Highland Park High School, December 2016

by cheri sabraw

Since Donald Trump took office, we have been bombarded by the words fake news.

Fake is not a new word ( 1790-1810) but is without a definitive origin. Curious.

The word fake connotes many images, few of them aesthetically beautiful or authentic but most of them acceptable to a large portion of the  global society.

We in the developed world have grown accustomed to fakeness–in leather, meat, luxury goods, breasts, fingernails, personalities, orgasms, resumes, lawns, jewelry, enhanced photography,and even in extra virgin olive oil from Italy.

Places like Las Vegas and Hollywood are  the epicenters of American Fake.

We rationalize why we like fake: more affordable and interesting, more attractive and sophisticated, more convenient and time-saving. Healthier. Safer. Prettier. Sexier. Alas, our pedestrian lives are SO boring.

The list of the fake grows like Jack’s GMO Beanstalk–taller and taller. Everything from fake pharmaceuticals to currencies to advertising to education has a back room of full of fake.

But what has happened?  The back room has become the front room.


Steroid-laced electronic carrier pigeons  like Facebook and Twitter drop fake news poop worldwide  in  the time it takes to blink twice (2/3 of a second).

In newsrooms (virtual or concrete), the millenial rush to be the first reporter or collegen anchor to break a news story, the first to portray the sensational, the first to draw attention to one’s news outlet (and oneself!) surpasses the importance of fact-checking because doing so is la-bor-ious.  Besides, dude, literally ,someone else might get the story out first. Yup!

Fake, simply put, is out of control.

News flashes:

To call into question not only the content of the news but also those who promulgate it now dominates the front room.

News agencies are nervous for good reason.

Their credibility is front page real news. In fact, they are making it news!

They have an opportunity to restore their reputations as viable checks and balances to the Legislative, Executive, and  Judicial branches of government but will they?

I hope so.


Winston Churchill’s Map Room, London, England, June 2016

About Cheri

Writer, photograph, artist, mother, grandmother and wife.
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40 Responses to Fake

  1. CINDY USEDOM says:

    hear hear! cant wait to see peoples response to this piece of news! ha! sis

    Cindy Block Usedom Graphic Design and Art Direction

    Mobile: 510-501-4140 Office: 925-426-3760 Portfolio: cpartner.wixsite.com/cindyblockusedom


  2. Speaking of fake, the Annual Academy Awards show can be added. We are so inundated we don’t know the difference. Good post.

    • Cheri says:

      Your point in the second sentence is well taken.
      I skipped the Academy Awards as I have for at least 10 years when it became a political spectacle of the left. Very boring and predictable.
      Sad, because when Joanie was still alive, it was a show she absolutely loved. It used to be held the week of her birthday, March 29. We would go to her house, drink wine and watch the gorgeous gowns on the red carpet. In those days, women were somewhat real. Now, the AA have become sartorially crass.

  3. shoreacres says:

    Back in the day, the word was faux, and it suggested at least some class. Today? Not so much. I rarely suggest books, but I’m reading a good one. It’s by Tom Nichols, and titled The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge. He wrote an article based on the book’s premises that you can read here. I think you’d find the book congenial, but at least you can get a taste from the article.

    • Cheri says:

      I have read the article from the Federalist with Tom Nichols’ article and am going to order his book now. I have always wondered how and why established knowledge is suddenly debatable, especially when those shouting loudest in the debate know the least. Thank you for the link, Linda.

  4. Christopher says:

    I, for one, would like to see and hear “ersatz” more, and “fake” less.

    Is it testimony to the paucity of today’s quotidian vocabulary that one almost never nowadays encounters “ersatz” in conversation or in print?

    The new President might attract welcome converts to his cause from among the educated class, were he to tweet complainingly of ersatz news.

    • Cheri says:

      Lovely, lovely, lovely. Just the sound of “ersatz” or “faux” pleases the ear. However, the word fake–its crass base meaning– is captured in that runt of a word, don’t you think?

  5. Dr. Jim Block says:

    Excellent post. Can’t deny any of this premise. I get so disappointed speaking with people and the conversation feeling so disingenuous most of the time. Or, at least surfacy mumbo jumbo…

    • Cheri says:

      I imagine that you hear a great deal of that mumbo jumbo. Just stuff their mouths full of cotton or numb their tongues or better yet, give ’em gas—that will cork the overflow. 🙂

  6. Richard says:

    Fake News is not a happy expression. News cannot be fake: it either is news or it isn’t. Fake suggests a copy of something genuine, which is meaningless in the context.

    Bogus used as an adjective for a particular untruth is better because it impugns the author, even if anonymous, and the promulgator.

    Enoch Powell distinguished a lie from a fiction. A lie requires that the audience expects the truth.

