Dawn J. Bennett, founder and CEO of Bennett Group Financial Services and host of Financial Myth Busting, recently wrote an article, “It’s All Fake News”. In her article, she discusses how there are stories that seem legitimate but were actually fabricated and specifically engineered to go viral and spread through the internet as real news. We’ve seen this particularly throughout the presidential election. Even Facebook has vowed to do something about the spreading of fake news— if that’s even possible.
According to Bennett, exaggerations, lies and setups have been common throughout the history of reporting. For instance, there was the recent Rolling Stone coverage of a gang-rape hoax at UVA; Janet Cooke’s imaginary eight year old heroin addict; the 1993 Dateline episode when a truck was rigged to explode when a presumed safety flaw failed to deliver the anticipated dramatic effect.
“Beyond these specific examples, the glaring fakes and the willful fabrications, there is an even deeper problem that we as citizens and investors must contend with: a systemic and systematic degradation of the quality of the news we receive, a willing collaboration between mainstream media and government institutions that provides all the ‘good news’ that can be manufactured,” said Bennett. “Cable news parrots the relentlessly upbeat message of recovery and growth being spouted by the Fed and the White House, and we are left without facts, having to dig through questionable reports to find the real numbers.”
However, it’s not just the media that lies to us, said Bennett. We lie to ourselves too. Bennett uses the post-election increase in stock prices and bond yields as an example. She explained that Trump’s election resolved a long and ugly period of political uncertainly; relief in the markets has increased but corporate earnings have not. The S&P 500 is trading at 27.9 times the corporate earnings of the past 10 years— a level that was seen just before the market crash of 1929. The financial sector has a lot of problematic stocks that will likely get a beat-down during the earnings reporting season. In addition, many investors are postponing profit-taking for supposed tax reasons and will be stuck amidst a rush to sell, which could make the selloff the worst it’s been since last January. Then, there’s the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike, which happened just before stock index futures, stock index options, stock options, and single stock futures expired.
“Are we living in a fake news, post-truth world, a post-reality economy?” asked Bennett. “When we can’t agree on basic facts or even that there are such things as facts, you have to ask yourself ‘How do we talk to each other?'”
She continued, “My answer is as it so often is: we must dig for the facts ourselves, be on the offensive against passively receiving news that could truly impact our lives and well-being from our social media feeds, the mainstream media, and even the government and our elected officials. This is not only essential to protect ourselves, but is a basic act of patriotism, of caring for our neighbors and our society.”