Fake news is definitely a problem. In the last week leading up to election day, the top 20 fake news articles were more popular on Facebook than the top 20 real mainstream news articles. Since Trump won, many liberals and journalists have turned their attention to fake news. The prevalence of these small but influential website peddling flat out lies has significantly damaged political discussion between liberals and conservatives, especially when combined with Trump’s “rigged media” rhetoric.
Nobody wants to accept that the fake news they want so badly to be true is actually false.
In any argument or conflict of ideas, like an election, neither side wants to lose or be wrong. If you’re losing, it’s so easy to use any ‘evidence’ you can find, even if it’s simply a convenient lie.
Combating fake news isn’t easy. Instantly, everyone considers biased news fake. It’s not. Biased news either disproportionately covers stories that help conservative positions, and/or presents the news from a conservative perspective.
The next big problem is that Trump’s conservatives simply see mainstream media like CNN and NBC as total liars, preferring their news from sites like Breitbart and PrisonPlanet. In reality, CNN and NBC generally tell the truth. They may be sometimes misleading, but they are never totally untrue. Unfortunately, websites like BreitBart and PrisonPlanet often make things entirely up. All. The. Time.
After people started caring about the influence of fake news, Paul Joseph Watson from PrisonPlanet instantly reacted with a video arguing that censoring fake news is really censoring conservative news. Surprisingly, he’s right, but not for the reasons he thinks he is. He argues that what liberals mean when they say they want to reduce the influence of fake news is that they actually want to censor conservative news instead. In reality, rational people want to reduce the influence of fake news, which happens to mostly favour conservative and alt-right positions.
In the top 20 fake news posts on Facebook, all but three of them were pro-Trump or anti-Clinton. Every writer of fake news sites expresses that writing pro-Trump pieces generated significantly more views than any pro-Hillary pieces they tried.
Trump’s rhetoric of a rigged media only exacerbated the reliance on fake or misleading media. If you don’t like what the news is reporting about Trump, you can just call it rigged and lying. Trump’s post-truth politics lowered the trust of mainstream media so much that millions of voters saw fake news as more trustworthy than the mainstream media, because it reported exactly what they wanted to believe.
Any discussion on this issue ends up with Breitbart and PrisonPlanet being called as trustworthy as CNN, Fox News, or ABC. Never will anyone agree on what sources are trustworthy or fake, because the people who trust them see them just as ordinary news articles. The lies make sense to them. If the sources they trust are called fake, then those readers will so no reason not to call news they don’t like fake.
So how the fuck do we fix this mess? Accusations of lies are just brushed away as lies. Criticism of fake news are just equated with partisan bickering by those who read it. In an age where anyone can publish anything, and an age where whatever’s published can be shared so easily, there’s no obvious answer.