Editor’s note: Lamont Mann is a regular contributor to Houston Sports and Stuff. His views do not necessarily reflect those of Houstonsportsandstuff.com or the site’s owners or advertisers.
By LAMONT MANN
Over the last few months, fake news has become a household phrase. President Donald Trump is successfully branding CNN with the moniker. I do not want to focus on the politics of the phrase but the meaning.
Based on the amount of times President Trump uses the term Fake News, most would think he created it, but he was not the first person to use it. In early December 2016, Hillary Clinton spoke at an event and blasted “Fake News.”
Fake News is beginning to sound a lot like the word troll; it has multiple meanings. There is no true definition of Troll and it is used as a noun and an action verb (trolling). On social media, a troll is basically anyone you do not agree with. If you were to ask five people, what is a troll, you will receive five different answers.
Hillary Clinton did the American populace and News Media a solid; she was the first high profile name that encapsulated current media in two words. America loves branding things or phenoms. The key? It must be short, catchy, and to the point.
Fake news is similar to troll; there is not a single definition, it’s a collection of behaviors. Personally, here are few attributes or warning signs for fake news.
Satirical Websites – Satirical websites are the pinnacle of fake news. Some of the information is so over the top you would think a person with common sense would recognize it, but some don’t. The story will have about 24-48 hour shelf life but in the meantime its populating your timeline and idiots will still believe it.
Deceptive Headlines – What I have come to realize from blogging, Americans no longer like to read. If I know this as a blogger, I am sure major publications also realize this. It’s odd because we label it “Click Bait,” but most are not clicking, they are formulating an opinion on a headline. I have found myself debating people on the strength of a headline. They do not read the story, they are just debating a headline. Is the story fake? Not really but the headline is misleading and droids will follow. I’m guilty of headline reading but over the last couple of years, I have trained myself to read the story.
Dated Stories – Dated stories are tricky. Just because a story is old, does not mean it’s fake. That said, in the social media era, you will see a story and comments or retweets as if the story is current until you click the link and see 1984. Some of them will debate a dated story as if it was current until you are forced to tell them “idiot, this story is 30 yrs old.” and then they will block you and you smile.
Anonymous Sources – There was a time, I could trust media using anonymous sources, that era is gone. I do not trust news media with anonymous sources. In the old days, you trusted the media on the strength that they would be objective, but sh– is so subjective now I believe most anonymous sources are nothing more than a popular story in rotation and someone adding fuel to fire by dropping “anonymous sources”.
Homogenous Takes – When I turn on the news and hear the media repeat the same catch phrase, my antenna rises. It’s hard to explain in print but if you hear it, you will recognize it. Everyone says the same thing. The media hears a take and runs with it and if it is strong enough, it will be permeated through all media. Currently, sports media is talking about Fake News. It’s media inertia; it builds momentum and continues to be build unchecked.
CNN – I go out of my way to avoid CNN’s coverage. After Wikileaks revealed CNN shopped questions to Hillary Clinton during the debate, they lost all objectivity.
Fake Social Media Accounts – Too many times, fake accounts trick the public. Even after they have been identified as fake, some still believe.
Reporter Lies – When a low-level media person reports a lie, we tend to overlook it. However when a high-profile media member blatantly lies (Brian Williams), it’s bad. I can no longer take anything that person says with credibility.
I am sure I left out a few but for me, these tend to be the components I lean on to identify fake news. As stated earlier, fake news is not easily defined; it’s a gumbo of elements.