Summary: With the phrase “fake news” being tossed around, often with little context, many are left wondering what the term means. In this post, we’ll explain what is generally regarded as fake news organizations: Sources that (likely knowingly) frame narratives by publishing rumors or falsehoods and omitting easily obtainable facts and basic context in order to support a conspiracy theory. In this example, we’ll cover InfoWars.
The term “fake news” has gained prominence in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, with some claiming that fake news stories affected the actual outcome. The term itself has taken on different meanings:
- Satirical news, often ‘obviously’ fake (ie. The Onion)
- Purportedly real news stories with little/no fact checking, often times with a forced narrative with the intention of advancing an agenda (ie. InfoWars).
- A hybrid of the above: clearly fake news but confusing to readers (often intentionally) with the intention of driving a specific narrative (ie. ‘The Pope endorses Trump‘).
Here we’ll deal with the 2nd version, explain WHY sources like InfoWars are regarded as fake news, and explain why this should not be conflated with the occasional errors or even slight bias encountered in mainstream new sources. While the latter is unfortunate, comparing an imperfect journalistic process with the narrative-driven process that intentionally distorts the truth and omits basic fact checking is a false equivalence. It should also be noted that fake news organizations drive a sort of race to the bottom, as fake news stories often outperform real news in terms of engagement (in a business model where viewer impressions determine ad revenue, the lifeblood of online news sources).