“Fake news” has been in the headlines for the past week and a half, when it was revealed that fake news stories shared on Facebook and Twitter might have contributed significantly to Donald Trump’s election win. Of course fake news sites are nothing new, but during the election campaign they took on a particular significance, as Trump and his team shared stories that tapped into the anger many Americans were already feeling.
According to Paul Horner, impresario of a fake news empire that relies on Facebook shares, “Honestly, people are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore — I mean, that’s how Trump got elected. He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn’t care because they’d already accepted it. It’s real scary. I’ve never seen anything like it”.
And that, dear readers, is where the fruitcake brigade of Hoaxtead promoters comes in.
Take the bizarre emerging conspiracy theory known as “Pizzagate”, for example (and not just because of the ubiquitous yet deplorable habit of tacking the word “-gate” onto any random word to turn it into—gasp!—yet another scandal).
In a nutshell, “Pizzagate” refers to the conspiraloons’ belief that Hillary Clinton and her former campaign manager John Podesta are part of a paedophile ring that operates out of a popular D.C. pizzeria called “Planet Ping Pong”. A Reddit user named DumbScribblyUnctious wrote a 4,700-word essay detailing his belief that references to pizza in some of Podesta’s emails were in fact sinister coded messages about paedophilia. (Dun-dun-DUN….)
Because of course they were.
The Conservative Daily Post, a notorious fake news site that has published stories like “Obama Declares His Family Will Move to Canada if Trump Elected”, latched onto the “Pizzagate” story and ran with it…and gullible morons like Kristie Sue Costa and Angela Power-Disney were all over it in a heartbeat.
Anyone who has been on the internet longer than about five minutes will recognise the stupidity of alleging that the neck-bearded basement dwellers on 4Chan were able to uncover anything in the real world, but that didn’t stop Angie from labelling this fake news story “CRUCIAL”.
The authors of this gem, shared by Kristie Sue, don’t even really believe the story themselves: “Though evidence presented may be circumstantial and unconvincing when examined individually and without context….” Um, yeah. Keep digging.
In other words, “We’re just repeating this bullshite because we’re jumping on the ‘I hate Hillary Clinton’ bandwagon. All aboard!”
Of course we all know why Angie and Kristie Sue are so enamoured of this dreck: to them, a conspiracy theory about a pizza parlour in Washington, D.C. completely validates their own conspiracy theory about a ritual abuse cult in Hampstead, London. The ultimate looking-glass moment: when one fake news story is used to “prove” the validity of another. We live in strange and troubling times.
Amusingly, fake news entrepreneur Alex Jones has woken up and smelled the coffee too: his hilarious response to this new public awareness of fake news is to try to debunk the debunkers:
In Alex’s not at all hysterical opinion, “‘Fake news’ hysteria is a trojan horse for censorship of conservative opinions”. Uh-huh.
More like “Oh sweet Jesus they’re onto me, where can I hide my money?”
And Angie, whose Facebook timeline is positively littered with rubbish like this, nods and shares, nods and shares.
A glimmer of hope
Following a Buzzfeed analysis this week which concluded that fake news stories about the U.S. election created more engagement on Facebook than the combined top election stories from 19 major news outlets, fake news has started to make headlines as a force to be reckoned with.
And Facebook has been shamed into paying attention: they are saying they’ll be more serious about listening when people flag fake news sites, in an effort to keep fake news out of the Facebook algorithm.
Well, more or less. As we all know, Facebook is notorious for rejecting complaints, so it’ll be interesting to see whether they respond more quickly to complaints about fake news than to complaints about, say, targetted harassment. We recommend that you not hold your breath.