Monday, May 1, 2017

The Discovery Institute 'Trumping' Fake News -- with Fake News

The Discovery Institute (DI) is starting to use the phrase 'Fake News' to label news articles they disagree with -- no matter how true the article may be . . . sound like someone else we all know.  In "Houston Chronicle, We’ve Got a Problem: Meet Fake News Reporter Andrea Zelinski" the DI refers to an experienced and award-winning reporter, Andrea Zelinski, as a 'fake news reporter.  What was her crime, nothing more than writing a story that the DI didn't like.
They say:
"Zelinski’s articles portrayed the science standards battle as a struggle to introduce creationism or intelligent design into Texas’s science curriculum."
As odd as it sounds, there are two definitions of 'fake news'.  Before very recent events 'fake news' was a term defined as the deliberate falsification of the news, the use of misinformation or the spreading of hoaxes.  Sites like Breitbart News and shows like the O'Reilly Factor were good examples of shows less interested in facts and more interested in bombast and sensationalism.  While some 'fake news' of this type was created for satire (The Onion, for example), much of it serves other purposes, such as marketing discredited ideas as if they were credible.

In recent months 'fake news' has also come to be used as a label making claims that a valid new article is untrue.  It has become a favorite term of a certain hamster-haired misogynist serial liar and his supporters. While it includes the word 'fake', people who apply that label tend to using it to claim a truthful, but damaging to them, story is false.  The reality seems have become that when something is labeled as 'fake news' is really means the opposite.

So which is it in this instance, is Zelinski a 'fake news reporter'?  To make that determination, we have to decide if calling the whole tactic of using re-worded science standards primarily a way of introducing Creationism into the science curriculum?

The wording was introduced in Texas under the auspices of none other than Don McLeroy, an avowed Creationist when he was the President of the Texas State Board of Education.  Before this time, he was very public in his religious views, particular in disavowing evolution, regardless of the scientific support. Just last week he even responded to one of my posts (And The Whining and Spinning About Texas Is On!), showing that he still hasn't learned anything about real science.

So, Don pushes for Creationism and doesn't get very far until he teams up with the Discovery Institute whose reason for living is pretty close to Don's.  Read the Wedge Strategy document if you think they are after something different than Don.  Don even invited two of them to 'help' draft the new science standards.

The Discovery Institute has been conducting a number of campaigns, all with the same goal (my underlines):
"The overarching goal of the Institute in conducting the intelligent design campaigns is religious; to replace science with "a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions." (Wikipedia: Wedge Strategy)
"None of the campaigns are aimed at directly influencing the scientific community . . . but rather are focused on swaying the opinions of the public and public policy makers, which, if effective, it is hoped will respond by forcing the academic institutions supporting the scientific community to accept the Discovery Institute's redefinition of science. Public high school science curricula has been the most common and visible target of the campaigns, with the Institute publishing its own model lesson plan, the Critical Analysis of Evolution." (Wikipedia:  Intelligent Design Campaigns)
So, a reporter, actually one of many reporters, in reporting the facts -- ties the changes to the science curriculum with ongoing efforts to replace science with religion . . . and the DI calls that 'fake news'.  Changing the wording that had been in place since 2009 has the opposite effect, as Zelinski put it:
"SBOE gives final OK to curb creationism language in science standards"
If the reporter really was reporting something false, the reporter, the publisher, and the owners of the newspaper would be open for a libel suit, but instead the DI simply tries to tell people that the reporter isn't reporting the truth . . . but the reality is not only is the reporter reporting the truth, but the reporter is reporting  the truth the Discovery Institute would rather like not to be reported (say that ten times real fast!).  They always hate when anyone reminds the world of their religion.  So the DI created a bit of 'fake news' of their own, by calling this report a 'fake news reporter'.

People now have to develop a new set of skills -- how to determine if a news source, particularly an online news source, is telling them anything resembling facts.  I try and use the old-fashioned method of checking the sources.  I rarely take anything a news source says at face value, I want to check multiple sources and validate the information the news source used.

For example, if I read news someone posted on Facebook, I am not only going to follow the link provided, but I am going to Google the pertinent parts of the story.  All too often links from Facebook are to fake news sites, nearly always ones that agree with the Facebook poster's personal philosophies.  What I am looking for are more objective links to sources that are more news than views.  The original poster usually posts the link without ever checking the validity of the information.

You might want to check out "News Bias . . . Yes, this is a real thing!"  We discussed the objectivity of various news sites a few months back.   Real reporters, like Andrea Zelinski, can help by doing exactly what they are doing -- their best to accurately report the news!  Just because you read something that agrees or disagrees with your opinions doesn't automatically make it true or false!  If you don't think this is am important skill to have, look at the 2016 election!  As Nancy Pelosi said recently about George W. Bush:
“I never thought I would pray for the day that you were president again.”
Back on topic, we should applaud Andrea and the Houston Chronicle for not only reporting accurately, but annoying the DI at the same time!  She might be in the running for that august honor of the DI's 'Censor of the Year!'

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