    • Cheri says:

      How do you describe, then, news that is deliberately misleading or false? You would call it bogus news?
      I suppose Trump labeled such bogus news as fake because the majority of those people who are spreading it seem quite fake themselves. Its a crass word from a president who can be crass himself. He has a below-average working vocabulary, just like George W. Bush. But…beware of those politicians with honors-level vocabularies!
      Wonderful quotation from Enoch Powell.
      Thank you, Richard.

      • Richard says:

        A bogus report that….

        It is important to specify the item.

      • Christopher says:

        That Enoch Powell should be invoked in this particular conversation-thread *is……..ironic?*.

      • Richard says:

        We must not allow opinion to pass as news. In order that we may have another opinion as to whom we talk about, I copy the publisher’s synopsis on the back cover of Simon Heffer’s 1000-page biography of Enoch Powell, a man targeted and widely misrepresented by the so-called “liberal” press and other special interests. Plus ça change… :

        “Enoch Powell was one of the most loved – and hated – politicians of the twentieth century. His death was treated like that of an ex-Prime Minister. But this was a man who, largely through his own quixotry, sat in the Cabinet for just fifteen months during a parliamentary career of thirty-seven years.

        He is remembered above all for one speech in which he predicted conflagration – ‘Like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood’ – if immigration were not stopped. This was also the politician who proclaimed, twenty years before Margaret Thatcher, what came to be seen as the principles of Thatcherism. Yet to see Powell in this context is just to skim the surface. Besides his other political acts he was a professor of Greek at the age of twenty-five, brigadier at the age of thirty-two, a poet, a biblical scholar and a devoted family man. His was a life whose range and emotional intensity are still barely understood. This biography is the only one for which Powell specifically granted interviews, and the first to draw on Powell’s massive private archive.”

        In the light of this, I shall be obliged, Christopher, to learn how you have so crystallised in your own mind the character of Enoch Powell to enable you to apply the term “Ironic” to this part of my comment. Do you refute the way he distinguishes a lie and a fiction? Do you question his integrity?

        • Christopher says:

          With respect to (a lovely legal phrase, this) to my use of “ironic”, I was careful to put a question mark after it.

          In retrospect, I see I needn’t have, for your invoking Enoch Powell was to do with something other than his being similar in some significant aspects to the new President, who was (sigh) indirectly a topic of this conversation-thread…

          “……you have……crystallised in your own mind the character of Enoch Powell………”

          Have I? Really?

          While I have yet to read Simon Heffer’s biography of Enoch Powell – and have no immediate plans to – I’ll surmise it’s a hagiography, given that Mr Heffer appears to have spent most of his journalistic life at the likes of the Telegraph and Daily Mail.

        • Cheri says:

          Enoch Powell, as described in this comment, sounds like a brilliant talent, loved and hated by many. I suggest to Christopher a book that just arrived at my doorstep last night: The Death of Expertise: the Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters by Tom Nichols.

          • Christopher says:

            I may, or may not, read “The Death of Expertise”. I have, however, been into Google to read the author’s essay on which his book is based, and have read the so-far available reviews of this book, and have watched videos on YouTube showing talks and interviews that Thomas Nichols has given.

            So I think I get the gist of what he wants to say about current attitudes towards expertise.

            Admittedly what I’ve done is a lazy person’s approach to a serious book. But, time fast disappearing before I’m “called home”, I simply can’t read everything. Instead, for most non fiction books, I’m relying on doing what what I’ve just described, as a substitute for reading the book itself.

            For what it’s worth, I stand somewhat in the middle of those who say the experts are the unimpeachable fonts of all wisdom, and those who say the experts talk mostly rubbish.

            I’ve come across my fair share of highly-educated fools, particularly those who are experts in political science, history, economics, sociology, psychology, and religion. I have more respect for scientists, as long as they don’t pontificate on stuff outside science.

            I like to think I approach everything with an open mind, but not so open that my brains fall out.

            • Richard says:

              It all boils down to opinion in the end, Christopher, even the question as to whose opinion we should accept. Why else should we have law suits?

              Acceptance is driven by necessity, belief, evidence or success, or a combination of them. Democracy itself is a mode of acceptance.

              Scientists can only have opinions, limited as they are by the constraints of human observation and perception like everyone else, as has been shown throughout history. Take, for example, Harvey’s opinion that the blood circulated round the body pumped by the heart. Acceptance was not universal since it displaced 2000 years’ acceptance of Galen’s opinion that blood, produced in the heart and liver, was absorbed by the body.

              Harvey questioned expert opinion when a medical student at Bart’s as he watched butchers slaughtering livestock in nearby Smithfield meat market.

              If you accept my opinion that all boils down to opinion, does it follow there is no such thing as fact, so there can be no such thing as a lie save in the mind of the perpetrator, whether or not he confesses.

