Lets talk about fake news. I just signed out of my hotmail account, and so I land on the MSN home page, which they always thrust upon me each and every time I use my email. The first headline is nothing but celebrity “news.” Ryan and Blake. Prince Harry and Markle. Look at the shiny pretty people. I click the arrow for the next window, and I see three paid ads which, like so many other paid ads on MSN, are disguised to look just like a news story. They are advertising “holiday savings” at two different banks.
So I scroll down. Bruce Springsteen’s ’57 Chevy is on eBay. Wow, cool. Maybe I’ll buy it. “Save 47% on Select PCs.” Another ad, indistinguishable from the “news” headlines save one word, “sponsored.”
Let’s see what the Editor’s picks are. I expect the editor of a major publication like MSN to select high-quality, fact-checked stories that are beacons of journalistic integrity and honesty. “Scientists May Have Found A Way to Reverse Aging.” Holy fucking shit, really?!? Why isn’t that a front page banner headline?!? I click on the article, and it’s actually a real story – about mice. But it does say that scientists are hopeful the same therapy may one day be applicable to humans, so I’ll give them this one.
Scrolling further down the Editor’s picks, we have “This is what a guy with a $30,000 ugly Christmas sweater looks like.” Ooh, it has a video.
I could go on, but you already know what this page looks like because chances are you see it – or another page like it, such as Yahoo – every day. Stories about politics and economics are intermixed with stories about celebrities and sports, which blend seamlessly with paid advertisements. More and more, the stories about world leaders resemble the stories about actors and athletes – they are just there for our entertainment. More and more, the “objective” stories about real events resemble paid advertisements. Or sometimes, outright fiction.
“Iraq Has Nuclear Weapons.” “Saddam Hussein Was Behind 9/11.” Remember those? Fake news. In contrast to one weirdo walking into a pizza joint and shooting up the walls, the fake news about Iraq in the previous decade directly resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. Most of those deaths were Muslims, by the way – a point which is entirely lost on the countless Republicans and Democrats who supported that war, who now feign moral outrage about Donald Trump’s proposal to halt Muslim immigration, while regarding it as perfectly moral to bomb, drone, and shoot Muslims in their home countries.
The mainstream media calling other news “fake” is like Bernie Madoff calling someone a con artist. The only reason they’re upset is that fewer and fewer people are reading their fake news, opting for other people’s fake news instead. Maybe it’s partly because every major magazine and newspaper has a shitty, user-unfriendly website that only gives you a couple articles “for free” (not counting the countless ads) after which they ask you to subscribe.
Sorry, New York Times, I really don’t want to pay you money so that your snobbish, thoroughly out-of-touch writers can talk down to me. While I share your nostalgia for the good ol’ days when your paper had prestige, sitting there on the rack selling for four times the price of my hometown paper, I just can’t afford it anymore. At least 4Chan doesn’t try to sell me shit.