Ever since the 2016 election, the mainstream media and generally the left have been in a tizzy about “fake news” sites and how they got Trump elected.
Is “fake news” really a problem? The answer is yes and no.
What is “fake news”?
At face value, just based on the two words “fake” and “news,” one could reasonably assume that they are websites that publish completely fictitious news. If you were to assume that, you would indeed be correct. Sites like The Onion and National Report are widely known as satire sites, and they don’t really try to hide that fact. There are many satire sites on the web and you can usually find that they admit that somewhere in their “about” section of their sites. But there is also a completely different animal out there as well.
There is a literal plethora of “independent” or “alternative” media sites on the net. Some are good and have reliable information and some are so biased and unreliable, that they do in fact lead people down the wrong path. And it is those unreliable sites that are the reason Reliable-News.com was formed.
Along with other media outlets, the Daily Dot published a list of 58 “definitive fake news” sites. Some of the sites they list are there strictly due to the fact that they are “right wing” sites, even though they put out good information, and some made it to the list for good reason. The Free Thought Project is one site that is deservingly on that list. Not for the reason that what they publish is purely fictitious, but because more often than not, they leave out critical parts of a real event in order to skew the story to fit their agenda. There are too many examples to list, but if you take any one of their stories and then fact check and research it for missing information, incomplete quotes and out of context wording, it will soon become obvious that they most certainly earned their place on the list of “fake news.”
A site that did not make it on the list, but is just as bad as the FTP, if not one of the worst on the web, is Counter Current News. They are also one of those sites that take a real event or story, leave an incredible amount of pertinent information out of it, deliberately falsify facts, skew the wording and context of said event or story, and don’t even get me started on the way they word their headlines.
It is sites like FTP and Counter Current that give alternative media a bad name. But this is not to say that the mainstream media is any less “fake.”
Mainstream media, such as, but not limited to, CNN, MSNBC, FOX and CBS are largely no more reliable than alternative media. They are just as guilty of twisting words, publishing biased information and half truths. Just like with alternative media, if you take one of the MSM stories and cross check it around the web, you will usually find that they are heavily biased and missing critical information. The MSM is also not free from telling blatant lies to the public. There are many of these cases out there. From green screening their presence at a certain event or place, to completely fabricating facts about things like guns, police brutality and various politicians.
So is “fake news” a real problem?
One could make the reasonable argument that if you’re only getting your information from one source, not fact checking that source and then parroting that information under the assumption that it’s true, that you’re not only lazy, but you’re doing everyone else around you a disservice. So sure, if a site is publishing fake, twisted or otherwise untruthful news, they could reasonably be considered morally bankrupt, but it is ultimately your responsibility (as a reader) to fact check everything you read on the internet. This is an issue with many readers, especially the die-hard mainstream believers and the alternative news flock.
Everyone has a certain amount of bias, especially when it comes to political issues. Many readers have a tendency to stop researching once their bias has been confirmed, this is called “confirmation bias.” The people that can not break free of their confirmation bias, is where both the alternative and mainstream hook people. Many people are unwilling to admit that what they have believed is or could be wrong, so they gravitate to the nearest site that confirms their bias. This enables them to sleep well at night, so to speak.
While outright fake or skewed stories from both alternative and mainstream media’s are bad, the biggest problem is that people believe them and then share that bad information.