I recently got into a FB discussion with a friend over a news article that was circulating around online. Some of you may have already seen it. It’s an article talking about the “accidental” raising of an ISIS flag over the White House. She reacted to this news much like any American who loves this country would. She was upset. I would be too, if it had really happened. This brings me to today’s point. Who is to blame for the spread of misinformation? The so-called “liberal media?” The so-called “right-wing” media? Or the people who read these bogus articles, believe them, and then forward them only to contribute to the perpetuation of false news?
I’ll tell you who I think should be held responsible. ALL OF THE ABOVE. You see, here’s the problem. These fake “news” sources may have at first started as a way for satirists to bring to light what they believed to be the important issues of the time; however, they have turned into dangerous channels through which misinformation can be shared to millions of unsuspecting and naïve readers.
Is this really a big deal? I mean, does it really matter? Who are these fake news stories hurting anyway? The answer to the first question is a big, fat “yes.” The answer to the second question is an even bigger and fatter “YES.” The answer to the third question is “EVERYONE!” In 2013, a fake story about an attack on the White House circulated resulting in “sending stocks tumbling within minutes” of the news breaking out (see full story here from the Washington Post). In 2014, the Annapolis, Md. Chief of Police actually cited a fake article about people dying of marijuana overdoses in an attempt to point out the dangers of legalizing the drug. Later, he learned that the article was a hoax. How embarrassing for him! In 2015, an article was posted on Facebook claiming that McDonalds in Korea added dog burgers to their menus. This was, of course, untrue. It was created by a website called The Racket Report, which claims to report “to you what main stream media won’t tell you.” Um, yeah. That’s probably because we expect to get accurate and true reports from main stream media, not bullshite.
Here’s the problem as I see it. No matter how biased we think some of the bigger news sources may be, we expect there to be some modicum of truth in the news they are producing. We are all well aware of the perceptions that Fox News may lean one way and MSNBC may lean another way. Whichever way CNN leans is always up for debate. Many say they turn to BBC to get their news because they are believed to be the least influenced by American politics. Whatever the opinion, we can all agree that at the very least we expect these major news sources to not lie to us. Yes they may skew, but never just make stuff up. This is why Brian Williams was such a big deal. We don’t appreciate being lied to when we just want to hear the news.
What concerns me the most is that I’m seeing more and more people using social media as a way to spread news they deem important. And what I mean by “people” is “you.” All of you. It’s not that I don’t want to see or hear your opinions. But for the love of all that is holy, can you at least check the validity of these news stories you are spreading BEFORE posting them on your own walls and news feeds? Ultimately, we are responsible for the misinformation madness that is occurring all over the interwebs. And the scariest thing? People are reading these fake news reports, believing them, and making decisions based on lies! I hear people talking all the time about the “dumbing down” of America. Well, we can blame “liberal” media. We can blame “right-wing” media. We can blame “social” media. Hell, we can even blame “mainstream” media. But you know what? Ultimately, it’s our own damn fault for being gullible and naïve enough to believe everything we see. That’s right. We are to blame. Americans are to blame for the dumbing down of America.
STOP contributing to the dumbing down of America. Check your sources and don’t immediately believe everything you see online. Look at the stories that cross your news feeds with an objective point of view and not through a lens tainted by any conservative or liberal bias, or social agenda. Remember, these fake news organizations prey on your political and religious beliefs. They depend on your willingness to believe in the absurd to keep them in business. The spreading of fake news is a serious problem in our society and it has got to stop. And this starts with you.
List of Fake News Sites to Avoid…unless you are smart enough to recognize absurdity and satire
There are plenty more, but these are the ones I have seen most often being spread through social media. Don’t be fooled anymore.
Jennifer Furlong has 25 years’ experience in the communication field and teaches communication and public speaking courses in the Savannah area. She earned a B.A. and M.A. in Communication from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. She currently resides in Richmond Hill, Ga. with her family of canines, felines, and humans. Let's be social! Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter. Just look for Professor SpeechLady. See you in cyberspace.
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