January 4, 2018

"Pro-Trump users were about three times more likely to visit fake news sites supporting their candidate than Clinton partisans were to visit bogus sites promoting her."

So says a study done by 3 political scientists at Dartmouth College and reported in the NYT, in "‘Fake News’: Wide Reach but Little Impact, Study Suggests."

But how did they decide which sites were "fake news sites"? Does this "three times more likely" finding have more to do with the sort of mind that embraces Donald Trump or more to do with how they went about classifying websites as "fake news sites"?
The team defined a visited website as fake news if it posted at least two demonstrably false stories, as defined by economists Hunt Allcott and Matthew Gentzkow in research published last year. On 289 such sites, about 80 percent of bogus articles supported Mr. Trump.
Does that mean that there was more bogosity in support of Trump or that those doing the classifying were more likely to see bogosity when it supported Trump? Once there were more pro-Trump websites in the set of fake news sites, did that skew the finding that pro-Trumpers were 3 times more likely to visit fake news sites? There were more than 3 times as many pro-Trump sites as pro-Clinton sites (80%, not 75%), so perhaps means that pro-Trumpers were less likely to go to pro-Trump fake news sites that pro-Clinton people were to got to pro-Clinton sites.

And, by the way, I don't see how a website deserves to be called a "fake news site" just because it publishes "two demonstrably false stories." I'd assume that the most respected news sites, including the NYT, published "two demonstrably false stories." Or is "demonstrably" a technical term that works to exclude the kinds of falsities that make it into the Times? I know there were some blatantly made up things like Pope Francis endorses Donald Trump, so maybe that's what these researchers counted as "demonstrably false."

I know, I could read the older article by economists Hunt Allcott and Matthew Gentzkow to find out what definition of fake news was used in this newer study, but isn't it annoying that we're not just told the definition?! It's not as though there's any reason to believe that Allcott and Gentzkow nailed down the true meaning of fake.

Now, I actually am scanning Allcott/Gentzkow. They don't use the words "demonstrably false." Okay, here's the relevant text (boldface added):
We define “fake news” to be news articles that are intentionally and verifiably false, and could mislead readers. We focus on fake news articles that have political implications, with special attention to the 2016 US presidential elections. Our definition includes intentionally fabricated news articles, such as a widely shared article from the now-defunct website denverguardian.com with the headline, “FBI agent suspected in Hillary email leaks found dead in apparent murder-suicide.” It also includes many articles that originate on satirical websites but could be misunderstood as factual, especially when viewed in isolation on Twitter or Facebook feeds...

Our definition rules out several close cousins of fake news: 1) unintentional reporting mistakes, such as a recent incorrect report that Donald Trump had removed a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office in the White House; 2) rumors that do not originate from a particular news article; 3) conspiracy theories (these are, by definition, difficult to verify as true or false, and they are typically originated by people who believe them to be true); 4) satire that is unlikely to be misconstrued as factual; 5) false statements by politicians; and 6) reports that are slanted or misleading but not outright false (in the language of Gentzkow, Shapiro, and Stone 2016, fake news is “distortion,” not “filtering”).
If that's the definition, I'd say it's impossible to avoid subjectivity in making the classification. And the definition itself contains bias. For one thing, it's designed to get mainstream media off the hook. Anything false will be presumed to be "unintentional reporting mistakes."

But what matters more than whether people clicked through to various low-quality articles is whether they read competently and maintained their critical thinking. And critical thinking is even more important when the distortions and dishonesty of a website is outside of the Allcott/Gentzkow definition.

The NYT article about the Dartmouth study stresses that it found that "fake news paled in influence beside mainstream news coverage." But the kind of "fake news" that's in mainstream media is much more difficult to discern and defend yourself from than these outright fabrications and misunderstood satires that fit the Allcott/Gentzkow definition. I assume most people are learning how to spot crude and obvious fakery and not embarrass themselves by passing along stuff that their Facebook friends will tell them is satire or a fabrication. It takes a much high level of critical thinking to resist the "fake news" that's excluded from the Allcott/Gentzkow definition.

One more thing in the NYT article that I wanted to highlight: "Perhaps confusingly, moderately left-leaning people viewed more pro-Trump fake news than they did pro-Clinton fake news." I don't find that confusing. Just switch the term "pro-Trump" to "anti-Clinton" and it makes perfect sense. Lots of lefties were against Clinton.

91 comments:

Oso Negro said...

Good Lord. With all the chatter about "fake" news, where is the discussion of utterly biased news? An obvious and refutable falsehood isn't nearly as poisonous as the drip, drip, drip of NPR, or the New York Times.

MaxedOutMama said...

