2018-06-07 / Editorial

The more you know: ‘fake news’ and you

No phrase has been more ubiquitous the past two years than “fake news.”

The constant drumbeat of the term is heard on talk radio, cable television and routinely in all caps on certain Twitter feeds, yet its true meaning has become less clear the more it is repeated.

In an effort to provide some clarity, the Jamestown Board of Canvassers is hosting a lecture at 7 p.m. June 12 at Town Hall called “Fake News: Disinformation, Political Warfare and the Fate of Western Democracy.”

It’s good to know the mechanisms of how lies are spread and shared, especially in the shadowy world of social media, since not a lot of information has been widely disseminated. That’s the case despite the fact more and more is learned every day about how the Russians tried to sow discord on all sides of the political spectrum during the 2016 election.

This is a great opportunity for local residents to learn to distinguish between actual fake news and information with which you may disagree. Doing so can be a positive step toward becoming a more informed voter.

We often are too quick to use the expression, thus conflating actual bogus stories with ones that evolve. While a story such as “Pizzagate” is a quintessential fake news trope with almost a complete absence of truth, The New York Times story a week before the 2016 presidential election headlined “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia” was an accurate representation of what the paper knew at that moment in time.

Information should always be judged with a critical eye, but there is a vast difference between putting out obviously unresearched and nefarious claims vs. honest reporting in which some information may not have been uncovered or available.

We urge all residents to attend this event as it’s up to every individual to be as well-informed and clear-eyed about the information they consume so attempts by hostile foreign governments to impact our political dialogue are minimized.

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