Retired professor discusses fake news

Allison Lechman


   There is a creature that has been around for many years, and it takes different forms. This villain is manipulating and feeding on unsuspecting victims. This creature’s name is better known as fake news. One person that will not become a victim is Christopher Meyers, retired professor of philosophy at CSU Bakersfield and former director of the Kegley Institute of Ethics.

   Meyers was a guest host on the talk radio program, “Philosophy Talk.” This program is where philosophers talk about a wide variety of issues from morality to pop culture. Fake news was the main topic discussed between Meyers and the other philosophers.

   “When it comes to the state of truth and public discourse, these really are the worst of times,” said Josh Landy, co-host of “Philosophy Talk” and a professor at Stanford University.

   Lying politicians and fake news are not new. Ken Taylor, co-host of “Philosophy Talk” and professor of philosophy at Stanford University reminds Landy that people in power are not always honest.

   This can be traced back to the “Greek flourishing of democracy, aspiring power mongrels back then, would go study with the sophist. Sophists were professional liars,” said Taylor.

   Dishonesty has not only been within politics, but has been within the news media as well.

   “Folks worry that we are in a particularly bad period for news media, not so much for the legacy sites [Like the LA Times and Washington Post], but because there is so much false information out there,” said Meyers.

   News media is lingering farther and farther away from political objectivity and political neutrality.

   “If you look back through the history of journalism, that appeal to political neutrality is relatively recent and relatively short lived. The original papers were very partisan. They represented the political parties [they supported] and many of them were just unbelievably nasty…in their critiques of one another and the opposing politicians,” said Meyers.

   News media’s best defense against the beast is to keep feeding the public the accurate and truthful information they need.

   So, what can the news media and news consumers be doing differently to kill the creature infamously named fake news?

   News media organizations must be, “recommitting to that part of the journalistic endeavor and worrying less about profit, just enough to sustain the business model,” said Meyers.

   The creature’s main victims, news consumers, must be more proactive.

   “They don’t know there are other ways of thinking about these same stories. That’s partly a fault of education, we’re not doing a good enough job of teaching critical diverse thinking,” said Meyers.

   “Some of it is that the politics have become, at least superficially, so polarized that it’s scary. If I feel comfortable in my belief system turning on somebody who’s going to challenge that, that makes me uncomfortable and creates that kind of dissonance, so it’s easy to avoid,” said Meyers.

   “What I hope is that this, and I generously call it a ‘political experiment’ with President Trump, forces people to realize we got to be more careful,” said Meyers.

   Consumers have the right to choose their own news source, but keep in mind not all of it may be fact. There may even be a third party trying to persuade the public. Stay informed, but don’t let this creature fool you. Be sure to check multiple news sources before forming an opinion.