If one is going to include "satirical articles" in the definition of fake news, then one is really testing for people with a sense of humor!

Literally speaking, The Onion is a fake news site. But that's not what the average person would regard as "fake news" in the context of politics.

The NYT absolutely qualifies as a fake news site - it has published a number of whoppers - but you know that it won't be categorized as such in this study.

rehajm said...

And the definition itself contains bias. For one thing, it's designed to get mainstream media off the hook. Anything false will be presumed to be "unintentional reporting mistakes."

This nails it.

Is there no distinction for reporting quotes and summaries of statements from unnamed or anonymous sources? Does rule #2 let them off the hook for being fake?

Malesch Morocco said...

Nice fishing, Ann. Bravo!

Jeff Teal said...

I believe that Aristotle would call this article an argumentum ad verecundiam.That is that particular Greek's definition of fake news.But what does he know.

Malesch Morocco said...

Fiskimg not fishing. Damn auto-correct.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Althouse wrote: For one thing, it's designed to get mainstream media off the hook. Anything false will be presumed to be "unintentional reporting mistakes."

Yes. The word "unintentional" implies that they know what the news outlet intended to publish. Wonder how they did that trick? MSM journalists routinely claim to be unbiased, so anything biased that they do publish will not be intended to be biased. This is the issue behind the "Trump removed MLK's statue from the White House" story. It was not true, it was reported as being true, yet the paper's authors explicitly cite this story as an example of "not fake" news.

David Begley said...

Adam Smith (1776) wrote, “The more [people] are instructed, the less liable they are to the delusions of enthusiasm and superstition, which, among ignorant nations, frequently occasion the most dreadful disorders.”

Let’s be instructed by our betters at the NYT, WaPo, CNN and MSNBC. Today on Morning Joe, Trump is not only impeached but convicted in the Senate with Senator Mitt Romney voting with the 67 plus.

Rusty said...

Inga in 3.2.1

Rusty said...

The NYT is becoming the old soviet Pravda.
The news is between the lines.

rhhardin said...

News is always fake. There's no unfake news.

They're just arguing about the epithet.

Tim at large said...

Just like Hillary didn’t mean to break the law, the WaPo didn’t intentionally get story after story wrong in the same direction. Right? Doesn’t that make them better? Maybe Trump supporters just read more widely? Not locked into their favorite partisan outlets the way liberals mostly are.

Kevin said...

People who supported Hillary were less likely to believe good things about her?

That's a shocker.

exhelodrvr1 said...

Arguably the bigger problem is not the "fake" stories, but the stories that aren't published/broadcast, or which are effectively hidden by their location.

MadisonMan said...

The NYT absolutely qualifies as a fake news site - it has published a number of whoppers

Exactly right. The Tillerson to be forced out in the next couple weeks story on 30 November comes to mind.

Jersey Fled said...

A rigorous study that I comissioned this morning over breakfast confirmed that any study by two political scientists at Dartmouth is in and of itself fake news.

Kevin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin said...

If they didn't consider the NYT a pro-Hillary fake news site, the study was flawed from the get-go.

Fabi said...

I thought the "fake news" narrative had been abandoned by the left after it was spun back around and used on them.

Tim at large said...

Any “scientific” project which begins with the thought “I just can’t believe that my favored candidate lost!” and is undertaken as an attempt to validate a statement made by the same losing candidate is going to trip over its own bias.

What’s scary is that they believe they own the truth, and that they can discover it with algorithms. All these algorithms need is to be properly tuned by the right sort of people!

Tim at large said...

The world where a left wing media is considered the final word on truth is the kind of world where fixers like Peter Strzok can ply their trade with impunity. It’s the end of the enlightenment.

tim maguire said...

Blogger Malesch Morocco said...
Fiskimg not fishing. Damn auto-correct.


Auto-correct blocks "fisking" but not "fiskimg"? Now that's funny!

John Lynch said...

If mainstream media is bogus what does it matter? They consistently were wrong throughout the campaign and led everyone to believe Clinton would win. How is that not fake?

Quayle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewis Wetzel said...

A more intriguing study would examine how many negative stories about Trump vs negative news stories about Clinton were read or heard by Trump voters before the election.
You would end with a far more difficult narrative than the one pushed by the authors of this paper: "people voted for Trump because they listened to fake news."
I bet that nearly every Trump voter consumed far more anti-Trump news than pro-Trump news. I literally never saw a pro-Trump story in the MSM in the run up to the election.

Quayle said...

