The Alternative Facts of the World

In the world of extreme news organizations such as Vox, Salon, ThinkProgress, Info Wars, Drudge Report and BreitBart, it is tough to discern what is real and what is not. Even the United States President Donald Trump has been stoking the fire, by labelling all dissenting news organizations “fake news.” With a leader inciting contention among the media about what qualifies as real and trustworthy, it can be confusing to understand which outlets can be relied upon and which are there to deceive you.

One type of fake news is actively false news stories such as a story from the Nevada County Scooper, “Mike Pence: Gay Conversion Therapy Saved My Marriage.The story claimed that current VP Mike Pence stated in 1983, a student at the University of Chicago at the time, that conversion therapy saved his marriage. Unfortunately, for religious fundamentalists and gay conversion supporters, this story was false (and was potentially be satire) and was based on the former Governor’s stance supporting Conversion therapy. The factors that make completely fake news stories like this one evident is that a quick google search can tell you Pence never attended the University of Chicago. Instead, he attended Hanover College with a B.A. in history (1983) and the Indiana University McKinney School of Law to get his Juris Doctor (1986). Other evidence of the story being fake is that it lacks details and specificity as it fails to tell when and where this statement took place. Most completely fake news would follow this structure: a semi-believable headline which is not filled with detail but contains false, unverifiable facts.

Another example of completely false claims is the story by WTOE 5 News claiming that Pope Francis bucked tradition and endorsed Republican Nominee Donald Trump for president. A similar story was written by the National Report which reported on 26th of October 2015 that Pope Francis had endorsed the current Vermont Senator (then also a Democratic Presidential Candidate) Bernie Sanders for US President.

Another type of fake news are ones that are not completely untrue but contains many omissions or bad use of logic. A story that matches this criteria would be the ongoing stories of voter fraud in the US. 70news cited Infowars as their “credible source” to justify that Donald Trump did not just win the Electoral College but also won the popular vote. According to Infowars and 70news, they claimed that, even though Clinton had a 630,000 vote lead with 7 million ballots uncounted,

“virtually all of the votes cast by 3 million illegal immigrants are likely to have been for Hillary Clinton, meaning Trump might have won the popular vote when this number is taken into account.”

Fake News isn’t only coming from the major news sites, it can also come from the social media sites such as 4chan, Reddit and Twitter. Stories include the “Pizza-Gate” scandal, which was a scandal involving the Democratic Party, Reddit, John Podesta and 4chan memes. This scandal stated that there was a pedophile sex ring operating within Comet Ping Pong Pizzera in the state of Washington. This led to a distancing from voting for the Democratic Party and even a shooter opening fire at the Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria. Other fake news stories that impacted the election include Political Insider’s story that Clinton sold weapons to ISIS, World News Daily Report’s “RuPaul Claims Trump touched him inappropriately in the 1990s” and “Sarah Palin Bans Muslims from Entering Bristol Palin.”

Fake News stories are not only coming from less than reputable, off shoot news organizations, but also more mainstream websites such as BuzzFeed. On January 10, 2017 Buzzfeed’s Ken Bensinger, Miriam Elder and Mark Schoofs published a story titled “These Reports Allege Trump has Deep Ties to Russia” or otherwise known as Shower Gate. In the news story, it published an unverified 35 page report that included “facts” such as Trump hiring prostitutes to have a “Golden Shower” on the same bed as the Former President and First Lady (Barack and Michelle Obama.) The report also showed that Trump had ties to Russia and Russian Intelligence, something that could get Trump impeached if true. Unfortunately for Donald Trump’s opponents, this report was completely false and also littered with 4chan memes. This story, which was published by BuzzFeed, made no attempts to reconcile with the President or warn the public that the story was most likely wrong. All BuzzFeed did was point out spelling and grammatical mistakes and that the report was unverified. They stated,

“Now BuzzFeed News is publishing the full document so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government”.

This statement was leading a public that was already distrustful of President Trump and believing him to be corrupt in accepting the truth of the statements in the report.

Fake news has jeopardized the Media, making every news site distrusted by the opposing side and using the opposing side’s fake news as reasons as to why they are wrong, incorrect and misinformed. Alt-right supporters have used stories from Drudge Report, InfoWars and BreitBart as their bastion of ‘good media’ while calling MSNBC, CNN, the NYT as garbage producing fake news. Nevertheless, the opposite is also true of the Left.

