Politically Motivated News
Keeping Your Sanity through the Election Year Noise
A quick google search for politically motivated news will yield you roughly 40,300,000 results in (on my computer) 0.51 seconds. First of all, it’s nothing short of a modern miracle that 40 million results are available in half a second. That’s staggering. More importantly, it’s incredible there are 40 million pieces on politically motivated news floating around on the web.
Apparently there are a lot of people out there who find this to be an issue. So, I thought we’d discuss that today as it relates to the presidential election year. You’ll no doubt be inundated with lots and lots of politically motivated news over the next 11 months. I hope to give you all the mental strength you need to ignore the election year noise and keep focused on things that matter. For additional reading on this topic, you can read my article Presidential Elections and the Stock Market.
Bias is Real
It’s important to acknowledge at the start that everyone has a bias of some kind. We lean one way or another, believe one way or another, associate with one group or another, and behave one way or another. And, those biases cause us to mistrust, on some level, those who lean, believe, or behave differently than we do. It’s simply human nature. It’s also human nature to take advantage of our biases, and the biases of others, in an attempt to manipulate a situation or circumstance to our own benefit. That’s where politically motivated news comes in. Every single person in a position to present the news of the day has these same biases, and a platform to take advantage of them. You may think that this is a relatively new phenomenon, but “Fake News” has a long and storied history that most are unaware of.
What is Politically Motivated News?
Did you know that in the 13th century BC Ramses the Great used lies and propaganda, by depicting scenes of himself killing his enemies during the battle on the walls of his temples, to portray the battle of Kadesh as a great victory for his Egyptian army? The reality is the battle was a stalemate, and Ramses would eventually lose the war; but he was creating politically motivated “news”, to push his agenda and make himself appear “Greater” than he actually was.
Then there was Mark Anthony. Octavian ran a campaign of misinformation about him, portraying him as, among other things, a drunkard and a puppet of Cleopatra. Octavian also published a document he claimed was Mark Anthony’s will, making outlandish claims about how he wished to be entombed upon his death. This didn’t sit well with the Roman people at all. Mark Anthony eventually committed suicide after his loss in the Battle of Actium when he heard rumors, spread by Cleopatra herself, that she had also committed suicide. Talk about politically motivated news to the extreme!
The point is politically motivated news, or fake news, is nothing new.
Types of Politically Motivated News
Not all politically motivated news is necessarily bad, or intentionally malicious or deceptive in nature. Claire Wardle of First Draft News listed 7 types of “fake” or politically motivated news, and I like the way she’s broken them down. They are:
- satire or parody (“no intention to cause harm but has the potential to fool”)
- false connection (“when headlines, visuals or captions don’t support the content”)
- misleading content (“misleading use of information to frame an issue or an individual”)
- false context (“when genuine content is shared with false contextual information”)
- impostor content (“when genuine sources are impersonated” with false, made-up sources)
- manipulated content (“when genuine information or imagery is manipulated to deceive”, as with a “doctored” photo)
- fabricated content (“new content is 100% false, designed to deceive and do harm”)
Where Will I See Politically Motivated News?
You can find all of the above in mainstream media, social media, and digital news sites alike. No media source is faultless when it comes to the list above, but some are flagrant and unapologetic about their use of politically motivated headlines and fake news stories to push a certain agenda. As a result, fake news undermines true journalism and erodes public trust in major media outlets. Gone are the days of Walter Cronkite being America’s anchorman. Politically motivated news, and fake news, have fostered division among the populace and created an atmosphere of doubt where almost ALL news is concerned, especially when it’s political.
Politically motivated news shows up in our individual worlds through several means. It can be clickbait on a website or social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Even straight propaganda posing as news from an anonymous author or source, that cannot be corroborated by any reputable sources. It can be in the form of satire or parody, which may be friendly or malicious in its delivery. Like a celebrity roast if you will. It can be as simple as sloppy journalism, which is quite pervasive these days. (Many a “J” school professor who still appreciates the awesome responsibility that comes with being a member of the press likely cringe on a daily basis seeing the shoddy work of some of today’s journalists.) It can be through misleading headlines, I see them every day. And it can be through biased (there’s that word again) or slanted reporting.
Opinions Are Not News
Remember, there’s a difference between opinion journalism and straight news reporting. Politically motivated news occurs when opinion journalism is mixed with straight news reporting while purporting to be straight news. Straight news is honorable, and opinion journalism is honorable, no matter the opinion, but mixing opinion while claiming to report straight news is not. This type of “news” can fall into 3 categories: Mis-information, Dis-information, and Mal-information. Not always, but it generally devolves into one of the 3; again devaluing and casting unwarranted doubt on the work of true journalists, and further dividing the populace.
What Can I Do?
The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions has a list of 8 things to help you navigate through the maze of politically motivated news that is sure to be in your face for the next 11 months, and they made this handy little infographic for your reference. Rather than politically motivated news, they’re calling it fake news, but the advice they provide is sound no matter what name you give it.
I think I’ll be using these 8 suggestions a lot this year, and I believe they’ll help me maintain my sanity a little better. Let’s face it, election years are torturous for ALL of us because NONE of us enjoy campaign commercials 24-7, and none of us enjoy all the drama and mudslinging. So this year, when you’re bombarded with politically motivated news, take a deep breath, use these 8 suggestions for yourself, and then get back to focusing on the things that really matter in your life.
And I know, as sure as I’m writing this, that the political noise is NOT what really matters to you.
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