In a fully internetworked, block chain world in which middlemen are increasingly becoming irrelevant - becoming the walking dead - lo and behold we now have a "scientific" study, done by middlemen I hasten to add, which tells us that the right middlemen really are trustworthy. Middlemen stepping forward to shore up middlemen and tell us which middlemen are trustworthy and valuable.

And to preempt any claims of sexism, I want to be clear that I believe that middlewomen are equally becoming as irrelevant as middlemen. If fact, to drive this point and my position home, I'll go a step further and declare openly that I hope that the salaries of middlemen decrease faster over time than the salaries of middlewomen.

buwaya said...

The most important way news is "faked" is by selecting the news to cover. Besides sheer volume, it is the editorial bias to filter information such as to support one world view versus others that is the most powerful tool of the propagandist.

This selection bias is a tool only the powerful, who have the means to originate news, can use.

PJ said...

So, fake news about fake research based on more fake research about fake news.

Ray said...

Agree 100% with Buwaya’s comment.

I would add and then decide how to slant it.

Choosing to present if the glass half full or empty.

Fernandistein said...

Fake news site uses hinky definition of fake news - details at 11!

exhelodrvr1 said...
Arguably the bigger problem is not the "fake" stories, but the stories that aren't published/broadcast, or which are effectively hidden by their location.


That's a big issue, but so is the inverse, namely hyping trivia, e.g. everything from Trayvon Martin to the Hollywood butt-pinchers.

Henry said...

Most fake news I saw in the election cycle was Clinton supporters sharing anti-Trump stories.

dbp said...

"moderately left-leaning people viewed more pro-Trump fake news than they did pro-Clinton fake news."

No. I don't think this is the reason at all. I can't count the number of times a leftist friend on twitter or Facebook has posted a link to an unhinged right wing site, which I (an active member of the rightosphere) had henceforth never heard of.

They love, love, love to paint all conservatives as unhinged and dredge-up the most scurrilous, yet obscure, sites to "prove their point" and have a laugh at the expense of the benighted Republican morons.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Fake news is anything negative about poor wonderful Hillary.

Mike said...

It's a yuge mistake for these "journolists" and "list-makers" to try and wrestle the definition of fake news now. It's baked in the cake, so to speak, and their attempts to rehabilitate the term just means we the public are reminded how dishonest the news media is, was and always has been.

And when their attempts to recast fake news as encompassing satire, well, this blatant obfuscation illustrates just how far they need to go to regain the trust of the public. They are institutionally unable to play fair, approach issues evenhandedly or even convincingly pretend to analyze fake news objectively.

buwaya said...

It used to be a trope on the left - the actual commie-hippie left, when it was an independent entity - that the MSM, being owned and run for the purposes of the oligarchic establishment, was generating fake news, and moreover filtering it, so as to suppress the prospects of revolution.
Chomsky evaluated accounts of the Cambodian massacres as "fake news" for instance.

This was the thrust of Noam Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent", and others of that ilk.

Our San Francisco lefty free paper, the now-defunct weekly Bay Guardian (I was an avid fan, I am the very opposite of that world view, but I have always found it instructive), had an annual issue on allegedly censored, suppressed stories that the MSM had not covered or glossed over, notably their perpetual enemies the SF Chronicle and Examiner. This was a bit of a stretch by the late 80's, as there was little discernable difference between the material in the editorial sections of either paper and the Bay Guardian, other than in tone.

dbp said...

I guess my comment above would have made more sense had I included the part of the quote with Althouse's theory:

"I don't find that confusing. Just switch the term "pro-Trump" to "anti-Clinton" and it makes perfect sense. Lots of lefties were against Clinton."

Tim at large said...

Quayle, that’s an interesting point. Wouldn’t it be great if every quote was block-chained back to it’s source? Showing all of the hands that it passed through on the way. All of the original context that had been stripped on the trip, all of the “context” that was added. Every anecdote authenticated to its originator? We can dream.

Leland said...

What if the website employees an economist who claimed, just after the election, the markets would never recover under Trump; would that site be a fake news site?

Rick said...

For one thing, it's designed to get mainstream media off the hook. Anything false will be presumed to be "unintentional reporting mistakes."

Exactly. The first question when reading the original summary of "two demonstrably false stories" is why isn't CNN listed? One obvious explanation for the discrepancy is that left wingers didn't need to seek out specifically fake news sites because their mainstream outlets provided that content.

I don't find that confusing. Just switch the term "pro-Trump" to "anti-Clinton" and it makes perfect sense. Lots of lefties were against Clinton.

I think this explanation is largely wrong. Where does the belief that people who visit sites actually believe the content come from? I've read many outlandish things I don't believe just so I can understand what is actually being asserted and/or how best to point out its weaknesses. The most likely explanation for left wingers visiting pro-Trump sites is to support their opinion of Trump supporters as fools.

