Sometimes it’s hard to tell the real thing from the fake. Like money. On a vacation in Oregon, I broke out into a sweat when the hundred dollar bill I tendered for a purchase went through extended scrutiny at a local retailer. Had I in my travels somehow gotten a fake bill? Fortunately, after the clerk called in the manager who held the bill up to the light and other ministrations, it passed muster. (You can check out ways to detect counterfeit bills at Fitsmallbusiness.com)
Ah, and then there are fake diamonds. At one time I owned a dinner ring with a one karat faker in the middle surrounded by real sapphires, all set in white gold. The stone never had the sparkle of the real thing. Or else it never had the sparkle for me because I knew it wasn’t real. (Ways to test a diamond can be found at businessinsider.com)
And to carry the analogy further and to be in the holiday spirit, it’s hard to tell a fake wreath from a real one. In the photographs below and from a distance, you may not notice one wreath isn’t real. It’s not until you look closer that you see and feel the difference.
The phony is, well, lifeless. The pine needles are slippery, prickly, and plastic. It creates an illusion of vibrant greenery, but misses one vital component. It has no aroma, no smell of the outdoors, no vibrancy. The real thing has pliable sprigs and cuttings. The needles are soft. The aroma takes you to clean air, wooded mountain sides, the outdoors. It takes you into nature. You’ve probably decided which one of the above is real. Just in case, I’ll let you know later.
Like the wreaths, it’s also becoming increasingly hard to tell real news from fake news. We have a history of being lured into reading the fake, the sensational. Yellow journalism of the 1890’s and 1900’s loved the scandalous, the overly dramatic, and the use of hyperbole. Today we have the tabloids which are always placed at the market checkout stand for that last minute impulse buy. They scream falsehoods. Colt Born With Two Heads. Queen Of England Divorces Consort. Dr. Phil Cheats On Wife Robin. You get the idea.
Headlines like these start rumors, hurt feelings, stir emotions, encourage us to be non- thinkers, and appeal to the lure of sensationalism. I’m amazed at the stories tabloid writers are able to create. I’m even more amazed there’s a market for this stuff. When I read those screaming headlines while waiting to check out my groceries, I feel they must be written with tongue in cheek. I read these headlines for the humor.
But now we are into a more serious news phenomenon – fake news made to appear real. It’s no longer weaving tales about show biz celebrities, sports celebrities, and nature’s anomalies, but about people in many walks of life who have been put into situations that scrape at the basic values and core behaviors of our society. Currently, with the presidential election fresh and bleeding, it’s about political leaders, political parties, and political schemes and conspiracies – fake news that can incite violence and mob mentality.
Take the recent Pizzagate. BBC news gives an account of how the story began involving high ranking members of the democratic party and the operation of a pedophilia ring out of the Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria in Washington D.C., and how it snowballed, even affecting news in Turkey. Most alarming, a 28 year old armed man appeared at the pizzeria to investigate for himself the “news” of a child porn ring operating out of the premises – and fired three shots. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
We know people can post anything. This freedom gives people a great deal of license. Reddit, for example, labels itself as “the front page of the internet” with “User-generated news links. Votes promote stories to the front page.” If someone reads a piece of news on this site which turns out to be fake and tweets about it, this so-called news can spread quickly. Facebook and Google are looking for ways to battle this phenomena and label the “news” as fake.
What’s with this new trend? First of all, it seems to be here to stay. It’s emerged as another technique to undermine a rival or manipulate a situation. It’s a technique that could produce real difficulties and reactions in segments of our population and among leaders and countries.
What do we do to get the real news? One remedy is to know your source. Another is to stick with established news sites, evaluate as you read, and read the same story from several different sources. Another is to use a fact checker site such as those listed on Mediabiasfactcheck.com. Be a thinking reader. Look closer. Truth and trust can be sketchy commodities.
Remember the wreaths? From a distance they both look real, but upon closer scrutiny the difference emerges. The wreath on the door is made of fake, look-alike “evergreens.” The wreath on the gate is made of real evergreen cuttings. Beyond the look-alike wreaths, fake diamonds, and counterfeit money, we now live in a reader, media, and internet marketplace where we need to beware of fake news. It’s up to us to read for the real deal and discern the facts.
I want to end this post on a real note and not a fake one. I wish you all the merriest of holidays and the best in the new year. May you have success, happiness, and good health.
When I connect with each of you from around the world and read your blogs and comments, I’m reminded of how much more we are alike than different. And that we value truth.