I hear a lot of talk these days about “fake news.” Fake news, especially on the internet, has become the latest scapegoat for our national dysfunction. Personally, I don’t see fake news on the internet as a problem at all. I don’t expect information on the internet to, in any way, reflect reality. The internet is where lost souls go to watch their lives evaporate. It is a crass and ugly place built on a foundation of deception, exploitation and surveillance. Only a fool would expect to find the truth on the internet.
Besides, any good storyteller knows that the truth of a story is not in its factuality, but in how deeply it resonates with the listener. In this way, fake news can be instructive. Fake news tells us what people want to hear, and what they are inclined to believe. That’s more than we will learn from any factual news story.
Objective journalism is a myth, and even factual news stories conceal much more than they reveal. There is always more to know, than you can possibly know, about anything. Journalists focus on bringing you accurate details of current events, as they unfold, but the significance of the events lies mainly in the larger context in which they unfold, which is far beyond the scope of a news story. I really don’t think “the News” is the problem at all. The real problem is that we pay way too much attention to “the News,” and not nearly enough attention to what is happening to us, our friends, and the world around us.
The problem is not a shortage of facts. Everyone has access to plenty of verifiable facts — too many, in fact. Increasingly, we use the media to hide from the facts of life, rather than learn about them. We spend more time absorbed in factual but irrelevant information than we do living in, and learning about, the real world. The more we replace reality with “the News,” the more addictive “the News” becomes, and the more it bestows a comforting, but illusory, feeling that we understand how the world works, despite its dysfunction.
We watch “the News” as though some new fact will come into existence that changes our lives forever, when, in reality, we just need our daily fix. We act as though we could make sense of the latest terrorist bombing, or school shooting, if we just had more reliable information. The more an event upsets us, the more we stay glued to the screen. We want to know more. We look it up online. We read the back story. We become absorbed in sensationalized stories of senseless violence that have no bearing on our daily lives at all.
At the same time, “the News” reminds us that we are governed. “The News” reminds us that we are expendable. “The News” reminds us that the interests of capital trump all other interests. “The News” reminds us of who is in charge and how the system works. “The News” convinces us to sacrifice our own health, security and quality of life for the sake of “the economy.” “The News” crushes our spirit and steals our soul. That’s what factual news does. Compared to that, fake news seems almost beneficent.
We expect too much from “the News.” “The News” won’t save us. We’ve let mass media replace our own thoughts with their programming for far too long already. We don’t need more facts; we need new ways to think about them. Journalists really don’t have much to offer in that regard, except distraction.
That’s why I don’t bother you with the facts. You know the facts. I just tell you what I think of them. When you see the truth in what someone has to say, it doesn’t change the facts, it changes the way you see the facts. We don’t need more facts, we need more perspectives, and we won’t get that from “The News,” fake or otherwise.