The term “Fake News” is tossed around quite a bit in the media, specifically in political subjects. With the rise of social media and an overall increase in access to information, this term has been brought along with that change. Living in a time and place where humans can easily edit, change and rearrange several mediums of news is frightening. In addition, the media has become more loose in its definition of truth because personal interpretations are often fused together with factual statements. This redefinition of what we consider factual has exponentially broadened, sending Americans into a confusing whirlwind of inaccurate, polarized news, widening the gap between truth and fact.
Roughly 40 years ago, 90% of the American media was owned by 50 corporations, which included magazines, newspapers, radio, television and more. That number is now at six—with Viacom, Time Warner, Disney, GE, CBS and News Corp owning 90% of American media. Other publications such The New York Times and The Washington Post are publicly held. Keeping in mind that the term media includes, movies, television shows, books, magazines, newspapers and just about any information you can find on your phone or computer, 90% of it is controlled by six major corporations—it’s an astonishing number.
The term Fake News became popular with President Donald Trump around the 2016 election. According to an online archive, President Trump tweeted the term “fake news” or fake media related topics 176 times as of December of 2017. According to a poll by Pew Research in March of 2019, 50% of Americans see fake media as a major problem, more important than violent crime, climate change and illegal immigration—issues at the center of our political climate. Those surveyed see political leaders, activist groups and journalists at the top of the fake news list, blaming the media for the majority of the widespread problems and saying it is the media’s responsibility to censor and edit fake news. If fake news is such an important topic, then why hasn’t it been solved?
Currently, fake news dominates how we think, how we view others and ultimately how we live our lives. It’s incredible how easy it is to create fake news. The headline could mean something completely different then the content of the article, but people just roll with the headline after noticing the outcome they desire. That headline—which holds a completely different meaning—now circulates throughout conversations. The upsetting fact is that many people believe exactly what they read and what they want to be true. People like to pick and choose the bits of information that supports the narrative they believe in and disregard the rest.
Going back to the polarized political environment, there is clearly an immense amount of tension between the politicians. As seen on both sides of the presidential debate, both candidates have made accusations about themselves as well as the opposite that have been misleading or inaccurate. Some were blatantly outright incorrect while others were skewed or only told part of the narrative. AP news is an example of a reliable fact checker that states the claim and proceeds to breakdown the statement. The individual politician’s motive is to make him or herself look like the superior candidate at the expense of integrity and truth.
In addition to politicians, the media is also to blame for fake news. Modern news and media is undeniably biased. CNN and The New York Times lean to the politically left while Fox and The Wall Street Journal tend to lean towards the politically right. Using the current election as an example, the rightleaning media will reflect and support fake news made by President Trump while the left leaning media will reflect and support fake news by former Vice President Joe Biden. In a common scenario, let’s say President Trump makes an incorrect statement about immigration. Whether it is blatantly wrong or omits essential components of the story, he is creating fake news. The same goes with Joe Biden: If he makes an incorrect statement about President Trump—whether blatantly out wrong or using skewed data—he, too, is creating fake news. The media on each respective side tends to then reflect this statement on their publication. This is not always the case, but often it can be paralleled in ways that don’t fairly portray the President or former Vice President’s statements and views.
The biggest medium of fake news is social media. Nearly 62% of Americans say they get most of their news from social media. Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook—you name it—all of these are a hive of fake news, full of bees ready to pollinate your brain. Social media is the easiest place to make as well as to see fake news. Swarms of fake news are created by everyday people promoting their personal views. These people don’t use social media to make a buck—but instead to force their opinions onto others. Free speech is protected under the constitution and people have the right to their own opinion, but social media platforms are starting to blur the line between everyday news and biased partisan talking points. Although they cannot suppress someone’s opinion, spreading fake news should be frowned upon. The average person on Instagram is going to say or post whatever is on his mind. This goes back to people only believing what they want. For example One reads an article about the stimulus check, which that person is in support of, but they only accept the pros. Then that person goes to social media to post all of the pros of the stimulus check. Although that information may be correct, it only tells one side of the narrative. This expression of information can currently be seen all over social media, full of information that is either completely incorrect or selectively shows a minor part of a nuanced argument.
Americans face a polarized environment never seen before, each side using every inch it can to get dirt on the other. Part of getting an inch usually incorporates the use of fake news, which can be seen directly from politicians, media networks and even the average American across the several social media platforms.
As high school students, we must create good habits while we are young. Most people at Loyola lean politically one way or the other. If a student doesn’t know which way he leans, he should try to keep it that way—he shouldn’t pick a side. For those who definitely know which way they lean, they should at least consider the opposite stance—their viewpoints, their reasoning, their moral beliefs. People have to remember that their opinion isn’t the only one that exists in the diverse sea of over 330 million Americans. That diversity is also what makes America so beautiful. One can have a different opinion than the other and still live in peace. At the Constitutional Convention Amercians fought, but they also listened, and eventually came to a consensus to form democracy as we know it. When considering the other stance, one doesn’t have to agree, but think , why do they support that stance? They could have several reasons, many of which you might not think of. It is so easy to disagree and brand disagreements as racist, for example.
As President Barack Obama famously said “There’s not a liberal and a conservative America –there’s the United States of America.” Unification is the key to success right now. What if Americans dropped all of the hate and the spite that fuels the flame of fake media and allow the country to come together as one? If Americans can unify and be proud of their accomplishments, then the fake news will slowly start to diminish.