Did you know that WikiLeaks confirmed Hillary Clinton sold weapons to ISIS? Or that Pope Francis endorsed Trump for president? Or that Khizr Khan, gold star father of slain war hero Humayun Khan, is a Muslim Brotherhood agent who got money from the Clinton Foundation? Or maybe that an FBI agent who exposed Hillary’s emails was murdered, and that the assailant suspiciously committed suicide?
If you knew that, you were a victim of fake news.
The internet has seen the growing emergence of fake news. Not from satirical news shows, but rather misleading or outright false ultra-partisan conspiracy theory hit-jobs that are often passed off as legitimate news and can be shared thousands of times on social media in an echo chamber of alt-right idiocy.
Naturally, most conservatives get their news from legitimate and reputable news organizations, and there is no shortage of fake news on the left, either. A study by Buzzfeed showed that 19% of stories on left-wing hyper-partisan sites were false, compared to 38% on right-wing hyper-partisan sites.
Interestingly, most pro-Trump fake news sites don’t spawn from the desire for the orange, but the desire for the green—money. Pro-Trump sites are simply more profitable, and some, don’t even originate in the United States. Buzzfeed tracked 140 fake news sites to the town of Veles in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Often, people who believe these fake news stories have a pre-conceived notion and choose to read and share articles that fit that notion, confirming their belief, rather than reading contrarian objective news. People see what they choose to see. The aura of pleasure from the confirmation of their ideologies only further blinds them until they can no longer see.
However, this culture of online post-truth media, contrary to popular belief, is no longer limited to the kooky right corners of the web. President-elect Donald Trump’s new Senior Counselor is Steve Bannon, who spearheaded the alt-right “news” site Breitbart.com. Their all-caps headlines have included:
“NEW EVIDENCE FROM HIS DOCTORS SHOWS HITLER WAS GAY”
“RACIST, PRO-NAZI ROOTS OF PLANNED PARENTHOOD REVEALED”
“BILL KRISTOL: REPUBLICAN SPOILER, RENEGADE JEW”
“TRANNIES WHINE ABOUT HILARIOUS BRUCE JENNER BILLBOARD”
Breitbart is no longer in an ignored kooky right corner of the internet, it has infiltrated the Oval Office, and the Oval Office has no corners. But for some far-right enthusiasts, Breitbart isn’t even crazy enough.
Most recently, a made-up controversy known as Pizzagate has spread through the internet. It started on a pro-Trump Reddit thread, and quickly spread to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ Infowars fake news show.
Pizzagate alleges that the Clinton campaign, notably manager John Podesta, uses pizza-related code words to communicate with a secret Satanic pedophilic child trafficking ring that the Clintons are connected to, operated through a Washington D.C. pizza place whose owner is a homosexual who had dated David Brock, the same David Brock who ran a pro-Hillary political action committee.
People now legitimately believe that Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington D.C. is actually the home of a Satanic predatory gay child prostitution ring because of this fake story. Comet’s owner and employees have been harassed as if they were actual pedophiles. They were flooded with negative reviews.
One North Carolina man who believed these conspiracy theories walked into Comet Ping Pong, pointed his AR-15 at an employee and proceeded to fire the rifle inside. He claimed to have been “investigating” these conspiracy theories. Thankfully, nobody was injured in the incident and the suspect was apprehended.
This speaks volumes to the readers of fake news—that some people are so invested in an idea that they will believe anything negative about those who oppose their ideas. Websites like Facebook and YouTube actively feed people’s desire for dirt on their political opponents, and this has fueled distrust of conventional media, which cannot possibly feed that desire as fast as the internet can.
Fake news is a dangerous epidemic. An informed electorate is necessary for a vibrant democracy, and internet brainwashing of the voting public is an enemy to democracy. People ought to take all news stories not from credible sources with a grain of salt, and actively aim to debunk their pre-conceived notions to avoid being trapped in an echo chamber, such that democracy can continue function properly.