      • Richard says:

        You will note, Christopher, that in this conversation thread I have expressed no opinion either as to the character of Enoch Powell or of the attributes of Simon Heffer. Nor have I expressed any view as to the Guardian newspaper, which, incidentally, I regard an excellent newspaper and to which I subscribed for a number of years. The article you linked to required some description of Enoch Powell and his policies in order to compare Donald Trump, and I thought it interesting, well- balanced and generally fair, if limited, in the view it expressed.

        I do invite you again, however, to assess Enoch Powell’s definition of a lie, if you so wish.

        Thank goodness for idealists like you, Christopher. You clarify the thinking of the rest of us and help inform our opinions of the real world.

  7. wkkortas says:

    In my Journalism 101 class long ago, my professor said you never, never, never write a one-source story, as your source may be drunk, lying, or both. Now one jamoke with a Twitter feed can spread any idea like wildfire, with the weight of re-tweets lending it ersatz gravitas (if that isn’t too much of an oxymoron on its own). Such is the price of technological advancement.

  8. Brig says:

    Truthful news is sadly a hard commodity to come by these days.

  9. Christopher says:

    Don’t worry, I made a botch in placing my comment too. So much so that it also appears twice!!!

    While you “……expressed no opinion either as to the character of Enoch Powell or of the attributes of Simon Heffer…..” I discern that were you to express them, they would be favourable.

    And why shouldn’t they be? And, why shouldn’t you have expressed outright what you think about Mssrs Powell and Heffer?

    You expressed the view that the Guardian is an excellent newspaper. That’s fine. But, if you’d expressed the view that it’s a bloody awful newspaper, that would have been fine also, for it it would have been your point of view too, and thus equally valid.

    As to Powell’s saying “…..A lie requires that the audience expects the truth…..” well……..it’s alright I suppose.

    I much prefer something else Powell purportedly said, “……If my ship sails from sight, it doesn’t mean my journey ends, it simply means the river bends…..”. .

    While on the topic of quotes from Conservative British political luminaries of yore, I’ve never forgotten this from Quinton Hogg (Lord Hailsham), that I came across when I was very, very young: “……..The human capacity for self-deception is almost infinite…….”.

    This should be drummed into the head of every new-born babe anywhere.

    I’ll leave you this from Harold Macmillan: “……Quiet calm deliberation disentangles every knot…….”. I’ve found this of much help in dealing with the many conundrums I’ve been confronted with over the years.

  10. Cheri says:

    I may have botched both of your comments and if so, please accept my apologies.

  11. Richard says:

    In the light of Enoch Powell’s definition of a lie, how should we categorise each of these?

    1. Orson Welles’ radio production aired on October 30th 1938 at a time of heightening tension in Europe of HG Wells’ War of the Worlds, beefed up with fictional reports;
    2. Reports in the Daily News, The New York Times, The Detroit News and The Boston Daily Globe of the nationwide panic it caused;
    3. This Daily Telegraph item as to the truth of the reports http://www.telegraph.co.uk/radio/what-to-listen-to/the-war-of-the-worlds-panic-was-a-myth/
    4. Richard Dimbleby’s three-minute BBC TV hoax report on All Fools’ Day 1957 showing a family harvesting a spaghetti tree in southern Switzerland;
    5. A front-page headline in The Sunday Sport (defunct since 1988) ADOLF HITLER WAS A WOMAN; the newspaper specialised in outlandish headlines and reports that some people believed;
    6. Widespread annual reports of visitations by a red-cloaked, bearded gentleman who travels by flying sleigh hauled by flying reindeer to deliver presents down chimneys to children ; some children believe the reports until disabused.
    7. Reports of resurrection – Enoch Powell questioned whether Jesus was crucified, suggesting he had been stoned to death.
    8. My reports in paras 1 to 7 above.

    • Christopher says:

      None of the above would be a lie in the eyes of Enoch Powell, or otherwise in the eyes of a reasonable person, à mon avis.

      They are either obvious inventions. or speculative, and tacitly ask the reader to decide how to take them.

      • Richard says:

        Assuming the veracity of reports that at least some readers earnestly believed the “…above…“, your reply suggests that a report can be both a lie and not a lie or can be both opinion and news despite the absence of qualifying words.

        Gullibility is not a factor in Powell’s defnition, and so the reports, speculative or not, are tainted as lies, irrespective of the possibility that a few, or many, may “see through them” (whatever that may mean).

        • Christopher says:

          You assume an either/or (dualistic) world. But, is this true?

          In the quantum world, light can be both a particle and a wave. And an atom can be in two places at once.

