Supposedly, librarians are going to help the world deal with “fake news.” We’ve been hearing a lot about that for months. It’s going to be an uphill battle, though.
Consider this article, California School Defunded for Having Too Many White Students. It’s from a “news” site called Newsline. It must be real news because it has “news” right there in the title.
The headline is certainly provocative, isn’t it? It’s not true, but it’s definitely provocative.
There’s a hint of truth, though. There is a California school that is losing some additional state funding under a school integration program begun in 1978 that guarantees extra funding for schools with more than 70% non-white students.
The school in California now has more than 30% white students, and so it no longer qualifies for the funds. That seems to be a simple statement of fact, and what websites do with it shows the difference between news and propaganda.
One of the absences of these propaganda articles from both left and right is an absence of links. They want to make it as hard as possible to get back to any original sources.
For example, this article claims that “a parent told the local ABC News Affiliate” something. If you Google the actual quote, you see that it only shows up in right-wing echo chamber sites.
If you search it in Google News, it shows up in two places, this Fox News article, and this New York Post article, which acknowledges that the whole thing was first published by Fox News. Both of those have headlines acknowledging that the school is “losing funding.”
Fox News does link to the ABC article published 12 days before its own article. That one had a headline saying that “school budget cuts due to high white student percentage sparks outrage.”
It’s pretty clear the Newsline “reporter” didn’t rely on the ABC article, because the Newsline article reads like someone changed just enough of the wording of the Fox News article to avoid plagiarism charges.
The lack of links isn’t a one time thing. One of the top articles on Newsline at the time of writing is about a student supposedly suspended from a college “for objecting to her assertion that Jesus was not crucified, and that the disciples did not believe that he was God.”
The only “evidence” is a claim by the student, and it’s not like suspended students ever lie to make themselves sound better. Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not. Suspensions are pretty rare, but without more evidence we can’t say for sure.
But the gullible believe what they want to believe before they have examined the evidence.
Without linking to them, that article cites other articles from the right-wing echo chamber that themselves peddle dubious news.
For example, there’s something called the “Central Florida Post,” which almost sounds like a news site. It published this article with the headline, “Rollins college suspends student after he challenged radical muslim hate speech.”
The lead sentence is a doozy: “Not even a year after Radical Islamic terrorist Omar Mateen killed 49 people at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, Rollins College officials are punishing a Christian Conservative student who challenged a liberal Muslim professor and radicalized Muslim student during a conversation on the application of Sharia Law.”
Are those two events related? Nope. And only one of them is proven to be true.
The article claims that the student “confirmed to the Central Florida Post that… [a professor] has made outlandish claims against him and even filed a false police report.”
But he doesn’t “confirm” that. He claims it. A source can only confirm something that has been gotten from another source, and the student is the only source here. The college and the professor haven’t commented at all.
That article is cited, and linked to, in The College Fix, which is at least slightly better, perhaps because it’s aimed at college students, but who knows.
The headline is still awful: “Christian student suspended after challenging Muslim prof’s claim that Jesus wasn’t crucified.” Evidence? Zilch.
However, the lead sentence is accurate: “A student says he was suspended from Rollins College for challenging his Muslim professor’s anti-Christian assertions, including her claim that Jesus’ crucifixion never took place.”
Yes, a student does say that. And that’s the only thing we can prove.
That article doesn’t get a comment from the professor, but it does cite, and link to, a post she made to the ACLU Facebook page. She “posted on Facebook to the ACLU of Florida, complaining about an unnamed student that is “making my life hell this semester. This one is spewing hatred at me, de-railing class, and just sent me a hateful email threatening me…I want to know if there is a way to hold the individual responsible for his harassment and hate speech. Any ideas? Thank you!”
Warning: don’t click through to that if you want to hold on to your idealistic view that humans aren’t mostly bigots.
Of course, the professor should have known better than asking for advice about how to deal with hate speech via social media, because all she got was more hate speech, because the internet is a cesspool of hate and ignorance.
A lot of people posted from the echo chamber and don’t have any more information than we do about which side is closest to the facts, but they do have their little minds made up.
The librarians who are going to save us from fake news are as idealistic as the librarians who are going to save the world one library card at a time. All they’re doing is setting themselves up for frustration.
Who wants to listen to a librarian when they can have their prejudices confirmed by partisan websites completely lacking any standards of proof or evidence? Not many people, it seems, and those that might listen to a librarian probably don’t need to.