The Danger of Fake News And This Week’s Echo Chamber

deborah pardes fake news blog


Fake news, you ask? Yes, and the Pope just got his pilot’s license. I read it on (a pop-up fake site)  But it’s not funny when the fake news invites verbal and/or physical violence. It’s happening and we’re talking about it a lot, but it’s still raining lies. We think holding up our umbrellas in unison somehow keeps those still out in the rain from getting soaked. It doesn’t.

Here’s a sampling of who’s talking about fake news this week:

NPR SF ChronicleAspen Inst.ABC News Huff PostDiane Rehm

Here’s who’s reading / watching those reports: you and me and the other 3% of America’s critical thinkers. We smoke this stuff from breakfast till midnight snacks. But the secret is not getting out. I have been in conversations with the good people of The Center for Media Literacy, NPR, my colleagues in the libraries, some new friends at The Aspen Institute – you get the picture. The dialogues are still inward. There is no mechanism that teaches people on the street the basic media literacy skills one needs to employ before they say Amen, Hallelujah in response to something they read, hear or watch.  BEFORE they buy a diet pill or vote on a proposition...

I’m producer and an activist. I’m not an academic. It’s not my style or my strength. So I’m the sprinter clinging onto this message in my hand. I’m partnering with some of the smartest people on the planet who have taught media literacy for 30 years. I'm running as fast I can to get a national teaching tour and documentary up and running by July.

Fake news is dangerous. Historians tell us that it was the spark that started our war with Spain in 1898 - when war could at least be contained. That no longer is true. We are in the fragile balance between a tweet and a boom.

What is your strength? How can you bring wisdom and critical thinking the millions of good people around this country who don’t know they’re being lied to? I have no profound insights or suggestions – just loads of encouragement for you – the above average human reading this – to find a way to either get out there and teach (thank you Common Sense Media) or support someone who is mobilizing to reach as many people as she can.

Something tells me that Ray Bradbury would make a good pundit right now.  He said that you don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture – just get people to stop reading. Just feed them simple lines and simple pictures. Then control them once their behavior reveals their addiction to your game. Dystopian? Absolutely.

We are the mighty few who are still awake, reading between the lines. At least we’re still reading. Let’s start reading ALOUD so everyone who is curious and alive and willing to listen. This is not a partisan issue by ANY stretch. This is about the true north - where facts live. Let's hand out free compasses to anyone who is willing to take them.

6 Letters That Save My Life Everyday

GLITTR — The Acronym For Not Falling Off The Map

My soul is a free one. It’s gotten me into trouble at times but I’d rather bump into walls once in a while than stay in one place wondering what’s just around the corner. I’d rather push myself out there — beyond what’s just in front of me. I’d rather feel very alive and engaged and moved rather than stuck inside a box of doubt and fear.

So that’s me.

But there’s a price to living large, out loud, and exposed to the harsh elements that aren’t all about love and acceptance. I get rejected, knocked down, hurt. I get my heart broken.

When this happens, I do this thing. I GLITTR. Reading that out loud, you hear the word glitter. That’s a noun and a verb — both remind me of pieces that reflect light. So, yes, when my heart is broken — a lot of light is still reflected. So that lights me up. And I GLITTR to get through the pain and move on.

G — Ground — I get my bearings

I stop what I’m doing. Stop. I feel my feet on the floor. I get in touch with each of my 5 senses. I still need to do this even though I’ve been eating kale and quinoa since 1991. I still need to ground myself when I get hit and feel wobbly. I smell the air around me. I look at what’s directly in front of me. I listen to what sounds are within earshot. I feel my desk, my chair — what ever I can reach. I ground my emotional self into my body self.

L — Locate — I have a body

I locate where I’m holding my anxiety / my pain / my heartbreak. I give it a color and a shape — usually it’s a blue GPS dot. If it’s moving, I follow it. If it’s pulsating, I try to find its pattern. If it’s drilling a hole in my gut, I follow its path. That’s all do at the moment. I feel like when I locate an emotion in my body — I’m understanding that it has the (potentially damaging) power to manifest physically.

I T T- Inquire, Turn Towards.

My instinct to reach out when I’m knocked down is STRONG. But when I GLITTR, I resist going outward and push myself to turn inward. Once I ground and locate as a body/mind — I am rooted enough to do this. I give myself a scan. I go beyond locating my pain and go into the work of playing with it — as strange as that sounds. My throat is a hot spot for me. ( Most people get stomach or neck aches. I get throat aches when my heart is crushed by something or someone.) So I find as many adjective as I can to describe my physical pain. Each word I think of becomes a drop of honey for me. I name the pain “sharp” and the drop of honey soothes me. Yeah, I know it sounds a bit sweet and simple. But when I GLITTR — I always feel better. So bring it on.

R — Recognize — leash the monster

I begin to see that my thoughts and feeling are dancing together — front and center — with the spotlight of my attention fully on them. I’m not going to trip and fall because I didn’t see this coming. I’m seeing everything, feeling everything and I’m still alive to talk about it. I’m no longer breathing heavy. I’m no longer feeling so overwhelmed that I can’t see the light switch. I’m GLITTR. I can illuminate this situation.

This is what I do when life sucks. Some weeks I do it daily. Some weeks I don’t do it at all. But I know that this is a tool that works and it’s better than drinking or counting to 10.

Yes, I wrote a book about this with a doctor who has more credibility than me in the traditional sense. But we are all gurus. We all have wisdom that is woven into our DNA. I think we forget to summon it when we are blasted with ‘expert advice’ that seems once-removed from our souls. That’s why I GLITTR — to shine my own light back onto myself. It helps me find my way forward, inch by inch.

