False News

Lauren Mister, Editor

This recent election was chocked full of mudslinging and controversies that set both sides of the aisle in a craze. In a fight to prove which presidential candidate was more fit to run for office, small details were blown out of proportion and spread all over social media. False articles were sent all of over the internet, especially through sites like Facebook and Twitter. Although it is the job of the American people to decipher truth from falsehood, there is almost an unwillingness to fact check articles and information before reposting allegedly “reliable” information. Even reporters, who are trusted to supply the public with proper information, fall into this hole of reading fake articles and making their own interpretation of the matter.

For example, in her acceptance speech for her Lifetime Achievement Award, Meryl Streep criticized  president-elect Donald Trump. Streep said, “But there was one performance this year that stunned me… It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege and power and the capacity to fight back. It, it kind of broke my heart when I saw it and I still can’t get it out my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.”

Of course, this criticism elicited comments from Trump supporters. Radio reporter, and supposedly credible source,  Kayla Vas (@Kayla_Vas) tweeted “#MerylStreep made fun of mentally challenged on late night tv here’s proof her entire speech was a fraud,” followed by a GIF of Streep flailing her arms around. This was followed by commenters condemning Streep, such as Cowgirl Diana (@dancer_1968), who tweeted, “she is a fraud! [Hollywood] needs to stay out of politics and stick to their fairytale lives. We don’t expect anything serious from them.”

Upon further research however, the gif of Streep was not of her mocking a disabled person; instead, she was promoting her movie “Julie and Julia,” during which Conan O’Brien asked about her role in 1985’s “Out of Africa.” The footage of Streep flailing her arms was actually her reenacting filming with a lion, not mocking a mentally challenged person.

Despite this evidence, Vas’s tweet garnered 3.8 thousand retweets and 4.1 thousand likes, many of whom most likely believed what the reporter was saying as true. However, after only five minutes of research, I managed to debunk the story. Nonetheless, those who liked or retweeted Vas probably maintain its validity.

This is a prime example of why it is so important to make sure the news that is consumed, especially on social media platforms, is corroborated. By going on websites such as Politifact and Snopes, a news story can very easily be confirmed or denied. Similarly, doing a simple Google search and skimming through articles – which are credible and held in high esteem, unlike a radio personality’s tweet – can also determine whether a source is reliable or not.

Likewise, during the election, sites like Facebook blew up with false news, the writers of which were conscious that what they were publishing was untrue. For instance, Paul Horner, a Facebook writer made famous for his fake “news” stories, admitted that almost every piece of information he wrote about was falsified. In an interview with the Washington Post, he commented on the people who believe his stories are true. “They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore,” said Horner. When asked why he would write about fake news, Horner said, “I just wanted to make fun of that insane belief [that people were getting paid to attend Trump protest rallies], but it took off. They actually believed it.” This shows that some journalists are aware of the credibility of their information and, as in this case, depend upon the intuition of the reader to discern its validity.

Bearing in mind these instances of falsehoods will be important, especially in the next four years, because both sides of the political spectrum will be throwing false or misleading information into the news about politics and foreign affairs. Despite the fact that it is the expectation of reporters to only ever publish true, verified information, no one can ever be absolutely sure that what they’re reading is completely accurate. To avoid this, it requires the research of journalists to verify their credibility as well as the organization under which they write. Having trust in news outlets requires the further investigation of their standing in the media as well as how accurate their information is. Thus, it is the job of American readers to be skeptical of everything they read or watch until they can further prove its reliability with other credible sources in order to form a more judicious and sound understanding of the media and, furthermore, the political world