The news has always impacted the election as every news story impacts people’s minds on a daily basis. Fake news has not only made the schism larger between the Left and Right Media, but it has also scared the public. After the election and all the uproar over fake news misleading the public, no organization wants to be labelled as having produced fake news, something that President Trump used to his advantage. By labeling his opponents fake news, he has even blocked CNN, BBC, NYT, LA times (which had the only scientist poll that had Trump winning almost throughout the election), The Daily News and BuzzFeed from a special media briefing. Hand-picking media you deem as “real” outlets is a dangerous game. By doing this, you exercise an ability to deem news outlets that are favorable to you and eliminate all opposition. If the only news outlets that are allowed to report on special media briefings in the White House are those that are considered “real news,” then you will only have pro-government news and any poor decision making will go unreported. This not only contributes to fake news but also makes the public even more politically illiterate.

Fake news has impacted the election and changed people minds and opinions for the worse.  With social media, these news stories have the ability to go viral, making hundreds of millions of people to confirm their own biases and reject news stories and views that don’t. Fake news has virtually eliminated discussion and provided another area for hyper partisanship to live. Fake news has also been allowed to poison the minds and opinions of the public by producing story that confirms the reader’s bias and giving them false information to do so. This makes decisions improperly made and thoughts and ideas illogical due to false information. Elections would be changed and legislation would be made in lieu of fake news. Fakes News has made the world we live in almost a news dystopia and making a world where it is hard to tell what is real and what is fake. It gives false information to the public to falsely get angry about. It affects election and legislation for the worse because of false information leading to a false premise and therefore a false conclusion. Fake news needs to be stopped or the media will capitulate under the weight of the burden and allow misinformation to wreak havoc upon the political world.

 

 

For additional Readings

 

Alpert, Lukas, “Trump Takes Aim at Media Outlets for ‘Fake News” The Wall Street Journal January 11, 2017, February 27. 2017 https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-takes-aim-at-media-outlets-for-fake-news-1484163504

Batchelor, Tom “Donald Trump says all negative polls about him are fake news” Independent.com February 6, 2017, February 27, 2017 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-negative-polls-fake-news-twitter-cnn-abc-nbc-a7564951.html

BBC News “The saga of ‘Pizzagate’: The fake story that shows how conspiracy theories spread” December 2, 2016, February 27, 2017   http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-38156985

Biography.com “Mike Pence Biography” February 16, 2017, February 28, 2017 http://www.biography.com/people/mike-pence-071416

Carissimo, Justin, “White House blocks CNN, BBC, New York Times, LA Times from media briefing”, Independent.com February 25, 2017, February 27, 2017 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/white-house-blocks-news-outlets-from-media-briefing-a7598641.html

Evon, Dan, “Nope Francis: Reports that His Holiness has endorsed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump originated with a fake news web site”, Snopes, July 24th, 2016. February 27, 2017

Finkelstein, Randall “Mike Pence: Gay Conversion Therapy Saved My Marriage” Nevada Country Scooper November 2016. February 27, 2017 https://www.ncscooper.com/mike-pence-gay-conversion-therapy-saved-my-marriage/

Garcia, Arturo “Hoosier Convert: Reports that VP-Elect Mike Pence said ‘gay conversion therapy saved his marriage’ are fake news.” Snopes November 14th, 2016, February 27, 2017 http://www.snopes.com/mike-pence-conversion-therapy/

Griffin, Andrew “What is Pizzagate? The Hillary Clinton conspiracy theory that led to a man opening fire in a restaurant” Independent.com November 2016, February 27, 2017 http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/pizzagate-what-is-it-explained-hillary-clinton-paedophile-conspiracy-gunman-fake-news-a7456681.html

Hunt, Elle, “What is fake news? How to spot it and what you can do to stop it” The Guardian December 17, 2016. February 27. 2017 https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/dec/18/what-is-fake-news-pizzagate

LaCapria, Kim, “Yes, We Francis-Can: The pontifical Academy of Social Sciences invited Bernie Sanders to a conference at the Vatican, but he hasn’t publicly endorsed Sanders for president” Snopes April 8th, 2016, February 27, 2017

Ritche, Hannah, “Read all about it: The biggest fake news stories of 2016” CNBC, December 30, 2016, February 27, 2017 http://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/30/read-all-about-it-the-biggest-fake-news-stories-of-2016.html

Roberts, Hannah “This is what fake news actually looks like — we ranked 11 election stories that went viral on Facebook” Business Insider November 17. 2016, February 27, 2017 http://www.businessinsider.de/fake-presidential-election-news-viral-facebook-trump-clinton-2016-11

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *