“Fake news” seems to be one of Trump’s favourite buzzwords of his presidency, with him primarily using the term to dismiss media that paints him in a bad light. But is “fake news” just a figment of Trump’s imagination, or is he on to something?
Turn on your TV, scroll down your Facebook newsfeed, open up snapchat and you will find everything from the latest news about the newest alleged Kardashian pregnancy or the current sexual assault scandal rocking Hollywood. Every day, we are bombarded with articles, tabloids, and updates about current events – all that for the most part, we assume to be true. However, is the media as trustworthy as we think? All current media is influenced, either inadvertently or otherwise by bias, whether from the reporters, sources of information or from the unregulated platform which it is published and circulated on.
In particular, since the age of the internet, there has been an explosion of news and information that we consume on a daily basis that is not heavily regulated, if at all, for valid sources, proofread or verified. These can come in the form of online websites that lean very right or left politically, coupled with their main goal of entertainment, who perhaps value clickbait, sensationalism, promoting their political agendas and profit over truth. Social media also allows anyone to be able to have a platform to state their opinion, spread news stories or personal testimonies about alleged events in seconds. Public figures with large audiences have the ability to circulate fake or misleading news that back up their opinions. While this media is an important way of keeping up-to-date with current affairs, it cannot be verified as verbatim facts. This is because these unregulated news sources have personal opinions, motives, and agendas, and these will filter the information they send out to the public. A right-wing twitter user may report upon a current event in an entirely different way to a left-wing one. If even professional media companies that are regulated by multiple people are found to be at fault with biased reporting (take American news channels Fox News and CNN for example), then there is a much higher probability of inaccurate reporting in these viral online tweets, stories and news. That’s not to say all media we see is completely unreliable, however it is important to keep in mind that all news sources are fallible as no one is entirely unbiased whether they mean to be or not.
Problems that can result with the growing epidemic of fake news is twofold; in mistakenly using these biased stories as evidence in debates against opposing opinions or causes, or dismissing legitimate claims by calling them “fake news” instead of dismantling the accusations with verifiable evidence. These mistakes can be seen in the following situation involving the bestselling author J.K Rowling, and current US president, Donald Trump. An avid social activist and commentator on her twitter account, J.K watched a video of Trump at a healthcare press conference, allegedly refusing to shake the hand of and ignoring a child in a wheelchair, instead greeting others at the event. She then used her public platform to tweet about this in outrage, to further her position of being opposed to his presidency. However, it was soon brought to light that Trump in fact had not only greeted this child, but had approached him first and spoke with him for the longest time out of any of the others at the event. Circulating and using fake news like this against those we do not agree with, as J.K did to Trump is ultimately detrimental as there is so much legitimate information out there to use as evidence against him and what he stands for. If we use one fake news story to demean Trump, he can use this one event to generalise that all media on him is completely without merit.
There are two lessons we can learn from this. Firstly, don’t take every bit of media we encounter at face value, dig more into other sources because you are probably only seeing a small piece of the entire picture. Secondly, don’t accuse everything of being “fake news” just because you do not agree with what is being presented to you. Current media, especially online media, isn’t without its faults, and it should accept its biases, acknowledge the possibility of inaccurate information and strive towards eliminating this as much as possible. While the news can be biased, labelling every story that is in opposition of our views as “fake news” is not correct either and undermines the validity of news sources and the media. We as consumers of media should be aware that we must not put all our eggs in one basket and wholeheartedly believe with a herd mentality, any biased media message that comes our way. Instead, we should become an active audience, examining multiple sides of the story, till all the many different biased pieces of the puzzle come together, and, using all the information available instead of some, we can draw our own conclusions.