Fake news and propaganda
Did fake news fuel Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency?
At least one writer of fake news, Paul Horner, thinks so. He told the Washington Post, “I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything. His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist.” (http://tinyurl.com/zoed6lr).
Another example is a false story about buses packed with paid anti-Trump protesters that was shared 16,000 times on Twitter and more than 350,000 times on Facebook. A New York Times article yesterday de-constructed exactly how this lie went viral.
On CNN’s Reliable Sources yesterday, media critic Brian Stelter ruminated about fake news, noting “the evidence indicates this is more of a problem on the right, among some, not all, but some Trump supporters.” Stelter’s essay on the subject is worthwhile viewing. (http://tinyurl.com/j6h48t8)
As I’ve thought about fake news, I’ve referred back to the chapter on propaganda in my new textbook Peace Journalism Principles and Practices. The link between fake news and propaganda is clear given the definition of propaganda: information designed and used to influence opinion. During this election, consumers were inundated with false information designed to change or reinforce opinions about the candidate, and ultimately, to sway votes.
The emergence of fake news presents yet another challenge to journalists, as well as one more justification for peace journalism. A look at PJ’s principles shows that it is built to battle fake news. These principles include verifying claims/propaganda from all sources; seeking and verifying facts from multiple sources, and not just official ones; and offering counter-narratives that debunk propaganda and fake news that create stereotypes, myths, and misperceptions.
The prevalence of fake news means that responsible journalism is more important than ever.
Two recent stories show the power of media to tell reconciliation-themed stories. The first is a story on a Kansas City TV station that discusses how a Syrian student at Park University, where I teach, is dispelling negative myths about Syrians and Muslims.
The second is a fine BBC story about how Tunisian victims of abuse are speaking out on live TV as part of their country’s “truth and dignity” reconciliation process.
Next: Sierra Leone and IndiaIn the next month, I’ll be in Freetown, Sierra Leona (Intl Peace Research Assn and PJ seminar) and Chennai, India (PJ seminar at Anna University). I’ll keep you posted.