don’t read it isn’t because of the Trump propaganda. I can handle that. I mean, I read Salon at times and they are like a porn site for Obama lovers (soon to be Hillary). No, Breitbart’s problem is that it has become the Weekly World News of online advertising. I can’t deal with the bottom-scraping garbage that litters their page like brothel brochures on the Vegas strip.

“Surprise! 20 Female celebs that swing both ways!” “Don’t do it! The game that will have you hooked!” “$1 buys $100,000 in life insurance!” It’s so filled with clickbait and junk sales that I feel like Redd Foxx should be on the masthead shouting “You big dummy!”

Breitbart News has sold out, not to Trump’s candidacy, but to crass, ugly, filthy money. Were I in John Nolte’s shoes, I would no longer want to work there either, Trump or no Trump. The Donald may be into overglitzed burlesque and gold-plated opulence, but at least his burlesque has some degree of style (sometimes tasteless, but definitely with style). Breitbart lacks even the most basic spray-on version of class. It’s a walking, animated, Internet billboard for a truckstop strip club.

I write for The Resurgent for several reasons, but one that’s chief among them is because Erick is committed to a clean design, free of pop-up robot porno monkeys. John Nolte is a talented writer and editor. I’d be proud to work with him anywhere (once Trump loses at least, because I don’t know if I could keep lunch down otherwise).

Breitbart’s loss is everyone else’s gain. Andrew, were he in the heaven he didn’t believe in, would be sad looking down at what his baby has become.