Fake News is Not New

The new buzzwords of 2016-17 are “Fake News” and “Alternative Facts”. Hey, this is nothing new. Politicians, and others, have used an alternate reality of information for centuries. Let’s ignore the politicians and look at three common examples.

  • How did used car salespeople get a bad reputation? (I should say salesmen as when the reputation was earned it was almost all men.) From telling car buyers all kinds of things about the car they were trying to sell, ignoring the car’s actual condition. Technology, starting with Carfax (remember fax machines?) did a lot to level the playing field.
  • Look at the Gallup list of least respected professions and you’ll see insurance sales people just above car salespeople, third from the bottom, with members of Congress being in the cellar. Now, I know from previous reading people don’t like insurance people in general, but think their insurance agent is pretty good. Is this because it’s a product we know we need to pay for but hope to never use? Is it the horror stories some agents tell to “sell” us on more coverage? Tough to really know but I’m guessing a lot of people feel forced into paying a lot of money for insurance and wonder why.
  • Now let’s look at my primary industry, the buying and selling of businesses. Business buyers often focus on one blemish in a business and try to magnify it to make a good business look weak, and get a better price. On the other side, sellers tend to inflate their bottom line via every trick available. They try to tell buyer’s their salary, for their job as CEO, isn’t necessary and is therefore profit (and the business is therefore worth more). They’ll also do the same with the cost of their benefits, cell phone, and anything else they think a buyer will fall for. Yet, I’ve never seen a bank or a (legitimate) business appraiser fall for this. They all put back in a fair market salary for the job the owner does.

Bottom line, all industries, even those well respected like clergy, bankers, teachers, doctors, and others have used things we now call fake news or alternative facts for a long time.

“Is it the truth?” First item of Rotary Internationals Four-Way Test

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