Mike said...

Why is it that none of the "unintentional mistakes" published by media make Trump look better? Why do all the "mistakes" lean the same dreary way toward smearing the man? That fact alone would seem to exclude randomness from any equation.

Mike said...

Arguably the bigger problem is not the "fake" stories, but the stories that aren't published/broadcast, or which are effectively hidden by their location.

Again, as far as I can see the stories that get ignored also all flow in the same direction: they would make Democrats look bad. Look how totally disinterested the media were in what the FACTS were in Benghazi (five years later we still don't know what our ambassador was doing in that dangerous town on that critical night), or regarding Hillary's server (they won't even report on the Navy sailor doing time for the similar offense), her "health" during the campaign (they mocked people for asking until she fell over), etc. ad infinitum.

Robert Cook said...

"If one is going to include 'satirical articles' in the definition of fake news, then one is really testing for people with a sense of humor!

"Literally speaking, The Onion is a fake news site. But that's not what the average person would regard as 'fake news' in the context of politics."


If satirical articles are copied and circulated out of their original context--as they have been--readers not knowing their provenance may believe them to be seriously intended articles, not satire, and may accept them as true--as has happened.

buwaya said...

"Manufacturing Consent" (Chomsky & Herman, 1988) is an interesting read these days, actually, highly reccommended. $6.99 on Kindle, but that is a 2011 edition, which I haven't read. No idea what was changed.

It speaks of a very different media world, in many ways, as far as the framing of its biases, the inverse of current views, but one must take into account the authors antique version of the left wing POV, plus the effects of the "long march". Which were already apparent in Chomsky's heyday in the 60's-80's, but were quite invisible to Chomsky.

But a lot of the mechanisms of the MSM means of influence are in there.

Char Char Binks said...

News is only fake if it comes from unauthorized sources not on accepted list at Dartmouth.

Robert Cook said...

@ Dickin'Bimbos@home:

Fake news is anything negative about poor dumped on Donald.

mockturtle said...

O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us. To see oursels as ithers see us! It wad frae mony a blunder free us...

The NYT still considers itself a valid news medium.

The Cracker Emcee Activist said...

“So, fake news about fake research based on more fake research about fake news.”

Yes. How does a person comment on something that is just blatant, self-serving, ideologically-driven dogshit? Who has any credibility anymore? That’s why I laugh when the Left pisses itself over one of Trump’s tweets. Not true? Crude? Compared to what?

Caligula said...

"But the kind of "fake news" that's in mainstream media is much more difficult to discern and defend yourself from."

Much of the bias in mainstream news is in what is or is not covered: what's on the front page/Website, what's buried way in back, what's not covered at all. That, and the "journalists" choice of adjectives that all but steer the reader/viewer into what to think about something.

The press' coverage of Clinton's email has been at best half-hearted, and coverage of evidence that the Clinton's had at least financial connections to Russia all but non-existent.

Further, many of the questionable or fake news sites don't pretend to be objective, as they present themselves as unabashed cheerleaders for this or that. Nor do they have the (fading?) prestige of legacy news organizations.

Finally, one wonders if the replication crisis in the social sciences is producing any significant change in how social scientists go about their business? At a minimum, one would think that extreme measures to avoid confirmation bias would be considered when performing work that is as obviously political as this.

chuck said...

Fake research? Let's see, "3 political scientists at Dartmouth College". Yep, probably fake. Lots of fake research comes out of colleges these days.

buwaya said...

Its interesting how, for instance, the economic news is framed. This has been noticed, of course. The disappearance of the homeless, and unemployment, from the TV news under Democratic administrations is an amusing phenomenon.

Its also interesting how little coverage there is, in CA, of the quite unprecedented amount of homelessness there is, here. It is worse than I have ever seen it even in San Francisco, though its been largely kept out of sight, albeit in massive encampments South of Market. But a little drive to those parts will reveal them to anyone.

I recall that the media would wax wroth at such misery in previous decades. If there were some political object, such as removing a conservative mayor or governor, I am sure the urgency would return.

Robert Cook said...

"This was the thrust of Noam Chomsky's 'Manufacturing Consent,' and others of that ilk."

Another "thrust" of Chomsky and Herman's argument** (if I recall correctly) is that the reporters, editors and opinion writers for the mainstream media internalize the accepted (and acceptable) assumptions of the ruling elites whose world view they're promulgating, so they often are blind to the limits and biases of what they write and publish.

**(By Chomsky's own statements, most of the book was Herman's work.)

mockturtle said...

True Fake News: 'Someone once close to the President', for instance, could mean a guy who once rode in the same elevator.

