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On Facebook Fake News or Why Zuck Should Probably Brush the Dust Off That History Text

The language below is from the official “Office of the Historian”1)Yes a .gov page describing “Yellow Journalism”..I may have omitted a few terms

U.S. Diplomacy and Yellow Journalism, ____–_____

Yellow journalism was a style of newspaper reporting that emphasized sensationalism over facts. During its heyday in the late _____ century it was one of many factors that helped push the United States and _____ into war in _____ and the _______, leading to the acquisition of overseas territory by the United States.

What century is that from?

Ok fancy pants, so you knew that was from the end of the 19th Century regarding the Spanish-American War, eh? But can you tell me when this is from?

..We can only hope to contain you, it’s true.

One more media file before we get going, just in case you haven’t seen it cited in the social media. The kids over at the Buzzfeed produced some data journalism that have some put folks in a tizzy:

There are enough people earnestly engaging with gall of even publishing a chart2)Source like this on many different platforms. Check them out if you are so inclined.

I wish I found it more interesting.

Remember kids, your data output is only as good as your model3)Here’s lookin’ at you, Mook. And there is a lot to question about the methodology here, namely:  1. Relying upon averages, & 2. How journalism is classified as “mainstream” vs. “fake”4)A quick word on this…this silliness that was all the rage during election season and this is nothing against those cats that found a way to profit over the public’s growing demand for an arbiter to determine what is really true and what isn’t…it just isn’t that simple most of the time. And it is time honest about it. Let’s use these facebook news stories as an example that proves the heuristic. Some stories are easily to tell that they are “fake”..We can find out through a search of major media organizations if the Pope endorsed an American candidate for President. Fine, throw that one on the “fake” pile. And seriously facebook, the public isn’t unreasonable to expect this nonsense not to appear.Let’s try an assertion even a little more complicated: Crime is going up. This is both “Mainstream” and “Fake” depending upon where it was published, what time frame it is referring to, what geographical area it emcombasses, and more variables I haven’t listed. And it only gets worse the more complicated an assertion you try to make. This is why reputation matters so! Overall, I contend “Fake” vs. “Mainstream” unless only referring to platforms (which seems eliteset, especially coming from Buzzfeed) is just too broad of a framework to be helpful.

What if I was to tell you dishonest journalism did not come into inception with Snapchat, and that a short trip in the Way-back5)Tm pending machine might be a little beneficial (I promise there will be pictures!)

Facebook Ain’t No New York Journal; Zuck Ain’t Got Nothing on Our Boy Willie Hearst

All I keep hearing is how no one wants to buy newspapers anymore6)This has taken an interesting turn in the previous week, yet they keep printing the same content in the same format, achieving the same failure.

Let me take you back to the golden age of News-o-tainment, the 1890s, to the newspaper wars between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst:

facebook fake news

..Would you be more inclined to pick up something that resembled that at your local newsstand? 7)More on the “yellow kid” depicted above. The illustrator saw him as Lucky-Rascal type, “The Yellow Kid was not an individual but a type…When I used to go about the slums on newspaper assignments I would encounter him often, wandering out of doorways or sitting down on dirty doorsteps. I always loved the Kid. He had a sweet character and a sunny disposition.”[Source] Contrary to popular myth, “yellow journalism” is not a reference to the rival “yellow kids” in the rival New York papers. It actually refers to the yellow text. Best part? They had to stop using the yellow text after using said text to turn the American public against the Spanish occupation of Cuba. Google the Spanish flag if that doesn;t make sense.

Fake/sensationalist news has been around for decades before Al Gore..One could reasonably contend that so long as there has been the printed word, there likely has been the falsely-printed word.

The 1890s were the heyday for such printed content as the rival electronic mediums that would take newspaper’s market share in the 20th century had not come to fruition.

The rivalry between Hearst and Pulitzer is the most notorious of the “Yellow Journalism.”

At first, the competition was innocuous. Pulitzer first commissioned R.F. Outcault to draw “the yellow kid”in 18938)Above, but the sales of his paper didn’t go viral until the comics were published in color in 18959)which of course, he had to do to keep up with Hearst

But this wasn’t the only way the publishers attracted more sales. The intense competition for sales lead the publishers to produce more and more salacious content. Specifically, each began publishing headlines encouraging the American public to support a military excursion into Spanish-occupied Cuba:

facebook fake news

Talk about a noble addition to our civic debate!

Willie, you wanna take a shot at this?

facebook fake news

10)SourceMy man! Not a bad effort at all.

As the loyal Americans I know my readers are11)We love our English/Japanese/Australian readers too! [And others if you let me know], if someone showed you those pieces of paper, you would be outraged! And rightfully so!

If the truth can set us free, does a half-truth make us half free? Or is truth more of an all-or-nothing proposition, like being “wet”?12)Have you ever been half-wet? Bet not.

I would contend we would be better off with no information at all because all a half-truth does is bias you. And now that you are biased, you are unable to make an honest assessment.13)I am far from the only person that believes this. Nassim Taleb’s books are all about this.

