Thanks for the feature image from DLPNG.com.
I can remember, for the bulk of my life, reading the cover of the tabloids in the check-out line at the grocery store. Each aisle had a section in the beginning with several tabloid newspapers on display. The newspapers’ names ranged from The Star, The Globe, The National Enquirer, The National Examiner, The Sun and the extra special Weekly World News. Some were black and white while others were in color. A few had glossy covers while others were matte.
As a young child in the 1970’s, I had no idea that Bat Boy, Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster were just myth. I mean, how could this be? It’s right here in print and if it is in print then it must be true. The ethics of journalism are never compromised and by logical deduction, these stories must be true. Well, I guess I wasn’t that bright because all these stories were true until my parents informed me these papers were for entertainment and were not factual. Imagine my guffaw when confronted with this knowledge. It was audible.
I have never actually read more than the front cover of one of these tabloids while standing in line in the aisle at the store. I never even touched them with more than my eyes. I used to prefer my written comedy Alfred E. Neuman style through Mad Magazine or the less popular Cracked. The only time I ever flipped past the front page of a tabloid was if a friend’s parent had it out on the couch. The inside pages were just as misleading as the cover if not more so.
Images by daily.ds106.us, Hy-Vee.com and thefederalistpapers.org
I would have eventually figured out the truth about these papers without my parents’ influence, but they just sped up the timeline for me. At that time, I was experiencing fake news. It was entertainment presented in a newspaper-style format. Actually, based on the headlines, it should have been pretty obvious the information was of a fictional nature. The headlines were so absurd they could not be true. With that being said, I also remember verbal arguments on the playground concerning the validity of these headlines. I was not the only kid in school going to the grocery store with their parents and reading the tabloid covers.
These types of papers are all fine and dandy. The problem is people believe them. In the modern age, with the advancement of computer capabilities, fake news or misinformation can appear to be true in the eyes of the public. This “news” goes beyond a playground scuffle between children to influencing elections or causing someone harm.
It is becoming more difficult, with skillful computer users and the ability to augment photography and video for readers, to differentiate between fact and fiction. With social media as globally interconnected as it is, it is quite easy to share and pass on inaccurate reporting. Before going any further, it may be necessary to define some historical and modern terminology relevant to our topic.
Lies– intentionally false statements.
Fiction– literature in the form of prose, especially short stories and novels, that describes imaginary events and people.
Rumors– currently circulating stories or reports of uncertain or doubtful truth.
Propaganda– information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.
Yellow Journalism or Yellow Press– journalism reporting real news without facts or verification. Designed to sell newspapers.
Chequebook Journalism– the controversial practice of news reporters paying sources for their information. In the U.S. it is generally considered unethical, with most mainstream newspapers and news shows having a policy forbidding it. Wikipedia
Satire– the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.
Parody– an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect.
Perception– a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.
Bias– prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.
Clickbait– (on the Internet) content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page.
Pay-per-click/Cost-per-Click– is an internet advertising model used to drive traffic to websites, in which an advertiser pays a publisher (typically a search engine, website owner, or a network of websites) when the ad is clicked. Wikipedia
Fake News– Fake news, also known as junk news or pseudo-news, is a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate disinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional news media or online social media. Wikipedia
Fake news is nothing new. While researching, I came across a comprehensive timeline listing occurrences of fake news by Julie Posetti and Alice Mathews. It is a good read and I suggest the reader does just that.
It seems like every article I read on fake news highlighted this story. The gist of the story is a British astronomer in South Africa, John Herschel, made some observations of the moon with a powerful new telescope. The New York Sun wrote six articles on this event. The publisher of The New York Sun used the opportunity to lie about the observations to sell newspapers. The story printed in the paper included giant man-bats, blue-skinned goat critters, two-legged beavers, rivers, vegetation and unicorns.
The original intent of Richard Adams Locke was satire unto Thomas Dick and his absurd connections between the cosmos and a duel world theory. Dr. Thomas Dick did not respond kindly to Locke in his published work Celestial Scenery. Anyway, the bottom line is Locke dupped a lot of people and increased the sale of the New York Sun by 2.5 times. It is not the fault of Locke. His writing was so good he fooled a whole bunch of people while irritating others.
Where does the responsibility fall when it comes to fake news? The responsibility does not belong to the writer, hoaxer or trickster. The writer’s job is to fool people. The fake news disseminating on the internet does not come from reputable sources. They may come from Macedonia where many pro-Trump stories originated during the election. The kids in Velles were making money from a Pay-Per-Click scheme. It’s difficult to believe these teenagers had political motivations for the 2016 US presidential elections. However, their drive for money has forever damaged this planet and the people on it.
I believe publications have the responsibility to uphold ethical reporting and validate stories. It is the responsibility of the publication to demand ethical behavior in its reporting and from its journalists. It is also the responsibility of the publisher to be of the highest ethical standard in their pursuit of truth. Unless the publication is designed to be a complete farce and everyone knows it. Then we have a satire.
When does responsibility fall to the reader? It is the responsibility of the reader to validate the source. Don’t just haphazardly share snippets a friend sent via Facebook or Twitter. These internet sites are not held to any standard. They are not news outlets and don’t employ reporters. They do not check sources or validate them. These sites are merely vehicles used by hoaxers. The hoaxers hope the viewer will pass on the information without thinking. The writer of fake news counts on the people receiving the article to assume their friends have validated the article before sending it to them.
Propaganda is used by governments or organizations to sway public opinion in one way or another, pro or con. During WWI, many propaganda posters attempted to swing public opinion towards volunteering or a positive outlook towards the Great War. If you were male, then you should sign up and participate. If you were too old or a female, then purchasing war bonds would help the war effort financially. Posters circulated claiming enemy soldiers ate children and engaged in demonic affairs. Lies used to stimulate enrollment in a war where there were at least 40,000,000 casualties of both military and the civilian population.
The ultimate fix to fake news is education. I believe it is essential to provide high-quality education to every single child on the planet. Every child must be educated to the same degree with truth and fact, regardless of unpleasantries. Historically, the winners of wars and battles write history the way they see fit. This must cease. Facts are facts be they kind or not.
In conclusion, we, the readers, are the cure to fake news. Do your research, verify sources, check facts and cease to promote the distribution of damaging misinformation by not sharing. Resist the urge to click and share. When the truth comes out, it eventually will, the reputations of the people that passed on misinformation will be tarnished. Don’t be one of them. Oh yeah, beware of bias. EVERYONE has it. Recognize it and do the best to see beyond it. Thanks for reading and let’s work together for a better world.
Following is a list of fact check sites. This is not all, yet, I believe, some good ones. Factcheck and Politifact lean towards US politics.
https://reporterslab.org– this site will connect to site relevant to a specific area.