No matter how cynical you become, it really is impossible to keep up. Politics in the U.S. has reached a new level of crass, the international newsfeed is no cheerier, and now we hear that Motorcyclist magazine is going down to six issues per year. Actually that’s probably a good thing for our colleagues who work there, since putting a print magazine to bed 12 times a year while trying to fill a website every day too, really is a lot of work, even if it is fun work.

Of course there were a lot of people commenting on that news, some lamenting the continuing slide of print media; then there’s the usual number of cranks, at least a few of whom said Good Riddance! All the major bike magazines all attend the same new-bike launches, regurgitate the same information and run the same photos! They’re all alike every month!

Actually I think that’s a valid criticism, but it’s a consistent fact that what people most like to read about are new motorcycles; all you have to do is look at the number of Facebook Shares at the top of any MO story to see that’s true. The bean counters at the print magazine will only let it be so many pages thick each month (mostly fewer and fewer lately), so that by the time all the new-bike tests and info are crammed in, there’s not room for much motorcycle poetry or long-form narrative. There are a couple other bike magazines that do a good job with travel and touring and Uncle Bob’s Ride to the World’s Largest Ball of String, but they don’t care about the new GSX-R1000R. It’s a tough row for a general-interest moto-pub like Motorcyclist to hoe, especially since they got bought out by the parent company of rival Cycle World a few years ago.

Constantly striving to preserve my own padded niche in the motojournalism industry, a thing that’s really captured my attention is the recent renaissance of Fake News. “Fake news is made-up stuff, masterfully manipulated to look like credible journalistic reports that are easily spread online to large audiences willing to believe the fictions and spread the word,” according to this Politifact article, which goes on to say: “The popular website BuzzFeed analyzed the interest in these fake stories and found that they got more shares, reactions and comments during the final three months of the [U.S. Presidential] campaign than real stories from the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN, for example.”

Is this Honda’s 2018 Bobber? (Jim Hatch Illustration for Vreeke & Associates)

Is this Honda’s 2018 Bobber? (Jim Hatch Illustration for Vreeke & Associates)

In other words, there’s a huge market willing to swallow anything as long as it doesn’t come from the Mainstream Media, and some of those skeptics must be motorcyclists. Here’s the part that really got my attention: “Creators of fake news found that they could capture so much interest that they could make money off fake news through automated advertising that rewards high traffic to their sites. A man running a string of fake news sites from the Los Angeles suburbs told NPR he made between $10,000 and $30,000 a month. A computer science student in the former Soviet republic of Georgia told the New York Times that creating a new website and filling it with both real stories and fake news that flattered Trump was a ‘gold mine.’”

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Step aside my friend. Maybe a little Fake News would be a nice complement to the kind of factual, hard-hitting motojournalism we’ve striven for all these years. Two MotoGP seasons ago when it looked like Marc Marquez was running interference for Jorge Lorenzo in the championship, unflattering photos of the pair posed as lovers circulated all around the www, including on MO. At the time, I think we all assumed it was a joke everybody got – and that a lot of people clicked on. Now you have to wonder how many people believe Lorenzo and Marquez are lovers, that the joke was true? Just how gullible are these people, and what makes them click? More importantly, can I monetize them? I’m going to throw up a few trial balloons, let me know what you think:

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Valentino Rossi Pizza Parlor in Tavullia is a Front for a Bulldog Puppy Mill! Nine-time champ’s dog Guido forced to mate with hundreds of bitches! Rossi hauled off in cuffs for animal abuse and serving alcohol to underage Shih-Tzus! Since the allegations became public, two Whippets, a Doberman Pinscher, three Yorkies and an entire tribe of Chihuahuas have come forth to back up the complaints and file their own charges – also one cat, who alleges Rossi “grabbed” her in a rough manner. Rossi says they’re all lying, and he didn’t really mean it.