It is hard to imagine what type of society we had 100 years ago that was demanding such salacious material; there’s just no means that we would be relate to those circumstances in any way.

None at all:

Yellow journalism was a product of a lusty, fiercely competitive, and intolerant time, when editors were known to shoot editors, when editors were shot by their readers, and when newspapers almost casually traded brickbats and insults. The latter practice was remarkably well-developed at the end of the nineteenth century…

More generally, yellow journalism reflected the brashness and the widely perceived hurried pace of urban America  at the turn of the twentieth century. It was a lively, provocative, swaggering style of journalism well suited to an innovative and expansive time – a period when the United States first projected its military power beyond the Western Hemisphere in a sustained manner.

The recognition was widespread at the end of the nineteenth century that the country was on the cusp of rapid, perhaps even disruptive transformation. For example, the demographic profile had begun to swing from predominantly rural to largely urban; the population of U.S. cities expanded by nearly one third during the 1890s, growth fueled in measure by incipient immigration from central, southern, and eastern Europe.

The sense of change at the end of the nineteenth century went well beyond demography, however. It was more profound, more elemental.”Political, commercial, social, artistic and religious customs and thoughts that have stood for many years – some for many centuries – are yielding place to new more rapidly than they have for many generations past,” one commentator wrote in the spring of 1898. “Scientific discovery, popular education, free thought and business enterprise are all factors in the change.”

“Scientific discovery” seemed to have annihilated time and space. “Space is no intervention now between communication,” an editorial writer in Cincinnati marveled in 1900. “[N]ot only do the wires of copper bind the world together in closer communication, but with the telephone it is possible to converse with friends a thousand miles away, hearing distinctly every word and recognizing the individual voice. Closer acquaintance has thus wrought vast changes in public opinions and policies. The entire civilized world has been drawn more closely together, old ideas and prejudices have been wiped out.”(all emphasis added)

..And here I thought J.D. Vance was are only resource going forward. What was that silly line from Battlestar? Something about things happening before, then again and again..I forget.14)My gosh, in case you aren’t filled to the brim with 19th century ironies, look at Campbell’s list of “Defining Characteristics” of yellow journalism: “the frequent use of multicolumn (sic) headlines that sometimes stretched across the front page, a variety of topics reported on the front page, including news of politics, war, international diplomacy, sports, and society, the generous and imaginative use of illustrations, including photographs and other graphic representations such as locator maps, bold and experimental layouts, including those in which one report and illustration would dominate the front page Such layouts sometimes were enhanced by the use of color, a tendency to rely on anonymous sources, particularly in dispatches of leading reporters (such as James Creelman, who wrote for the Journal and the World), a penchant for self-promotion, to call attention eagerly to the paper’s accomplishments. This tendency was notably evident in crusades against monopolies and municipal corruption.” I for one, can’t handle much more cognitive dissonance..

And I am happy to report that there was a course correction in terms of the veracity of what the papers published.

Although the newspapers got more and more sensational/yellow, even after being accused of pushing the country into the Spanish-American War, the assassination of President McKinley finally caused the industry to change.

This is where your boy Zuck wants to start paying attention because it was his 19th century corollary, Willie Hearst, that got blamed.

Whether it was fair or not.

William Hearst’s New York World published the following editorial 20 months before President McKinley’s death:

“Institutions, like men, will last until they die; and if bad institutions and bad men can be got rid of only by killing, then the killing must be done.”

Wanna guess who got blamed after-the-fact? Good lord, Willie..

It’s important not to get stuck in the weeds with these facts15)Common issue with my reading on the topic. The fact that the editorial (there were more than 1 like this) appeared more than a year before the assassination doesn’t matter. The fact that the steelworker that killed President Mckinley didn’t speak English doesn’t matter either.

If the public thinketh, therefore it is. 

And did his friends in the publishing industry made sure to hammer home what the public was thinking! The entire country was covered in “Letters to the Editor” expressing citizen’s anger with Hearst profiting off the death of a President.

Not to mention the cartoonists.

Sure, his company grew, but William Hearst had much larger ambitions than that. He would go on to lose 3 New York Mayor/Governor races in the coming decade.

Hearst could just not overcome those “yellow” accusations16)“I thought you said we were done with irony”.

Speaking of big ambitions, there’s no way Zuck could overcome a similar situation. And given how many people are blaming Facebook17)Why is this happening by the way? What does it say about us all that so many of our fellow citizens are so interested in dishonest bile? Isn’t a better question why we have a culture that this is receptive in? We can’t stop lies; they just find new mediums to express themselves. The reasonable alternative is to empower people to identify nonsense on its face. A good example would be raising a kid in a big city, like New York. New York is nice but also dangerous in some parts. If you needed to live in New York (for work) and wanted to raise small children, you would go through this same analysis. There is no way the city will be able to use regulation/public policy to rid themselves completely of all danger. It’s just too big(like the internet). There is too much we cannot control. We can teach our kids strategies to be safe though: Stay in crowds, stay in lighted areas, avoid seedy areas too late at night, etc. We need to do the same with our children regarding information veracity. For example, if the source of your facebook news story is The Santa Fe Guardian(As far as I know this is not real) and you have never heard of such a thing, be skeptical! For example, if the outcome reported is absurd, get a second source. And so on. for an election, just imagine the anger if something more serious occurred.

