Fake News for the Week Ending July 3, 2020

Happy Independence Day, everybody. Let’s declare all of us independent from the onslaught of fake news by examining what’s fake and what’s real this week.

  • Ad Fontes Media has released an updated version (version 6.0) of its Media Bias Chart. It attempts to place news outlets on a grid according to their liberal/conservative bias and degree of factual reporting vs. opinion. If you want the least biased, most factual outlets, turn to the Associated Press, Newsy, NPR, Reuters, and the Wall Street Journal. If you want some relatively non-biased analysis in addition to the facts, you can add outlets such as Axios, the BBC, Business Insider, CBS News, CNN (online, not cable), the Economist, the Financial Times, Fortune, the Guardian, the Hill, MarketWatch, the New York Times, Politico, and the Washington Post. The cable version of CNN is still a good source of facts and “complex analysis,” but veers just a tinch to the left of center. Not surprisingly, MSNBC has a left-leaning bias and offers more opinion than fact; FOX News, both online and cable, veers even further to the right and even more towards opinion. The worst outlets — those with a reputation for spreading inaccurate or fabricated information — include the Gateway Pundit, Infowars, the National Enquirer, NewsPunch, and WorldTruth TV. For what it’s worth there are far more right-leaning outlets offering non-factual opinion, selective coverage, “unfair persuasion,” propaganda, and inaccurate/fabricated information than there are left-leaning ones. It’s a useful chart and worth referring to if you’re debating someone who calls the Times or the Post left-wing “fake news media” (which, I keep repeating, they are not). Read it for yourself here.
  • In spite of all the coverage of Russian interference in our electoral process, domestic sources of disinformation represent a greater threat than do foreign ones. This is exemplified by an Oxford University study that showed that Trump supporters shared more fake news than all other groups combined. Trump supporters, it seems, get their fake news primarily from domestic sources, such as Breitbart and Infowars; in fact, 65% of “junk news” and conspiracy theories disseminated on Facebook and Twitter come from just 10 disinformation websites. Richard Stengel shares his analysis in Time.
  • I’m not sure why the simple public health measure of wearing a mask during a pandemic became a political issue, but it apparently has. Many anti-maskers are claiming that they’re exempt from mask wearing because of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and have printed out a card to prove it. The card is fake, of course, disseminated not by any government agency but by a Facebook group called the Freedom to Breathe Agency (FTBA). It’s a hoax and both the FTC and the real ADA website are warning against them. Know this: unless you have a legitimate medical reason not to wear a mask (and feeling uncomfortable isn’t one), then you should wear a damn mask. It’s a public safety issue and no different than driving the speed limit and stopping at crosswalks. CBS News has the story.
The FTBA is not a real Federal agency. Wear the damn mask!
  • President Trump is at it again. After his rival former VP Joe Biden held a news conference this week, Trump tweeted “Biden was asked questions at his so-called Press Conference yesterday where he read the answers from a teleprompter. That means he was given the questions, just like Crooked Hillary. Never have seen this before!” Trump’s claim that Biden was fed the questions, not surprisingly, is completely false. As of today Twitter has not taken down or annotated that tweet. The Associated Press has the story.
If Joe had the questions in advance, why is he listening for them?
  • No, tennis superstar Serena Williams did not write a viral Facebook post expressing frustration with current health, social and political issues and urging people to “stop thrusting your beliefs on others.” The post was written by a person named Serena Williams, but it wasn’t the famous one, so don’t blame her for it. FactCheck.org does the usual debunking.
Not THAT Serena Williams.
  • Similarly, famous person Taylor Swift did not say that we should remove the Statue of Liberty because it was “built by slaves.” She did call on the state of Tennessee to remove statues of racist figures, but that’s not the same thing. Snopes does the debunking.
Not a real tweet.

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