April Fools Day is a good time to get for real about the issue of fake news.
You’ve seen it. I’ve seen it. But it’s not always easy to recognize – or even admit – it’s fake news, especially if it checks all the boxes that readers may want to believe.
Here’s one fake news that made the rounds of my Facebook feed in February with this screaming headline: “MICHELLE OBAMA DEMANDS AMERICANS PAY UP TO GIVE HER MOM A CUSHY $160K PENSION.”
Fake News about the First Family
The only person in the first family to earn a pension is the president. Not even the first lady, each of whom works for free, gets a pension – much less a first mom, such as Marian Robinson, mother of Michelle Obama.
And yet some people want to believe it because it feeds into their house of cards.
Other examples include the ping-pong pizza story, which falsely accused Clinton associates of leading a pedophilia ring from the basement of a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor. Sounds too ludicrous to be believed, and yet a gunman entered the establishment and fired his assault rifle. Luckily, no one was injured but the gunman was arrested.
“I got put on the fake news beat probably because there is so much of it,” said Joshua Gillin, a panelist and staff writer forPolitiFact Florida and the Tampa Bay Times.
Politifact is a go-to website to find out whether a news item has merit. Others include Snopes and FactCheck.
Scary thought: Gillin noted that most fake news is not even produced in the United States, which speaks to the issue of the 2016 presidential election and whether Russia or Russian hacks colluded with the Donald Trump campaign to spread fake news about HiIlary Clinton. Three investigations – House, Senate and the FBI – are underway to get at the truth.
Richard Foglesong, Rollins College professor and forum moderator, asked an intriguing rhetorical question:
“Is the First Amendment part of the solution or part of the problem?”
The First Amendment protects free speech and, if you’re a public figure, the bar is set high in this country against suing. Clamping down on most free speech is difficult because it’s nearly impossible to ban.
Detecting Fake from Real
That’s why readers need to be more critical of what they read. To pass itself off as real news, fake news almost always has some, if not all, of these characteristics, according to Gillin.
A public figure or a person you know – Michelle Obama in the fake pension story. (Note the unattractive photo too.)
Some kernel of knowledge – Most people would be familiar with the first family and/or understand that presidents receive a lifetime pension after leaving office.
Wild baseless claim with fake supporting details – Michelle Obama “demanding” a pension for her mom.
Comments – Usually in outrage. “This is all we need now, FREELOADERS,” wrote the Facebook poster. Thankfully, most commenters grasped the flakiness of it. “This is so funny!” mocked one reader.
Fake news is not new. It’s been around for millennia. However, the lightning speed at which news travels these days, especially on social media, makes it particularly troublesome.
“Fake news engenders an uninformed electorate,” Gillin said.
Here, in order, are my comments about the Democratic National Convention published in the Orlando Sentinel‘s online Daily Convention Edition. Each day the writers who comprise the Central Florida 100 answered the questions who won, who lost and added a quote or tweet of the day.
In another post I’ll analyze more closely the Democratic National Convention.
˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor
Who won? Bernie Sanders won the night followed closely by Michelle Obama.
One moment Sanders can come off as a sap and another moment a superhero. “The revolution will continue” past Election Day, he said to great applause, a reflection of the affection his supporters have for him. But Sanders continued his speech as if he were at a campaign rally, as if he hadn’t lost the primary campaign — which is exactly what his supporters wanted to hear. He eventually and sporadically pivoted to Hillary Clinton.
Sanders was clearly glorying in his moment, talking of future generations, as did Michelle Obama, who mentioned by name only Hillary Clinton and took several swipes at Donald Trump, including the Republican’s penchant for reducing policy and politics to 142 characters. Michelle Obama rarely disappoints, delivering good speeches during previous conventions and Democrats clearly love her.
Who lost? Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was booed and booted in a spectacular loss of power and prestige that was a long time coming. Wasserman-Schultz is a bulldog, and attack dogs make enemies. Lots of them. Attorney John Morgan, with whom she had a run-in over medical marijuana, did a happy dance on Twitter at her fall. It is surprising Wasserman-Schultz lasted as long as she did as Democratic National Committee chair. The Demos should have taken seriously Bernie Sanders’ earlier advice to ditch her, which would have avoided the pre-convention mess. For a split second, the convention threatened to become unglued, but miraculously quieted down as the night progressed.
