Actually, It’s About Ethics In Dystopian Journalism

I don’t want to talk about the election, but I will tell you that one of the best parts of being married is that when you have to lie on the bed asking if humans are bad and the world is ending, you have a friend with you.

So a couple of years ago, there was an NPR story from Mike Daisey about the plight of Chinese workers assembling Apple products. Later it came out that the story was seriously exaggerated. I mean, Apple workers in China were definitely being exploited. But not, you know, in the ways he described, and his sources were not real, and general inaccuracies caused NPR to retract the story. It was really frustrating because after the lead story about worker exploitation was retracted, it seemed like FoxCon and Apple got a free pass, and they were absolutely running tech factories without concern for worker safety. Probably still are, actually, but it’s not covered as much since it’s hard to cover a story that was proven inaccurate and retracted.

Anyway, right now there’s a story about the KKK celebrating Trump’s victory in Mebane, NC, making the rounds. It is scary and completely believable, but isn’t accurate. (Worth nothing that it seems to be more of a misunderstanding and series of assumptions rather than a hoax or a scam.) It’s believable because the KKK is legitimately congratulating the Orange Lord, since he’s, you know, the candidate openly supported by the Klan. This is a real thing that happened in real life.

And the president-elect has already named a white supremacist as a his chief strategist (a white supremacist from Breitbart, the source of so much gender-based harassment and shoddy journalism in GamerGate). This is also a real thing that happened in real life.

In this climate, I’m frustrated by the spread of a false story about the KKK because this will make it so much harder for actual stories of racism to be heard. Accurate accounts will be subjected to skepticism and disbelief. After inaccurate stories spread, whether they’re meant to be funny hoaxes or designed as scams or just a normal result of human error, true accounts won’t be believed.  It’s already hard to tell real events from background worldbuilding in a dystopian novel.

Make no mistake, my friends, I’m not defending North Carolina or the attitudes that make this seem like a believable story to read and share. I invite you to share this true story about Cary, NC inviting Rachel Dolezal to speak at the town’s next MLK event as your touchstone for the state of racial relations in North Carolina. And make no mistake, it’s important to keep telling the truth and sharing the truth about the rising violence, racial and sexual harassment, discriminatory graffiti, and other daily events in the Orange Lord’s domain. Please, my friends, continue to write these accounts and then continue to fact-check and then share these accounts.

If there is one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s the terrible damage of uncritically sharing and believing lies.


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