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The Big Answer


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Fake News and Alternative Facts: Information Literacy in a Post-Truth Era

a book by Nicole A. Cooke

(our site's book review)

There Are Calls for the Public to Become More Information Savvy

The publisher's (American Library Association) blurb says that Talk of so-called fake news, what it is and what it isn't, is front and center across the media landscape, with new calls for the public to acquire appropriate research and evaluation skills and become more information savvy.

But none of this is new for librarians and information professionals, particularly for those who teach information literacy. Cooke, a Library Journal Mover & Shaker, believes that the current situation represents a golden opportunity for librarians to impart these important skills to patrons, regardless of their age or experience. In this Special Report, she demonstrates how.

Readers will learn more about the rise of fake news, particularly those information behaviors that have perpetuated its spread; discover techniques to identify fake news, especially online; and explore methods to help library patrons of all ages think critically about information, teaching them ways to separate fact from fiction. Information literacy is a key skill for all news consumers, and this Special Report shows how librarians can make a difference by helping patrons identify misinformation.

People are choking on misinformation and this report seeks to teach them ways to separate fact from fiction
People are choking on misinformation and this report seeks to teach them ways to separate fact from fiction

The President Holds an Extreme View of All News He Doesn't Like as Being Fake News

If the traditional work of journalism is holding the powerful accountable, and all presidents hate it when you do that to them, then isn't Trump's labeling outlets that have reported news he doesn’t like not just “fake news” but the “enemy of the people” merely more of the same? No, unlike when Dubya got bad press and complained, when it happens to Trump, he uses it to strengthen his demagogic agenda. Dubya just bitched and then forgot about it. Trump uses it to strengthen and expand his base, which is working, since 48% of Republicans say the "news media is the enemy", an anti-democratic statement if there ever was one, and one that few of them would have made pre-Trump. See The Despot's Apprentice: Donald Trump's Attack on Democracy.

His demagogic agenda follows the patterns of the 1930s demagogues prior to WWII. All demagogues want to destroy the citizens' faith in truth, freedom of the press, logic, science, other people that are not him, and reality itself, while they simultaneously find convenient scapegoats among the weak and powerless and proceed to persecute them with discriminatory policies. A demagogue wants your faith to be in himself and no one and nothing else, so everything non-Trump is undermined and attacked. This is done for power and control—the more people fall for such an obvious ploy, the greater becomes his power and control. See Lies, Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics.

Trump wants control and power, so you need to respect his authoritah!
Trump wants control and power, so you need to respect his authoritah!

So fake news and alternative facts are powerful tools in today's world, especially when used from the bully pulpit. They worked for Hitler; they work for Trump. (So well the G.O.P. have turned into Trump's democracy wrecking balls, not unlike Hitler Germany's SS which was based on the racist ideology of Nazism, while Trump's racism is probably based on his demagogic agenda, but it fits right in with his xenophobia, Islamophobia, Mexicanophobia, and anti-immigrant biases along with his white supremacy stance.)

The G.O.P. have turned into Trump's democracy wrecking balls, not unlike Hitler Germany's SS
The G.O.P. have turned into Trump's democracy wrecking balls, not unlike Hitler Germany's SS

There Is No Such Thing as Alternative Facts

As most of us know without needing to be told, there is no such thing as alternative facts, no matter what some airheaded dizzy blonde like U.S. Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway says or doesn't say. The very idea fits a demagogic agenda to a T. The idea is truth destroying, reality bending, and a transparent, laughable evasion consisting of Orwellian newspeak. If such a thing as alternative facts were to exist, they would be only in Orwell's novel 1984 or in an alternate universe. As journalist Dan Rather wrote about this alternative facts nonsense, "Facts and the truth are not partisan. They are the bedrock of our democracy. And you are either with them, with us, with our Constitution, our history, and the future of our nation, or you are against it. Everyone must answer that question." Trump's answer is to use all this to manipulate people out of believing in any other reality except Trumpworld.

If such a thing as alternative facts were to exist, they would be only in an alternate universe
If such a thing as alternative facts were to exist, they would be only in an alternate universe


Trump's demagogic answer to the alternative facts nonsense is to use all this to manipulate people out of believing in any other reality except Trumpworld, a.k.a. Alternative Hell
Trump's demagogic answer to the alternative facts nonsense is to use all this to manipulate people out of believing in any other reality except Trumpworld, a.k.a. Alternative Hell

Other Fake News Perspectives

See:

"On January 16, 2018, German linguists declared the phrase "alternative facts" the non-word of the year 2017. It was also chosen by Austrian linguists as the non-word of the year in December 2017."