Quote of the day “@DWStweets are you still against #MedicalMarijuana? Clinton and Trump aren’t. Nor is your opponent @Tim_Canova! #YesOn2″ — Attorney John Morgan.
Who won? Hillary Clinton won the night as the first woman to be the presidential nominee of a major political party. The moment harked back to 1984, when Minnesota Democrat Walter Mondale picked Geraldine Ferraro — also representing New York, by the way — as his VP on the ticket. It was a big deal then as now, except the silliness of 1984 — will Mondale and Ferraro hold hands? Yes, that was a real concern, believe it or not — has been replaced with gravitas.
The nomination process also got a boost as each state voted during the roll call, making it clear to Bernie Sanders’ supporters that Clinton won not only the popular vote but also the delegate vote. Sanders was classy in defeat. The Mothers of the Movement were powerful in their testimony, reminding all that it’s not about politics it’s about pain. The Man from Hope, Bill Clinton, spoke of a lifetime of memories, a former president supporting a potential future president and they happen to be spouses. Historic.
Who lost? Bill Clinton’s health. His hands trembled throughout his speech, raising questions about whether he’s OK. And time was a loser, because Bill Clinton’s speech ran a tad longer — about 43 minutes total — than it should have, a perennial problem. At one point, he even glanced down at his watch.
Read what others had to say: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-bernie-goes-all-in-spouse-in-chief-bill-laudss-his-change-agent-20160726-htmlstory.html
Who won? Face it: President Barack Obama was the star of the night. Democrats love him. Everybody else was just a warm-up act, except maybe Vice President Biden, whose regular Joe persona had just the right touch of anger and exasperation. Obama was generous in his praise, stating there has never been anybody more qualified for president than Hillary Clinton. He said of Donald Trump, “The choice isn’t even close.” Obama is still seeking “a more perfect union,” which is what got him elected president. He didn’t have to say much else. Meanwhile, it seemed to take a while for vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine to warm up. Then he hit his stride with “believe me” and “not one word.” Artists with celebrity power provided a kumbaya moment, singing “What the world needs now.”
Who lost? In a spectacular stumble, Donald Trump, always eager to grab a headline, asked Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails, probably the first time a presidential candidate has invited a foreign power to commit a crime against the U.S. and interfere in a domestic election. It doesn’t get any worse than that. On another note, not sure if Tim Kaine is Hispandering by speaking Spanish — unless he speaks Spanish on a regular basis. Felt bad for former CIA chief Leon Panetta who was hit with the chant, “No more war!” But that’s the way it goes.
Quote of the day: How about word of the day? That would be “malarkey.”
Who won? Hillary Clinton, of course, is the first woman to be the presidential candidate of a major political party. It was her night. Period. I must add that the eloquence of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama, is a hard act to follow. Hillary campaigns and, if elected, will govern in prose. But hand it to the woman, she’s got plans — lots of them! — and appeared to be having fun.
In an attempt to round out Hillary’s edges, it appeared she also might be running for Mother in Chief.
The Democratic Party won because it would have nominated a black man and a woman in succession for the presidency. Yes, these things matter. It’s 2016, after all. And because Donald Trump’s and the Republican Party’s vision is so dark, the Democratic Party has become the party of “morning in America” versus “midnight in America.”
America won because it is one of the few industrialized nations that has never had a woman nominated or elected to the highest office of the land. Cultural diversity won because America in all its varied hues was present in Philadelphia, a refreshing counter to the disproportionately white delegation of the Republican convention.
Celebrities won because the A-list was out in full force at the convention. It was fun but, seriously, people shouldn’t base their vote on celebrityhood.
Who lost? Chaos lost because, after it threatened to upend the convention on its very first day, it slinked away after it was allowed to vent. Its presence and absence made the convention stronger. The Republican Party because the Democrats put on a better convention with ideas.
In some ways political conventions lose because they really are long, carefully calibrated infomercials, not always short on substance but focused on glossed-over substance. Daily life lost out to our attachment to convention viewing. And now back to reality.
Quote of the day: “We are called upon by our democracy to be the moral defibrillators of our time.” Rev. William Barber, president, NAACP of North Carolina
Read what others had to say: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-hillary-for-mom-in-chief-smoothing-her-rough-edges-20160728-htmlstory.html