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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Best Book On Fake News Shows You How To Battle The Lies

One of the best books out there on fake news – what it is, how to sniff, it out, and how to avoid falling under its spell – is Donald A. Barclay’s Fake News, Propaganda, and Plan Old Lies:  How to Find Trustworthy Information in the Digital Age (Rowman & Littlefield).

The author, an academic librarian for 28 years and a former teacher of research-based college writing, has been involved in promoting information literacy for a long time.

The book provides information, and examples of propaganda and fake news and considers what aspects of the fake news phenomenon are actually new versus those which have been around since long before the Digital Age.  It describes how technology can be used to create deceptive information.  It describes some of the most common tricks used to pass off deceptive information as credible.  It also details the misuse of logical fallacies and looks at how statistics are used to illuminate as well as to obfuscate and offers practical suggestions for understanding credible statistics and spotting the misuse of statistical information.  The book also shows the strengths and weaknesses of scholarly information and describes online tools to help information-seekers evaluate the credibility of the information they encounter.

Barclay’s book identifies the many deceptive techniques that fakers use – and how to spot them, including:

·         Lying
·         Covering bullshit with cleverness
·         Confounding correlation with causation
·         Denouncing the hypocrisy of those they disagree with
·         Using deceptive images
·         Faking expertise
·         Misusing history
·         Falsifying attribution
·         Mixing fact and fiction
·         Omitting selected facts

“Creators of information have many deceptive tricks they can employ in the hope that you drop your information guard and fall for information that is not credible,” writes Barclay.

“Being aware of and alert for, these tricks will help you avoid falling for them.  That said, anyone can fall for misinformation, especially when encountering information that confirms existing biases or plays on emotions.  Powerful emotions like anger, fear, and joy can be manipulated in ways that cause you to drop your information guard, so it’s important to remain aware of your own limitations as an evaluator of information – and working to overcome those limitations – is key to avoid being tricked into accepting misleading information.”

The best part of the book is chapter five – which explains the nine essential questions one must ask to evaluate an information source.  The questions are:

·         Who created the information?
·         Who published the information?
·         What comes after the headline?
·         What sources are cited?
·         How old is the information?
·         What do others think of the information?
·         Is the information a primary or a secondary source?
·         Is the information a joke?
·         Is the information different from anything you have ever seen?

Another strong portion of the book is his chapter that helps others find resources for evaluating information.  He identifies these sources as being reliable:

However, according to Poynter Institute for Media Studies in June 2016, there were “more than 100 fact-checking projects active in approximately 40 countries.” Even though it’s great that watchdogs exist, a watchdog may need to exist to evaluate the watchdogs.

“Not only do you need to keep aware of what information watchdogs are out there,” writes Barclay, “you need to know which of those are truly trustworthy.  The fact that there are so many self-proclaimed information watch dogs means that the field is open to watch dog sites that claim to be impartial but that are, in fact, highly partisan.  After all, what better way to spread lies and propaganda that by claiming to be a resolute defender of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

If you feel overwhelmed by the contradictions, misinformation and unreliable claims that are thrown around as if they were gospel, you should read Fake News, Propaganda, and Plain Old Lies.


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America and participated in a PR panel at the Sarah Lawrence College Writers Institute Conference.


  1. While I hate the term "Fake News" the fact is that much of what the American public is fed by the mainstream media is biased and slanted in one way or another and the truth, while still out there, requires far more effort to uncover than the average American is willing to devote to the task. Yellow journalism and "spin" have been with us for a long time, but in the past we had multiple news sources to balance blatant lies and propaganda. In the 90's there were some 50 separate news sources available in the US; as a result of corporate mergers, now only six mega-corporations control 90% of the media, and while they still seem to compete with one another, many times they have a common agenda, as well asties to industries and political entities that have their own agendas to pursue that conflict with the public good. As you note, even the "watchdogs" need watching sometimes.

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