Wading Through All the Fake Stuff

The bogus email I just deleted was an invoice for $672, ostensibly from a business friend. Who got hacked? We both sighed and changed our passwords. Discerning reality is exhausting these days: fake bills, fake phone calls from “government agencies,” fake news. Especially that.

When did fake news become a buzzword? About four or five years ago with the rising tensions in politics, according to the Internet.

So how do you know what to believe that’s online? Or in the news?

Gone are the days when Howard K. Smith or “Uncle” Walter Cronkite solemnly broadcast to a trusting public.

Now it seems anything can be spun, photoshopped, manipulated, scammed, or invented with impunity.

I generally trust the Wall Street Journal, although it’s not infallible. Recently I marveled at a full page ad (pricey) that headlined “An open letter to anyone who will listen;” by one Nick Vitale of Milltown, N.J. Ordinary Nick claims to be 36 and has a list of grievances that makes you love the guy. We’re constantly told by everyone from truckers to makers of just about everything to dial some 800 number and “give us your feedback.” Nick then laid out his list of everything from poorly made hamburgers to weird charges on cable bills to the need for hand sanitizer at the gas pumps. “Thanks for listening…. if you wish, please don’t hesitate to reach out.” Wow. He must have a Gofundme page or a blog. Nope.

I turned the page in the paper to another full-page letter. Tech CEO’s, Bill McDermott of SAP and Ryan Smith of Qualtrics, (great companies) briefly responded, “Thanks for your feedback, Nick…we’re doing something and will be in touch soon.” Amazing! Two zillionaires who fly their jets to DAVOS are just regular guys and are reaching out to Nick? Except I tried reaching out to Nick. The only Nick Vitale in Milltown is 47 and also goes by Nicola. None of the emails and phone numbers listed on the internet work. The bewildered WSJ kid I finally got on the phone had no information. Good luck trying to get those CEO’s on the phone. Maybe it’s just a slick marketing advertorial. Maybe all ads are fake news. After all, trying to relate to and convince people to consume stuff is what advertising is all about. Still, I was really looking forward to talking to Nick.

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