Real Fake News

Is Truth Stranger Than Fiction?

In an apparent attempt to perform a public service,
U.S. News and World Reports has warned its readers to stay away from The Onion “at all costs” if they are looking for real news.


I doubt
U.S. News readers actually so cognitively limited as to fail to understand that The Onion is satire. But apparently it’s a real concern in an era of fake news - a term that become quite popular lately. There is also a great deal of concern that people are getting their news from social media, which tends to mirror back our interests and opinions to us, creating an external world that looks very much like our internal belief systems.

With Saturn in Sagittarius, we’re all concerned with truth - what’s real, and what’s belief. Saturn hardens us into our beliefs, and simultaneously brings us to question their foundations. We hold tightly to what we believe - what we
know - to be true, only to feel our beliefs calcifying and crumbling in our ever-tightening grip.

Practically speaking, this means that we become more polarized in our beliefs - more entrenched in our assumptions and less likely to be able to even hear, let alone evaluate, another perspective. At least that’s part of the process - because the equal-and-opposite reaction is that we find that our beliefs have limited foundations.

Facts? They hardly matter. Saturn in Sagittarius is willing (for a while) to let us select data that fits with our prior beliefs, and if that fails we can make up data that exemplifies what we believe. We all know that a really good piece of fiction can sometimes get the point across better than mere historical fact - and that’s what Saturn in Sagittarius tempts us to do. The only problem is, we fail to recognize the difference between fact a good fiction. The
as if becomes is.

There are several different varieties of fake news, as outlined by
U.S. News. In their incisive piece on the subject, they differentiate satire, hoax, and propaganda. Satire seems to me to be exempt from consideration as fake news, but it’s worth noting that there is indeed a difference between news stories that are sent out into the world as a hoax - Hillary Clinton is running a pedophile ring - and those that are devoted to propaganda (selecting facts that fit a particular view of a story, using dubious sources, and reading into stories). Check out this New York Times article for an example of fake news stories going viral.

Those on the fringe - both left and right - make a case against the mainstream media. In their version of things, the mainstream media itself is biased. Conservatives famously grouse about the ‘liberal media’, yet liberals rarely feel that stories are biased in their favor - when a story doesn’t go your way it’s easy to claim bias, whether or not that bias is real.

Some folks take things a bit further than this, though, and claim that the mainstream media is strongly biased and is itself a source of fake news. They point out - not without some justification - that there are really very few corporations in charge of the majority of news, despite an apparent plethora of news outlets.

They also point out that the majority of news sources feeding into these corporations come directly from the government - follow the same story through multiple media outlets and look for the same wording and phrases, then trace it back to original government statements, and you’ll see that there really is very little variation in the news as it’s presented in the mainstream media.

None of this means that there is no investigative journalism in the mainstream media - there is - but rather that a majority of news is delivered by a few corporations and originates from a few sources. Throw in some corporate interest and a need to sell product, and it’s not too far out to question the validity of mainstream news (at the end of the day, I think most news is treated as product, and popular stories are the ones that are presented, but that’s just my opinion, not a fact).

With Saturn square Neptune for virtually all of 2016, our sense of reality was challenged. Conspiracy theories multiplied - even
The X-Files returned for a hot minute (see below). The result was both a multiplication of real fake news and the questioning of real news as fake. And if that sounds confusing, you’re right on track.

Of course, Saturn - and even Saturn/Neptune - isn't just messing with our sense of truth for the fun of it. Or maybe he is (or they are), but there's still a message for us as we navigate this hall of mirrors. We're learning about the relativity of truth, that what we see and what it means are reflections of the perspective from which we are viewing 'facts.' We construct our realities, they aren't given - our beliefs mold our perceptions of the data, and the data will eventually overwhelm our beliefs, theories, and even our very realities.

That doesn't mean, though, that 'anything goes', that we can take a purely solipsistic approach, or even worse - that what we say is true because we believe it. Nor does it mean that all perspectives are ultimately valid. At one level, we're learning about the relativity of truth, but at another level we're learning that there are limits to this relativity. Some things are a matter of perspective... some things are just nonsense.