NPR had a story about an initiative to train students to get better at telling the difference between real news and fake news. Do you remember the infamous “pizzagate” conspiracy theory that ended with Edgar Welch, 28, firing a real gun inside a real Washington, D.C., pizzeria filled with real people.?
The NPR story describes how a high school teacher in Arlington Virginia trained her students to become more skillful in spotting fake news. Getting better at spotting fake news is important. Look what happened in Pizzagate. Had Edwin Welch been able to tell that the “news” he heard was fake, perhaps he wouldn’t have gotten so worked up that he went in to shoot someone in a pizzeria. Unscrupulous people (demagogic leaders and hackers wanting to make money from click advertising on sites they create to peddle stories that will generate great interest) can inflame passions that set off one group of people against members of a different group. Fake news contributes to an atmosphere of suspicion and conflict. Any effort to change that atmosphere is laudable.