I originally intended to write this blog on a pending piece of Missouri legislation called SB 5. It would allow employers and landlords to openly discriminate against women who have had abortions or use birth control.
Instead, I’ll be writing a bit on the phenomenon of “fake news”.
In the past week, I’ve read numerous articles from the Associated Press, BBC, Newsweek, Huffington Post, and Bustle that claimed to be breaking news of SB 5 and its potential ramifications.
I’d like to consider myself a well-informed individual, so prior to writing on the topic I read through the bill. Now I’m no legislator, but nowhere in the 33 pages did I see these alleged provisions that would overturn the St. Louis ordinance.
As of this Thursday morning, Bustle is the only organization that has followed up with clarifications– admitting that the storyline was but a widespread misinterpretation based on obscure news sources. It turns out I’d fallen victim to political propaganda– what’s worse, I’d almost become another prop for its success.
While I still don’t support passage of this bill– based on other anti-abortion provisions– I greatly resent that it was misrepresented. I often see my parents inadvertently share news that is invalid, but rarely do I consider myself vulnerable to the same manipulation.
All news sources have political leanings, yet most still base their stories on factual evidence. The failure of multiple organizations– including the AP and BBC– to validate primary information is appalling. Beating another organization to the punch isn’t beneficial if you’ve only got a swing and a miss. For a trustworthy news organization, fake news can ruin a reputation and mislead formerly-loyal consumers.
The rise of “alternative facts” has allowed fake news sites to thrive off of sensational headlines that increase views, shares, and ad revenue. Taking clickbait verbatim is reckless, especially when it can go viral in a matter of minutes.
The ensuing demonization of opposing political views has contributed to the polarization and increasing hostility of American politics. It closes off open conversation and forces important issues into a stalemate. At a time where headlines from satirical sites like The Onion are as realistic as those from The New York Times, it’s critical that we be able to tell fact from fiction.
It’s easy to hand credibility to stories that align with your political views– it’s more difficult to take a critical stance. Before you share your next Facebook article, I challenge you to fact check your sources. You can find mine below.
Bustle (most recent article)
Missouri SB 5 Status