Fake News, the Downfall of the Civilized World
Once I saw an interesting piece on facebook, about how a president was lauded by other leaders. As it turns out this was a hoax started by several hard-core political follower. Then there is this so called news about a clergy who murdered a girl, which turned out to be a click-bait for a Youtube video. Finally the social media is crowded with countless warnings about the coming earthquake, typhoons and other apocalyptic disaster, which is about as true as me becoming a millionaire. I’m beginning to have trust issues with the internet, after being fooled several times I started to do research first before sharing the news on my wall. It is an advice given to me by my friends, and hopefully others will be doing the same.
Unfortunately that’s not the case.
One Facebook page, which debunks various hoaxes, reported that some fake news is shared more than ten thousand times. I did a quick scan on social media and saw that some debunked stories are still being shared. In short a lot of people are being fooled by this self-proclaimed real news, and if Harry Potter’s Rita Skeeter is alive, she will never be too happy to partake with the mass deceit. What the people didn’t know is that they are contributing to society’s demise by spreading lies, an may soon ruin the civilized world.
What is Fake news?
If there is one word to describe fake news, it’s misinformation. Fake news is a type of yellow journalism or propaganda which is basically made up stories claimed to be genuine news.
Fake news had been with us for centuries, in fact we have a case back in 1200s BC when Ramses the Great told everyone that Egypt won the Battle of Kedesh. In reality, it ended with a stalemate between him and the Hittites. During the Medieval age, Pope Sixtus IV was stamping out in vain this fake news in Trent, Italy which claimed that the Jewish community murdered a Christian infant. And who could forget the Great Moon Hoax of 1835? And in the early 20th century, the Nazi party relied on fake news for political agenda. Today in the age of internet, Fake news is alive and well, still deceiving the world with its own brand of yellow journalism.
Why people believe such lies?
As what I mentioned before, the fact that fake news was repeatedly being shared in Facebook meant that a lot of people believe them. Human nature is to be blamed here. According to an article of Business Insider, human beliefs come quickly and naturally, and scepticism is slow and natural for many of us (cognitive simplicity). This explains why people buy fake news if it sounds good enough. Humans also worry about holding two conflicting thoughts at the same time (cognitive dissonance). This is why many believe in fake news not because it is true, but for the fear that it conflicts with their deepest beliefs. Then there is the backfire effect, where believers will hold on to their truth despite of the overwhelming evidence against it. Lastly as social primate species, we will believe what the group will believe, no matter how ridiculous it might be (tribal unity).
Fake news as propaganda
Consider this as the sole reason on why fake news must not exist. In the Harry Potter series, yellow journalism is one of the main weapons of dark wizards to control society. In real life we didn’t need a slimy and nose-less wizard freak to brainwash the public with lies. Remember Ramses the Great and his propaganda type story of his so called victory? From the ancient times down to modern ages, you won’t be a certified dictator if you didn’t know the art of deception. You just have to sensationalize yourself, slander the opposition and scare the public into believing you. The Nazis did it and now the state-run media of North Korea is doing a great job deifying its leader.
Fake news stirs panic
This is another ugly effect of false claims and probably a more destructive one. We have a case in our town where the people went into panic mode after words came out that we got an epidemic. Turns out it wasn’t true. How about this news article claiming a terrorist organization is planning to bomb a mall? The people went crazy until the news was debunked. Then there are claims about earthquakes going to happened, or how a meteorite is about to pulverize the world. If all it did was to scare us, we are lucky then. But there are cases where the hysteria induced by false claims went too far. Remember that fake news about the Jews murdering a child? It only caused the unjust deaths of all the Jews in the city (fifteen are burned on stake).
Fake news as a method of slander
Yes, this is Rita Skeeter’s claim to fame. It worked well in the wizarding world, and it’s the scourge of the real world. Fabricating lies and selling it online as real news is a proven way to ruin someone. Even without the internet, false lies are enough to cause considerable damages. Octavian did it to Mark Anthony back in the ancient times. Can you believe it? He portrayed him as a drunkard and Cleopatra’s slave. And false slander is the main weapon of modern-day tabloids.
And now with the internet it just became easier for people to fabricate lies and spread their hatred to the world. Who knows how many lives are ruined by false lies? When gone uncontrolled it could lead to lives being endangered, as what a Filipino blogger did to a group of young protester. She posted their pictures in a fake news site without their faces covered, hence exposing them to threat of rapes.
Make it a habit to check your news
Think before you click, that’s what we are always reminded. In the net there are a lot of clowns out there telling no truth, and all lies. Don’t be a sucker and verify the source of the news if it sounds too good to be true. If possible there are sites out there which helps debunk false claims, such as Snopes.
This world should be a civilized and truthful place, and it is stressful enough without the wild claims going around. Again be wise and think before you click.