Plausible deniability only helps you so much as it is plausible. And unfortunately for Zuck, that determination will be made with a mob mentality when the time comes.

In this era of hyper-globalization, it is not just political ambitions at risk either. Crazy how fast you can lose a billion dollars these days..

It’d be worth the time for facebook people to see how Joseph Pulitzer spent the last 10 years of his life after President McKinley’s assassination (There’s a good reason the journalism prize is named after him).

So yes, there are plenty of socially beneficial reasons for Zuck to ensure facebook is not publishing fake news, but he has plenty of selfish motives to as well.

The sooner he comes to that realization, the better off we’ll all be.

 

On Facebook Fake News or Why Zuck Should Probably Brush the Dust Off That History Text by

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Yes a .gov
2. Source
3. Here’s lookin’ at you, Mook
4. A quick word on this…this silliness that was all the rage during election season and this is nothing against those cats that found a way to profit over the public’s growing demand for an arbiter to determine what is really true and what isn’t…it just isn’t that simple most of the time. And it is time honest about it. Let’s use these facebook news stories as an example that proves the heuristic. Some stories are easily to tell that they are “fake”..We can find out through a search of major media organizations if the Pope endorsed an American candidate for President. Fine, throw that one on the “fake” pile. And seriously facebook, the public isn’t unreasonable to expect this nonsense not to appear.Let’s try an assertion even a little more complicated: Crime is going up. This is both “Mainstream” and “Fake” depending upon where it was published, what time frame it is referring to, what geographical area it emcombasses, and more variables I haven’t listed. And it only gets worse the more complicated an assertion you try to make. This is why reputation matters so! Overall, I contend “Fake” vs. “Mainstream” unless only referring to platforms (which seems eliteset, especially coming from Buzzfeed) is just too broad of a framework to be helpful.
5. Tm pending
6. This has taken an interesting turn in the previous week
7. More on the “yellow kid” depicted above. The illustrator saw him as Lucky-Rascal type, “The Yellow Kid was not an individual but a type…When I used to go about the slums on newspaper assignments I would encounter him often, wandering out of doorways or sitting down on dirty doorsteps. I always loved the Kid. He had a sweet character and a sunny disposition.”[Source] Contrary to popular myth, “yellow journalism” is not a reference to the rival “yellow kids” in the rival New York papers. It actually refers to the yellow text. Best part? They had to stop using the yellow text after using said text to turn the American public against the Spanish occupation of Cuba. Google the Spanish flag if that doesn;t make sense.
8. Above
9. which of course, he had to do to keep up with Hearst
10. Source
11. We love our English/Japanese/Australian readers too! [And others if you let me know]
12. Have you ever been half-wet? Bet not.
13. I am far from the only person that believes this. Nassim Taleb’s books are all about this.
14. My gosh, in case you aren’t filled to the brim with 19th century ironies, look at Campbell’s list of “Defining Characteristics” of yellow journalism: “the frequent use of multicolumn (sic) headlines that sometimes stretched across the front page, a variety of topics reported on the front page, including news of politics, war, international diplomacy, sports, and society, the generous and imaginative use of illustrations, including photographs and other graphic representations such as locator maps, bold and experimental layouts, including those in which one report and illustration would dominate the front page Such layouts sometimes were enhanced by the use of color, a tendency to rely on anonymous sources, particularly in dispatches of leading reporters (such as James Creelman, who wrote for the Journal and the World), a penchant for self-promotion, to call attention eagerly to the paper’s accomplishments. This tendency was notably evident in crusades against monopolies and municipal corruption.” I for one, can’t handle much more cognitive dissonance..
15. Common issue with my reading on the topic
16. “I thought you said we were done with irony”
17. Why is this happening by the way? What does it say about us all that so many of our fellow citizens are so interested in dishonest bile? Isn’t a better question why we have a culture that this is receptive in? We can’t stop lies; they just find new mediums to express themselves. The reasonable alternative is to empower people to identify nonsense on its face. A good example would be raising a kid in a big city, like New York. New York is nice but also dangerous in some parts. If you needed to live in New York (for work) and wanted to raise small children, you would go through this same analysis. There is no way the city will be able to use regulation/public policy to rid themselves completely of all danger. It’s just too big(like the internet). There is too much we cannot control. We can teach our kids strategies to be safe though: Stay in crowds, stay in lighted areas, avoid seedy areas too late at night, etc. We need to do the same with our children regarding information veracity. For example, if the source of your facebook news story is The Santa Fe Guardian(As far as I know this is not real) and you have never heard of such a thing, be skeptical! For example, if the outcome reported is absurd, get a second source. And so on.