It’s a disheartening sign of the times when The Associated Press, the gold standard of reporting real news for the better part of two centuries, is compelled to publish a regular feature called “Not Real News.”
This is what the digital medium has wrought: a dystopian hellscape of savage liars and propagandists where anybody can say anything, and any number of people will believe them.
It’s incredible, literally, what ridiculous and utter nonsense is being passed off as news, and with the latest version of culture war being waged, an alarming number of people fall victim. Most of them want it to be true because it affirms their values and viewpoints.
For example, in its most recent edition of “Not Real News” AP refutes:
• A school district in a suburb of Madison, Wisconsin, has a “furry protocol” that allows students who identify as “furries” to opt out of speaking in class, sit and lick their paws during gym class and bark and growl in hallways.
• A California bill would allow mothers to kill their babies up to seven days after birth.
• COVID-19 vaccines are causing a form of AIDS that is not related to HIV, long established as the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
All these culture war battles are being instigated from the same side of the political spectrum, which should tell you something right there.
AP goes into great detail in refuting and debunking these obviously ridiculous claims, which is how AP rolls. But the fact that it feels a need to spend its resources doing so, when it could be doing what it has always done best — reporting real news and truth — says much about how misinformation has taken over society.
Back in the day when news organizations staked their reputations on truthfully reporting real news, there were mistakes made. Real news organizations, AP included, would publish what were once known as “corrections” to set the record straight and inform their readers and viewers they had made a mistake.
One of the rules of printing corrections was to avoid being specific in repeating the error, not because it was embarrassing — which to real journalists it is — or encouraged ridicule — which it does — but to avoid the reader misinterpreting the error was the true. That’s the extent to which journalists go in providing real news.
In today’s newscape, setting the record straight almost seems like a fool’s errand. Yet there is AP, slogging through the mud, still trying.