Spring 2019 / Fake News Edition
Amidst Devastating Darkness, Let Believing Prevail
Faye Bird Winer
Protect Ginsburg, Demand Truth
The Threat of Fake News
BCC Voice - Spring 2019 - Fake News
In the fall of 2018, the English Department at Berkeley City College sponsored a school-wide student essay contest calling for well-written, compelling essays offering a socially-responsible and original stance on the theme of “Fake News.” Faye Bird Winer and Lillian Maheu tied for first prize and were each awarded $200; Brian Figueroa was awarded $50 for third place. All three essays are published in this special edition of the BCC Voice.
Our world is choking on lies. They are the stones upon our collective chests, and they are the very breath being stolen from our collective lungs. And through this darkness that runs thick like blood, there are still those whose eyes are clouded of the truth, whose veins thud and scream with the shattering words "I do not believe." This same darkness pulsated in that courtroom twenty-seven years ago, that courtroom that voted in darkness over believing with a vote of fifty-two to forty-eight, even after Anita Hill’s lone voice of truth echoed and began to weave its way into silently shattered hearts around the nation, cultivating those first, quiet, and small "me too’s." But today, followed by these crucial days and weeks and years to come, we have the chance to fight for light once more. We must hold sacred the truth that these stories are all of our stories, that blaming the victims is breaking us all, and realize that this unfathomable pain is a shared one. We must become the wind in the sails of the ship first set foot on by the unfathomable courage of Anita Hill, propelled by the unwavering strength of Christine Blasey Ford, and be the message carried across every current, together. Promising. Promising. We believe. We believe.
And as for all of the souls today reliving their pain so deep in their beings that it seems it will never end, we believe you, and we too are holding your pain as if it is our own. We hold your truths with grace, leaving no room for disbelief. These stories are all of ours, this case is all of ours, Ford’s testimony is all of ours, and this breaking and this rising is all of ours, too. For the soul who’d never even drank before, who just wanted to make friends because she missed her mom, whose clothes didn’t ask for anything. We believe you. Your story is our story. For the girl who wore pigtails and loved her second grade teacher, who now can only see and feel the memory of her small hand pushing away his big hand, crying tears of a child. We believe you.
Your story is our story. For the woman who hasn’t spoken her truth in thirty years because the shame felt as though it would crush her alive, whose only proof resides so deep in her chest, knotted in fear. We believe you. Your story is our story. And for every woman trying to heal only to be broken over and over again by the unwillingness to have your story validated, your pain acknowledged, and your safety prioritized, know that you are worthy beyond words and we will never stop fighting for you.
As Glennon Doyle wisely spoke, “She is all of us. We are her. That’s why we can barely breathe right now.” But let me tell you, we will not cease until we drown these lies in the storm we are. We will not cease until we can feel truth in the air like warm sunlight upon our cheeks, and we feel safe enough to step outside again. We will not cease no matter the vote, no matter the disbelief, no matter the pain that wreaks havoc amidst our hearts. We will not cease until truth prevails.
Amidst Devastating Darkness, Let Believing Prevail
by Faye Bird Winer
My name is Faye Bird, I'm twenty-one years old, and this is my first semester here at Berkeley City College. I'm nothing special, really, just a girl who plays the ukulele and believes that words are the fabric that hold this entire beautifully terrifying mess of a life together. I hope to transfer to Smith College in January of 2020, and I will never stop writing.
Protect Ginsburg, Demand Truth
by Lillian Maheu
Lillian Maheu is an honor student at Berkeley City College, currently studying Elementary Teacher Education. She is a Berkeley native who has lived and worked in the Bay Area, Hawaii, and Thailand. Lillian believes education is a powerful tool that can be used to create positive change in the world.
Many consider “alternative facts” and “fake news” a shocking new trend — but in fact it is a time-honored practice employed throughout the history of journalism in this country. According to Andy Tucher, a professor at Columbia University, “The first newspaper published in North America got shut down in 1690 after printing fabricated information. Nineteenth-century newspapers often didn’t agree on basic facts” (Boyle, et al). As grim and discouraging as this trend may seem, by acknowledging our history of hearsay, we may be able to learn how to better navigate towards the truth. Journalists have the capacity to shape and manipulate their readers judgment, morals, politics, and economic decision making. It is up to the reader to protect themselves from being manipulated by fake news representing contorted or falsified information.
