If I had to choose, that day in 2010 would have been one of the most interesting days of my entire life. It had three components. First, it was the day I met Nate Scott, the most positive man I know. Then there was the High School Senior, an self-avowed Communist, who was lecturing me about why she refused to read anything the Founders or Framers had written about our government because the comunistas had already taught her that the reason the USA existed was that the Framers had looked into the future and devised a political system specifically designed to keep her from ever being in power. I think we dodged both a metaphorical and an actual bullet there.
Thirdly that day was a panel discussion of writers discussing the process of writing of which I had been invited to be a part (I used to be a Modesto Bee Community Columnist). About ten of us sat on the dais. One was a anti-nuclear protester who wrote his own newsletter about non-proliferation. Another was a reporter from the Stockton Record. Of course I had my fun with the no-nukes guy, but it was the Record reporter who said the thing that still resonate with me today.
He was speaking about how to “slant” an article. And he said (and I quote), “It’s easy to write the story so that the reader comes to the correct conclusion about it.”
We tend to think of “fake news” as a more recent phenomenon. Created, as we are led to believe, by unpropitious “Alt-Right” trolls living in threadbare New York apartments pounding out click bait stories of Hillary’s love for all things malevolent and hatred of unicorns and rainbows. Or perhaps its a creation of CNN which clearly would rather just make up news rather than pay a reporter?
In any case, the truth is always dark. That’s how we know it’s the truth. And “Fake News” has been around a whole lot longer than any of us want to admit. More importantly, it’s still here. And it isn’t in the “making up” of a story, it’s in how the story is reported. How it is presented to the public. Whether or not the story is designed to get the reader or viewer to “come to the correct understanding” or not.
Two stories from this past Friday are instructive in the matter. First is the dust up over just how many people attended or did not attend the inauguration. Was it the biggest ever or an embarrassing flop?
But a few hours before the festivities got underway a man died in Manteca. He was shot at least twice. And the circumstances of his death have left an entire community angry, frustrated, sad and deeply concerned. Was it a homicide or an act of self-defense?
What is even more interesting to me, is the audience reaction to both stories. At the end of the day, the only way to fight “fake news” is to recognize that all news is biased. Only those as wise a serpents have any chance of reaching their own conclusions, instead of the one intended by the authors and editors, whoever they may be.