Because it’s not news.

My business partner posted a blog this week saying “Can we all  just cut the crap?” It was an admission that she and I don’t have perfect lives, despite what we post on Facebook. Okay, actually it was an admission that she doesn’t have a perfect life. I do, of course. Just check out those pics from last week!fake-news-reporter-mike-holland

The problem is, it’s not just our lives that are bull-full. It would be generous to say that the media today is inaccurate. In fact, the media is full of things that don’t even resemble fact. The media is full of what people want to hear, absolutely regardless of whether it is true, useful, or even happened.

I highly, highly recommend that anyone who reads anything on blogs or media (that’s you), get a hold of Trust Me, I’m Lying and read it. This blog gives just a taste of what everyone needs to know about the news.

That’s called an ad

My daughter reported to me last week that there is some controversy over a particular actor’s being chosen for a particular movie, and everyone is talking about it.

People, that’s not news. That’s known as an “advertisement.” In the past, when a production company came out with a new movie, they had to pay to get the newspapers to talk about the movie, so you would go. Now all they need to do is to create controversy.

And, BTW, they can pay a bunch of people on fiverr to respond to the “news” that they hate the casting decision in order to create the controversy, just in case nobody really does care in the first place.

Perhaps the exact opposite is true.

This week, I attended a GarageGeeks evening with Mark Pincas of Zynga. He said he was bored of the current offering of games and was looking forward to new innovation in the field. A blogger at the Wall Street Journal picked up that the said “I’m bored with games” and wrote up that it might be a hint that Pincas is leaving Zynga. He actually said just the opposite. He said he couldn’t imagine anything more exciting and was looking forward to new innovation.

You’re thinking, “What, the Wall Street Journal?” Yes and no. They have a blogging section, and their bloggers can write whatever they want. So not only is the story untrue, but the fact that it is in WSJ is untrue as well. It’s just some blogger’s speculation on an occurrence he didn’t even witness, on the other side of the ocean.

Well, it’s not really speculation

It’s not really speculation, actually.

A blogger, who is paid according to how many page views they get, doesn’t have any interest in holding an actual opinion. The blogger might even hold the opposite opinion, but blog the most radical interpretation simply because it gets more page views.

And they might be giving the interpretation of a quote they read on someone else’s twitter feed. In other words, a blogger can read a tweet from someone they don’t know making a claim they don’t know is true, and write their opinion of the untrue claim from an anonymous source, and that’s “news”.

No facts required

In Trust Me, I’m Lying, Ryan Holiday gives a specific example of when a reporter called him for a response to an outright lie. If the PR representative gives a response, or even refuses to comment, the story can be “Famous Person denies accusation that he snorted cocaine with a cross-dressing monkey on Mars.” That’s news because someone “denied” it. Fact. It was denied! Fortunately, there is no regulation on Mars regarding cocaine consumption, so the Famous Person in question was not breaking any laws.

Are you scared yet?

Are you frightened yet? I am very, very, frightened. You might think that this is all just a good bit of fun at celebrities’ expense. But I am frightened because I just realized I have no idea what reality is based on what I’m reading.

  • Are GMOs dramatically reducing pesticide use and saving Africa and Asia from starvation or are they a horrible Frankenfood that is driving the average farmer out of business and poisoning me and my child?
  • Is the recent government budget going to increase or decrease the national debt? Increase or decrease my tax burden? Pay teachers more or less?
  • Is there really a threat of war with Iran? They’ve been saying so for 20 years. When do I start or stop believing them?
  • Does the candidate for mayor have connections with organized crime? Is there even organized crime in my city at all or did someone just make that up?
  • Is it better to take medications for ADD/depression/cholesterol reduction/younameit or to make changes in exercise and nutrition?
  • Is sunscreen full of dangerous chemicals?
  • Is it dangerous to go on vacation in Istanbul?

These things affect my daily life, my country’s future, and my health, and I realize I have no idea. How can I function in reality if I don’t know what reality is? If you don’t believe that people have totally lost the ability to identify reality, take a look at this fake news “prank“. I didn’t laugh.

Solutions, anyone?

I don’t have a great solution. So far, being actually at a location when something happens has been fairly reliable, but I can’t do that for every situation. My current solution is to try to go to the news outlets I find least sensationalist, read books, watch video of experts myself rather than someone’s summary, and talk to as many smart people as I can.

What are you doing to keep the bull at bay?