BreakPoint: The Infamous ‘Fake News’ List

Beware of BreakPoint?

Strangely enough, BreakPoint made a list published by Harvard University library. Even stranger is the list itself.

Back in November, Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communications and media at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, published a list called, “False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical ‘News’ Sources.” Last week, the list went viral when Harvard University Library linked to it as a helpful guide to “Fake News, Misinformation, and Propaganda.”

Now, there’s no question that there’s a problem with fake news online, especially when it comes to political news. In fact, we’ve talked about this before on BreakPoint and The Point, warning about passing on that news story before fact checking it, simply because it agrees with your bias. And Christians, who are called to be people of truth, have been just as guilty of this as anyone else.

That said, Zimdars’ list is strange, and in a very important way, self-contradictory. While many of the sites she identifies as “conspiracy,” “biased,” “fake,” “clickbait,” or “unreliable” certainly deserve those titles, there is a vastly greater number of conservative and right-leaning sites listed than liberal and left-leaning sites.

For example, all pro-life websites are listed as “biased,” but pro-abortion sites aren’t listed at all.  Also missing are sites like Vox, Slate, and BuzzFeed – though the list flags similar sites on the other end of the political spectrum such as Drudge and National Review.

And BreakPoint.org, our website, made the list as “unreliable.”

Now to be fair, Professor Zimdars acknowledges that her analysis is limited, and that the problem of fake news and the “if it bleeds, it leads” approach that dominates journalism today is a problem too big to be solved by her attempt to keep a running tally of media offenders.

But she, like so many other media experts and academics today, seems unaware of her own bias. And she is biased. And well, so are we. It’s what a worldview does, and none of us are exempt. Not you. Not me.

Of course that doesn’t mean that all sites are equal. Some worldviews better reflect reality than others, and no matter our worldview, we do live in the same world of facts. That said, let me take this time to clarify how we at the Colson Center see our responsibility to truth and facts each and every day on BreakPoint.

First, our primary allegiance is to the One who is the Truth– Jesus Christ. So we strive to tell stories truthfully without changing, embellishing, or conveniently omitting facts that matter. In fact, each day on our website, we’ll link to additional sources, including those we may disagree with. Now do we make mistakes on occasion? You bet. And we’re grateful for our listeners who are quick to tell us when we do.

Second, because the One who is the Truth is also the Way and the Life, we will take the world and other worldviews very seriously.

Third, we will strive to be as wise as serpents. We will not allow our commentaries to be dominated by outrage or despair. Christians are to be people of hope, and getting angry is no strategy in and of itself. We also need to think: How might I respond? What is my Christian responsibility?

And of course, our worldview commits us to the inherent dignity of each and every person. Therefore, we must be, as Fr. Robert Sirico said, “brutal with ideas and gentle with people.” People, even those who call our commentaries “unreliable,” are never our enemy. They are among those made in God’s image and for whom Christ died.

Now I’ll conclude by saying that I fully agree with what Professor Zimdars wrote on how to consume the news these days. “The best thing to do,” she writes, “in our contemporary media environment is to read/watch/listen widely and often, and to be critical of the sources we share and engage with on social media.”

Or as St. John said, “Test everything.” But to evaluate other sources we must be grounded in truth. And so make sure that among your sources is the ultimate source more reliable than any of the others: the revealed Word of God.

 

Further Reading and Information

The Infamous ‘Fake News’ List: Beware of BreakPoint?

As John has pointed out, no one is completely unbiased. But we can make sure our focus is on presenting and speaking truth, no matter what the subject is or the medium used.

 

Find a BreakPoint radio station in your area–Click here.

Resources

Fake News, Misinformation, and Propaganda
  • Harvard Library Research Guides
Prodigal Press: Confronting the Anti-Christian Bias of the American News Media
  • Marvin Olasky, Warren Cole Smith | P & R Publishing | September 2013
The Attractiveness of Truth Telling: Resisting the Culture of Lies
  • John Stonestreet | BreakPoint.org | February 26, 2015

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  • Zarm

    This is emblematic of the entire news-media attitude of the last decade; the same one that says ‘FOX News is the only biased network’ instead of ‘FOX News is the only network biased in the opposite direction from all the other biased networks.’ There is a strange phenomenon that I’ve observed in which those on the right seem to recognize that they’re on the right, while those on the left often seem to think that they’re ‘neutral’ or unbiased, rather than equally biased in the opposite direction.

    Then again- and perhaps this is just me sounding kooky- I would argue that the entire idea of ‘right’ and ‘left’ is flawed, because it carries with it an implicit idea that there is a mythical ‘center’ on all issues that is the moderate, accurate, correct one. It is the desirable position, and one that everyone seeks to lay claim to; to be the reasonable one in-between the extremes of the left and right. But it’s a fallacious notion; from where does the mythical center derive its unerring moral certitude and absolute correctness, and why do those on the right and the left always automatically choose to align themselves to one predictable extreme of it? 🙂 Why would we automatically assume there are always three valid perspectives on every issue and the one in the center is always the correct one? Who’s to say that the absolute-left position on this issue isn’t the only valid one, while the absolute-right position on this other issue is the right one? How could averaging in-between diametrically opposing viewpoints on sexuality, the right to life, freedoms, and other mutually-exclusive ideas yield the correct result?

    Now, maybe I misinterpret. Maybe the real unspoken assumption is not that there is an unspoken, correct middle-position on every issue, but that a ‘balanced’ individual can contain an equal number of left-leaning and right-leaning beliefs, evaluating every issue individually and doing what is right, rather than being pigeon-holed into the solid party-line on every single issue, all-left or all-right. And I think there’s some truth to that; God didn’t make a world so simple that we can simply default to the same inclination and tendency on every issue and always get it right. 🙂 The only think we can default to every time is His word, His principles, the commandments he gave us and the Spirit He sent to guide us. Which can lead us to the right in some areas, the left in others… and in others, whole new, unexplored territory that neither philosophies had considered.

