When Fake News is Just Propaganda

We should call fake news what it really is most of the time: propaganda.

Fake news is a lie. But the term mistakenly seems like a lighthearted/entertaining way of describing fictional content based on a few truths that are familiar — or riffing on our own preexisting opinions. 

No way. Fake news can be used to coerce, cause mischief, and keep one in their echo chamber.

Calling any bit of news content “propaganda” is more menacing. The idea is typically linked to governments that looking for sway or control over its citizenry. Banana republics, as well as more established countries in Eastern Europe, still work on this premise.

In the Eastern Europe country of Macedonia, one enterprising young person is responsible for more than 140 pseudo-U.S.political Web sites all looking to cause havoc. Terrorist journalism to some; I call it propaganda.

For a U.S. media organization -- TV, print, or digital-based (and no doubt there are overlaps here) -- this is their opportunity to make a real difference.



And then there is the social-media-platform-of-your-choice option. It's offered so everyone can have a "voice." That would be good — if and only if — those “voices” have some straightforward intentions.

How can the average person vet any of this? As usual, news readers need to figure out who is quoted, hopefully on the record, as well as determining the validity of other sources cited. Then, they have to check the claims against other media organizations.

Maybe you find nothing; or a little something. Then go back and re-check. Takes work, huh? Yep.

In contrast to all this, TV news networks could make content much more valuable in the coming years -- doing deeper journalism than ever before. This would go a long way to maintain some of that high viewership obtained during the recent election season.

It would also be beneficial for business -- and retain advertisers buying lots of news TV inventory commercials.

The betting is President-elect Trump might have far fewer press conferences than President Obama -- which will mean only one thing: Those now famous, loud and controversial Trump tweets --- with plenty of fact-free content -- will continue to proliferate. No journalistic balance at all -- from Right or Left.

What's at stake? The importance of a free press, one that speaks truth to power. So will you be calling any of this future digital content just “voices”  or propaganda?

3 comments about "When Fake News is Just Propaganda".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 20, 2016 at 10:39 a.m.

    Agreed, Wayne. Just like the fake "opinion" pieces we see all the time which are little more than ads or propaganda tracts favoring an outcome in which the writer has a vested interest.

  2. Alvin Silk from Harvard Business School, December 20, 2016 at 2:36 p.m.

    Wayne Friedman begins  by asserting that "fake news" is "really" just  propanda," "most of the time." He consludes by asking: "What's at stake?" How about the do ctrine of "permissible puffery" in advertising? Repition of political rhetoric (often inspired and/or created by advertising professinals?) is  a stnadard feature of "news" reports. As such, doesn't "new cntent" serve to "coerce, cause mischief, and keep one in their echo chamber"?

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, December 20, 2016 at 7:36 p.m.

    Tears of the clown will be pouring in when the checks stop and a lot of people die due to policies coming. Will the press due their due dilgence and report correctly or give in to this dangerous reality show ?

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