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Fake stories influencing the news
Bob Franken
Bob Franken is an Emmy-award winning broadcast journalist. - photo by File photo

Most people think of the mainstream media as the scum of the earth — and most of us are — but we do at least try to check out information before we go with a story.

What a waste of time! Nobody trusts us anyway. Apparently, people prefer reports that don’t bother with trivialities like facts. They choose to believe "fake news," so called because the stuff is not real. It’s the figment of someone’s imagination — someone who is a looney-tune or has a profit motive or political agenda.

In the warp-speed world of the internet, thousands upon thousands of people are exposed to the kind of bizarre stuff that used to get one committed. Now, if someone concocts a fantasy that a pizza place in Washington, D.C., named Comet Ping Pong is really a front for Hillary Clinton’s child-trafficking operation, the cyber world goes bonkers. Every conspiracy-theory-loving paranoid gets whipped up into a frenzy. In this case, one heavily armed guy from North Carolina invaded the restaurant to "self-investigate" and fire a few shots. He didn’t find anything, and he’s now in jail.

Happily, no one was hurt, but the owners and staff at the place have been fielding tons of telephoned death threats along with the regular orders for pizza. The neighbors in northwest D.C. have responded by dining at Comet in droves to show their support. That’s nice, but it got me thinking that maybe, just maybe, this was really an insidiously clever plot by Comet Ping Pong management to drum up a lot of business. I mean, who names a pizza place "Comet Ping Pong"?

I’m not the only one who thought of this, but you see I can play this conspiracy game too. After all these years of spinning my wheels trying to determine what’s real, this is much more fun.

Here’s another story in our fantasyland to get the juices going: Among those who have retweeted some of the more outrageous "fake news" about Hillary and her people is Gen. Michael Flynn, the guy who will be the next president’s national-security adviser, a critically important position in the White House. Oh wait ... that’s not fake at all. It’s true, but how can you possibly believe a story like that? No wonder people prefer fake news. It’s more credible. And it’s sure a lot less boring.

Unfortunately, it’s also defamation, and dangerous defamation at that. Candidate Donald Trump, while threatening the mainstream media, talked about how he would "open up libel laws" if he was president. Well, he’s about to be, and he will discover that he doesn’t really have the power to make it easier to sue those who displease him with stories that don’t show him in a favorable light. Not yet, anyway. First he’ll have to replace a lot of judges and justices. But in the meantime, here’s an idea for him: Why not encourage those who are smeared with fake news to file lawsuits against those who lie about them?

Oh, wait, that could very well include super-tweeter Trump. So let’s close with still another freakish story: The United States of America is about to be led by Donald Trump. The result will be unreal.

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