The internet provides a platform for the vast inculcation of misinformation to be spread instantaneously, which has the capacity to create dangerous perspectives. Researchers at Stanford Graduate School for Education found many assume young people who are adept at navigating new technologies and media platforms are just as adept at perceiving the information they intake. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Oftentimes people focus on the content of social media posts, rather than the credibility of its sources (Donald). The demand for fast information has begun to deteriorate our perception of reality — content creators publish now and fact-check later, and consumers will believe the top result that confirms their own belief systems. Students must be taught how to properly vet content.
Harvard Summer School columnist Christina Nagler, believes there are four areas one can assess to evaluate a news sources’ integrity: credibility, timeliness, quality, and fact-checking with professionals. Take for example the article, “Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg Favors Decriminalizing Pedophilia, Child Sex Trafficking,” written by Lauren Richardson and published by the DMG Christian News Radio. An extreme headline should be the first red flag, indicating the content may contain false or misconstrued information. The religious publisher may not present completely unbiased information of academic quality. The article is presented in a somewhat professional manner: it uses quality photographs and quotes legal language, however the overuse of bold lettering seems questionable. The reader must carefully read the article’s content to determine the entire argument is based on a book published in 1977, suggesting its timeliness is lacking and cannot be substantiated by anything else that has taken place in the last forty-one years. The quality of Richardson’s argument is additionally insufficient due to the evidence being decontextualized from its original intentions. The reader may also choose to utilize professional fact and news checking sites, like FactCheck.org or Snopes.com, to learn this is fake news. In fact, Ginsburg was trying to suggest a more gender neutral language to a preexisting bill in order to protect more children from abuse, without actually trying to change the content of the bill itself.
Being able to identify “fake news” is not enough — we must take measures to stop the profitability of falsified information, click-bait material and decontextualized content. By suggesting Ginsburg supports pedophilia, Lauren Richardson may be eliciting dangerous reactions from a radical reader. As was the case in Washington D.C., NPR reported, “On Dec. 4, 2016, Edgar Maddison Welch entered the Comet Ping Pong restaurant and fired an AR-15 rifle into a door. The 28-year-old man told police that he had driven from his home in Salisbury, N.C., to ‘self-investigate’ the ‘pizzagate’ conspiracy theory that the restaurant was the site of a child sex-abuse ring involving powerful Democrats such as Hillary Clinton” (Slotkin). Critical thinking skills must be exercised every time we are provided with information, even when it derives from previously or supposedly trusted sources. In many instances real and fake news may seem easily distinguishable, however it is the reader’s responsibility to be ever vigilant as they consume media and content. Fake news tactics have adapted and permeated into platforms once trusted by the majority. A responsible reader must consider whether the source has something to gain from altering information or flat-out lying, and review the original context the information derived from. It is important to take the time to evaluate information, so as not to be influenced by click-bait or propaganda. These skills must be refined and taught to everyone in order to promote a more discerning populous. If reporters are unsure whether to appeal to a consumer's wants versus the citizen's needs, it is our responsibility to demand honest and transparent depictions of accurate truths every time.
Boyle, Tara, Rhaina Cohen, and Shankar Vedantam. “Fake News: An Ori gin Story.” Hidden Brain, NPR, 25 June 2018. https://www.npr.org/2018/06/25/623231337/fake-news- an-origin- story. Accessed 09/16/18.
Donald, Brooke. “Stanford Researchers Find Students Have Trouble Judging the Credibility of Information Online.” Stanford Graduate School of Education, 22 Nov. 2018, https://ed.stanford.edu/news/stanford-researchers-find-students- have-trouble- judging-credibility-information-online. Accessed 09/16/18.
Keohane, Joe. “How Facts Backfire.” The Boston Globe, 11 July 2010, www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles. Accessed 31 Aug. 2015.
