Alternative Facts, Fake News & Inaccurate Reporting
Throughout the US election we heard the term “Fake News” in almost every report. It appears we’ll be using and discussing it for the next few years.
Trump Press Secretary Sean Spicer made a point about an inaccurate report made by a reporter about the decor in the Oval Office. He failed to explain that the error was quickly corrected.
I think it’s important to explain the difference between “alternative facts”, fake news and inaccurate reporting.
Let’s start with the last point – inaccurate reporting. This is nothing new. It happens as reporters rush to file stories about what they see. Media outlets have always had corrections sections where mis-reported items (often spellings or names, or mis-identifications) were corrected. The real-time nature of Twitter, however, means that the speed to correct inaccurate reporting (or mis-reported information) has become faster.
Mistakes happen and they are usually corrected.
Alternative Facts are opinions. They’re an interpretation of factual information. Having listened to multiple Trump sources, including KellyAnne Conway and Sean Spicer, there appears no question about the source data. Only the number of people both sides estimate. Spicer attempted to suggest that images published in multiple sources had been doctored using grass awnings and magnetometers as excuses.
Alternative facts are a misinterpretation of unquestionable information in order to mislead.
Fake News is news that deliberately sets out to mislead. It is also known as propaganda. It’s sole purpose is to deliberately mislead. Donald Trump is happy to use fake news in order to support his rhetoric. If it doesn’t, however, he complains about it when it does not. Trump appears to be trying to tell Americans that the mainstream media is lying in an attempt to spread his own lies. He is trying to discredit the mainstream media while telling them that he is the sole source of truth in order to better control criticism of his policies.
It appears that Trump is attempting to undermine the public’s understanding of the truth in order to position himself as the only person they can trust. The term gaslighting derives from a 1938 play and a 1944 movie titled Gas Light where a husband attempts to convince his wife and others that she is insane. Manipulating small elements of their environment. Either that or delusional when she points out these changes he insists that she is mistaken, remembering things incorrectly.
Now, to quote Chico Marx, who are you going to believe, Trump or your own eyes? Read widely. Ask for supporting evidence from both the media and the President in order to make your own mind up.