EDITORIAL: Readers must be discerning

York Dispatch
White House press secretary Sean Spicer calls on a member of the media during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, Monday, May 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

NOT REAL: BREAKING: FBI uncovers evidence that 62 million Trump voters are Russian spies

THE FACTS: The satirical article was republished from The Daily Stormer this month following real headlines of the investigation into the Trump campaign's connections with Russia. The original piece quoted anonymous sources in the FBI with evidence the voters were KGB agents. One truth in the headline: More than 62 million Americans did cast votes for Trump last Nov. 8 and elected him president.

NOT REAL: Clinton Foundation cargo ship raided at Port of Baltimore reveals sick secret

THE FACTS: An account originally posted by admitted hoax site TheLastLineofDefense.org falsely cites a CNN report that port officials found 14 containers holding 460 refugees "from places like Yemen and Syria." The Port of Baltimore denied the report on Twitter last week. The Clinton Foundation also said there's no truth to it.

The Associated Press each week compiles a roundup of some of the most popular, but completely untrue, headlines of the week. It fact checks them for legitimacy and corrects the ones that aren’t legit, though they were shared widely on social media.

Fake stories are circulated on the Internet by unscrupulous low-level computer hacks seeking to profit by playing on readers’ emotions. They serve, ultimately, to support believers’ political perspectives and values, and by doing so, can serve to divide neighbors (and Facebook friends).

Researchers aim to help web users recognize ‘fake news’

It’s important we all remain vigilant and don’t automatically accept news that doesn’t ring true, that we haven’t verified by searching for it on reputable news sites and finding it on more than one such site — or, better yet, by doing some research of our own.

But we also must not dismiss news we don’t agree with as fake news. Community journalism isn’t fake news simply because the opinion page is conservative or progressive leaning. That’s a long-standing tradition and doesn’t migrate into the pages of local news and wire reports. High school graduation coverage is a community service, not part of a plot to disseminate fake news for the conservative or liberal agenda.

Our lack of critical thinking can diminish the power of the electorate. We need not be elite, or judgmental, to think and conduct research for ourselves. And if that research presents facts that don’t fit our worldview, let’s try to understand other worldviews — we don’t have to throw away our opinions and values to do so.

The tail is wagging the dog today in the U.S. It’s time American citizens stop allowing others to play on their hopes and fears with misinformation and rhetoric targeted to divide the electorate by class, race, gender or political affiliation.

Inside a fake news sausage factory: 'This is all about income'

It’s time for Americans, no matter their political leanings, to denounce the herd mentality, the shirts vs. skins tenor of political gamesmanship, in favor of a more thoughtful, well-informed and independent ideas of their own — based on facts, no matter how difficult they might be to accept. Things don’t always go our way. We don’t always “win,” in politics.

But the American people, at the end of the day, must be on the same team against political forces seeking to divide them by ideological differences.

And alternative facts are not facts, as one newscaster told a political pundit recently. They’re lies.

Find all AP Fact Checks here: https://apne.ws/APFactCheck.