Facebook’s Conservative Media Outlets Need To ‘Drain The Swamp’: News Bias, Lies, Clickbait, And Yellow Journalism Assassinate Hillary Clinton’s Character For A Fake Trump Crusade
Do these crazy headlines by Facebook’s conservative media outlets sound familiar? Hillary Clinton’s indictment just happened! Oh, no, actually… Hillary has been arrested by the FBI! Hillary endorsed Trump as “honest” while Pope Francis forbids Catholics from voting Democrat! A video of Bill Clinton’s sex tape with a 13-year-old girl on Jeffrey Epstein’s “orgy island” was leaked by Anonymous hackers! Even Oprah is getting in on the action, saying, “some white people have to die”!
Day by day, there have been fake news stories being promoted on Facebook by so-called conservative media outlets that attempt to spin a piece of data in favor of Donald Trump for the sake of clicks. Before the election, there were several false stories being promoted by conservative media, and it was difficult to tell fact from fiction. The worst part was that the real information from Wikileaks about Hillary Clinton, the DNC, and the Clinton Foundation about was damning enough that they didn’t need to rely on yellow journalism. Yet, they lied anyway… why?
Fake Conservative Media Create Pro-Trump News For Cash
It turns out the reason we had so many “conservative” websites lying about the 2016 election is because they are being run by non-Americans who are not actually pro-Trump or pro-Republican. If anything, they’re pro-money, and politically, they’re probably not conservative in the first place. They’re only writing outrageous headlines simply because they can make money by misleading conservative Americans.
This is not a conspiracy theory since the owners of such sites have admitted what they are doing. BuzzFeed News recently reported that Macedonian teenagers have created hundreds of websites designed to “publish aggressively pro-Trump content aimed at conservatives and Trump supporters in the US.” These people “don’t care about Donald Trump,” but instead, they realized the “best way to generate shares on Facebook is to publish sensationalist and often false content that caters to Trump supporters.”
With this strategy, some of these fake news websites have made thousands of dollars a month, with some viral hits generating “$3,000 per day.”
“Yes, the info in the blogs is bad, false, and misleading but the rationale is that ‘if it gets the people to click on it and engage, then use it,'” admitted an unnamed university student who runs one of these fake conservative media websites.
Truth matters. I may be a conservative-leaning Libertarian myself, but the conservative media bias has reached the point that they are in desperate need of cleaning house. Trump spoke of “draining the swamp” in Washington, D.C., but we also need to drain the swamp among Facebook’s conservative media outlets.
Real Conservative Media Needs To Be Based Upon Credible Facts, Not Open Bias
The hard part with draining the swamp is that the line between fake pro-Trump news and real conservative media websites has blurred. On one hand, some of the major news media corporations have torched their credibility by being openly biased toward Hillary Clinton. On the other hand, Ben Shapiro is claiming that Steve Brannon, Trump’s future White House Chief Strategist, turned Breitbart into a Trump loudspeaker and the “alt-right go-to website.” (To be fair, when Allum Bokhari and Milo Yiannopoulos wrote about the alternative right, they claimed they “do not identify with the alt-right” although Bannon admitted during the summer of 2016 that Breitbart has become “the platform for the alt-right”. According to CNN, Matt Parrott, a spokesman for the openly white nationalist Traditionalist Worker Party, “Steve Bannon has never been a white nationalist.”)
It’s also become extremely difficult to tell whether a conservative media outlet is credible. The fake news stories are one thing, but then you have examples like True Pundit, which broke the story about Hillary allegedly targeting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with a drone strike. The claim remains unproven to this day but, RT and Fox News’ Megyn Kelly picked up the story.
Now, it’s important that conservative media be willing to pick up stories that may otherwise be ignored, but the truth cannot be sacrificed in the process. It’s hard to know where True Pundit stands since even Paul Joseph Watson of InfoWars “thought this [drone story] was fake story, until Wikileaks tweeted it out.” As another example, before election day, True Pundit had an exclusive where they claimed FBI Director James Comey was “preparing to conduct sweeping search warrants in the Clinton Foundation investigation or ready to start arresting suspects. Or both.”
We all know how that turned out and the situation after the 2016 election has not improved. Snopes has been having a field day, with some conservative media outlets promoting outright lies like the Donald Trump popular vote conspiracy theory. (In short, a Twitter user generated the numbers out of thin air and the final vote count, although not completed, currently has Hillary winning the popular vote.)
Clickbait Versus Yellow Journalism
Draining the conservative media swamp is also difficult because of clickbait headlines. Nowadays, practically every news media outlet uses clickbait on social media since they know it’s necessary to tease the readers in order to generate traffic and thus advertising revenue. If the headline and Facebook post gives away the meat of the story, then why would readers click the link?
The problem is that clickbait has become indistinguishable from yellow journalism of old. During the Spanish-American War of 1898, newspapers would create sensationalist headlines in order to generate paper sales. This became known as yellow journalism. Similarly, clickbait headlines on social media can mislead or lie to the reader in order to generate a click. A Facebook headline may claim that Obama is ready to pardon Hillary from the email server scandal but, in fact, the story is only about how White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest responded to a question on the topic.
Legitimate clickbait could say something like, “Donald Trump’s Cabinet Choices Announced: Liberals Shocked At Who Trump Picked.” That’s a sensationalist headline that’s also true. Clickbait that strays into the realm of yellow journalism would proclaim, “Donald Trump’s Cabinet Choice Is A White Supremacist!” Yes, it’s true that openly liberal news sites are making this allegation, but it’s also questionable whether it’s true or a lie since Bannon has never self-identified as a white supremacist. Instead, it would it would be true, and almost as equally sensational, to publish a headline that says, “Donald Trump’s Cabinet Choice Alleged To Be A White Supremacist!”
Such distinctions matter since many Facebook readers would never click the link to the news site. If readers’ views are informed by clickbait lies, how can one ever hope to know what’s real news and what’s fake conservative media? As such, real conservative media should strive to be more careful in how they write their headlines.
Facts don't care about your feelings.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) February 5, 2016
Can Facebook Drain The Swamp? It’s Up To Conservative Readers
Past studies have concluded that 44 percent of Americans rely upon Facebook first for their news. The owners of the fake conservative media websites openly acknowledge they thrive only because of Facebook’s open policies in regards to news. Thus, it logically follows that Facebook’s management is the gatekeeper for cutting off their money stream.
The problem is that Facebook may have already considered this issue and done nothing. According to a report by Gizmodo, the solution is ready, but they decided to not pull the drain plug on the swamp due to fear of backlash from conservatives.
“According to two sources with direct knowledge of the company’s decision-making, Facebook executives conducted a wide-ranging review of products and policies earlier this year, with the goal of eliminating any appearance of political bias. One source said high-ranking officials were briefed on a planned News Feed update that would have identified fake or hoax news stories, but disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people’s feeds. According to the source, the update was shelved and never released to the public. It’s unclear if the update had other deficiencies that caused it to be scrubbed.”
Do not judge Facebook too harshly since any algorithm-based filter does have the potential for harming legitimate news media, whether conservative or progressive. Facebook users already have the ability to self-report fake news stories on their news feed. In the end, it’s really up to conservative news readers to recognize that there is a problem. The solution is ready, but conservatives simply need to use it.
[Featured Image by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]