In 2017, the term “fake news” was used 365 percent more often than in 2016, earning the award for “Word of the Year” by the Collins Dictionary. Yet, fake news remains one of those highly politicized terms that gain popularity in the public discourse, while few agree on what it really means.
A lot of important issues are raised here about dealing with fake news. And, a lot of what is considered fake or not depends on trust. When the source isn’t trusted the news is likely considered to be misinformation and when the source is trusted the news is like to be considered truth. There always needs to be healthy skepticism regardless of the source. With the popularity of conspiracy theories growing, particularly on the right, more and more people believe just about all information from the government or major media is fake news. Many people do not believe the US actually went to the moon. Many believe the recent mass shootings were faked by the government. Many believe that the World Trade Center towers were brought down by explosives planted by the government. Many believe climate change is a hoax. To a large extent the problem seems to be the people not the news.
A reasonable definition of fake news is false information that the original author knows is false and is perpetrated for the sole reason to smear the opposition. E.g., practically every word out of the mouth of Alex Jones, most of the twits from the little fingers of Donald drumpf, most of the information from Faux and Breitbart, the list goes on. One of the pathognomonic signs that news is fake is when the person promulgating it refuses to change even when shown that the piece is undoubtedly false. An example would be Jones claiming that the pizza shop where Hillary ran her sex ring is a true story.
And as far as combating fake news, Mark Twain said that a lie has traveled half way around the world while the truth is just putting on its pants.
The spread of “news” about weapons of mass destruction came about because the Bush administration fed it to all the media. So…who is culpable here? The NYT and other media outlets should have used their investigative reporting to do what? yes, investigate. For accurate news It is necessary for investigative reporting to take precedence on the quick fix news tips that seems to drive today’s media platforms. Fake news is certainly problematic in todays digital world of social media, broadcast punditry, obsessive lying and dissembling by our elected officials and their minions. Unfortunately, our educational system has also failed all of us with respect to critical thinking. It is extremely refreshing to me to see the Parkland Florida Stoneman Douglas students able to think critically, this school is successfully educating it’s students!