          Back in the normal (non-quantum) world, there’s situation-ethics, whereby the context (or situation) in which an act (like lying or killing) is done, determines whether it is evil or good – or even something in-between. .

          Nothing is as simple as it seems…………

          • Richard says:

            ” And not only justice and injustice are differentiated by nature, but all things without exception that are honourable and dishonourable. For nature has created perceptions which we have in common and has sketched them in our minds in such a way that we classify honourable things as virtues and dishonourable things as vices. It is insane to suppose these things are matters of opinion and not grounded in nature. The so-called ‘virtue’ of a tree or a horse (which is actually a misuse of the word) does not depend on opinion but on nature. If that is so, then honourable and dishonourable things too must be distinguished by nature. If moral excellence as a whole were certified by opinion, the same would apply to its parts. In that case who would judge a wise and, shall we say, a shrewd man, not on the basis of natural character but of some external factor? No, moral excellence is reason fully developed, and that is certainly grounded in nature; the same goes for everything that is honourable.” – Cicero, Laws.

            There is no half-way house between a truth and a lie. The circumstances are properly the subject of mercy or mitigation.

            “…Philosophy is written in that great book which ever lies before our eyes – I mean the universe – but we cannot understand it if we do not first learn the language and grasp the symbols, in which it is written.” Galileo, The Assayer

            “… for in the sciences the authority of thousands of opinions is not worth as much as one tiny spark of reason in an individual man. Besides, the modern observations deprive all former writers of any authority, since if they had seen what we see, they would have judged as we judge.” Galileo, third letter on sunspots to Mark Wesler.

            In science, then, by contrast, truth depends upon the quality of the observation. In both virtue and science the source is nature and the process is reason.

            My Cicero quotes are taken from a translation of the work itself. The Galileo quotes are second-hand from the internet.

            You may, perhaps, have over-simplified quantum theory. At the quantum level, the position of a particle is unpredictable within predictable odds that are confirmed by observation. The importance of observation is well demonstrated by the search for the Higgs boson. Our schoolboy understanding is best informed, perhaps, if we regard the Higgs boson as the particle associated with our old friend potential energy.

          • Richard says:

            I omitted to mention your point about the particle/wave duality.

            I had akways understood that light behaves both as a particle and a wave. That is not the same as being both a particle and a wave.

            The conflation of science and the humanities is controversial. For example, Darwinian evolution has been used to justify racism. Gould attempts to liken revolution and geological catastrophy, stumuli to rapid change in society and the appearance of new species respectively. The one, though, is produced from within and the other is external. Moreover, whilst revolution changes the rules by which society operates, geological catastrophe leaves the process of natural selection undisturbed.

            You attempt to transfer a principle from the quantum world to the classical (“real”) world in conflating wave/particle duality and your assertion of a truth/lie duality. Transfer from the quantum world to the classical world is something that science has not even begun to understand, let alone explain. Your parallel is invalid. Care must be taken when arguing by analogy.

            • Christopher says:

              “…..Your parallel is invalid……”

              I disagree..

              • Richard says:

                That is your prerogative. Nature has conferred on us all the right to choose. I do not judge you. It is a difficult field.

              • Christopher says:

                Your obscurantism and verbosity are indeed impressive. But in indulging in it, you’ve appeared to miss entirely the very simple points I originally tried to make.

              • Richard says:

                You are a good man, Christopher, and I take your what you say to heart and learn. I must be plain as well.

                A poor man walks into a shop. In full view he takes milk from the shelf and drinks it.

                A young grown-up girl, kept locked in a room by her dad all her life and abused, kills him with a knife.

                I say a wrong has been done by both man and girl but do not blame them. What do you say?

                I have tried to keep this text plain. It is hard.

              • Christopher says:

                I won’t tackle this. But I look forward to further thoughtful exchanges of views with you, as the opportunities arise.

              • Richard says:

                Of course, you have to leave me to read smart things. Do I have to learn to use just words of one beat? They do not flow with ease. I have a book which says how to use at most five times five times ten words all the time. May I use that? (If I can find it.) Some of those words have more than one beat.

                It is as though I go back to year one.

              • Richard says:

                I found the book. The book and the man who wrote it were well known. The count of words is more. To find the count, add five and four and times the sum by the sum then times by ten and add this to five times eight.

                It is a shame our talk came to a quick end. You had points on your side.

                All this is too hard for me. I bow out. Bye bye.

  12. ShimonZ says:

    your hope for the established news media seems overly optimistic to me, Cheri

  13. Cheri says:

    of course you are correct, Shimon but I am trying to be more positive these days. Living with a judge, who often sees the worst of humanity, can be a challenge to stay positive. That is what one of my resolutions was–to focus on the good and on love.
    Will the mainstream media portray the truth? NO.
    hope you and yours are doing well.

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