Recent reports of the Proctor Valley Monster standing in line to order a salted caramel mocha at the Bonita Road Starbucks are greatly exaggerated.
Everyone knows PVM drinks only pumpkin spiced lattes now through Black Friday, when he returns to drinking his no frills espresso before heading back to his lair where he consumes McNuggets with his secret stash of Szechuan McNugget sauce.
Most reasonable people over the age of 13 would know that the above is not true. The news of a monster, from Proctor Valley or anywhere else, standing in line for a beverage is false. Fake. And how would they know this?
For starters there is no corroborating eyewitness accounts. No one other than the writer saw what happened and, in absence of photos or videos, it’s a matter of hearsay.
But perhaps the most important determining factor in establishing that the PVM/Starbucks story was fake is the common knowledge that monsters don’t exist. At least not of the never-seen-but-everyone-swears-they exist variety. They are as real as Big Foot, Nessie and Bat Boy.
But these days other “fake news” isn’t so easily disproved. Not because facts have a new definition and the meaning of reality has undergone a seismic change. Instead it is because so many of us have applied that label to information we find distasteful, unpleasant or hard to believe.
Instead of believing a story that would challenge our values, beliefs or personal code, while at the same time challenging us to employ critical thinking, we slap the fake news headline across the top and move comfortably on.
It is a fantastic way to carry on with an unburdened, worry-free life. But it is a sad way to live if you hope to live in a community that is always progressing.
In the days before fake news was the de rigueur dismissal, politicians, spokespersons, police, professional athletes and public messengers would wave away news inquiries by saying a particular subject was a non-story. “There’s nothing there,” they’d scoff.
And while the news business has always had an element of subjectivity — a church group’s rummage sale may not have the same importance or reporting value to a community that a water rate increase does — the bottom line is that facts are facts. They are real.
So the next time someone dismisses a story you read, hear or watch as fake news, ask yourself if what you’re talking about challenges your already established beliefs. If the answer is yes or no, go one tiny step further and look into the issue yourself with research at the library if you are one of those folks who no longer believes what they read online.
And if you ever see the Proctor Valley Monster standing in line at a Starbucks, grab a camera, take a picture and look for other eyewitnesses before you start spreading the news.