The phrase “fake news” has been all over the mainstream news and social media sites for the past 3 years now. In order to understand why this phrase became popular, we must first understand the main goal of mainstream media companies and how they operate.
Mainstream Media is a Business first:
So let’s get one thing straight, the mainstream media isn’t providing a charity to anybody. The primary goal of every mainstream media company is to generate as much revenue as possible by just about any means possible. This is not speculation, this is a fact. The more people that follow their content, the more they are paid by advertisers and the more people they have subscribing to their services. This means that mainstream media companies need to do everything in their power to keep their audience loyal and entertained. Providing truthful and reliable news is secondary, at best.
In fact, a majority of the world’s newspapers are all owned by a very small group of people. For instance, Ruper Murdoch who’s the owner of NewsCorp, is in control of over 100 different newspapers and media outlets throughout the world. Like any other business industry, small newspapers often get bought up by the big ones who have much more money at their disposal.
Just like any other business, news companies obviously have competitors that they need to keep at bay. These competitors can pose a threat to their viewership and the influence that they have on their audience. Up until the early 2000s, mainstream media companies have been sitting pretty comfortable with their competition at bay. However, that would all start to change due to the rising popularity of the internet.
The rise of Alternative News:
In 2006 something major happened. Google acquired the largest internet video sharing platform, Youtube. A year later, something even bigger would happen. Apple released its first ever Smartphone device, the iPhone. After this, smartphones started soaring in popularity and this lead to an explosion of independent content being shared throughout the web.
With newer and better smartphones being released soon after, suddenly anyone with a phone could instantly share homemade video content to millions of people around. Rapid social sharing websites like Twitter(launched in 2006) and Tumblr(launched in 2007) gave small news brands and independents a free and effective means of marketing their content. This would give birth to what we now know as alternative news.
Small companies like Infowars, Buzzfeed, and Breitbart started gaining a huge following in a very short period of time. As well as some independent video journalists such as Black Pidgeon Speaks and White Rabbit.
The rise of these new media sources would not only bring more competition to the mainstream media, but it would threaten the entire system of influence that the media has had over the general public for centuries.
Alternative news outlets tend to view the news from different angles and opinions, and they often point out flaws and contradictions that come from the mainstream media. Classic methods of propaganda became less effective, and the general public began to think more critically about what they see in newspapers.
The 2016 Presidential Election:
Governments and those in power have been using the media to control the outcome of political decisions and elections since the early days of Ancient Rome. Whether it’s to get men to fight in a war that doesn’t make sense(Vietnam, Iraq, etc.), or to promote a new political policy that isn’t popular. It’s like Malcolm X once said, “when you have a revolution in a country the first thing they take over is the radio, and then you start telling the people that the war is over so all of them surrender”.
With the 2016 Election getting closer, the political powers in the US were starting to get worried about the outcome. Hillary Clinton was the candidate who was expected to win for a long time leading up to the election. No one stood a chance of beating her in the Democratic primaries and the same was expected to happen in the election. However, after winning the Republican primaries, the unexpected real-estate mogul and celebrity Donald Trump, started gaining a surprisingly large following.
But how could this happen? Almost every major media company in the world had been criticizing and demonizing Trump for months. Trump would often be referred to as a “racist”, “sexist”, and was overall portrayed as an immature spoiled billionaire who wasn’t capable of running the country. This is when the Elite Media-Giants started to realize that they might be losing some of their influence.
Major Conservative networks like Infowars and Breitbart had been putting Mrs. Clinton on blast over issues such as her involvement in the email scandal and overall political corruption. This controversy started to convince people that Hillary may not be the best choice, despite what the mainstream media had been feeding them for such a long time.
Birth of Fake News Propaganda:
For the first time in U.S history, the mainstream media started losing its influence over the American people. Something had to be done about this, and that’s when the fake news propaganda started popping up. Within a month this trendy catchphrase was all over the media. However, there was something about this phenomenon that was a bit alarming. This fake news attack seemed to be mainly targeting conservative news networks that were Pro-Trump such as Infowars and Breitbart. Facebook even started labeling certain content as “disputed”, A fake news list was published on Wikipedia, and even Google started changing its Search Algorithm to tackle fake news and promote “more authoritative” news websites.
Was this an attack on actual fake news outlets, or was this an attack on the conservative worldview and Trump supporters? Speaking of Donald Trump, there have been several occasions where Trump called out the mainstream media and counter-accused them of being the real fake news. He even called out Facebook for being Anti-Trump since the beginning of his campaign.
Since when is it Facebook’s job to tell us what type of media we should or shouldn’t give our attention to? Are Americans no longer able to think for themselves? Maybe the media has become a bit too obsessed with trying to make our decision for us.
Freedom of the press is extremely important and censorship of opinion has proven to be extremely dangerous all throughout history. Have we forgotten our American history and how it was once punishable by law to speak out against the government or the king of England? Why does it seem like so many Americans are so eager to see history repeat itself over and over again? Freedom of press and speech is one of the main reasons America has been the most prosperous country of all time. If you don’t like what someone says, shouldn’t you be willing to debate their opinion instead of attacking their credibility by unfairly labeling them a fraud?
Fake News Backfires and The Media Apologizes For It:
It didn’t take very long for the mainstream media to realize that they had made a mistake. Their blatant censorship not only didn’t work like they intended it to, but it actually caused people to lose trust in them. In late 2017, Facebook finally decided to stop the practice of labeling content “disputed”, claiming that “it had the opposite effect”. It turns out the labeling practice resulted in making people more curious about a link and more likely to click it.
Facebook wasn’t the only company to take a hit, even CNN recently posted an article entitled ‘ban fake news‘ which basically condemns the use of the phrase. Ironically, CNN was one of the main promoters of the fake news trend throughout 2016. Maybe CNN just doesn’t like the fact that they’re often the ones being referred to as ‘fake news’ recently.
With all these contradictions coming out of the mainstream media, we have to ask ourselves: Are independent news brands the real culprits who are worthy of the term ‘fake news’, or is it the same people who came up with the phrase in the first place?