Harley-Davidson Resurrects Project Apollo, All Set to Build 160-Horsepower V-Four Advanced Sport Tourer! CEO Matt Levatich, who was Managing Director of H-D’s former MV Agusta business before being promoted to CEO in February, 2015, says, “I saw the light after my first ride on an F4, and the future is hot, nasty, sexy Italian lightweight speed. Step one will be a liquid-cooled V-Four that’ll blow the doors off a Multistrada; I’m 100% certain our customers will abandon their ’Glides and Dynas as soon as they ride the new bike, just like I did.”

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Ural Wins 2017 MO Sport-Touring Shootout! Amidst widespread criticism from nearly everyone involved, the Ural M70 surprised the world, blowing past a field of Ducatis, BMWs and Yamahas to win MO’s prestigious 2017 Sport-Tourer of the Year Award. Tweeting in ALL CAPS in response from MO Tower, EiC Duke said that if the California DMV classifies the Ural as a motorcycle, that’s good enough for us, and that rugged semi-dependability should outweigh all other considerations. He later added that, no, of course having Vladimir Putin along as a guest tester did NOT influence the outcome, and anybody who thinks so is a big crybaby and a sore loser.

Honda Set to Build an Interesting Motorcycle. After decades producing sensible motorcycles that get great fuel mileage, Honda promises its MotoGP-derived RC1300RR will silence all the performance critics. A semi-standard half-faired machine with adjustable ergonomics and cruise control, the RC will be powered by a supercharged 1299cc V-Four with gear-driven pneumatic valves, housed in a carbon-fiber monocoque chassis. Honda says this one’s designed to blow the doors off a KTM Super Duke R, and will be competitively priced with a Bugatti Veyron. Plus, each RC will come with a free CTX1300. (PS: If anybody at Honda is reading this, that one was Joe Gresh’s idea.)

ISIS Designed Yamaha R1 Ergonomics. Lax security on one of Yamaha’s servers allowed an ISIS operative, Maboula Babooladoola, to gain access to and alter the final design of Yamaha’s YZF-R1 superbike. In an exclusive SnapChat interview, Babooladoola told our Tom Roderick: “Whenever we can’t torture or kill, we like to just make infidels as uncomfortable as possible. In our models, 60 miles on a bumpy road on the R1 is 83% as effective at gaining a confession as waterboarding.” How successful was this program? “We do get owners of R1s, many military and civilian employees, calling and sending us emails with classified information, totally unsolicited, if we’ll only sell them the optional gel seat. The joke’s on them of course, because the bike’s still a rack even with the seat.”

That’s right, the mainstream moto media isn’t going to tell you any of this!

Naturally those discerning (and rare) souls reading my column understand we’re poking fun, but I see things equally ludicrous posted as fact on Facebook all the time, to which the same cast of characters can be counted on to spring up and say WHAT?! THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!! while hitting the Share button in one continuous motion. Instead of rolling your eyeballs and refilling your bourbon glass, I beg of you, please straighten them out going forward, and make it a better world for everyone.

In closing, I will share this Leo Tolstoy quote I found as the foreword to The Big Short, which I finally got a chance to read on a long flight the other day. Great book.

“The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him.”

Happy Holidays, my people, and here’s to an even rosier 2017.

  • JMDonald

    Heads up helmets on. The truth is out there. Trust no one.

    • Douglas

      Yep, be grateful for the web. The challenge is separating the wheat from the chaff, which takes time. PBS’ Frontline is the only informative show I have any confidence in. That said, I seriously doubt things will get any better, at least for the vast majority of us, no matter who lives in the White House, or #10 Downing St, or the Kremlin, et al. They are really just hand puppets, and have been for some time, regardless of their “party affiliation”.

  • DickRuble

    If Mr Putin rode for Ural, there is no doubt that the rest of the field would be left in the dust.

    • Numbone

      This is not the forum for dirty jokes.

  • DickRuble

    Here, true or fake news? you decide.. motorcycle dealer defrauding Polaris and possibly Department of Defense

    http://www.aol.com/article/news/2016/12/21/police-3-arrested-in-fraud-scheme-at-stafford-springs-shop-for/21632804/

  • Ian Parkes

    Grabbed a cat. Chortle.