Trump's Inauguration Crowds Were the Biggest Ever, and 2+2=5—All Part of Trumpworld

In Trumpworld, 2=2=5 and Trump's inauguration crowds were the biggest ever (they were yuge!)
In Trumpworld, 2=2=5 and Trump's inauguration crowds were the biggest ever (they were yuge!)

"George Orwell had used this concept (2+2=5) before publishing Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1949. During his career at the BBC, he became familiar with the methods of Nazi propaganda. In his essay "Looking Back on the Spanish War", published in 1943 (six years before the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four), Orwell wrote:

'Nazi theory indeed specifically denies that such a thing as "the truth" exists. ... The implied objective of this line of thought is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event, "It never happened" – well, it never happened. If he says that two and two are five – well, two and two are five. This prospect frightens me much more than bombs.'"

If Trump says his presidential inauguration crowds were the biggest ever, in spite of objective proof that they were nothing of the kind, the question then becomes which do you believe, Trump's boast (proven to be a lie) or the truth? The rubes that are Trump's base believe Trump because Trump is trying to make America great again because of how much he cares about them (another obvious lie). But thinking is not the strong suit of Trump's base of rubes and deplorables.

Thinking is not the strong suit of Trump's base of rubes and his basket of deplorables: if Trump says it is true, it is true—period!
Thinking is not the strong suit of Trump's base of rubes and his basket of deplorables: if Trump says it is true, it is true—period!


The rubes that are Trump's base believe Trump because Trump is trying to make America great again because of how much he cares about them (another obvious lie)
The rubes that are Trump's base believe Trump because Trump is trying to make America great again because of how much he cares about them (another obvious lie)


We Screen Out Contradictory Information and Believe What Fits Our Worldview, Even If It Is Based on Unreliable Data: Fake News

We try, more often than not, to screen out that contradictory information and believe what fits our worldview, even if it is based on unreliable data like Martians attacking Earth
We try, more often than not, to screen out that contradictory information and believe what fits our worldview, even if it is based on unreliable data like Martians attacking Earth

"When our worldview is challenged by new and potentially compelling information, we become anxious and uncertain. Not finding such emotions comfortable, we try, more often than not, to screen out that contradictory information and believe what fits our worldview, even if it is based on unreliable data. Now, imagine that your worldview is tinged with distrust, with disbelief in the establishment. A message that the establishment has again done something bad confirms your distrust. . . . You are now ready to believe that a pizza restaurant is doing terrible things in its basement (until you find out it has no basement). Or that some political candidate or other has done something evil. Or that the Martians have landed. . . . most of our information sources, pre-internet, filtered out the worst excesses of falsehood and unreliability. . . . information literacy is our best path to develop people who can meet the post-truth era with the abilities that are required to conquer it. . . . it counters ideology by urging us to follow the evidence." (Source: Post-Truth, False News, and Information Literacy , William Badke, Info Today)

Humanity has been fighting fake news for centuries
Humanity has been fighting fake news for centuries

"Fake news is another name for 'propaganda,' i.e., government-based disinformation that sometimes includes mimicking news forms in order to influence audiences. A source of fake news in today’s world can also be text produced by content mills that are intentionally sensational but look real, and designed to lead to clicks that lead to ad revenue. . . . Faculty on the second panel spoke of the need to understand fake news as 'weaponized narrative,' as well as a suggestion that scholars must work to understand fake news and alternative truths 'in the light of secrecy and the hidden organizations that promote them.' . . . Community papers in past eras had different values and priorities, and unless ownership structures among companies like Google and Facebook change nothing else will." (Source: SC&I Faculty Hold Scholarship Incubator on “A Post-Truth Era of Fake-Alternative Facts!?”, Rutgers School of Communication and Information)

Like Fighting Fake News!: Teaching Critical Thinking and Media Literacy in a Digital Age, Fake News and Alternative Facts: Information Literacy in a Post-Truth Era is a good book for helping the reader evaluate information in a confusing, chaotic world of fake news and alternative facts mixed in with facts, truth, and honesty.