Misleading ‘news’ is worse than fake news

20 years ago a story was written about me and the business I was running for the local paper. Nothing controversial, nothing harmful, just a piece for the ‘business’ section. Yet, from that moment on I became aware of the fact that seemingly no article written, no matter how mundane a story could be, ever gets all of the facts correct.

In this present day, I find myself either going to places I can trust, because they have already proven themselves to me, or I try to find the source material for any headline that seems remotely interesting and ignore the digested ‘news’ that someone attempted to write. Thus, when I saw this meme the first thing I thought of was, “He probably did not actually say that, or perhaps Morgan Freeman said that instead.” — which is a joke because Morgan has probably had more memes about him saying things that he did not actually say than anyone else.


To my surprise, however, Denzel did actually say this and more. I had trouble finding the original video but here is the clip with some extra commentary attached:

There has been a lot of emotion, to say the very least, on both sides of the election process for 2016. To help illustrate some of the misleading nature of ‘facts’ let’s look at a few choice points and start with a minor one…

There was a Medium story written by Daniel Ketchell on the click bait headline of a Schwarzenegger comment and drilling in deep you will find this gem in reference to Trump’s ongoing involvement with The Celebrity Apprentice, “which is amusing in its own way, since the show, besides the finale, has been wrapped for months, something no one is hiding.” Yes, people and media are worried about a conflict of interest of something that happened in the past with Trump taking on an Executive Producer role for a show that has already happened. That is like saying James Gandolfini who was dead when ‘The Night Of’ was produced should not have had a credit — ignoring the fact James created a U.K. television program called “Criminal Justice” to which the new series is based on. No, the credit was not to honor his death, it was in fact, to state that the new show would not exist without his previous contribution. The facts are: The Celebrity Apprentice is based on The Apprentice created by Mark Burnett, hosted by Trump, and first aired in 2004 — over 12 years ago. The current season of The Celebrity Apprentice is in the can and was hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Trump has Executive Producer credit for the current season we have all yet to see. Beyond that, the rest of the ‘news’ is speculation on the unknowns for the future and as far as I know you cannot fact check things that have not happened yet. Is this really what news has come down to?

Moving onto bigger things, what about that hacking? CNN says, “Obama all but names Putin as behind hacking, told him to ‘cut it out’” — All but names?, what the heck does that mean? The scope of speculation on this matter has run the spectrum of foreign governments using ‘three letter’ sophisticated tools to run the hacks to someone sending out phishing attacks — meaning simply asking for someone’s password under and false pretense and someone further being stupid enough to give it out. Yet, as reported in IBD, “The FBI says there’s no evidence the Russians affected the outcome. The office of the Director of National Intelligence — which governs all 17 U.S. spy agencies — says there’s no evidence. Department of Homeland Security says there’s no evidence. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says there’s no evidence. Heck, even President Obama admits there’s no evidence that Russian hacking cost the Democrats the election.” Then again, even from the word ‘hack’, what are we talking about? Hacking the actual votes? If so, Jill Stein proved that wrong. What about ‘internal’ hacking by using voter registration fraud counting on notoriously lenient processes to register in some states? — as far as I know no one has touched on this one at all. Then there is the softer side of fake news and propaganda whether it comes from inside or out. From the perspective of the US itself trying its best to influence the rest of the world we have taught our students well. The facts are: Email was hacked. Fake news was posted. Beyond that it gets fuzzier than your average bear. On the side of US intelligence it might be useful to check if we are still searching for those WMDs in Iraq. As GSElevator says on Twitter:

If you really want to get to know someone on a 1st date, just ask about their first pet or favorite teacher. Then read all their emails.

Then what about the ‘news’ about the popular votes vs the electoral votes? Even Homer Simpson knows about statistics:

Aw, you can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. Forfty percent of all people know that.