  • Starmag

    After ‘Iraq’s dangerous WMD’s”, “Snow falls are a thing of the past”, ‘Hillary’s chances of winning are 97%”, “Syria is gassing their own people”, “Kuwait incubator babies”, “Putin hacked the DNC” and plenty of other whoppers, it’s not too surprising only 32% (and falling) of Americans trust the MSM’s fake news. I suppose a certain percentage of people will always like being lied to.
    http://www.carlbernstein.com/magazine_cia_and_media.php
    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/sep/14/gallup-poll-american-trust-in-news-media-falls-to-/

  • Campisi

    I’ll start taking people crowing about “fake news” seriously when they drop the New McCarthyism and start discussing media literacy and critical thinking. So far all it’s been is a furore over who has the best media bubble.

  • John B.

    Great topic John.

    2016 has been a wonderful year for cynics and nihilists. If you have not lost faith in people (politicians, news hosts, billionaires, FBI agents, police, protesters, entrepreneurs, etc.) and institutions, you’re a real optimist. We’ve become a nation of scammers.

    Fake news that confirms one’s world view soothes the soul so much better than reality; and, soothed souls click and consume more. To many website operators we’re not readers, we’re merely consumers whose clicks convert into cash. It makes no meaningful difference what drivel they feed us so long as we click and consume. Also, there’s no such thing as objective reality; just synapses carrying impulses from cell to cell creating a subjective illusion we call reality. Besides, what would most people do with the truth anyway? Reject it most likely.

    One of my New Year’s resolutions will be to read more books (especially fiction) and less Internet. 2017 will be fantastic!

    • Ian Parkes

      “…soothed souls click and consume more.” A conspiracy? Do Canadians, who are significantly less paranoid, consume so much less?

      • Ian Parkes

        Mind you, they do have less to be paranoid about. No cops pissing pepper spray (let alone bullets) at passing motorists, and Manitowac County is south of the great lakes. I just watched Making a Murderer. Wow.

        • John B.

          “It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you.” Aside from frigid cold winters, wildlife attacks, and late spring thin-ice Canada is much safer than the U.S., but we crush them in per capita annual beer consumption. So there’s that.

    • JMDonald

      I have just finished the Cormoran Strike series (a trilogy really) by Robert Galbraith. I highly recommend them. Especially if you have ever been to London.

      • John B.

        I will have a look. Thank you for the recommendation.

    • Douglas

      It should be clear that the Western world, along with most other developed countries, has a bottomless appetite for nonsense. One need only look at the “non-fiction” book bestseller lists……

  • Old MOron

    Preach to me, Reverend.
    Oh, wait just a sec. Let me check the links right above this comment section:

    “Kate Upton stole the show with this dress”

    “The most perfectly timed photos ever captured”

    “Illegal photos of life in North Korea…”

    “How car dealers get rid of unsold inventory”

    Sorry. I got distracted. What were you saying, again?

    • john burns

      I used to click on the ones with nice boobs until I wised up. It’s that or charge you for a subscription, and I bet I can guess which way most readers will go given that choice.

      • Old MOron

        I had a thought about that a while ago. Every webpage nowadays has these pandering and spurious links. I’m good at ignoring them, but every once in a while they get me. Let’s say they get me once a month. If they can get 300 million people to click even once a month, that’s an awful lot of clicks!

  • schizuki

    “Fake news” is the fake news story of 2016.

  • schizuki

    Janet Cooke (Washington Post). Jayson Blair (New York Times). Sabrina Erdely (Rolling Stone). Stephen Glass (New Republic). Dan Rather (CBS). Patricia Smith and Mike Barnicle (Boston Globe). The “Dateline NBC” rocket-in-the-fuel-tank gang…

    The Willy Wonka meme says, “Tell me more about this right-wing fake news.”

  • Douglas

    Whoozat ol’ boy on the chopper…..he looks familiar.