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Everyone's Confused

Jeff Hall

Posted on October 18, 2017 18:21

3 users

Where does news end and opinion begin? How do we know a story that looks like real journalism isn't actually an advertisement in disguise? If someone in a position of power says something, does that person have a responsibility to do his or her best to tell the truth? Do we, as citizens, really have to fact-check everything? It gets a bit exhausting after a while.

My wife and I like to watch Madam Secretary. It's not quite West Wing, but it's pretty good. 

We also like Designated Survivor, another political drama.

We used to watch House of Cards, but my wife finally couldn't take it anymore.  It was just too dark.

One of the themes that's creeping into these shows -- a reflection of reality, I'm afraid -- is how people twist the news, make up "facts," or ignore them, if it helps a particular partisan bash the other side. 

Now we have Russians buying ads on Facebook. Twitter took years to decide that giving ISIS a platform maybe wasn't such a good idea after all. 

Google, we learned recently, has at least up until recently, made it easy to buy hate-related keywords.  Those with an angry agenda can target messages at those mostly likely to get stirred up by them.

Anger is big business these days. Same with spam. Real news is on the run; smart people are rigging the system when it comes to planting messages on social media platforms. 

Be sure to watch this backgrounder on CBS' 60 Minutes about how Trump's campaign digital director, Brad Parscale, used Facebook to target prospective voters.

This isn't a jab at Republicans; it seems like everyone is playing the same game these days. 

If one side gets ahead with its social media skills -- as Republicans believe Obama did in 2008 -- the other side wants to do it even better next time. 

It's an arms race.

Media and Internet companies benefit from all this, of course. As people place ads across the ecosystem -- online, TV, cable, radio, podcast, webcast, print, social media, blogs, etc. -- these outlets make money. 

This explains why they are so slow to self-police all this. There's money at stake.

Big Media -- and Big Internet -- are all about Big Money. Ratings translate into money. 

By appealing to either the extreme right or extreme left, that's a guarantee of ratings.  People who are agitated need their red meat.

Being moderate, independent, or thoughtful even, just isn't sexy.

But all this fake news and hyper-partisanship and one-sided messaging has the power to erode democracy. 

Democracy, theoretically, depends on an informed electorate to vote wisely. 

If we're no longer properly informed -- if we're being brazenly manipulated, even -- it's easy to begin thinking very dark thoughts. 

It's like House of Cards, a fictionalized story about Washington, is true after all. 

Now that's a scary thought.

At THE LATEST, we think everyone SHOULD be exposed to all points of view, and that facts, fairness and balance actually matter. 

We can't tell you exactly what's true or not, but we can give you the tools you need to do the best you can to figure it out for yourself.

We need to find a clever advertising or PR agency to help us make intelligent and civil discourse seem sexy. 

Let's save journalism -- and America, in the process.

Any takers?

Jeff Hall

Posted on October 18, 2017 18:21

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Source: CNET
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