Trump won the electoral majority needed to become President and Clinton won the majority of the popular vote (assuming no registration fraud was in place). Originally, I called it the left and right coasts vs the middle but is there really anything that stands out from statistical point of view? It turns out that there seems to be — in California, Clinton got 4.3 million more votes than Trump for the popular vote. How big is this? Take this one state away and Trump wins the entire country’s popular vote by a margin of 1.4 million votes. (Source IBD) The more interesting, and softer data, is more electors tried to defect from Hillary Clinton Monday than from Trump, by a count of eight to two. Further, though somewhat mute since NY went the way of Clinton, is that Bill Clinton himself is an electoral voter for that state — a state that does not legally bind the vote of the electors. Yet, no one considers this to be a conflict of interest. The facts are: It is hard to come up with a single way to tell the truth as the truth usually relies on perspective. Hard, however, does not mean impossible but running to be first is not going to be a way to get there.

On foreign policy one topic hot on a radar screen is Syria. Gary Johnson was made fun of in the media for not knowing what ‘Aleppo’ is, yet, how much do the rest of us really know? Bashar al-Assad must be a bad guy, right? After-all, those crazy Russians seem to be supporting him so anyone trying to get him out of power must be the ‘good’ guys, right? Yet, look at this chart stolen from Nassim Nicholas Taleb:


For a deeper explanation see his full breakdown also on Medium. Where are these facts when being hit with the emotional flood of news coming from the region? The facts are: Terrible things are happening in that country. Hiding the larger truth, however, is fooling us from hopes of a long term solution.

If you have seen the film ‘Spotlight’, who’s story it was based on was released to the public in 2002, it is a prime example of the opposite of what Denzel was talking about at the start this writing. There was no rush to be first. As painful as it was the only rush was the rush to be right. In a faster moving world, with more hands reaching for the dollar, this is no easy job and the unfortunate consequence seems to be needing a glossary for headline wording — you know, like in real estate: Old charmer — an old and ugly house or Stunning house — the house is not ugly.

The destruction of traditional media certainly does not help. Whatever the answers are ‘fact checkers’ and censorship (by the crowd or other means) are certainly not magical ends to a growing problem. Opinions, forecasts, and predictions which, by definition, cannot be fact checked at all will always be a problem. If you eliminate the odd man out through crowd sourcing ‘acceptable’ news then you might be eliminating the truth amongst blind men. As Naval Ravikant said on Twitter:

It’s not for any aristocracy to decide what is true and false for others. Each is human and has the right to decide for themselves.

The other edge to the vocal minority (like Andrea Bocelli not being able to perform at Trump’s inauguration)is the most intolerant wins. Wins, that is unless there is a vote — bad for censorship reasons, good for governence reasons. In this election, no matter what your opinion is on either side the majority won. In our great country the electoral system is designed to stop the most intolerant from winning and considering the backlash continuing to speak out it certainly has. Ponder these words, to which the original source might not ever be traced down, but obviously written from the view of a Trump voter:

You created “us” when you attacked our freedom of speech.
You created “us” when you attacked our right to bear arms.
You created “us” when you attacked our Christian beliefs.
You created “us” when you constantly referred to us as racists.
You created “us” when you constantly called us xenophobic.
You created “us” when you told us to get on board or get out of the way.
You created “us” when you forced us to buy health care and then financially penalized us for not participating.
You created “us” when you allowed our jobs to continue to leave our country.
You created “us” when you attacked our flag.
You created “us” when you confused women’s rights with feminism.
You created “us” when you began to emasculate men.
You created “us” when you decided to make our children soft.
You created “us” when you decided to vote for progressive ideals.
You created “us” when you attacked our way of life.
You created “us” when you decided to let our government get out of control.
“You” created “us” the silent majority.
We became fed up. We pushed back and spoke up.
And we did it with ballots, not bullets.

Argue with the details as much as you want but if you cannot relate to the general message you probably have not traveled through the heart of the country roughly referred to as the Midwest.

In large part the expanse of fake news and misleading information could be a knee jerk reaction to uncertainty. Uncertainty can make people uncomfortable and the quickest, yet most unproductive way, to get it back is to simply make the other side certainly wrong. Yet, with uncertainty comes the chance for a new, and better, beginning for all involved. To quote Gerard Senehi:

Uncertainty is where we can find the greatest peace. It means that the future is unknown, and whatever fears we have about the time ahead, there is infinite space for something entirely different to happen.

Be an agent that helps build a bridge rather than yelling at people on the other side of the water. Find a way to understand rather than rushing to be first. Question the truth, or opinion, of news — especially if it supports your point of view.

(Originally posted on Medium)