Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Fake News Hurts Real People - and our Democracy

This is an educational story about conspiracy theories. It gives the type of clues that tip one off to a story being fake news. One quick way to tell is: ask yourself "What is the payoff for the person or group peddling this conspiracy theory?" (Hint: if the payoff is big towards destroying a political rival or party, that is an immediate red flag to dig further, and to not be credulous.)

A quick gut check on conspiracy theories is this: Does it require a group of conspirators bigger than the national debt to hide it and keep the perps from being investigated, charged and convicted? If "yes", you can be pretty certain it is a "fake news" event, not something that really happened. I truly empathize with those who have lost touch with reality enough to believe that the government, and all the ordinary police and teachers and firemen etc., are involved in vast conspiracies and cover-ups involving Hillary Clinton, Sandy Hook massacre, and the 9/11 attack in 2001, to name a few.

The irresponsible people who are making money off these despicable lies should not be tolerated. An open society does not give criminals a license to steal the good name of other citizens, to trick naive people into committing felonies, and to interfere with our elections. They are the ones who should be brought to justice -- and that is no conspiracy!

The real people referenced in fake news stories and conspiracies are harmed, even put in danger of their lives, because of unbalanced people acting on fake news.

Last Sunday a young man, Edgar Maddison Welch, of Salisbury, North Carolina, fired a rifle inside a neighborhood D. C. pizzaria, terrorizing the employees and customers. He was there because a fake news story (CBS NEWS, Dec 5, 2016), led him to believe that the business was a cover for a pedophile ring. Now there is a conspiracy theory that Edgar was a plant, (Washington Post, Dec 5, 2016), sent to cover up the crimes by pretending to investigate them. Edgar has been doubly victimized by Fake News. He will be facing criminal charges for his actions.

Lucy Richards, of Tampa, Florida, was arrested Monday because she believed the conspiracy news about Sandy Hook, and threatened to kill one of the bereaved parents. (USA TODAY, Dec 7, 2016). She is facing up to 20 years in prison. Len Ponzer, the parent she threatened to kill, has not only lost his child in a mass shooting, but has been terrorized by an unbalanced woman who acted on Fake News. 

For the sake of our own sanity, we need to check our credulity at the door when listening to a politician or an "alternate" news site that is spewing slander and hate at a popular figure. This is how mobs are created, who then go and lynch an innocent person, just because "someone said".

That is why we have courts, we have independent committees in Congress, we have independent law enforcement in several overlapping jurisdictions such as city police, county sheriffs, state police, federal investigators such as FBI, CIA, Dept. of Homeland Security, etc. A total loss of confidence in ALL of them at once is required to believe in any of the currently popular conspiracy theories. For a rational person, that is truly - unbelievable.

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