OK, Carmen. I’ve got something to say. It will take less than five minutes, but only if you don’t interrupt me. You can sigh, roll your eyes, and do whatever you want, just don’t speak. Not. a. word. Don’t finish my sentence, don’t come out with a great zinger, no matter how wonderfully slick and cool, even if you think this will shut me up, reveal me as the pompous ass I am, that will make me laugh in spite of myself, and/or make me concede that, all along, you’ve been the wise one, lo these forty years. No. I want you to listen to me for five minutes. If you can’t deal with this, I’m walking out right now. I’m not being a drama queen. I'm trying to make you listen. I’ve had lunch, the movie you want to take me to I can get online, any other perks you can give me right now are unimportant. Just give me five minutes. I’m putting the time on my smart phone, on the table.
What I want to talk about is fake news. Now what is known as fake news comprises two categories, first, unreliable, often word-of-mouth news spread through the Internet, and also on certain cable channels, and, second, news that does not appeal to Donald J. Trump, or those near to him. We can dispense with the latter, for now.
Fake news makes for good headlines. It deals with Good Guys (America) and Bad Guys (everyone else). You can be easily shocked and outraged by fake news, or soothed by the way it always works out, with the right Good and Bad guys. Everyone acts like they were in a cartoon, with Regular Guys and Evil Bitches, Hard-Working Americans (whether rich or poor) vs. Shiftless Foreigners and Elitists without Morals. It's easy to pair with frail blonde women in skimpy dresses, older men tut-tutting and lots of graphics and slogans.
An example of fake news is “Sharia Law in Texas”! Well, this is true. There is, as we speak, a court of Sharia Law, the Muslim Tribunal, operating in Texas. Fake news will take this, and run with it, painting a dramatic picture of an American heartland community made to cower under the barbaric laws of nasty fellows with VanDyke beards and towels on their heads, helpless against men set on raping women without veils and cutting hands and heads off whoever steals or eats pork. Oh, the humanity! It’s a good thing everyone has a gun!
Actually, the truth is a lot duller. The Tribunal deals in family law, prenups, divorces, adoption and wills, and contracts. Lots of Muslim women prefer a religious divorce (more money and rights) than a civil one. Other Muslims find it a good way to settle differences out of court.Moreover, sharia law is not a codified, hard and fast set of rules in the Koran, but varies from place to place, from sect of Muslim to sect of Muslim, judge to judge and takes into consideration local custom, individual circumstances, and the will of the local ruler. It may be true, but it makes you look like a pompous ass next to the guy who’s got a zinger about scimitars and camels.
Sometimes the stories are completely made up.Hillary Clinton is not, to anyone’s knowledge, a lesbian, nor does she have a fondness for the flesh of young brown-skinned boys, whether sexually or otherwise. Michelle Obama isn’t a man, even though Melania looks more like a drag queen. However, even made-up stories can have real-life repercussions. The notion that children were being abused and butchered at Planet Ping-Pong led a young man to show up there with an assault rifle.
If fake news is the infection, fact-checking is the antibiotic. If the sources are a) mostly Facebook, 4chan, or angry-sounding Tweets, b) from satirical or humorous opinion pieces, or c) ultra-partisan news, I can safely laugh it off. Otherwise, I have various fact-checking sites that do the work for me. If I feel lazy, I can always watch news from news sources that do a lot of fact-checking: CNN, MSNBC, and so on, and the right-wing sources: the Wall St. Journal, National Review, and Reason.
But even that’s a lot of work! Yeah, it is. So I have had a vaccine. It’s called critical thinking, with the booster shots, History and Background. Now I’m not going to recommend those to you: you’re not well enough yet, and your desire to fit in is too strong for you to want to excel.
But I will say this: you cannot both curse being lied to and disrespect the truth.
Now, are you going to humiliate me? I’m ready….