Fake News: What It Is And What It Does



The media played a critical role in the past election cycle (although perhaps it did not play the role well enough since there is a man who is chipping away at the First Amendment in the highest office of the United States government).

Coverage of each candidate and what they chose to do with their time, broadcasts of the debates, leaks of disturbing things they have said or done in the past and much more came from many media organizations. What was perhaps the most influential, and still is, is a couple words that people throw around without really understanding what they mean and the power they hold: fake news.

The fabrication and publishing of a completely falsified article, with the intention to have readers take it seriously, is fake news. What is not fake news are polls that say many oppose President Donald Trump (his net approval rating is only at 2 percent, so it is reasonable to say there are plenty of people who do not approve of what he is doing) or stories that criticize him for the things he chooses to do in office.

In the past, Donald Trump has claimed that news organizations like CNN, Huffington Post and BuzzFeed are “terrible, failing, fake news organizations” without giving any examples to back these claims. What confuses me is that he will support the alt-right (neo-Nazi) platform, Breitbart, as true and accurate news. The irony is almost too much for me.

I do agree that CNN and Huffington Post cover the things that Donald Trump does with criticism (not that I disagree with them), but it is a well known fact that Huffington Post is a left-leaning news organization and some consider CNN to be as well. Of course they are not going to like what Trump is doing; he is so far right and is doing things that no president has done before — because they are not constitutional.

When Obama was in office, Fox published plenty of articles that criticized him and did exactly to him what many organizations are doing to Trump today. The only difference is that Obama always operated within the confines of the Constitution, whereas Trump is beginning to push these confines.

Obama also did not take to Twitter late at night to berate his critics for their negative opinions on him. Trump has, simply because he does not like what they are saying. Just because he cries “fake news”, does not mean the information is false; it generally means it does not paint him in the positive light he wants it to be in.

These claims of fake news have only fueled blind support for Trump though. His supporters who read what he says and do not actually look into the facts will take his words as truth and continue to spread misinformation, which will lead to a slippery slope of false accusations.

For example, during the election, a story was written claiming that the Pope had endorsed Trump rather than Hillary Clinton, even though Popes tend to stay out of US politics. More stories claimed Clinton is lesbian, sells weapons to ISIS and even runs an underground child sex ring underneath a pizza shop.

That last one still blows me away with its far-fetched claims. It is like a wild conspiracy theory that you see and laugh off … except people did not laugh it off and took it as truth.

Not only did this story falsely paint Clinton in a bad light, it endangered people. An armed gunman came into Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria and opened fire, attempting to find the child sex ring and free the children. He later realized that, perhaps, he handled the situation poorly.

The fact that all these negative stories about Clinton and positive ones about Trump started circulating lent a large helping hand to Trump winning the presidency. The problem with these fake news stories (and any fake news) is that people believe them if they align with their views.

People do not take the time to look into the facts; they do not research whether or not Ireland was really accepting Trump refugees or look and see if Clinton really said that she wanted Trump to run for president in 2013.

Instead of taking questionable things as fact and continuing to spread possibly news stories, it is a citizen’s responsibility to make sure things you share accurate and true things so that nobody continues to take these outlandish claims as truth and harm the public’s view of the media as a whole.