The Six Types of News
Contrary to popular myth, the fact that some story is "trending" on social media doesn't make it true. But as the 2016 presidential election made abundantly clear, this is lost on a considerable segment of the American public, and some guidelines are in order as to what separates so-called "fake news" and "alternative facts" from genuinely trustworthy information. Here is my own short, and somewhat colorful list of the different categories of news, ranging from trustworthy to outright BS.
1) Very Reliable
Claims can be independently verified from reputable sources including established mainstream news outlets with centrist or moderate political leanings [e.g. - NPR (Left) or the Wall Street Journal (Right)], governmental agencies, NGO's, academic institutions, & the like. Access to data, methods, & results are provided & have survived independent vetting by professionals in related fields. Where science is involved textbooks &/or published peer-reviewed research has been cited, & links to the abstracts &/or full-text content of the latter are available. All statistics &/or survey results are based on large, well-characterized samples & methods (N >= 1000, multi-variable, double-blind, etc.). Results are statistically significant & confidence intervals &/or variance coefficients have been provided.
Claims are independently verifiable from one or more mainstream news outlets per the requirements in 1). Specifics regarding data, methods, & results aren't directly available but secondary sources are at least identified, if not fully cited.
Claims are supported with partisan sources (Left or Right) at, or near the edge of moderate [e.g. - Huffington Post (Left) or Fox News (Right)]. Independent confirmation per 1) or 2) highly recommended. Otherwise, proceed with caution.
Claims are supported only with sources that;
- Are highly partisan (Left or Right) to a degree beyond reasonably moderate.
- Per the requirements of 1), have a documented history of cherry-picked research, unreliable methods, recklessness with science &/or statistics, & outright falsehoods.
- Cite only themselves &/or similar sources, often parasitically in a circle.
Independent confirmation per 1) or 2) required.
5) Insults to the Intelligence of Others
Claims based entirely on one or more of the following;
- Ad-hominem/Poisoning the Well Fallacies (Wikipedia, 2016). [Individual/Source A asserts that X is true --> A is a moron|"deplorable"|the "liberal media"|"elitist"|(insert your favorite bitch-slap here) --> Therefore X is false & virtually anything A says can be dismissed with no further consideration, regardless of the quantity & quality of evidence provided.]
- Sources that refuse to provide their own sources, data, & methods for independent vetting. Especially those who justify this with lame excuses like "We don't want the media spinning this..." etc.
- Any source per b) that has "Leaks" or "Exposed" anywhere in its name. Especially if they're engaged in criminal activity & are wanted by authorities.
- Any source per b) that doesn't have the courage to identify themselves either, & for all we know could be Paris Hilton, Miss July, the Tooth Fairy, or even Vladimir Putin himself. Especially if they're pretentious enough to hide behind Guy Fawkes masks.
- Any source that appears in published fake news/disinformation website lists (Wikipedia, 2016b; Zimdars, 2016). Especially known Putin government disinformation outlets such as Russia Today (Wikipedia, 2016c).1
- Wingnut conspiracy theory websites. [e.g. - InfoWars.2]
- Unhinged extremists with known ties to white supremacists &/or armed militias & radical groups that openly advocate the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. [e.g. - Uncle Sam's Misguided Children.3]
Offenders will be beaten senseless with a Singapore cane.4
6) First Degree Aggravated Insults to the Intelligence of Others
- Any claim that can be thoroughly debunked per 1) or 2) in less than 60 seconds. [Sweet Lord... is even this level of due diligence too much to expect?]
- Any attempt to claim that the Russians were not actively involved in hacking &/or disinformation campaigns targeting Hillary Clinton in the 2016 POTUS election, while simultaneously sharing links to anti-Hillary propaganda from Russia Today. [Incredible as it may seem, yes, I've actually witnessed this.]
Offenders will be beaten senseless with a Singapore cane AND defenestrated from a 6th floor window at Fox News headquarters without opening it first.4
- By definition, Fake News is deliberately falsified &/or intentionally misleading disinformation intended to sway a target audience to a preferred belief, as opposed to claims that are merely inaccurate &/or incompletely researched (the term is often used incorrectly in the latter sense). Many of the best known fake news outlets (e.g. - the Denver Chronicle or Russia Today) employ writers who create fictional stories intended to bait target audiences, & during the 2016 POTUS election such tactics were particularly effective in swaying pro-Trump/anti-Hillary audiences (Silverman, 2016; Silverman & Alexander, 2016; Sydell, 2016; ODNI, 2016; Wikipedia, 2016c).
