Sunday, November 20, 2016

Faking Fakery?

Buzzfeed ran a story suggesting that all of the fake news sites throwing around made-up stories might have influenced the election, Many of the sites were trying to be funny, some were trying to work as satire and offer commentary with their humor and some were simply trying to get a rise out of the people they knew might be offended by the story they were "reporting."

As do most things online these days, the fake news stories found their way to Facebook. Most people's news feeds were pretty littered with them, as well-meaning but overly-credulous friends shared links suggesting things like Pope Francis endorsing Donald Trump. In my own case, diligent use of the "Hide all stories from X" selection reduced their number after a few weeks, although it's truly amazing how many different Facebook pages can be set up proclaiming one political position or another is evilstoopid. And often doing so using a pretty limited set of words, most of which George Carlin would advise you not to say if you are on television. And many of which were misspelled, since rage-typing is not the most careful of typings.

Anyway, it seems that Buzzfeed's story about faking uses some research methods that are, shall we say, less than careful. So the fake news stories may not have had as much bearing on the election as the original story indicated. Which is not to say that the stories have any value -- my own unscientific sampling of a few shows them to have been written by people who were most definitely the smartest persons writing those stories, and others written by people who have an an unerring ability to make themselves laugh. Your current scribe may have committed misdemeanor- level versions of those same offenses, by the way.

So Buzzfeedˆs piece winds up as another failed attempt to find some kind of trickery or hidden flaw that produced the candidates and election result we had. But reality suggests to us something different: Voters in each party are responsible for the miserable excuses for candidates those parties sought to put forth for the office, and voters from both parties are responsible for the election outcome. And that is in no way fake news.

More's the pity.

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