In the wake of Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the presidential election this fall, folks on social media and in the mainstream media have been shouting incessantly about the dangers of so-called fake news. While it’s true that there were a lot of completely fabricated “news” stories that may have helped get Trump elected, the people railing against fake news are misunderstanding the issue and completely missing the larger picture.
Much of America is outraged over the proliferation of what has been labeled fake news. Media sources like The Washington Post, Politico and Forbes have all reported on the scourge of fake news. NPR is now reporting on how to teach school kids to recognize fake news and even Facebook has vowed to take on fake news, The New York Times reports.
This will ultimately do absolutely nothing at all.
The group yelling the loudest about fake news is generally educated liberals, a group I usually consider myself a part of. But it is almost comical how blind most of them have been to the true issue in the fake news saga.
People who shared so-called fake news this election season are not simply too stupid to know how to use Google or Snopes. These are people who don’t trust Google or Snopes. These are people who don’t trust the mainstream media at all these days, and often with very good reasons.
Liberal intellectual elites seem to operate on the assumption that facts are black and white, and there is only one shining truth in any issue that you can trust the mainstream media to tell you. From vaccine safety to genetically modified foods to which side of a war is the “good” side, they look to their most trusted scientists or news stations to tell them what the truth is and then they parrot that like gospel.
On the other hand, there are more and more people in the United States who have grown disillusioned with the mainstream media and the party lines that our government agencies have told us are infallible truths.
Parents of vaccine injured children cannot believe in the CDC or the standard “vaccines are safe and necessary” line that the mainstream media repeats when they dutifully vaccinated their children and must now care for disabled children all the while those same powers-that-be whom they trusted continue to pretend their children don’t exist.
Other parents may choose to have a home birth or to co-sleep with their babies, after doing countless hours of research to make the right choice for their families, and are treated by the mainstream media like dangerous fools who are going to kill their babies.
Others remember when our own government said Agent Orange was safe, and caused devastating injuries to generations of military members and Vietnamese families. The same can be said about DDT, thousands of other chemicals we were told were safe, or hundreds of pesticides that have been found to cause cancer and banned after they were used copiously on our food supply for decades.
Other people have turned their health problems around through alternative medicine or the paleo diet or any of a thousand unconventional means that are ridiculed by mainstream medicine and mainstream media. They distrust a government that allowed prescription drugs like Vioxx on the market that ultimately killed hundreds of thousands of people, yet continues to outlaw marijuana and some herbal supplements.
Others see the corruption in politics and see the stories that make it out that are treated by the media like one-time isolated incidents. They see the legitimate, infuriating stories that aren’t reported at all in America’s mainstream media, and can’t help but assume it’s because someone high up has something to lose by telling those stories.
They see the way multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical companies are buying their way into the media and medical schools. The New York Times reported on the issue of Harvard Medical School teachers being paid by pharmaceutical companies and the conflict of interest that created back in 2009. Many wonder if that story would ever appear in mainstream press today.
They see the way issues like the Dakota Access Pipeline protests were ignored by the mainstream media for months, and when it was covered the stories were often slanted against the water protectors and in favor of the multi-billion dollar oil company building the pipeline. They saw that they needed to get their news updates and video footage from people on the ground sharing through social media like Facebook and Twitter.
These people see the way the mainstream media twists the truth on everything from health studies to proposed legislation in order to have the most scandalous headline or get the most buzz online. They also see the way advertisers seem to influence which stories are reported at all.
They form different opinions than the “approved” opinions about food, religion, cancer treatment, childbirth, social issues or anything else, and suddenly they find themselves branded uneducated idiots by the mainstream press and their mainstream friends. And once that happens in one issue, they start to question those infallible truths in all the other issues, as well.
As long as we treat people who hold different opinions as idiots who are too stupid to use Snopes, they’re not going to want anything to do with any of our so-called real news. It’s not that they don’t know how to find it. They don’t trust it, and they don’t like the people delivering it.
They’ve found new outlets, and some of them are bogus and some of them — believe it or not — may actually be telling the truth sometimes. Believe it or not, mainstream media is not always telling the truth either.
The Kansas Policy Institute recently listed pages of examples of mainstream media creating its own fake news in Kansas and Missouri alone. And there are plenty of times they’re just plain wrong. Let’s not forget that mainstream media said all along that Trump was going to lose the election.
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”
These alternative news sources are giving people a voice they didn’t have in mainstream media, and another thing, too — respect. Until people start to understand that, the only thing this fake news uproar is going to cause is more alienation of people who might just be smarter than you think.
[Featured Image by Om Yos/Shutterstock]