The fake news aimed at the left since Trump was elected has absolutely exploded. In one Facebook group after another, I’m seeing unbridled rage and rampant conspiracy stories from fake news sites like Palmer Report, or the hundreds of others that have popped up since November. My Facebook feed is cluttered with sponsored posts from one “liberal media” site after another, telling me to like their page if I hate Trump, support President Obama, etc.
The rage isn’t just directed at Trump and the GOP. There are people blaming Bernie Sanders for “dividing the party” or people going so far to the left that they’ve entered territory shared by the alt-right. I’m sure Republicans are ecstatic about watching Democrats fight each other, and it’s very likely they’re egging it on.
As I’ve said before, I don’t think Trump is going to quit or be impeached any time soon, despite the unverified claims that pop up from one fake news site after another on Facebook.
This anger, belief in conspiracy stories, and exploitation highly resembles the attitude of the far-right when Barack Obama was president. You can take many of the fake news stories about Trump, change the title to President Obama, and they would match the conservative websites’ headlines about Obama while he was in office.
In the weeks after the election, the press chastised conservative Facebook users for sharing stories that had nothing to do with reality. Hundreds of thousands of people shared stories asserting incorrectly that President Obama had banned the pledge of allegiance in public schools, that Pope Francis had endorsed Donald Trump, and that Trump had dispatched his personal plane to save 200 starving marines.
The phenomenon seemed to confirm theorists’ worst fears about the internet. Given the choice, democratic citizens will not seek out news that challenges their beliefs; instead, they will opt for content that confirms their suspicions. A BuzzFeed News analysis found that the top 20 fake-news stories “outperformed” the top 20 real-news stories on Facebook in the three months before the election, meaning they generated more shares, comments, and reactions.* A follow-up survey suggested that most Americans believed fake news after seeing it on Facebook. When held to the laissez faire editorial standards of Facebook, the market of ideas fails. (The Atlantic)
Granted, there are legitimate concerns about Trump and the people he has surrounded himself with. Steve Bannon pals around with white nationalists, Michael Flynn was fired for lying about his contacts with Russia, and we’re still trying to get to the bottom of Russia’s meddling in our election.
Getting all of the facts is what we have professional journalists for. These are the people who spend hours going through emails, declassified information, and gathering the facts for publications like the New York Times. I trust these individuals, not some spammer in Macedonia throwing together a fake news story to post in hundreds of groups to collect ad revenue checks from Google or some other web advertising site.
Just like conservatives wanted to believe anything, no matter how bizarre, about President Obama, so do low-information liberals about Trump. The people who run websites like Bipartisan Report or Occupy Democrats know that, and they’re hysterically hawking the latest “BREAKING STORY” involving Trump, but all they’re doing is directing you to a site full of ads and/or malware. No matter who is in power, there are individuals who will seek to cash in on the fear and anger, and the most sensational headlines will always be the most profitable. Here is another example:
If and when Trump is taken down, it will be because of real journalists who have spent their time getting the facts. Let’s keep our skepticism dialed up, and keep the pressure on Trump’s administration by electing progressives to office between now and 2020. That’s the way to take him down, not sharing fake news stories and useless petitions.