Fake news isn’t the problem: Advertising is.

First, I agree with the basic premise — advertising dollars have generated significant incentives for clickbait and fake news to flourish.

But, I don’t think that advertising dollars are the root problem. I think the investment (advertising is an *investment* by the marketer) is following the most logical path to accessing appropriate attention. This isn’t the source of the problem, but merely a flashlight shone on the problem.

I had a conversation with my tween last night which, I think, highlights the real issue. We were watching TV together and s/he wanted to talk about how Tyson was abusive in how it raised its pigs, based on a Youtube video of undercover recordings s/he watched earlier in the day. I asked “how do you know it was abusive?” and immediately received an passionate emotional response of “it’s obvious”. I asked if the video showed any context, explanation of procedures, or valued the workers’ skills and experience. Similar response. I raised the question of farrowing crates (read more than just the Wikipedia article!) and s/he stumbled and eventually stormed out of the room.

Everybody, at some point, struggles with recognizing another person’s experience and skills, especially when non-intuitive decisions are made. It’s too easy to say “Oh, they just do that for the money” or “for the power” or “because they like meddling” or any number of other easy answers. Judgements that feel good are preferred because they’re easy and give you a short high.

In short:

  • Critical analysis is hard.
  • Emotional highs are nice.
  • Dollars just flow downstream.
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