Monday, February 08, 2016

The CBC and Fake News

(Okay, Aaron, I'm blogging this just for you, because I don't want to type it in a little Facebook window. I doubt you care much but it required more than a few words for me to get clear with myself on this)

There's been a teeny (teeny) discussion on Facebook of why I am not happy to learn that the CBC is participating in the whole "fake news" thing, trying to be the Onion or whatnot; I had not realized until recently that they were. I have no problem with the Onion, or certain other "fake news" sites (like, which publishes fake news pertaining to the punk scene. I mean, "Vegan Checks Record Insert for Dairy?" Another favourite here); but that's because these sites are obviously humorous, and as soon as you see the URL and know where it's coming from, you know it's a joke. Even if you somehow end up on the site not realizing where you are, it's usually obvious within a minute that you're being pranked, since the articles are actually amusing. (My favourite from the Onion, here).

That's not always the case, though. The "World News Daily Report" article on Yoko Ono having had an affair with Hilary Clinton would be the best example that I've seen; it was taken seriously enough that it inspired a piece of Snopes debunking. That particular article doesn't seem written with an attempt at humour in mind, seems actually to be a piece of disinformation. I'm not sure what their actual purpose on putting it out into the world is (or if they're an offshoot of sincere, right-wing conspiracy site World Net Daily - I suspect they might be) but to the extent that you can infer a political motivation, it seems malign, an attempt to throw some dirt on Clinton. It also seems entirely believable, on first blush; there's certainly nothing funny about it, and I was unclear myself when I saw it: what, is this real?

And then, unless you're a gullible, credulous dope, you do the work to determine that no, it isn't. Yes, I guess there's some sort of Darwinian value to having to learn to do that sort of work, to separate the fact from the crap, but the easiest survival strategy to keep yourself from being duped by sites like this is to carry around a little internal list of URL's that you can immediately recognize are going to be a source of crap. The Onion, The Hard Times, World News Daily Report: you see the outrageous headline, check where it's from, and you know it's crap without having to think further on it. 

And that's the first point: I would just as soon not add the to that list. 

I can and will, of course, but it makes me kind of sad that the CBC is putting themselves in that position. I can only assume they're doing so because this kind of "humour" actually does generate attention. And that's the second reason I'm not happy: that the CBC is cheapening its brand in the name of clickbait.

But whatever. It's like Harry Dean Stanton in the Twin Peaks movie: it's just more shit I gotta do. This is That may actually prove funny (I see now that I've read the thing on artisanal firewood before. Maybe I'm just a gullible, credulous dope myself, because I'm not sure I realized it was a joke).

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