The Truth is Just One Page Away: The Dangers of “Fake News”

By JOHN LYNCH

I have a pair of beat-up old gray Converse high-tops that I, in a fit of boredom, decided to subject to my admittedly middling artistic talents one bright afternoon this last Thanksgiving break. Armed with a black Sharpie, I simply let the pen flow and looked for aesthetically pleasing results. While working on this time-filling project, one thought seemed to percolate down through my subconscious thoughts of politics, my future as a journalist, and my view of the world into the ink that slowly filled the canvas shoe: The truth is just one page away. Cryptic and certainly not what I had expected from what was a simple artistic outlet for a boring day, that phrase has bounced around my head all day since my little project. The more I thought about it, the more I agreed with my own statement. After some pondering of the matter, I realized that the phrase represents every sentiment I associate with modern politics and the state of the world.

I find the state of modern news to be repugnant. So often, hard facts are distorted and misused to support arguments unrelated to the context of the data, especially when tied to political bias. Modern Americans are more than willing to ingest any media they think agrees with their beliefs while shunning the views of other people. Born of this narrow-minded approach to consuming news are concepts like “Fake News”, which strips the media of value, particularly when the person claiming it holds the highest office in the world. Immortalized in modern American colloquialisms by President Donald Trump, “Fake News” is a scapegoat created as a cover for the media’s coverage of the President’s many well-publicized errors. It suggests that every media outlet not named FOX News, Breitbart, or, in some cases, Stormbreaker is not trustworthy and will lie to the public to keep the President’s agenda from carrying out its will. (Oh, the irony!) Fake News itself is a contradiction- in falsely accusing proven facts of being leveraged as slander for slander’s sake or challenging the validity of said facts with no real logos of its own, the term Fake News must itself slander and lie its way into the public psyche.

Fake News as a practice lacks substance, and as a result so too does the arguments it represents (or lack thereof). However, when President Trump tweets about Fake News, the presidential bully pulpit often saves him the trouble of substantiating his opinions with actual facts. And people believe it, too- at 43.7 million followers on Twitter, Trump possesses one of the most influential outlets for his opinions on the Internet. The real problem with Fake News is not that one person blames it for his failures. Everyone has failures, and politicians are certainly no exception. The true problem with Fake News is that it has taken up enough of the public consciousness to be used as a scapegoat for the entire far right movement. Ultra-conservative commentators like Alex Jones, Stephen Bannon, and Bill O’Reilly have all adopted the concept of “Fake News” as their all-purpose cover for actual journalism that would debunk the ceaseless gibberish that they spew on a daily basis. Alt-right conspiracy theorists theorists have always existed- they simply needed to change their formula. By replacing actual, quantifiable facts that would support their arguments with attacks on the validity of the opposition, “Fake News” not only discredits real journalism, but also the value of truth itself. So the next time you read an article from Alex Jones’ InfoWars detailing why the government staged the Sandy Hook massacre, or a Tweet from the President on why the Fake News media should be looking at the “alt-left” at an event where Nazis openly marched down American streets and killed a peaceful protester, just remember that this is not normal. And when looking for facts in a media system that increasingly lacks credibility, keep this in mind: The truth is just one page away.