Nagler, Christina. “4 Tips for Spotting a Fake News Story.” Harvard Summer School, https://www.summer.harvard.edu/inside- summer/4-tips -spotting-fake-news-story. Accessed 09/15/18.
Richardson, Lauren. “Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg Favors Decrimi nalizing Pedophilia, Child Sex Trafficking.” DMG Christian News Radio, 16 Sept. 2018, http://dmgnews.com/index.php/2018/01/06/supreme-court-justice -gin sburg-favors-decriminalizing-pedophilia-child-sex- trafficking/. Accessed 09/16/18.
Slotkin, Jason. “‘Pizzagate’ Gunman Pleads Guilty to Charges.” The Two- Way, NPR, 24 March 2017, https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo- way/ 2017/03/24/521377765/pizzagate-gunman-pleads-guilty-to- charges. Accessed 09/16/18.
I chose to pursue an English degree because of the wonderful professors at Berkeley City College. They've been consistently creative and thoughtful, while providing an engaging curriculum. Due to their energy and critique, I feel prepared to transfer and achieve my academic goals. The experience has been a positive source of creativity that I've been able to integrate into other creative outlets in my life. Ideas and critiques of the classroom come off the page and into the musical projects I play in: Tabitha Dillinger (Oak) and Night Shapes (Oak).
Fake news has become prevalent in the media, creating outrage and polarizing American citizens. It can be difficult at times to discern bad journalism from fake news, but the distinction is important. Fake news is being used as a tactic to destabilize the freedom of information in America and undermine the organizing efforts of the underprivileged.
People in power make use of fake news by letting it deceive those who who depend on them to be an authority on verified information. News agencies are increasingly reporting in ways that value speed and sensationalism over accuracy. This “click-bait” style reporting will exploit stories as soon as they are leaked without analyzing them, abandoning the tradition of journalism as trusted gatekeepers of information for ad revenue. While it’s important for readers to use critical thinking, many people do not have the time to verify news for themselves and have usually trusted journalism to provide this duty. By spreading unchecked and biased information that political actors spread, news outlets are playing into the hands of people in power to shape the views of citizens with potentially (and sometimes purposefully) false information. This trend has done nothing but undermine the value of truth. Citizens are encouraged to take on extremist viewpoints that support their favored version of reality instead of having a stable point of reference to gauge people in power on their actions.
Since Donald Trump took office in 2016, people have had to endure his countless tweets, using "fake news" as a catch phrase to imply something isn’t real, when in reality, it’s just an event or critique he doesn't agree with. When the leader of a country uses his power to label entire sources of information he doesn’t like as “fake,” it puts freedom of speech in danger. The president and his political supporters’ use of the phrase ”fake news" is just another tool of propaganda that counters any progress toward revealing political and corporate lies, and prevents the president from having to face consequences for his actions.
In light of the seemingly unstoppable trend of fake news, citizens need to take on critical thinking as part of their civic duty, when it comes to the media. Critical thinking is the key to starting the fight toward protecting the value of truth. Citizens need to be given the tools to know how to evaluate a story, or the platforms that news is posted to (especially social media) need to provide solid proof that a story is true before allowing it to spread. This would not be censorship, so much as a protection against the misuse of free speech. The First Amendment does not protect against statements that cause unnecessary public panic, like yelling fire in a crowded theater. By allowing false information to spread, both journalists and social media outlets like Facebook, can put citizens at risk by allowing fake news to create extremist views that can lead to violence.
When news outlets make statements like calling Black Lives Matter a terrorist movement or help disparage survivors like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, it keeps underrepresented communities from participating in American democracy and keeps those who do not want to see change in power.
Combating fake news is a matter of questioning authority, especially questioning the credibility and motives of politicians and journalists. Some questions that people should consider when reading news are: What is this information based on and where did that information come from? Could the source be biased or can the source benefit by this information? Is this fact or opinion? Was the data in the story used properly? Does an event have roots in history that can help the story be understood more clearly? Questions like these can guide the development of a critical thinking tool kit to help citizens navigate the media landscape.
The Threat of Fake News
by Brian Figueroa