Do you know why people love “fake news”?
Do you know why so many “fake news” sites carry it?
Do you know why “fake news” goes viral in the form of emails spread all over the planet with a click of the “send” button?
Let me count the reasons:
- It’s easier to make stuff up than report factually.
- It gets clicks that turn into revenue for enterprising lazy sites.
- Despite being untrue, it is fun, entertaining and often makes people feel good.
Yes, it’s frustrating for people like me who struggle to support actual news sites. It’s confusing, too, because when someone sends me one of these inviting “stories,” I usually wind up wasting at least a precious minute or two of my day determining its falsehood. And it can also be demoralizing for a lifelong newsman when people actually accuse me of “burying” one of these “fake news” items.
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about, because it illustrates my point perfectly.
But before I do, let me emphasize, this story – though you may have seen it before – is NOT TRUE. I will even tell you how it got started by someone who twisted a very good opinion piece by inserting some made-up “facts” to get the ball rolling in a kind of unstoppable, perpetual-motion virality.
The story goes like this, but, remember, no matter how much you like it, it is NOT TRUE.
Are you with me? OK, let me know if you’ve seen this one. (Or maybe it would be better, given the popularity of this item, if you let me know if you hadn’t seen it yet.)
“The owner of the Phoenix Suns basketball team, Robert Sarver, came out strongly opposing AZ’s new immigration laws.
“Arizona’s governor, Jan Brewer, released the following statement in response to Sarver’s criticism of the new law:
“‘What if the owners of the Suns discovered that hordes of people were sneaking into games without paying?
“‘What if they had a good idea who the gate-crashers are but the ushers and security personnel were not allowed to ask these folks to produce their ticket stubs, thus non-paying attendees couldn’t be ejected.
“‘Furthermore, what if Suns’ ownership was expected to provide those who sneaked in with complimentary eats and drink?
“‘And what if, on those days when a gate-crasher became ill or injured, the Suns had to provide free medical care and shelter?’”
Let me rush once more to remind you that this anecdote is NOT TRUE.
But isn’t it delicious?
Don’t you wish it were true?
Wouldn’t it be easy to spread it around – maybe even figure out a way to make some money off it, like a good joke?
Despite being NOT TRUE, isn’t it fun, entertaining, and wouldn’t it make you feel good if it were – or if you could pretend it was?
If you Google any single line of this item, you will be shocked to see how many sites have reported it like it was the newly discovered fifth gospel.
How did it get started?
As far as I can tell, it goes back to 2010 when Phil Mushnick, a gifted columnist for the New York Post, wrote as essay that contained many of the elements verbatim. The only truth in the story is that the owner of the Phoenix Suns, Robert Sarver, did protest his states immigration laws. But it was Mushnick who came up with the clever responses, not Jan Brewer, who actually has been Arizona’s former governor for over two years.
I’m willing to bet that, among the American people at large, Jan Brewer is actually best-known for this response to Sarver – one she never delivered. It resonates with people because so many of them would like to see their politicians say things like this.
In fact, in 2016, we elected a president who actually did! God bless him.
And now what we euphemistically call the “mainstream media” spend most of their time making up “fake news” about him.
To paraphrase what Winston Churchill once said about Russia (one of the great sources of “fake news” today): It’s irony wrapped in a paradox inside incongruity.
Media wishing to interview Joseph Farah, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Poll: 63% of Americans Say Traditional TV and Newspaper Outlets Report ‘Fake News’
While most Americans say that both traditional and online media are reporting “fake news,” they’re more than twice as likely to attribute the falsehoods to deliberate deception rather than to incompetence, a new poll by Monmouth University reveals.
Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Americans say they’re either “regularly” (27%) or “occasionally” being fed fake news by traditional major TV and newspaper outlets.
Asked to cite the reason that these media report fake news, 39% say they do it “On purpose in order to push an agenda,” while only 17% say it is “By accident or because of poor fact checking.” Another 32% denied that traditional TV and newspaper media report fake news.
Regarding online news websites, Americans are even more distrustful, as 80% say these Internet outlets post fake news either regularly (41%) or occasionally (39%).
More than half (54%) say these news websites are doing it deliberately to push an agenda – more than three times those who blame unintentional mistakes and faulty research (17%). Only 11% say online news websites do not publish fake news.
By party, Democrats are much more trusting of both traditional and online media than are either Republicans or Independents. Half (50%) of Democrats say traditional major TV and newspaper outlines do not report fake news, compared to 29% of Independents and 15% of Republicans.
Likewise, regarding online news, 21% of Democrats say these websites do not report fake news, while only 7% of Independents and 4% of Republicans are as trusting.