News Spin … From the other side

A few months ago, after writing about disingenuous spin at a major TV news network I became aware of another news source that also seemed to peddle in lies. More and more reddit posts hitting the front page were coming from The Independent (independent.co.uk)
Even as I write this, they have the top post on reddit’s front page:
 
A few months ago, I wondered whether independent.co.uk was legit. The logo, layout and the name seemed professional. But were they truly based out of the UK, and who owned them?

Owned by a Russian Oligarch

What I discovered surprised me.Independent.co.uk turned out to be based out of the UK as expected.  However, it’s not British owned; it’s owned by Alexander Lebedev … a Russian oligarch.

Now, this ownership, in and of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing. But given what I’ve learned about soviet era propaganda and Putin era propaganda tactics, I don’t want to get my news from a Russian oligarch – no matter his political leanings. Whether motivated by advertising dollars, or by some politician’s agenda, I want no part in that agenda. But I still wanted to know – was The Independent’s news real, or fake?

Fake News

The Independent’s headlines felt just a little too curated, their stories just a bit too perfect.

The first story I looked into was an allegation that Trump passed Angela Merkel a joke invoice for Nato in March 2017.

I looked to see if other trusted news outlets had reported the same thing. Reuters? Nope. AP?  Nah. I only found other news sources citing the Independent article.
Then I found stories citing a statement by Merkel’s press secretary saying there was never any fake NATO invoice. The white house said the same. So it looks like that headline was fake news. Months later, the story is still up – probably garnering page clicks – and no retraction has been issued.
Sweet Lies
This is but one of uncountable sweet lies being told by the myriad ‘news’ sources on the internet. It’s further evidence that headlines coming across your newsfeed can’t be trusted out of hand – even when these headlines push your confirmation bias buttons. It’s on us to choose trustworthy news sources, and corroborate stories coming at us. It goes against our cognitive inclinations. But if you’re going to let yourself be influenced at all by the media, it’s on you to do your due diligence.