Fake News

Is NEWS Reported? Or Is It Created?

Hunter Carr

Hunter Carr

“Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.”
–Spencer Johnson

After spending 25 years running Information Technology and Information Services companies (data mining) specializing in litigation support, I have learned that the far-reaching availability of the Internet and the prevalence of data mining have created a Fake News Monster, and one big culprit is that litigation filings are reproduced on the Internet and thus help create Fake News! And most people believe what they read.

It starts with the belief that all believable lies have a little truth in them. One lawyer drafts claims according to the view of his clients, and the responding lawyer drafts counterclaims and responses according to his client. These petitions are filed with the court in public records for anyone who wants to see them. The parties’ counsel have written their pleadings to make their clients look good and the opponents look bad. Nasty, fiery, passion-evoking language meant to intimidate is used to create a story that paints a picture of the other party as BAD. Some of the words used are: fraud, thief, crooked, illegal, improper, conspiracy, convicted, criminal, theft, felony, accused, trickery, sham, and the list goes on, endlessly. None of them may be true. But news gatherers are looking for dramatic terms that get headlines, catch eyes, and could possibly go viral on the Internet so that they personally gain a reputation as a Story Breaker, not caring about being a truth finder. There’s truth in that old saw: “If it bleeds, it leads.”

These “News Gatherers” read a document and create another story, based on what they think will drive news–not what the real truth is–always magnifying the bad in each lawyer’s story. In a lawsuit, statements contained in pleadings are not facts (although they may be sworn statements, capable of being rebutted). The third-party story is written from claims, non-facts, conjecture, frequently as part of an agenda, and any or all of which may be completely fabricated. A claim is an assertion, but Fake News is reported as fact. If it were undisputed fact, there would be no reason for a trial. The trial comes after months, or years, of discovering the facts. Through this sometimes lengthy process, the truth is distorted by additional misinterpretations of matters that surface during discovery, whether in materials produced, depositions, interrogatories, or sworn statements of witnesses, all of which may or may not be truthful.

Haven’t we have seen this in recent years during televised Congressional hearings, where it is obvious that a witness is lying, or evasive, or attempting to avoid prosecution? The story that makes the headlines may be far from truthful. And the truthful reality, when it surfaces, may be buried far from any headlines. Words of wisdom come to us from Thomas Hardy in Tess of the D’Urbervilles: “If an offense come out of the truth, better is it that the offense come than that the truth be concealed.” Yet society has strayed far from this credo.

There is no better court system in the world than ours, and a good Judge, good lawyers, and an attentive jury nearly always determine the TRUTH. But everything seems to be drowning in Fake News. God Save America.