One of the big buzz words being thrown around these days is "Fake News," which is a perfectly-descriptive term for an all-too-frequent occurrence these days, and it became a significant factor in the United States' most-recent Presidential race. As a brief description "Fake News" is when hearsay, rumor, conjecture, propaganda, conspiracy theories, or even outright dishonesty is passed off as legitimate news correspondence. This behavior is currently in practice on hundreds of websites, and by lackeys from both the liberal and conservative sides of the country. (Note: This does not count satire from websites like The Onion or The Babylon Bee.)
The real danger that arises from "Fake News" websites (or Facebook pages) is that, to put it bluntly, many people are far more gullible than they think they are. And as a result, these beguiled patsies see an article with which they agree, and rather than establish the article's veracity through a reputable news outlet, they share it to Facebook or post it to a blog, and in so doing they perpetuate the inaccuracy. To be fair, in recent years the number of "reputable news outlets" has decreased significantly as the major news sources like NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, NPR, and FOX have all resorted to pushing articles which meet their underlying political agendas at the expense of honest reporting. (Note: For this reason I prefer the BBC, which has a slightly left-leaning take on the news, but its generally pretty unbiased and blunt where the United States are concerned. Besides, no one with an English Accent would ever lie, would they? [Snicker])
In any event, after today's inauguration ceremony, the following image popped up from the folks at Occupy Democrats, which is one of the most-nefarious "Fake News" websites in existence:
This is a perfect example of "Fake News" in action; the two photos in this image are taken from opposite sides of the mall in order to exaggerate the crowd sizes. In addition, there is no indication that they were taken during the same hour of the respective inauguration ceremonies; the photo from 2009 might be an hour after the ceremony began, and the photo from 2017 might be an hour before the ceremony began. We have no context, but considering the source (the O.D. website) and the fact that the photos were already falsely utilized in order to support an opinion rather than an accurate portrayal of the facts, it's pretty easy to dismiss this image. And yet, I have seen dozens of people posting this image to Facebook with comments of overwhelming approval.
In this specific instance, it is far too simple for anyone to discredit the image. The video listed below from CNN shows an actual side-by-side comparison of the crowds during each inauguration ceremony:
Inaugural crowd sizes: Trump v. Obama
It is evident that there was a larger crowd for Obama's inauguration, which is as it should be; the nation's first African American president is considerably more-significant to history than Trump's election. However, the disparity was nowhere near the level of imbalance which that "Fake News" image was trying to convey.
Returning to my earlier point, this particular example of "Fake News" perfectly illustrates why the acceptance of these sorts of deliberately inaccurate images and stories do so much damage; these hoaxes replicate like viruses through social media, and they rapidly enter the collective psyche of those who eventually believe that these images and stories are true simply because they want them to be. This where another new term needs to be defined: "Post-Truth," which describes an all-too-common situation where opinions are formed and defended based on emotions rather than factual evidence.
Through honest self-examination, I think everyone can agree that we have all let our emotions get the better of us, (on more than one occasion), and we have all agreed with something simply because we wanted it to be right, even when common sense would argue otherwise. This philosophy led to a situation which was all-too prevalent during the election: everyone who was passing along inaccurate information created their own false reality, with which many of their friends actively participated, and yet no one was anywhere near the truth. After the election this syndrome was referred to as an "Echo Chamber," where people were simply hearing others repeat back what they said or wanted to hear. One such example was the poll numbers which everyone kept sharing on social media, which always seemed to indicate that Clinton would win the electoral college by a landslide, and yet on election day she lost the electoral college in a humiliating defeat. Of course, the 24x7 news coverage from all of the media outlets added a never-ending supply of fallacious data to the debate, but still - there were plenty of indicators that the election was a lot closer than the false narrative which everyone kept repeating; people just needed to take the time to look.
Nevertheless, we should all try to do better where "Fake News" is concerned. As a general rule, if you see something which seems too good to be true - or too bad to be true - please check with other news sources before posting anything to social media.
I think the following image sums up that sentiment quite nicely:
POSTSCRIPT: The following blog contains a small list of "Fake News" websites which everyone should avoid:
Please Stop Sharing Links to These Sites
There are many more, of course, but it's a good place to start.
01/21/2017 UPDATES: As another example of "Fake News," there was a bogus story making the rounds over a year ago about the Obama administration ordering guillotines in order to perform executions. On the one hand, I hate to include the link because I don't want to drive traffic to their website; but on the other hand, I want to show an example...
Obama Orders Guillotines To Be Used For Executions
There are hundreds of thousands of stories just like this on the Internet, so don't believe everything you read.
One additional point which I should mention is something that a good friend said to me earlier today: a fabrication isn't real just because you agree with it, and something isn't fake just because you disagree with it. (Wise words, my friend.)