What is Fake News?

By now, everyone has heard the term “Fake News”. If you haven’t, you’ve either been living under a rock or spent the last two years in a coma. Arguably one of the biggest terms of 2017, it is a moniker that President Trump has given largely to the left-leaning media, which he calls the “Mainstream Media”.

What exactly is “Fake News”? If you ask the left, it’s Fox, aka the Faux News Channel. If you ask the right (or Trump) it’s the “Communist News Network” or “Fake News CNN”. Often, people call the other side “fake news” for having viewpoints they do not share. That’s simply name-calling.

One example of “Fake News” is the clickbait articles that originate on shady and spurious websites, have little to no supporting evidence, and are poorly written. Many people post and share these articles on social media without assessing the veracity of the story within. Examples of this include “Pizzagate”, the conspiracy theory that tied the Clinton campaign to a sex-trafficking ring run out of a DC pizza shop.

True “Fake News”, in my opinion, is best exemplified by the now-defunct supermarket tabloids The Weekly World News and The Sun. Years ago, The Weekly World News published a series of articles about “Bat Boy”, a human boy with bat-like features. The Sun published similarly outlandish articles. Nobody would argue they weren’t “Fake News”.

In a previous post, I coined the term “News Entertainment” to describe cable news programs, and how I thought they were the news equivalent of sports entertainment, a term used by the WWE to describe pro wrestling. Under this category, I put MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News, because they produce formulaic, information-light content that entertains and incenses more than in informs. Infotainment would be a synonym.

I believe there is a spectrum from real, pure news to fake news, and that news entertainment lies somewhere in the middle. CNN isn’t fake news, nor is Fox. But they frequently make mistakes or omit relevant issues to suit their politics. If they do invite a dissenting opinion on their programs, that person serves as a punching bag. If they mention a counterargument, it is typically in-passing.

In my opinion, the public realizes the cable news networks have compromised their journalistic integrity and are increasingly biased and somewhat radical and unhinged. Trump recognizes this, and has similarly amped up his rhetoric to categorize what he knows to be “news entertainment” as “fake news”.