It amuses me no end when I read missives on the problem with so-called fake news coming from mainstream commentators.
The proliferation of fake news has been blamed for Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential elections this past November. Were it not for the plethora of so-called alt-right online new outlets, Americans would have had a much clearer understanding of Hillary Clinton’s attributes and would not have fallen prey to the mellifluous orations of a demagogue.
You are allowed a chuckle at this point.
American mainstream commentators, of course, are not alone in voicing their disdain for the growth of alternative news outlets. In Europe, EU politicians are arguing for control of fake news by Facebook and other social media providers, lest they, too, fall before the growing populist voice.
Now, I have to admit that the growth and popularity of alternative news leaves me with mixed emotions, having spent the past 40 years as one of ink-stained wretches of this world. But reality cannot be denied and nor can the reasons for the growth of counter-journalism: fake news.
Therein lies the irony, of course. As mainstream journalism bemoans the growth of so-called fake news, it does not acknowledge its own role in producing fake news.
This will come as a great shock to many journalists, most of whom will deny vehemently that they disseminate fake news. They would argue that mainstream journalism does everything in its power to present the world as it is without favor to anyone or anything.
It is at this point Morpheus appears and offers us a blue pill or a red pill. And I give readers one example. There are many others, but one will do: Unemployment rates.
Now, unemployment rates are universally held out as the prime indicator of an economy’s health and we routinely see articles that show the economy is recovering based on a decline in the unemployment rate.
But are unemployment rates actually showing what they purport to show?
In other words, does the unemployment rate actually show the number of people who are unemployed?
Most news items in mainstream media suggest they do and reporters will breathlessly tell us that more people are working – evidence that all is right with the world.
Sadly, official unemployment rates are prime examples of manipulated – fake – data.
Currently, Canada’s unemployment rate is about 6.8 per cent, a figure which one commentator opined reflected the 10,700 jobs that have been added and the fact that fewer people are looking for work.
The key phrase there is “looking for work.” That’s the giveaway.
The official unemployment rate is a fabricated number. It is seasonally adjusted, based on current claims and a number of other assumptions, including intentions.
In reality, the unemployment rate is closer to double that official number and the proof of that is in the participation rate.
Now, the participation rate is the number of working age people who are gainfully employed in the economy.
It has been declining in Canada, as it has in all Western countries, for decades and now stands at 66 per cent. Fully one-third of all working age people are not working. Yet the official unemployment rate is seven per cent. Odd, eh?
The average person is not so stupid as to believe governments when they tell him or her that all is right with the world when he or she can see quite clearly things are not as they are portrayed to be.
After all, we know of people who would like to work, but who have been unable to find work. We all know of people who are working part-time who would much rather be working full-time.
In other words, our daily experience is at odds with the purported reality that is being disseminated in the media. We know that the world is not as it appears to be.
That is a red pill moment for a growing number of people who now reject mainstream media’s narrative.
As I wrote earlier, there are many other examples where the mainstream narrative does not reflect reality – climate change, race relations, immigration, the conflicts in the Middle East. In each and every case, there is fake data and, as a result, fake news.
What we are witnessing now is the embrace of reality. It is a good thing. It will force all of us to look at the real data and to frame realistic answers to seemingly intractable problems.