    The idea of the right and the left, while an easy generalization to picture the world in, is an intellectual trap. Neither side aligns fully with the only Truth, the only One who is always in the right. Questioning our own bias in assumptions is indeed the name of the exercise, but the need to assume a political label or affix to a single, consistent viewpoint in deciding our issues is just another false assumption the world is trying to push on us. we need to look instead to the one who’s already decided, instructed, and guided us; in Him is no bias, and unlike our own political principles, He will never steer us wrong.

    (Sorry if that comes off a bit meandering/soap-box-y).

    • Ron Cagle

      Bernie Goldberg addressed this issue very well in his book “Bias…” in 1971.

    • S Searcy

      When it comes to being a Christian and in politics our bias is CHRISTIAN and that is exactly what God wants it to be. I fail to understand what either of you mean concerning this. The Break Point audience is supposed to be Christian and what those who have been involved there believe is based on His Word and HIS MORAL COMPASS. I am not sure what exactly this writer is addressing, but how would fact checking have been done except a general consensus of Conservative news outlets online? ….Of whom he seems to be agreeing is “Fake News”. Giving credence at all to this very lost and very wrong professor is terrible and completely unacceptable to me. Believe me, she is more than aware of her bias. She just doesn’t want an ignorant and vulnerable public to know it. She wants to appear “fair” and unassuming.

      There might have been and probably was a day you could pick some ideas and ideals from either party, but it isn’t today. Those who believe this DO NOT know the people in office – their beliefs, their cronies, their history, what they are doing behind our backs. Why would anyone who calls themself a Christian support a candidate whose mentors were/are Saul Alinsky and Margaret Sanger? Ben Carson said plenty about this. Why would anyone who calls themself a Christian support a candidate who believes in partial birth abortion and says that it is fine and right to abort a baby ON THE VERY DATE IT IS DUE? (She made sure her husband ushered in partial birth abortion when they were in the WH, but Congress stopped it.) According to her, the baby has no rights. I heard her say this and will be glad to supply the link of her actually saying it herself. This way I can’t be accused of passing information that hasn’t been fact checked. Straight from the horse’s mouth! Yes, she told Planned Parenthood she has their back while Donald Trump was threatening to shut them down. Maybe you need to hear the testimony of a doctor who used to perform late term abortions and won’t do it anymore. His words chilled me to the bone, and I cried for them. The Left candidate hates Christians and won’t allow “God” to be said in her presence. I can supply that link too for both of you so you can see the woman who introduced her clearly was horrified that she almost said “God” in her presence when saying the pledge of allegiance.
      I shudder to think what might have happened had The Most High allowed her to take office. FBI Agent Gary Aldrich occupied the WH with the Clinton’s from 1993-1995. He wrote the book, ” Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside The Clinton White House”. Here is what he concluded on page 154, “… the Clinton Administration was a corrupt disaster, beyond redemption or repair”. You should read it for yourself to find out who she really is. It only scratches the surface really. He wasn’t with them in Arkansas!

      No, sir, to both of you. You are sadly misinformed and uninformed. The Left stands for gay rights, transgender rights, and “gender fluidity” which is directly connected to satan and against The Lord. Baphomet statues have sprung up in Chicago, Detroit, and Oklahoma City
      and only a year ago did I learn he is acknowledged as both male and female. They want and are succeeding in forcing us to accept men in our women’s bathrooms and dressing rooms. Yep, the local W-M has a urinal right beside the sinks in their women’s restroom! They also accept and even aid illegal immigration. The key word is “illegal”. These illegals will be the very ones to vote them in and allow Globalism to overtake us. There is so much to say about those on the Left and not enough time or space here. In no way do I want to hear or follow anything they prescribe to, nor do I accept reprimanding by the man who wrote this article. Instead, I stand with Conservative Media groups online who are trying to inform us of the truth before it is too late….even if they make mistakes. This professor has an agenda. Here it is: Aid in censoring and/or shutting down the expression of Christian & Conservative viewpoints and truths. She is not just a professor with an opinion, and she is far from harmless. Remember – her list went viral and guess who helped that happen. Paying homage to her in any way and calling out Christians makes me seriously question this ministry. Instead, the writer should have defended the legitimacy of his ministry and other Conservative News Outlets who are trying to get TRUTH to the public despite a very bought and corrupt news media dominating TV day and night. Now THAT’S where fake news is! It’s just shameful.

      • Zarm

        That is the precise reason I could not and would not support Hillary Clinton, and urged other believers to do the same.

        As for what I was talking about, I was just ruminating about the fact that the political left and right are absurd and arbitrary constructs, neither of which embody the truth, and I’m thinking it makes less and less sense these days to try and follow the party line of either, since clearly neither manages to align itself entirely with God’s word. There are aspects that each gets right, and *many* aspects that each gets wrong. And the idea that we should be choosing either one or the other side and sticking to it when the followers of Christ are supposed to be a ‘side’ all of their own, is a silly notion that the culture has tried to get us to believe, but not one that we should buy into. (And while I’ve always identified Right because they are less overtly hostile to many of God’s principles, it is a mistake to assume that the right and Christianity are one of the same, and follow every policy that conservatism suggests without question, because ‘more right than the other side’ doesn’t mean ‘unfailingly correct’. There are plenty of biblical blind spots on the right, as well.) So I think we are mostly in agreement…