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article imageOp-Ed: Fake news, child psychology, and fixes for fake news?

By Paul Wallis     Aug 16, 2018 in Politics
Cleveland - New research has found a few facts about fake news, and why it’s believed. It’s a scary bit of information, but very important fundamental research. There might even be ways to finally defeat fake news.
The research was conducted by Kent State University and other colleges, and it’s one hell of an insight in to some of humanity’s most bizarre beliefs. It’s the development of thought processes and beliefs, starting in childhood, which is at the centre of the acceptance of fake news. According to the research, these processes are the creators of existing beliefs. When confronted by fake news, information which confirms those beliefs is more acceptable.
This is such an important process that the mind is described as “hardwired” to core beliefs. The hardwiring will even distort information seen to be threatening to the beliefs.
A much less obvious, but truly scary, additional process is the childhood learning of how to pretend. This seemingly innocent learning allows people self-deceive. You wouldn’t, for example, think that playing house would create a belief system, but it does, both directly and indirectly. That, in turn, creates a whole range of norms, which of course become beliefs in social values.
What you grow up learning is the unavoidable basis of what you believe. You might be able to change it, modify it, or even reject it, but as the basis of belief, it’s the obstacle to overcome. It makes sense. Confirmation of beliefs is reassuring, non-threatening, and simple.
The development of critical thinking, and questioning beliefs learned in childhood is the next stage. This is a mixed bag of rationalizations, compromises, and effectively becomes ingrained behaviour. Beliefs may be modified a bit, but are no longer questioned. Therefore, any confirmation, from any source, meets no resistance or critical analysis.
You can see the pure cynicism, and exploitation value, of fake news. People may believe anything which confirms their core beliefs. The most bizarre fake news is accepted, and may be even endorsed or propagated, as an expression of belief, even if that belief is subconscious.
Fake news is a strange thing. The level of acceptance is exceptional. So is the total lack of criticism or checking facts. Even when the most grotesque conspiracies are “outed”, and absolutely nothing is done about them, the fake news is believed and supported in the face of any amount of factual contradiction.
Think of the truly whacko fake news over the years, like Pizzagate, Birthers, global warming denial by totally unqualified people, etc., etc., These fake news items are routinely stated as gospel truth by politicians, political flunkeys, and generally dubious individuals of all stripes. Despite any information whatsoever to support the various claims, they confirm beliefs.
You have to wonder exactly what these beliefs are, and wonder about how selective they are. Can just anyone be accused of operating a pedophile ring because they operate a pizza chain? No. Only political enemies. Does everyone have their birth certificate questioned? No. Only a political opponent. Can anyone contradict qualified people in their areas of expertise? Only when it relates to fossil fuels and polluters.
The fixes for fake news?
The fixes are interesting, because they involve some very effective types of thinking:
Humor: Humor IS logic. The joke is a logical development of the narrative. It’s a way of seeing a situation. Humor gives insights, and different perspectives. Satire may not change your views, but it does make you assess the subjects. Many a true word spoken in jest, in fact. Humor also reduces stress levels, a valuable asset in so many stressful situation caused by fake news.
Critical thinking: Tougher than humor, and it has to be practiced and learned, but it’s easy enough to learn the basics, critical thinking involves analysis of your own thinking. Question information, check out facts for yourself. Challenging, but worth doing.
Not related to the study, but another fix is available, too:
The fake news generator: Why wait for fake news? You don’t need Old Media any more. You don't need to pay for it, either. The fake news generator can do it all for you. Use it to manipulate people, annoy your friends, and make BS great again.
You’ll notice I’ve left out the self-driven fixes for fake news:
Think for yourself: In a world of total disinformation, why in the name of lost publicists do you believe a word you see or hear without checking?
Try not being an idiot: Imagine 7.6 billion people suddenly not being idiots.
See politicians and fanatics for what they are: Noisy empty spaces with no substance, believing in their bank accounts.
Believe is really what you’re prepared to trust as being true: You’ll be surprised how easy that is, and how few things you really trust, or believe.
Believe in yourself: If you can, it’s a major achievement.
The problem with fake news is that it is fake, and life isn’t fake. Fake news is for fake people, fake societies, and fake ideologies. It serves no useful purpose, it’s propaganda, and it’s invariably wrong. Sufficient incentive?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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