The U.S. presidential election of 2016 was something like a circus performance. On the right, the clown-car that was the Republican ballot created a vacuum that only Donald Trump’s ego could fill. The GOP sifted through twelve candidates, who fell away from the political race individually and then in pairs. Republicans had more candidate variety in 2016 than they’d had in any election since their party’s inception, per US News. “All told, during campaigns in the modern era in which no Republican incumbent president is running for re-election, the Republican field averages a shade over 9 candidates.” The year 2016 set a new record.
On the left, things seemed a little more simple. Longtime socialist and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders stepped up to the plate to challenge Hillary Clinton, who was making a second run at the White House. She failed to secure the nomination in 2008 against President Barack Obama.
One of the most influential factors around the election was how each candidate used, or was abused by, fake news stories. As the Democratic nomination came down to the wire, more and more dummy news sites popped up and churned out endless nonsense, mostly about Clinton.
John Mattes, former TV reporter and Senate investigator, was one of the first to raise a red flag about all of the blatant propaganda. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Mattes wondered “am I the only one seeing all this crap float through the Bernie pages?” Utterly perplexed at such an influx of misinformation, Mattes began tracing the dummy accounts and websites back to their sources. After a couple of months of research, Mattes had located 40 percent of the domain registrations, mostly out of Albania and Macedonia, and other eastern European countries.
The fake news phenomenon hit the left hard. Whereas there wasn’t a lot of propaganda surrounding Bernie Sanders, there was an entire mountain of fake news covering Clinton’s campaign. Since 2016’s election really had more to do with voting against someone rather than voting for someone, Bernie supports were swept into the crossfire by sharing everything they could to slander Hillary.
The injection of fake news into the Democratic platform effectively killed forward progress and honest rhetoric because no one was talking about anything real. The misinformation surrounding Clinton served to distract the Democratic voters from real news about Sanders’ momentum and Trump’s volatility. For every speech or article written and released to support Bernie, the fake news websites churned out even more fabricated information. Matt Smollon, from Knoxville, summed it up for the Huffington Post best by labeling the fake news “a distraction from valid info.”
With as detrimental as the fake news scandals were to the left, it’s not surprising that the GOP was able to capitalize on the disorganization. In fact, there is even evidence that shows how beneficial false reporting was for Trump and his supporters. Anytime Sanders cited a news story or source as fake, it cut him down at the knees and may have eventually taken the nomination from him. President Trump, who labeled nearly everything “fake,” including facts, was cheered on and even called anti-establishment.
Bernie Sanders sunk his campaign to combat fake news about not only himself but his rival candidates as well. By taking on this hydra of misinformation, Sanders found that anytime he cut off a head, two or three or four more sprouted up in its place. Trump, instead of fighting the hydra, rigged himself a saddle and climbed aboard.
[Featured Image by Win McNamee/Getty Images]