- InfoWars is the website of radio show host Alex Jones, who among other things believes the moon landings were faked, the U.S. government was complicit in the 9/11 attacks, & that Hillary Clinton & Barack Obama are, quite literally, "demons from Hell" because, he says, their breath "smells like sulfur" & they're "swarmed by flies" (Stack, 2016; Wikipedia, 2016d). BTW, InfoWars is also the site that first spread the "3 million illegal votes" myth from the 2016 POTUS election, which as of this writing is *still* being touted by Trump & many of his supporters.
- Uncle Sam's Misguided Children was founded by Rick Ferran, an ex-marine with ties to the Patriot & "Three Percenters" Movements, & radical armed militia groups. Various versions of their Facebook page have been banned multiple times for openly racist hate speech & nudity, & Ferran has been accused by former employees of fraud & abuse, including spousal abuse (Schewitz, 2014; Hall, 2013). The site frequently shares material from known fake news/disinformation outlets & has a history of circulating deliberately falsified photographs as well (Evon, 2016; LaCapria, 2016).
- Figuratively of course... :-)
Evon, D. 2016. "Capture the Flag." Snopes. July 28, 2016. Available online at http://www.snopes.com/flags-banned-at-dnc/. Accessed Jan. 27, 2017.
Hall, E. 2013. "Trusting the Internet." Skeptoid. Mar. 16, 2014. Available online at http://skeptoid.com/blog/2013/03/16/trusting-the-internet/. Accessed Jan. 27, 2017.
Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). 2017. "Background to “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”: The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution." Declassified ODNI version. Jan. 6, 2017. Available online at http://www.dni.gov/files/documents/ICA_2017_01.pdf. Accessed Jan. 26, 2017.
Schewitz, M. 2014. "Anti-Government 'Patriots' Allegedly Defrauded Of Thousands Of Dollars By One Of Their Own." ForwardProgressives. Sept. 8, 2014. Available online at http://forwardprogressives.com/anti-government-patriots-allegedly-defrauded-thousands-dollars-one/. Accessed Jan. 30, 2016.
Silverman, C. 2016. "This Analysis Shows How Viral Fake Election News Stories Outperformed Real News On Facebook." BuzzFeed News. Nov. 16, 2016. Available online at http://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/viral-fake-election-news-outperformed-real-news-on-facebook?utm_term=.coKydBxOvL#.opepv48dEr. Accessed Jan. 30, 2016.
Silverman, C. & L. Alexander. 2016. "How Teens In The Balkans Are Duping Trump Supporters With Fake News." BuzzFeed News. Nov. 3, 2016. Available online at http://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/how-macedonia-became-a-global-hub-for-pro-trump-misinfo?utm_term=.fpX725bg4E#.nodKMZOE81. Accessed Feb. 3, 2017.
Stack, L. 2016. "He Calls Hillary Clinton a 'Demon.' Who Is Alex Jones?" New York Times. Oct. 13, 2016. Available online at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/14/us/politics/alex-jones.html. Accessed Feb. 3, 2017.
Sydell, L. 2016. "We Tracked Down A Fake-News Creator In The Suburbs. Here's What We Learned." National Public Radio (NPR). Nov. 23, 2016. Available online at http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/11/23/503146770/npr-finds-the-head-of-a-covert-fake-news-operation-in-the-suburbs. Accessed Feb. 3, 2017.
Wikipedia. 2016. "Poisoning the well." Wikipedia. July 21, 2016. Available online at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poisoning_the_well. Accessed Jan. 30, 2016.
Wikipedia. 2016b. "List of fake news sites." Wikipedia. Jan. 22, 2017. Available online at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fake_news_websites. Accessed Feb. 7, 2017.
Wikipedia. 2016c. "RT (TV network)." Wikipedia. Jan. 27, 2017. Available online at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RT_(TV_network). Accessed Feb. 7, 2017.
Wikipedia. 2016d. "Alex Jones." Wikipedia. Jan. 17, 2017. Available online at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_Jones_(radio_host). Accessed Feb. 7, 2017.
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