Fake news from both right and left is something I have been talking about for years. In 2016, fake news outperformed real stories from respected sources, thanks to Russian meddling, clickbait purveyors, and the terrifying gullibilty of the American public on social media.
Examples of this include the dangerously false Pizzagate story and others that targeted Hillary Clinton, as well as exaggerated stories aimed at the left from websites like Daily News Bin, Occupy Democrats, and Palmer Report.
Now that the election is over, and Donald Trump will be our 45th president, the fake news epidemic shows no sign of letting up. In fact, the left is going into overdrive exaggerating legitimate stories about his possible involvement with prostitutes and the Russian government – because apparently the facts aren’t damning or profitable enough.
People mistrust the mainstream media partly because they feel that it gets facts wrong or doesn’t cover stories that CNN, CBS and others should be paying attention to. The other reason is because “alternative news sites” spend a lot of time trying to convince people that only they have the real truth, and not to trust anyone else but them.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t read blogs or websites that aren’t NPR, NBC or even Fox News if you want to see what conservatives are saying. I do read National Review on occasion, along with some other conservative media sources periodically to understand where the right is coming from. Just like food, it is important to consume a balanced diet of media sources, rather than just sites that pander to your confirmation biases.
Whether you realize it or not, political media can be a very lucrative revenue stream for anyone with a website, regardless if the material is true or fake news. With the right connections, people can make thousands of dollars every month simply by taking real stories and respinning them with a false or highly-exaggerated slant.
Don’t believe me? Just ask Bill Moyers:
“Investigations of fake news have reported that it is a commodity — primarily a way for its perpetrators, many of whom are young people overseas, to earn money by blasting out ludicrous material for which there is an audience, and in that respect it is no different from many of the alt-right sites. Commodity or not, fake news has already played a role, perhaps a substantial one, in Donald Trump’s election, especially since his campaign was aided by Russian hackers and trolls disseminating falsities — everything from Hillary Clinton using a body double to Pope Francis endorsing Trump to ongoing charges of voting irregularities to Clinton heading a child-trafficking ring out of a pizzeria.” (Source)
Nobody cashed on this better than the Macedonian spammers who made a small fortune by targeting Trump supporters. With the help of angry and gullible deplorables, they still continue to rake in the cash, despite Facebook and Google’s attempts to slow that down.
I understand that opposing Herr Gropenfuhrer is a priority for us for as long as he is in office, but do we really need to engage in the same tactics as the far-right? Can we at least take the time to do a little fact-checking of our own before passing on stories that do not hold up to a quick review on Snopes or Politifact?
We can do better than this, we have to do better than this, or we have no moral high ground to stand on when it comes to fake news versus the truth.