Static Ping said...

It does appear to be a research study in search of a problem, or at least it is in search of the problem it wants to find. The real issue here is how well the public is informed on important topics of the day. A source that completely makes things up but is ignored by everyone other than conspiracy theory cranks and related crackpots is not important. When a respected source like the New York Times suddenly drops a false story, that is a problem as people tend to believe the New York Times. This is like double agent spies. The spy who keeps shoveling lie after lie is ineffective unless he is dealing with idiots. The spy who provides good information over and over again and then, at the critical juncture, gives drops a lie is most likely to be believed.

Rick said...

chuck said...
Fake research? Let's see, "3 political scientists at Dartmouth College". Yep, probably fake. Lots of fake research comes out of colleges these days.


The most important fake news of our time is the assertion that more than 1 in 5 (sometimes reported as almost 1 in 4) women on college campuses are sexually assaulted. Studies don't consider this fake news though because left wing institutions created it. Essentially the process works to ensure if enough people claim to believe it it is definitionally not fake news. The result is damaging propaganda is accepted while meaningless periphery is held out as a risk to democracy.

What a farce.

mockturtle said...

Another "thrust" of Chomsky and Herman's argument** (if I recall correctly) is that the reporters, editors and opinion writers for the mainstream media internalize the accepted (and acceptable) assumptions of the ruling elites whose world view they're promulgating, so they often are blind to the limits and biases of what they write and publish.

Good point, Cookie. Media folk are not typically from the upper echelons of society but their careers often bring them into close proximity to the powerful. Not only do they unconsciously internalize their worldview but actively pursue elite status for themselves.

buwaya said...

Robert, yes of course, and more so now, as most of the producers, editors and writers share the same origins as the ruling elites. This was not so when the staff of the MSM, decades ago, were of more blue collar origins.

The ruling elites have also changed since Chomsky's day. The billionaires are different people with different ways of making and keeping fortunes, different interests, different relationships with public policy, and different world views.

Mike said...

Sad that Cook can't even admit that the authors' own definitions are laughable and effectively excuse any "mainstream" media outlet for assumed good intentions. So how does one account for the dearth of fake news that would accidentally make Trump look smarter, more effective, correct about anything? Either you understand the principle of random distribution or you don't, but you can't explain "mistakes" away that only flow in one direction. Well, you can't honestly explain them anyway.

Tim at large said...

editors and opinion writers for the mainstream media internalize the accepted (and acceptable) assumptions of the ruling elites whose world view they’re promulgating, so they often are blind to the limits and biases of what they write and publish.

You mean like your own love of so-called “net neutrality” which is really about safeguarding wealth Croesus could only dream of, for Silicon Vally billionaires, who BTW, don’t get out of Silicon Vally that much to, you know, build the infrastructure they exploit, by paying union employees, in, for example Shartlesville, PA, or Truth Or Consequences, NM to perform the actual work required?

No, these ethereal billionaires don’t come down from Olympus to scrape their knuckles on cable, or strain their backs digging, that’s for the lowly working class people that they have managed to get you to turn on.

Tim at large said...

Another “thrust" of Chomsky and Herman's argument** (if I recall correctly) is that the reporters, editors and opinion writers for the mainstream media internalize the accepted (and acceptable) assumptions of the ruling elites whose world view they're promulgating

Yeah, one only needs look at the Wikileaks emails to see how the “mainstream media” is wined and dined by the powerful, and like hungry dogs begging for biscuits, each of them wags their tail even harder to get these little moments with the rich and powerful, even sending their copy to Hillary’s campaign, for approval, which apparently gets you, not laughed out of the profession, but a prestigious job at the New York Times, Glenn Thrush. And your favors will not be forgotten either, because for some reason, the Times managed to overlook Thrush’s behavior on the whole sexual harassment thing, and bring him back. Probably after a call from Bill or Hillary.

This is why I just can’t understand why Robert Cook allies himself with this same group of people, and not with the people trying to expose them for what they are.

Robert Cook said...

"Sad that Cook can't even admit that the authors' own definitions are laughable and effectively excuse any "mainstream" media outlet for assumed good intentions."

You seem to be unfamiliar with Chomsky. He does not "excuse" the mainstream media outlets and neither does he see them as having "assumed good intentions." (Quite to the contrary.) He (and Herman) simply make the rational point that the propagandists often believe their own propaganda. Don't you think this has always been so?

They also make the point that readers of news are responsible to read what is reported critically and carefully, and not simply to accept it all as "true because it's printed."

Rick said...

This is why I just can’t understand why Robert Cook allies himself with this same group of people,

Because they want the same policies.

