It’s not without irony that I write this about fake news, being a former journalist, now without a legitimate news source as my platform, and yet, here I go.
Fake news in all its many forms, both alt-right, and liberal left, is complete crap. Much of the fake news, from those intentionally misleading or outright fabricated stories created for click-bait, or conspiracy theory-inspired rantings of someone at a computer keyboard, collectively makes us dumber as a society. I feel like I should have said dumberer.
A number of fairly significant things happened in the last few months that fake news has contributed to.
- The election of Donald Trump. Love him or hate him, the outrageous and terrible things that he said paled in comparison in what has been said by fake news sites. This phenomenon has helped create this disingenuous-believe-nothing-because-‘they’-control-everything, so believe-the-fringe-because-they-aren’t-owned-by-the-corporations bull.
- Recently, fake news sites in the U.S., fired up the nutbars with ‘Pizzagate’, a ridiculous conspiracy about a child porn ring in a local pizza shop in Washington D.C. It caused a guy, who obviously was not able to tell real from fake, to do “his own investigation” with a gun and fired shots in the building. The owners of the pizza shop, and his employees have had death threats. The accusations have been thoroughly investigated and are not true. Are we that stupid? So many are duped by these fake news sites. Duped might be strong. Ok, how about fanning the flames of idiots? Yeah, that feels better.
All you need to do is make up a story that people will click on, or share, and watch the money roll in. Make up a story about how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is going to make sure there’s marijuana stores in every city in Canada. The next day (this is a true story), two 16 year olds earned $900 from AdSense. They had 22,000 shares on social media, and earned thousands of dollars from that story. Bam, click-bait.
The more insidious tact is that the readers actually believe the complete fabrications because it’s fits into their belief system. Or, perhaps they have no analytical skills to discern what’s fake and what’s not. It used to be called the National Inquirer. Bat Boy and Elvis don’t just hang out with the Inquirer, now every fake news site is the Inquirer. Inquiring minds want to know.
- Ezra Lavant’s Rebel Media’s rally on Saturday, December 3, at the Alberta Legislature was supposed to be an anti-carbon tax rally, which after some time, degraded into a chant of “lock her up” referring to Premier Rachel Notley, which is exactly what Trump supporters chanted about Clinton. Lavant’s stories on The Rebel are not just biased, which is what the right often accuses every other media outlet of being, they are at the very least wild accusations based on little evidence. That’s not legit journalism. Hold the NDP to account on what they are actually doing, you don’t need to use conspiracy theories to do so.
After the rally attracted people who brought racist and homophobic signs, the politicians who Lavant panders to, the Wildrose, and other Conservatives, started distancing themselves in a hurry after the ‘lock her up’ chant. Racism also cannot be tolerated. Lavant got into a Twitter war with journalists, and accused the NDP of staging the protesters with the signs to de-legitimize the rally. Sound eerily familiar? The election is rigged!
There’s a lot of Albertans who are angry, and rightly so. Their way of life has been affected by the drop in oil prices and the massive amount of layoffs that have rocked Alberta’s economy. There are legit concerns about carbon taxes or the Liberal’s own environmental plans could hurt Alberta further if companies flee to greener, er, blacker pastures without as much regulation. But, the layoffs due to oil prices can’t be tagged directly onto Notley or Trudeau, no matter how hard they try.
If your only news source is Facebook, you’re doing life wrong. Think for yourself, and make up your own mind. If you disagree with CBC, or the Journal, the dude in the tinfoil hat on YouTube isn’t your answer. Don’t decry others as “sheeple” because you think you know the truth, man (imagine that as Cheech and Chong). Yeah, man.
Be critical thinkers. Be analytical. It’s OK to question, but don’t jump to the fringe for all your answers either.
This kind of shout-you-down politics is not Albertan and not Canadian. This isn’t debate, or disagreement of policy. It’s an attempt to intimidate people. I personally disagree with the idea of a carbon tax, and it could be really terrible for Alberta. But, that doesn’t mean that our female premier deserves to be disrespected over her policies and fake news stories fabricated that she is a criminal (I’m not making this up). There’s no place for this type of sexist ridiculousness in our province. When the next election rolls around, if the NDP have done a poor job, the voters will give the next party their chance, just like they did to the Progressive Conservatives. That’s democracy, not this misinformed, entitled mob of anger. If we’ve decided that uninformed voices are allowed to be the loudest, and the idea of honest debate is drowned out by chants of ‘lock her up,’ our Alberta is in trouble.