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Fake News is Not New – It Used to be Called Propaganda

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

I was taught propaganda was fake news distributed to the masses to mislead and control them. The best example of it in the world in the late 1980’s was the Russian Newspaper called Pravda. The Russian government ran Pravda and printed what it needed to control its people. We were taught America had a free press that was absolutely trustworthy. Oh, how times have changed.

Pravda is no more and you’d be a sucker if you believed America’s press wasn’t propaganda more often than not.

Fake news is a hot button issue, especially since our information moves at the speed of light thanks to the dawn of smart phones and social media. Literally, if I watch news at night, I’ve already seen all of it in real time as it happened. News as it used to exist is gone. Immense power to mislead and inform now lies right in the palms of everyone’s hands.

Politicians have started to figure it out. Did you notice Trump dominate news cycle after news cycle by a perfectly timed tweet?

Misinformation can be spread like a wildfire and once it’s out there…it’s out. The old genie out of the bottle sort of thing. It never really gets put back in. With all that power, some people are looking to get a hold on it. The German government is actually considering fines of up to $522k for each day Facebook leaves up a fake news story.

From fake stories about a famous person’s death, to attempting to manipulate elections, the fake news problem is here to stay. Fake news can be outright propaganda of old trying to sway the masses to a political point of view, but often times it is meant for other nefarious ends…greed.

The financial markets have been especially susceptible to fake news stories. If a fake news story can be successfully launched a market can slip into a frenzy of buying or selling. Markets are emotion driven and some well-placed fear can trigger panic and if you are the one creating the panic, that can create insane profits.

I’ve written several pieces about Bill Ackman and his company Pershing Square. In 2012, he orchestrated an attack on the company Herbalife by taking a billion-dollar short position in the company that triggered such a massive sell off that markets had to be suspended. Ackman had no reason to do this other than massive profit motive. Herbalife has fought a valiant effort to return the favor by not going quietly into the good night.

Their stock today is strong and stable. No thanks to Bill Ackman. He is still waging a war to bring them down. It’s nothing personal against Herbalife, it’s business. He is still on the hook with his shareholders for the billion short.

Ackman has continued his assault and discovered fake news to be a wonderful tool. He repeatedly uses sites like Seeking Alpha(SA) to disseminate misinformation and outright lies. The New York Times described Ackman’s game like this.

“This crusade is really rooted in one goal: finding a way to undermine public confidence in Herbalife so that his $1 billion bet will produce an equally enormous return.”

Using fake news, an army of lobbyists, civil rights groups, and social media to portray Herbalife as dead or dying is a picture in the power of the so-called media. The fact that Herbalife is surviving is the glimmer of hope in a propagandized world. Perhaps, in time the truth will stay win out, even in the digital world where lies and truth swim equally distorted in a sea of information.

As end users of all this wonderful information, we have had to learn to take what we read online with a grain of salt until it can be proven from multiple sources with a track record of truth.

The days of believing what you read right away are long gone.

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