Nine Quotes From Really Smart People On The Topic of Fake News

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a panel titled “The Role of the PR Practitioner in the Era of Fake News” that was arranged and hosted by the Detroit chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

As a PR practitioner and concerned citizen, fake news is always on my mind. It’s a topic that is not going away and will only gain more scrutiny as we go through more election cycles and continue to rely on our Facebook friends to tell us what is happening in our communities.

I consider it my duty to tell friends and family members they are sharing fake news when it warrants, even if it means I sound like a jerk. The ability for the media to remain trusted and relevant is important for the public, and not just because my job sort of depends on it.

A free and fair media is a core tenet our country was founded on and I want to fight for it.

So, when I heard about this panel, it was not a difficult decision to attend, and I’m glad I did.

On the panel was Ron Fournier, editor, Crain’s Detroit Business (and fellow University of Detroit-Mercy alum!); Matt Friedman, co-founder of Tanner Friedman; and Taylar Kobylas, a PR professional who works for Finn Partners in Detroit.

What follows are nine quotes I tweeted during the panel, from the panelists, that accurately sum up the gist of the discussion. For the record, I will be using the term “cognitive miser” as much as possible in everyday discussions.

“People are cognitive misers. We use pre-existing cognitive beliefs to decide what information to accept or reject.”

“In this day, when the truth is pragmatic, it’s important to tell people there is another way to think about it (the truth).”

“Fake news is not new. What’s changed is the media and how we consume news.”

“Fake facts are being pushed on the public. Those who can say it’s fake (the media) have been discredited.”

“If all we talk about is how excited we are to leverage synergies, how can we (PR pros) earn the public’s trust?”

“Nobody should get their news from social media, they should get their news via social media.”

“We have to learn to be intellectual gleaners and have the courage to confront our biases.”

“Cable news has become pro wrestling.”

“Fake news is a social issue. We have to decide, as a people, to be skeptical.”

We Are All Trolls

Wikipedia defines an online troll as “someone who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people…with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response.”

If that’s all it takes to be labeled a troll, you would be hard-pressed to find someone on the Internet who doesn’t act like one.

They are everywhere.

Here are just a few examples:

The anonymous eggs on Twitter who support Mike Pence’s stance to never eat dinner alone with a woman, or attend an event where alcohol is served, without his wife by his side.

The Facebook users who take time out of their busy days to start flame wars with other Facebook users in the comments section of the Detroit Free Press.

Heck, I’m acting troll-ish every time I post something negative about the president on my Facebook page. I don’t do it to bring attention to his ineptitude so much as I do it to bring his supporters out of hiding so that we can get into an honest-to-goodness discussion on the Internet about their justification for supporting him.

I know it’s not a great look, but it’s what these past 103 days have driven me to: acting like a troll.

I need clarity. I need to understand why people I’ve known my whole life have vastly different views than I do on what it takes to lead a country.

To get to that point, I’m willing to troll my friends into an emotional response.

Am I doing it right?

Donald Trump Saved Twitter

If there is one good thing to come out of Donald Trump becoming our president, it’s the fact he may have singlehandedly saved Twitter.

According to Variety, Twitter blew away Wall Street expectations in Q1, netting nine million new monthly users in the quarter, which was it’s biggest gain in two years.

Coincidentally, this timeline represents Trump’s first three months in office.

While the article doesn’t explicitly list the reasons for this accomplishment, I think part of the reason for the bump in users is that many people view Twitter as a virtual water cooler where they can assemble with like-minded people and discuss how disgusted they are with the current president.

Couple that with the fact many journalists use Twitter as a repository for their stories and story outtakes that paint Trump in a negative light, and you start to see why Twitter is thriving right now.

More people are signing up to use the service because Twitter is where the conversation is taking place, and many people (including myself) feel it’s too important of a conversation to not participate. Yeah, my anxiety levels are a bit higher when I spend too much time on Twitter, but I can’t look away. And, it seems, neither can the millions of new users.

The rush to stay informed is driven by one man who has never wavered in his approach to using Twitter. No one or no country is safe from his verbal attacks.

Do you want to get a sense for what is really going on in the president’s mind? Go read his tweets.

For a man who thrives on positive coverage, he has figured out the quickest way to making the news is to circumvent the news altogether, and nobody can look away.

How’s that for ratings?

Ignoring The Elephant In The Room Has Consequences

My friends and I have one topic that is off-limits in our group texts: politics.

We are free to talk about literally anything else (and believe me, we do) except the current state of the country.

This rule has never been laid out as a prerequisite to participate in group chats, but it exists unsaid to discourage discussion that can lead to words and phrases that good friends should never say to each other.

In short: We put it in place to retain our friendships.

Occasionally, I will push the envelope by bringing up a benign topic with a hint of politics. The latest example is when President Trump declined to throw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals home opener. I thought it was a nice segue into something greater, but that’s about as far as I’m willing to push the envelope. I know from experience it never ends well if we get serious. Even if potentially embarrassing pictures of the Commander in Chief exist, we’ll have a good laugh and move on to something else; something less important than the culture we will one day relinquish to our kids.

And you know what? I was fine with this unwritten rule in the days immediately after the election. Some of us were still reeling. Others were celebrating. There was no middle ground. It was necessary to refrain while the wounds were still raw. But over time, that enormous, unavoidable elephant in the room began to loom larger. Every time I talked about something unimportant (in the grand scheme of things) I couldn’t help but wonder if I was delaying an important discussion around what really matters.

As we are now nearly 100 days into the Trump Administration, one thing is clear: I am not going to change anyone’s mind through discussion, let alone text messaging. People who I disagree with won’t listen to other viewpoints. They are stuck in their ways. This type of thinking makes it harder to maintain relationships, especially now.

At the same time, I want to remain sympathetic to what spurs my friends to make the decisions they make. I want to understand their hopes and fears. That’s what friends do. But we can’t do that when certain topics remain off-limits because we are afraid of the outcome. Isn’t that sometimes the whole point of having difficult conversations?

It’s ironic that a rule put in place between friends to keep the status quo might end up being the one thing that drives us apart.

We can’t enrich relationships if we’re avoiding what really matters.

We must take the time to really listen what our loved ones have to say. It’s the only way we will overcome.


Stupidity Is Ruling The Day

After last week’s meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping, Donald Trump claimed that Korea was once a part of China.

He really said that.

And, it’s certifiably false.

Trump saying that would be like me saying Michigan was once a part of Africa.

There is absolutely no truth behind it.

Yet, a lot of people in this country are, maybe not willing to back up the president’s false claims, but are okay with him making these falsities because they don’t see the danger. They fail to see how a person in power telling constant lies is a bad thing if that person claims he is bringing back jobs.

They hear him talk, then roll their eyes and laugh it off, like they would if their son or daughter said something inappropriate in front of mommy or daddy’s boss.

There are far worse things to happen than our president tweeting rumor and innuendo, they think. But what they fail to realize is that it starts at the top.

Our country, in its best times, mimics the way our leaders carry themselves. Once upon a time, that meant grace and common sense ruled the day, even if there were occasional missteps. Everyone could expect, at the very least, our president would come off as capable.

But in 2017, every expectation has been thrown out the window, even the one that demands truth.