The modern cliché “don’t believe everything you read on the internet” apparently should be slapped onto every computer as a warning label. According to the media and coastal elites: You, the public, are too stupid to tell fact from fiction on the internet.
As many question how and why Americans could elect Donald Trump as president of the United States, one of the ways they are coping is by floating bizarre reasons, conveniently ignoring some of the real explanations for Trump’s win — like, to name a few, Hillary Clinton’s inherent flaws, a struggling working class, unrestrained immigration, declining manufacturing base, etc.
Enter “fake news.”
Fake news is the most recent effort to delegitimize Trump. To the people decrying “fake news,” Clinton’s defeat had to be the result of something nefarious. After the news media, Hollywood and even some in the Republican Party deemed Trump to be completely unfit for office, and force-fed that view to the American public — there was no way he should have won!
At first we were told Trump had somehow co-opted the spirit of white nationalism to win, meaning people who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 suddenly decided to embrace their darker sensibilities. We have also heard the Russians are somehow to blame, and now that we are about a month removed from the election and emotions have calmed, people are blaming “fake news.”
Fake news is the label given to things disguised as news reports that are often too good to be true. These stories are “click bait,” intended to validate one’s confirmation bias. Fake news caters to both the left and right and, apparently, has its real impact once people begin posting fake stories on social media.
For example, someone posts a story positing that Obama paid taxes in Kenya in the 1980s, and since only Kenyan nationals pay taxes, he must be a Kenyan and not an American, and thus not eligible for the presidency. The website’s URL looks authentic. It has documentation!
Well, obviously, it turns out to be a hoax. But the person who posted the false information gets a million clicks and makes a lot of money off of the ad revenue from those clicks.
Yes, that’s a problem. However, we are being led to believe it is a problem that rises to the level of things like ISIS, global warming, trans fat or beach mouse extinction.
Hillary Clinton, in one of her few public appearances since the election, came out last week to condemn the fake news phenomenon. She pointed to an incident involving a North Carolina man who for some reason decided to investigate one of these alleged fake news stories, which said an owner of a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant was a front for a child sex operation.
The man, who reportedly saw the fake story on the internet, showed up at the Comet Ping Pong restaurant on Connecticut Avenue in Northwest D.C. brandishing an assault rifle.
“Fake news” may or may not have motivated this man. But if an individual is willing to drive six hours with a loaded gun to “investigate” a story he saw in some dark corner of the internet, he has issues unrelated to “fake news” that likely need psychiatric attention — not breathless news coverage.
Some are also blaming “fake news” as the reason Clinton lost the presidential election. Lately, however, there is an effort to exploit that viewpoint for further political gain.
Assume you do not like the point of view of a particular media outlet. Step one: Wage a campaign that it is “fake news.” Point to last week’s incident in Washington, D.C., or anti-Obama birtherism as evidence it is a problem.
Step two: Pick a media outlet and in some way tie it to “fake news.” If it’s an effective campaign, meaning you can get airtime on left-leaning cable channels and newspapers, the campaign is validated.
The outlet, whether or not it is warranted, has the figurative “Scarlet Letter” and its credibility is shot. No one wants to advertise and that point of view in effect is rendered “fake news.”
That has a chilling effect. It forces media outlets to play it safe, or they will be called “fake news” and lose advertisers. Or they won’t be taken seriously as a media outlet by their colleagues in the news media and those about whom they are reporting.
So what’s the solution to this scourge of fake news?
It is self-reliance, and not defined by those who took “Plato’s Republic” a little too seriously in college and think the plebes need the philosopher kings to determine what truth is and isn’t.
If you’re able to pay taxes (even if it is in the form of sales tax), fill out a voter registration card and show up to a polling precinct to vote, you are competent enough to make a determination who you think should be president of the U.S. — regardless of your belief in “fake news.”
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