As we close out 2016, a year that saw a bizarre amount of celebrity deaths, a theatre of the absurd presidential election and a new Star Wars movie, we at Complete Public Relations wonder what will be the biggest media ramification of all of these?
We say it is fake news. Or Fake News if you will. This a term that joined the national consciousness less than a month ago, but has been something known to purveyors of the media (like us) for some time. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Fake News is the catch all for media stories that are obviously false, obviously misleading and obviously believed by millions. The idea of Fake News is scary enough without what we have seen lately.
Purveyors and fans of Fake News, instead of being ashamed of being called out as liars, are wearing it as a badge of honor. Numerous times, we have seen “commenters” on social media write FAKE NEWS on stories in mainstream publications that they don’t agree with. It is not just national news. We see it locally. A runner was beat up by a car full of people and commenters called it Fake News as if their two-word retort was a sign of absolute genius. Instead of making people think critically, the Fake News tag seems to have devolved them further into mantra bleating trolls.
Don’t like it? It’s the media conspiracy to make you believe fill in the paranoid blank.
But scarier is that the mainstream media gives Fake News truthers ample ammunition. We have seen this twice this fall in South Carolina. ABC News made a fake police barrier outside a Spartanburg crime scene in order to interview the Sheriff there. The Today Show posted a picture of a mob of angered people in relation to a story on the Charleston mistrial of Michael Slager shooting an unarmed black man in the back. The picture was actually from Baltimore the year before. Both agencies apologized, but only after other media pointed out their errors.
Just this week, we saw it with the “Santa and the Dying Boy” story out of Tennessee. This heart tugging story went viral and filled people with hope. And almost immediately, it turns out there are major holes in the story. As I write this, no one has proven it correct, but plenty of people can’t prove otherwise.
That is the scary part of Fake News. The real news has gotten so bad that it can’t be trusted by the average person so they consume the obvious lie first.
You may be reading this and thinking, “Hey aren’t you guys a PR firm? Don’t you specialize in fake news? Like, isn’t that what you do for living?”
No. H to the E to the Double L No. Fake news is the bane of public relations firms. There is nothing worse to fight because no matter how much truth we put out there, people will believe the Fake News because they want to believe it.
And that is the new danger of Fake News. It is not the news. It is the people reading it. They have decided only their world view matters. Everything else is a lie or a danger to their well being. They seek out Fake News like people used to seek out comfort food. It made them feel better even if they knew it wasn’t good for them