Fake News and its Role in Politics
by Jack Conner
The history of fake news dates back to the very beginning of the journalism industry. For as long as we’ve had news, news outlets dedicated to providing factual and useful information about the world, we’ve also had outlets, designed to spread lies and misinformation to wreak havoc on the world. This type of news is known as “fake news,” because it is just that: fake. And, whether we realize it or not, fake news plays a large role in many aspects of life, perhaps most prominently in politics.
Although the term “fake news” first entered mainstream use during Donald Trump’s run for President in 2016, its use in America dates back to before the USA was even formed. Samuel Adams, leader of the Sons of Liberty, typically exaggerated and fabricated his articles in an attempt to sway the public against the British. Other prominent leaders, including former president James Madison, wrote about how important public opinion was, and how easy it could be to sway the public into believing certain things, citing Adams’ articles as one real-life example.
Clearly, the tactic worked, as America did end up revolting against the British and winning their independence. Now, over two hundred years later, the same tactics Adams used are being used once more, except this time, in an attempt to gain the presidency. The 2016 Presidential Election featured the most prominent use of Fake News in politics, as headlines such as “Pope Endorses Trump” and “Clinton Sells Weapons to ISIS” dominated news coverage (along with the aptly titled #PizzaGate). These articles were all intended to serve one purpose: get Donald Trump elected. Additionally, despite the fact that the actual fake news played an important role in gaining Trump the presidency, Trump typically bashed news articles that contradicted his claims, stating that they were “fake news.” The Trump campaign and administration projected onto others what he and his associates were doing, pushing fake news and muddling issues so people didn’t know what to believe, causing the word “truth” to seem very ambiguous.
Now, the same tactics used four years ago have come into play once again. Twitter and Facebook have been warned by FBI agents that Russian agents are using social media to spread disinformation designed to influence American citizen’s votes. Certain profiles, such as Peace Data and the Internet Research Agency (I.R.A.), are confirmed to be run by Russian agents with the intent of getting Donald Trump elected. Unlike in 2016, however, these sites are now employing American writers to fabricate articles for them, causing the Fake News they put out to be more realistic and appealing to the American public. This presents a new danger to the world of journalistic integrity, and poses a threat to truth-seekers everywhere.
Despite how confusing these times seem, with fake news and disinformation spreading everywhere, there is still a way to be sure that you get your news from reliable sources. If you hear something online, make sure to check the source, and see if you can find the same report from another source you already trust. If you can, then there’s a good chance that that’s a reliable source. Make sure to tell your parents this as well, as it’ll be even more important for them to get factual information, and make informed choices to vote this November.