Crush Silos / Create Circles

corporate communications retreats storytelling summits

This isn’t a Kumbaya rally cry. This is about a corrosive situation that I see in small and large organizations alike.

Systemic disconnection.

For the past 25 years, I've been honored by the access I have had to the internal sanctums of my corporate clients. It’s been necessary for me to do my work. I have signed dozens of NDAs and I have staying in integrity with all of them. What my commentary is about today does not point to any one client in particular, nor does it call out any one specific incident as being a trigger for this passionate plea.

My tipping point is more like riding over an ocean swell. I am recalling all the ‘perfect storms’ that I’ve been privy to. I see a common weather pattern. I’ll stop the metaphor here, though it’s tempting to surf on.

People work in silos. They need to meet in circles. Not at yearly retreats - but on a weekly basis, if not daily. No effective and clear communication happens in any other way.

The employee engagement and leadership development space generates over 4 billion dollars each year. That represents an enormous amount of money spent to enroll participants in training programs that are more like communication boot camps. Epiphanies happen. Hugs even. But Monday morning comes, and a large percentage of these programs drop people off a cliff. No sustainable change happens.


Retreats create openings because paradigms shift and walls fall. Then, once we return to work – the old paradigm - we build walls back up to protect ourselves. So let’s work with that, because it’s what realistically happens.

We can pull each other over the walls we build by inviting people into circles of communication. Circles create uniformity between all points. Silos do not. Unless companies institutionalize communication circles – literal, intentional, physical circles of connection, collaboration, sharing and compassion – there is no chance for the complexity of the human experience to be a positive force that drives progress forward. Being human requires that we leverage our ability to honor and connect around what's going on in each of our lives that impacts the whole. I’m not imposing any one method or modality to achieve this. I’m just suggesting that is starts with a circle.

Unless companies institutionalize communication circles – literal, intentional, physical circles of connection, collaboration, sharing and compassion – there is no chance for the complexity of the human experience to be a positive force that drives progress forward.

When I run storytelling workshops, I sometimes begin with this spoken word. Then, with 500 or 10 people – it doesn’t matter – I pair people to create the smallest circle possible. From that experience, expectations of communication increase. Then the ripple happens. Then systems can change, new habits can form, and people talk about what’s going on – regularly. Not after they get a horrible, frequently misguided performance review. Not after a crisis. But as a regular means of holding the entire community accountable to the well-being of each individual member.

Circle up! It’s what tribes have always done for centuries. It’s what most things in nature do to survive. We can’t let our self-aggrandizing complexity blind us to the most basic of communication styles that has worked for thousands of years.


Valley or Beach, the Encroachment of Silicon Can Turn A Culture Upside Down

After living in San Francisco for 18 years, I drove south in 2009 to live in Los Angeles. I wanted to experience a city that was a little less driven by tech innovation and driven more by creativity/storytelling. I wanted less silicon and more soul. [Insert reference here about boob jobs. Yes, I know the irony.]

Flash back to the oxygen of the Bay Area. It became infused with a noxious mixture of money and technology. I started having trouble breathing. I knew the assault on my system was my own to bare. People around me were thriving in this “there’s an app for that” culture. I wasn’t, so I did something about it, by moving to Los Angeles where there are still more creative people per square foot, than there are people who think technology will save us all.

As Playa Vista / Silicon Beach expands into the sprawl of villages that is now my Los Angeles, I don’t want to see creatives take a back seat to the race-car mentality of digital innovators. We need to be inextricably linked as partners. We are all the guardians of culture. If we allow technology to drive content, and not the other way around — we’ll miss the human experience of this trip entirely and just drive aimlessly on a highway of too much information.

I lived through this once. I don’t want to see it happen again in Los Angeles. As money pours into Silicon Beach, I shutter to think of how many creative projects/innovations get dropped in the name of investments in tomorrow. Eric Garcetti and Gavin Newson (ex Mayor of SF) should have a lunch and talk about this issue. I think our wonderful Mayor might not think a mass-exodus of artists — people who are the backbone of this city’s legacy — is such an exciting story. The solution is for him and all of us to ask the question: if there’s no app for that — isn’t it worth protecting even more?


In a moment of lazy curiosity, I bought a bag of seaweed from a Chinese market. This was back in New York City in the early 90's. It felt exotic to hold a bag of blackness that smelled like Gilligan's Island.

This was pre-internet days, when information was accessed through conversations with experts.  I lived in a studio on 106th and West End Ave (Duke Ellington Blvd), filled mostly with graduate students and the elderly. I was neither. I couldn't think of anyone within knocking distance who knew about seaweed. Maybe it's like rice, I thought.

The bag sat on my kitchen table, while I leafed through the Moosehead cookbook - the only cookbook I owned. No seaweed suggestions. No mention of the sea or of weeds.  I was free to wing it, released from the notion that there was a right way or a wrong way to prepare seaweed that would make it edible.

If you're dying to know the specifics of how I came up with classic Upper Westside 'sWeed dish, email me. This is more about theadventures I had in my mouth, in my kitchen, and in my mind that day. I took some seaweed and went for a ride.

#3 Try cooking with an ingredient you've never cooked with before.  For some of you that may mean practically everything. Awesome! Maybe steer clear in the web. Go for creativity and failure rather than exactness. It's way more engaging for your inner child, as it electrifies the wilderness of that imagination of yours - always waiting to be sparked.

Crush Boredom / Create Happiness.