Over the course of the past presidential campaign, we’ve seen fabricated news rise to the forefront of American politics. These works of fiction were under the guise of a journalistic work of truth. Facebook and other social media platforms acted as the digital printing presses to spread these false gospels rapidly among the ignorant rabble. It is promising to note, however, that most adults in America seem to be aware that fake news is causing confusion for citizens.
Confusion would only be the burgeoning of qualms for our citizens if the fake news continues to be spread. If these fictional stories are held to be true then actions taken upon those beliefs will almost always be unwarranted, but hopefully not dangerous.
In early December a North Carolina man took an assault rifle into a pizza restaurant and fired shots under the devout belief that Hillary Clinton had an under-the-counter business she was running there. Fortunately this fabricated news story didn’t end in any injuries, but this should certainly be used as a buoy to warn us of the waters which we near. It takes not a vivid imagination to picture what horrid events might unravel should the right combination of fiction and reader be stumbled upon.
Not much fuel would be required to ignite this fire, as has been seen. Some stories’ credibility is enhanced when spoken about by figures of authority or of prominence. The words that lend this credibility whether intentional or not are dangerous and incendiary if spoken by a source with a seat of authority. Then Republican nominee Donald Trump repeatedly made comments about his belief that the election was going to be rigged in his main opponent’s favor.
This lead to a fabricated story being written about pre-marked Clinton ballots being found in the swing state of Ohio in the weeks preceding the election. This story was wildly shared through social media and only fueled by the political speech of Donald Trump. This type of speech is the most staunchly protected form, legally speaking. This means that, when in the political arena, combatants can uses nearly whatever words they wish as ammunition against their adversaries. These can have both lasting and profound impact on our perspective and even our decision-making.
The main passageway through which these fabrications travel is social media. Too often do we see users’ sole method of newsgathering come from social media. This provides too narrow a perspective. This also presents a problem when attempting to discern fictional news from factual. Many fabricated news stories just seem too sensational to be true and the websites they originate from seem to have a suspiciously high rate of eye-catching stories. If this isn’t enough to tip the reader off to the fictional nature of a given story, then one resorts to checking other news outlets. At this point one would check trusted news sources and multiple ones as well to see if this story can be corroborated. If the story truly is as breath-taking as it initially sounds, it should appear on every major news organization’s website.