The "fake news smell test" ... by Bob Nelson

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By:  @bob-nelson, 3 months ago
Comments: 5 ..

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File: Israeli border police and soldiers block Palestinian protesters in the occupied West Bank [EPA]

 

As I was riffling through my RSS feeds this morning, I bumped into an al Jazeera article entitled Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: What is BDS?  Everything you need to know about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and what's being done to combat BDS.

I am wary of everything in al Jazeera, but I think it useful to have a radically different point of view on Middle East news. There's some pretty good, straightforward reporting... but there is also a great deal of heavily biased "reporting": basically propaganda masquerading as "news". A particular form of "fake news".

When the title concerns something intrinsically polemic, like BDS, my "fake news smell test" filters are on full alert!

The article led with the photo and title you see above. 

It's a very interesting photo, actually... if you take the time to really think about it. What does it show? A protester with a Palestinian flag, some well-armed soldiers (neither of the two whom we see in detail has his finger on the trigger), a bystander doing nothing... and in the background, a kid typing on his smartphone.

 

What does the photo tell us?
  - There are Palestinian protesters with sloppy hand-made signs about BDS. 
  - The protesters are not arrested by the soldiers; at worst they are prevented from going... somewhere.
  - The soldiers are not on high alert.
  - The people nearby are downright relaxed.

What may we conclude?
  - The "protest" is no big deal, either for the soldiers or the bystanders.
  - For a "no big deal", an al Jazeera photographer (or at least a stringer) was present.
  - The article is a puff piece, created specifically to supply a photo to al Jazeera.
  - We may wonder what would happen to an analogous protester in Gaza, Riyadh, or Amman...

 

The interesting thing, in this bit of "fake news", is that the real information is present, on condition that the reader be a bit skeptical and a bit thoughtful. The key in this case is the attitude of the soldiers and the bystanders. Would a person who is already a fan of BDS bother to think about the photo?

I wonder how often we allow ourselves to be wafted along... because the fake news we are looking at happens to be agreeable to us. 

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Bob Nelson
link 01/11/17 08:32:23AM @bob-nelson:

Of course... my smell test is well-calibrated, whereas yours is totally inaccurate! 

     thinking

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Spikegary
link 01/11/17 09:08:29AM @spikegary:

A hint of the truth, spun into an un-truth.  This is where journalism fails.  We report, you decide was a staple of reporting once upon a time.  Now it seems the vast majority of news is 'editorial' in nature.  We report it, but tell you what to think.  Not sure what the remedy for that is, besides personal observation, though it's hard to be everywhere in this big ole world.

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JohnRussell
link 01/11/17 09:20:43AM @johnrussell:

Fake News is "news" that is fabricated for the purpose of fooling the news consuming public. 

A present moment bone of contention is the assertion that the allegations about trump and Russia are "fake news" .

Someone here says CNN and Buzzfeed have committed "fake news" because they reported a story that US intelligence officials presented allegations of Russia having 'compromised' Donald Trump to both President Obama and Trump himself in recent days. 

Neither CNN , or Buzzfeed, nor the article that was seeded on Newstalkers claims that the allegations are true. They report them as allegations. 

If these articles were "fake news" they would be reporting the allegations as FACTS, not allegations. 

"Fake news" is a deliberate attempt to report non existent 'facts'. Usually there is tampering associated with fake news, as when Infowars posted videos of Hillary Clinton that had been doctored , and when a 'doctor's letter' about Hillary's health had been forged. 

The reports of the allegations about Trump that were relayed by the US intelligence officials , by Cnn  and even by Buzzfeed, are not forged or manufactured by CNN or Buzzfeed. The intelligence officials did present the allegations to Trump and Obama. It is not "fake news". 

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Bob Nelson
link 01/11/17 01:10:42PM @bob-nelson:

In fact, John, all of my usual sources have reported the "Russians have dirt on Donald" story, and all of them have labeled it "unconfirmed". That is all that I ask of a news source: when they aren't sure... they should say so!

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JohnRussell
link 01/11/17 01:12:40PM @johnrussell:

Of course. 

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