Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Fake News is Nothing New

       Fake news is not a new phenomenon and I would argue has less of an impact on events than it has in the past. The election of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton turned on far bigger issues than false reports passed around Facebook and Twitter. If anything, fake news is used as a scapegoat to avoid putting blame most appropriately on the losing candidate and her campaign staff.
      Fake news has been around as long as journalism, but it was not given a name until the 1890's when “yellow journalism” was coined to describe publications that used such tropes as large, sensational headlines for minor news, tantalizing photos and art, fictitious interviews, and facts from unqualified sources. These tactics should sound familiar to anyone who regularly peruses social media.
       But did yellow journalism have the impact on the 2016 election it has had on past events? I have doubts. Newspaper publishers William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer are generally considered to have sold the Spanish-American war to the public via yellow journalism. Propaganda has been a part of selling just about every war and major policy initiative since then. But barely any war or policy initiative appears to be blamed so much on misinformation as the Spanish-American War.
       I am not comparing the promotion of the Spanish-American War via yellow journalism to the promotion of presidential candidates in 2016. I am doing the exact opposite. What bit of information, which was proven false too late for you to change your mind, compelled you to choose either trump or Clinton? There just is not a major narrative or even a blown out of proportion story that swayed pubic opinion toward one candidate or the other. Considering the public’s mistrust in the media, it is difficult to even gauge how much legitimate news swayed public opinion towards one candidate or the other.
       Whatever the extent of the fake news problem is, the solution is simple. Sine anyone with a Wi Fi connection can spread misinformation, take anything you see on social media with a pinch of salt, especially if I is published not cited from established, legitimate sources. Discernment is the key factor in discovering any and all truth.       

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