Fake News.......a history

© 2016 Jim Spence - Google and Facebook are cracking down on “fake news.” It is an interesting concept. There is certainly plenty of fake everything on the internet…….including fake news. Of course the truth is the two tech companies are merely powerful internet portals; meaning that their users look through their sites to see things on other sites. Is it noble for these two tech giants to assume the role of being the internet information consumer’s protectors? Is it truly within their capability to make subjective judgments on all news sites? The pressure for these sites to institute these censor filters has come from Democrats still seething over their election loss last week. And both Google and Facebook’s leaders have shown themselves to be overwhelmingly sympathetic to Democrats.
Comedian Dennis Miller is a sometimes coarse and sometimes profound man of ideas who once said (paraphrased), “We Americans always want to help the helpless, but there is not much you can do about the clueless.” It would seem that Google and Facebook, now believe they can help the clueless by filtering out their access to fake news sites.
The idea of FAKE NEWS SITES stirred my memory. I thought back a dozen years to the Kerry versus Bush election of 2004. It was September 8, 2004 when a seemingly legitimate news outlet, CBS News, sent out anchor Dan Rather to stun the world by saying he had in his possession, a series of memos critical of President George W. Bush's Texas Air National Guard service record. Rather claimed these documents had been discovered in the personal files of Lt. Bush's former commanding officer, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian. Unfortunately for Mr. Rather, it was the forces of the internet that actually vetted his bogus story. Once copies of the documents were posted on the internet, their authenticity was quickly called into question by dozens of experts. It turns out that the documents were proportionally printed and displayed using modern typographic conventions that were unavailable on military typewriters of the 1970s. In fact, the font used on these otherwise politically charged documents was an identical match of the standard font features used on Microsoft Word which did not exist when the documents were created.
Quickly it became obvious that the memos CBS had trotted out to discredit George W. Bush just prior to an election were forgeries and not very good ones at all. Soon all media outlets, including other news outlets sympathetic to the Democrats including The Washington Post and The New York Times conceded that CBS had run with FAKE NEWS.
Though CBS initially defended the story and insisted that the documents had been authenticated by experts, soon CBS was being contradicted by the experts it had originally cited in defending its fake news. Eventually CBS admitted that its source for the documents – former Texas Army National Guard officer Lt. Col. Bill Burkett – had misled the network about how he had obtained them. Sixteen days later on September 20, 2004, just a few weeks before the election, CBS retracted the story as fake news. Rather issued the following admission, "If I knew then what I know now, I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question." It wouldn’t have taken much for Rather to know……if he hadn’t believed what he wanted to believe about those fake documents.

My question is pretty simple. Will Google and Facebook BLOCK site user’s access to the CBS News site? Many observers tell me CBS is still running fake news. Since history suggests that CBS has a long track record of running fake stories to affect the outcome of presidential elections, I think they should be the first fake news site to be blocked by Google and Facebook.  The rest of the mainstream media deserves close scrutiny too......or maybe we should just let readers make the call on what is fake..........like they did with CBS a dozen years ago.

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