Robert Cook said...

"This is why I just can’t understand why Robert Cook allies himself with this same group of people, and not with the people trying to expose them for what they are."

Who is it you presume I ally myself with?

Mike said...

You seem to be unfamiliar with Chomsky.

Incorrect. I simply reject his analysis as sophomoric and unworkable in the modern era of communication. His thesis only works if the media can be effective gate-keepers. The whole thrust of this post today, in concert with the responses, is a refutation of Chomsky's outmoded thinking. That is, we KNOW journalists suck up to and are cultivated by the Powerful, but they are so bad at security that their secrets are visible to the public which takes the time to investigate.

So put your clown nose back on and write another "Fake news is anything negative about poor dumped on Donald" because that had more gravitas than dropping Chomsky's name.

Ann Althouse said...

"If satirical articles are copied and circulated out of their original context--as they have been--readers not knowing their provenance may believe them to be seriously intended articles, not satire, and may accept them as true--as has happened."

But when this happens, what gets counted as the "fake news site."

Surely, not The Onion or The New Yorker (with its "Shouts and Murmurs"). Is it the less well-known satire? Is it that some sites have dumber readers and they're less likely to pick up on the satire?

Part of satire is its initial believability.

I think the problem of not getting satire is largely self-correcting. If some dummy passes along an Onion-type article on Facebook, other people will tell him in a nice or mocking way that he screwed up. The idea that we need censorship to gum up the process (the marketplace of ideas) is just despicable. Treasonous.

Michael K said...

The billionaires are different people with different ways of making and keeping fortunes, different interests, different relationships with public policy, and different world views.

In those days, the equivalent of billionaires actually made things and had to anticipate public tastes and desires.

The only equivalents I can think of are the trusts that Roosevelt went after.

Static Ping said...

Come to think of it, comparing the media to an intelligence service does make sense. The point of both is to provide information to make decisions upon. There are obvious distinctions, but the primary purpose is very similar.

The real test of this research is to determine what the objective truth is, then see how close to reality persons are based on the news sources they use. The problem is objective truth is basically impossible to quantify these days as much of what is determined to be true by the elite (global cooling/global warming/climate change, there are dozens of genders, Iran has "moderates" in their government, etc.) are dubious at best. It would end up with those that do not subscribe to the NYT's line classified as misinformed, basically by fiat. The advantage this study has is they are using fake news that essentially everyone agrees is fake. Unfortunately, that makes the study not particularly useful either.

Ann Althouse said...

They're going to make it impossible to do good satire.

Only serious things will be permitted.

It's a greedy power move. Look who's in on it.

Tim at large said...

Who is it you presume I ally myself with?

Oh, the mask drops from time to time. Whining that Joe Wilson called proven liar Obama a liar, for example. That was a rich one.

Tim at large said...

The thing is that it was obvious that Obma was lying at that moment, and time has proven it was a lie. But Joe Wilson gets the same treatment as the little boy in The Emperor’s New Clothes.

I would just think that if you really did believe in the truth, and really do reject both parties, that somebody catching Obama in a lie would only serve to strengthen your arguments. Instead, you just can’t bring yourself. Just like Inga can’t bring herself to understand that evidence that would easily send another man to prison for forcible rape, without the judge having a qualm, exists against Bill Clinton.

Partisanship is blinding, Robert. You have it too. The nice thing about having Trump as the leader of our party is that nobody is tempted to put him on a pedestal, not even a plinth.

Robert Cook said...

"Incorrect. I simply reject his analysis as sophomoric and unworkable in the modern era of communication. His thesis only works if the media can be effective gate-keepers. The whole thrust of this post today, in concert with the responses, is a refutation of Chomsky's outmoded thinking. That is, we KNOW journalists suck up to and are cultivated by the Powerful, but they are so bad at security that their secrets are visible to the public which takes the time to investigate."

We're speaking about a book that was published in 1988, well before the public at large had much inkling that "journalists suck up to and are cultivated by the powerful." In other words, to the degree their argument is outmoded--and I believe it still has some validity, as many or most Americans still don't give much thought to the workings of the media--it is because the book reflects a world 30 years in the past. (Moreover, even at the time, there was an awareness of the media's propagandistic functioning by those concerned enough to pay attention; Chomsky and Herman's book simply explored ways in which this worked.)

exiledonmainstreet said...

"Anything false will be presumed to be "unintentional reporting mistakes."

Funny how all those "unintentional reporting mistakes" never break in Trump's favor.

Robert Cook said...

"Oh, the mask drops from time to time. Whining that Joe Wilson called proven liar Obama a liar, for example. That was a rich one."

????

