The Curse of Fake News

Apparently it was a fake news item cooked up by Russian hackers that triggered the Qatar crisis.

The fake news story made Qatar’s ruler seem friendly to Iran and Israel and critical of Trump.

Several Mideast neighbors reacted by severing diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar. They accused Qatar of fostering terrorism.

Trump contributed ill-informed tweets to the crisis.

The president is either unaware of or unmoved by the fact that Qatar is home to one of America’s largest military bases and a key ally in the US war against ISIS. How Trump’s tweets will affect that alliance is unclear, but the tweets are sure to be damaging.

Russia has become a fake news factory. I’m sure you remember how their false stories contributed to Hillary’s defeat.

You and I might wonder why. Those stories were often quite preposterous.

But in a preposterous world, I suppose it’s easy to believe preposterous lies.

Especially if they support your prejudices.

As a former newsman, I am saddened by the deterioration of my craft. As a citizen I am troubled by the lack of information I can trust.

The only recourse I can think of is to rely on branding. Just as I may trust the purity of a particular brand of flour, I trust some news sources to sift through the chaff and find the kernels of truth.

Generally speaking, the Internet is not one of those reliable sources. Anyone can broadcast anything on the web. There is no gatekeeper, nobody to separate fact from fiction.

And TV “reporting” is often mere regurgitation of information gleaned from newspapers, social media and the web.

As printed publications disappear. our sources of reliable information are dwindling. We can only hope that trustworthy web sites and TV channels are emerging to take their place.

As for me, I watch CNN and MSNBC, clinging to the belief that they are doing their best to find the facts and avoid fake news.

And I take anything I get from the web with several grains of salt.

More on the Qatar hacking

Behind the Qatar crisis

Trump’s Qatar tweets