Fake News- It’s Gonna Be Ughe *Trump Voice*

The term is thrown around more these days than “social justice warrior” or “left wing journalism”, which saddens me.

Fake news, to my knowledge, used to be when something was entirely fabricated, like the National Enquirer or The Onion. But now, its a slanderous comment thrown at anyone who’s opinion varies from your own. To me, fake news includes clickbait or TMZ-styled reporting that aims to tarnish peoples reputations. The definition differs from person to person, and also depends on the individuals occupation and age.

I once again cast a net out to some people in my newsroom, and got a variety of responses depending on their age, abilities, and journalistic background. Two of my peers answered in a rather casual and to-the-point manner; “I think about all the shit on Facebook” , and even more eloquently, “Like, just random information, not really fact checked”.

But when I asked my professor, and journalistic “man of the cloth” Timothy Lewis, he gave me a Sphinx of an answer; “It’s not as simple as a term; it’s about who uses it. If it’s used by a politician, it’s the latest form of spin. If its used to attack a new organization thats published the truth, then its a non-denial denial. If a journalists uses the term “fake news” its propaganda, but if a politician uses it, its an act to undermine truth-tellers”.

Tim’s right, context is very important in any situation to understanding the implications behind someones intentions. And as journalists, we need to be very careful about our implications; implications lead to assumptions about a persons character and even worse, their journalistic integrity. Peoples assumptions often sculpt their beliefs, and a persons belief can strongly influence how we search for information online, which leads me to echo chambers.

An echo chamber is exactly what you think in your mind; visualize a man in an empty room yelling, and his own voice is reflected or echoed back to him.

Echo chambers allow what we want to hear or what we already know to influence our opinions and beliefs leads to the blindness of the media; most media outlets can be seen echoing what we see on Facebook, like dogs who are trapped under rubble after hurricanes or people who flip water bottles perfectly.

To those of us who took any form of analytics class in high school or college know this as ‘confirmation bias’ or looking for something that confirms what we already “know to be true”. This “knowledge” is often referred to as opinion, because thats exactly what it is. Opinions aren’t facts, but much of what we look to find on the world wide web simply feeds our current beliefs instead of challenging them and reconstructing our mind-frame.

A perfect exercise to examine ones own bias is to google something you believe in, like your standpoint on vaccines or if GMO’s are real. I Googled “vaccines cause autism” and “GMOs are bad” and came up with articles that proved my point; saying that GMOs are put in place by the government to slowly kill us and the agricultural industry, and that vaccinating your children can give them severe birth defects as well as Autism, Aspergers, and many other severe mental health defects.

You can literally find anything you look for, depending on your search terms, and thats a dangerous thing. This sort of confirmation bias can breed ignorance faster than a college frat house’s fridge breeds mold. Look at Facebook, for example; I looked up a page dedicated to the eradication of “Gay Propaganda” and found a page called “Say No To Same-Sex Marriage”. The page is filled with irate people protesting the allowance of so-called “gay propaganda” in social media.

On the flip side of this, I also found pages that are filled with jokes about the anti-gay agenda, like the joke Campbell’s page. In 2011 Campbell’s soup ‘came out’ with a gay ad, one depicting two dads making dinner for their children, and people lost their minds. In response, a joke page was formed, which would respond to hateful ads in an equally hateful and satirical way.

No matter what you’re looking for, whether it’s “Hot Singles in Your Area” or if hippos can dream like we can, you’ll be able to find something, but keep in mind the true intention behind your searches.