What are you referring to? Joe Wilson calling Obama a liar? Obama was a liar, but I don't remember anything to do with Wilson calling him on it, or that I defended Obama. You surely don't assume I ever supported or voted for Obama, do you? He proved himself a liar before he won his first election!

I believe you have confused me with someone else.

Hey Skipper said...

[Static Ping @ 0913:] When a respected source like the New York Times suddenly drops a false story, that is a problem as people tend to believe the New York Times.

Here is a perfect example from the NYT: To Reduce Suicide Rates, New Focus Turns to Guns

(Yes, I know it is nearly four years old, I just happened to remember it.)

The national map of suicide lights up in states with the highest gun ownership rates. Wyoming, Montana and Alaska, the states with the three highest suicide rates, are also the top gun-owning states, according to the Harvard center. The state-level data are too broad to tell whether the deaths were in homes with guns, but a series of individual-level studies since the early 1990s found a direct link. Most researchers say the weight of evidence from multiple studies is that guns in the home increase the risk of suicide.

Left completely unmentioned in that news (not opinion) item was that, per attempt, men are something like 12 times as effective at committing suicide as women, and that the top gun owning states are also the ones with the highest male:female ratios.

If that story isn't fake news, nothing is.

exiledonmainstreet said...

Ann Althouse said...
They're going to make it impossible to do good satire."

Tom Wolfe said years ago that America was making it impossible to do good satire. He wrote of coming up with ideas that seemed completely over the top to him (such as bizarre college courses) only to find that reality was even wackier.

Last night, I saw Tucker Carson interviewing a black liberal professor about anti-white articles on Buzzfeed and other web sites. The professor insisted those articles were satiric and were intended to mock racism. Carson said, no, the articles were meant seriously. Now, I haven't read the Buzzfeed articles in question so I can't say. But I certainly have come across "die, whitey, die" articles that were not tongue-in-cheek at all.

Big Mike said...

It also includes many articles that originate on satirical websites but could be misunderstood as factual ...

So if someone is dumb enough to read an article in The Onion and take it to be real, and this happens twice, then everyone who goes to The Onion is guilty of deliberately reading fake news. Okaaaay. I agree with Althouse — the goal is to get rid of good satire because some people are just too dumb to get the joke.

buwaya said...

Anti-white exterminationist articles aren't new at all; the various factions of the 1960s-80s New Left had all this and more. The only new bit is that so much of this is just a mirror of what is not merely common but normative in universities among the professoriate.

The fact of politico-ethnic extremism with support in establishment circles isn't new either. Consider that the US Episcopal Church once (1970s-80s) served as the support infrastructure for gangs of Puerto Rican communist terrorists. And that is just what is well-documented.

buwaya said...

There is no doubt of the US MSMs propagandistic function.
This was evident long before "Manufacturing Consent", and even the hegemonistic structures were there. The treatment of Richard Nixon for instance, would bear some investigation. This was organized.

And Chomsky was on about the media long before that book.

The problem with Chomsky, and here I assume he was sincere, is not the what, of MSM hegemony, but the purpose of it. This was the standard old-left view of class conflict. The classes had changed, however, even in his day, and the conflicts in which the MSM was a weapon were not those of his youth.

Its as if a partisan of the Italian Risorgimento were transmuted into 1943. The landscape is the same, the argument is different.

Martin said...

"...moderately left-leaning people viewed more pro-Trump fake news than they did pro-Clinton fake news." "

This doesn't say whether it is more in absolute numbers or as a percentage of all sites visited. It may just be that moderately left leaning people (however THAT may be defined, measured, and used) visit a lot more web sites than the comparison group (whatever THAT is).

Lots of people ragged on Kellyanne Conway when she talked about "post-truth," but things like this are great examples of what she was talking about. Short of a small number of unambiguously true things, which are often almost truisms ("The sun appeared to rise in the East this morning"), EVERYTHING we see in the media is spun by somebody and sometimes several somebodies.

The White House will put out a press release (which they, of course, spin), which is then reported in the NY Times (which claims to be objective but we all know that is not the case), and then CNN and Fox each reports on the Times' analysis of the WH presser, adding their own spin. And the spins are not necessarily homogeneous--e.g., CNN or Fox will have someone write the text for the talking heads to read, but the talking heads will sometimes extemporize or use infections and expressions to add their own opinion.

So after all this, people just believe what they are already inclined to believe because even if you're willing to spend the time, how do you penetrate all the layers of spin, dissembling, lying, false context, subtle hints, etc.? Your only hope is to look for broad patterns that might suggest certain spins are more or less likely to be true, but you're still largely in your own head...

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Lessee. We got:
.."behavioral scientists"
..doing "studies"
..a media story in the media
.."Health" section of the NYT.

Pass, thanks.

Martin said...

"...moderately left-leaning people viewed more pro-Trump fake news than they did pro-Clinton fake news." "

This doesn't say whether it is more in absolute numbers or as a percentage of all sites visited. It may just be that moderately left leaning people (however THAT may be defined, measured, and used) visit a lot more web sites than the comparison group (whatever THAT is).

Lots of people ragged on Kellyanne Conway when she talked about "post-truth," but things like this are great examples of what she was talking about. Short of a small number of unambiguously true things, which are often almost truisms ("The sun appeared to rise in the East this morning"), EVERYTHING we see in the media is spun by somebody and sometimes several somebodies.

The White House will put out a press release (which they, of course, spin), which is then reported in the NY Times (which claims to be objective but we all know that is not the case), and then CNN and Fox each reports on the Times' analysis of the WH presser, adding their own spin. And the spins are not necessarily homogeneous--e.g., CNN or Fox will have someone write the text for the talking heads to read, but the talking heads will sometimes extemporize or use infections and expressions to add their own opinion.

So after all this, people just believe what they are already inclined to believe because even if you're willing to spend the time, how do you penetrate all the layers of spin, dissembling, lying, false context, subtle hints, etc.? Your only hope is to look for broad patterns that might suggest certain spins are more or less likely to be true, but you're still largely in your own head...

Big Mike said...

Meanwhile, Allcott & Gentzkow exclude as fake news:

unintentional reporting mistakes, such as a recent incorrect report that Donald Trump had removed a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office in the White House;

conspiracy theories;

false statements by politicians; and

reports that are slanted or misleading.


I am not the first (nor even the millionth) person to note that when all or nearly all the “unintentional” reporting run in one and only one direction, it definitely stretches the definition of the word. And ignoring wild-eyed conspiracy theories like the Trump-Russia collusion story lets a lot of what has been written in the Times and Post and reported on CNN, ABC, NBC, and CBS get treated as “not fake.” Rule out slanted and misleading reports and it seems to me that Allcott and Gentzkow are accepting a lot of fakery in the non-fake side of things. Here’s a thought experiment for folks, what if these four categories were added to fake news? Would there be any reporting anywhere in the United States besides election results, obituaries, and box scores from sporting events?

Tim at large said...

No, I don't Robert. But if you choose to deny that you were upset that Wilson called Obama a liar, that's fine. I won't search it up.

n.n said...

The Sasquatch has been seen publishing at The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and other legacy media.

Robert Cook said...

I deny it until you can show me what I said and when. Otherwise, I must assume and will repeat you have confused me with someone else.

That said, even someone one deplores--as I deplored Obama--may be defended against lies told about him. I certainly haven't a scintilla of respect or liking for Trump, a shit if there ever was one, but I have publicly "defended" him against the accusations he colluded with the Russians to throw the election. There have been months of accusations and no evidence of any kind provided to support the claims. I see it as sour scapegoating by the vile Hillary Clinton, who cannot accept she lost to the crass and ignorant Trump. In fact, a story was published by New York Magazine that asserts what I always believed throughout the campaign: Trump did not really expect or want to win the election.

Is this story accurate and true? I don't know, but it's believable to me. We'll see if the fact-checkers and others who want to refute the story will be able to impeach it.

Rusty said...

chuck said...
"Fake research? Let's see, "3 political scientists at Dartmouth College". Yep, probably fake. Lots of fake research comes out of colleges these days"

No. The operative phrase is "political scientists" . Like politics is a science or something. Political scientist is just one step from casting bones and letting blood.

Char Char Binks said...

The onion has famously fooled several MSM organs over the years, mostly before becoming famous itself, and that helped spread its fan.

Char Char Binks said...

fame

Tim at large said...

Pretzel logic.

Trump didn’t even want to win, but he colluded with Russia. I guess it was his “insurance policy,” so he would be impeached, if he did happen to win.

Darrell said...

Reporters at the NYT, WaPo, CNN, and MSNBC are being told to write negative stories about Trump BEFORE the get the assignment--the topic. Sounds fair to me and not at all fake.

Spaceman said...

The Fake News sites are listed on Page S-7 of the Dartmouth study. Of note is the study had a Jan 3, 2018 issue date (after the NYT article issue).

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~nyhan/fake-news-2016.pdf

There were 90 pro-Trump Fake News sites compared to 5 pro-Clinton Fake News sites. Interestingly ABC news and Buzzfeed are classified as pro-Trump Fake News sites.

Big Mike said...

Buzzfeed???