Fake News. It’s more than an oxymoron. It’s an all-out assault on democracy.
Think that’s hyperbole? Thomas Jefferson is believed to have written, “An informed citizenry is at the heart of a dynamic democracy.” So, how can a citizenry that now has a shorter attention span than a goldfish and which increasingly gets its news from social media and content aggregators possibly be well informed? Throw fake news into the mix, and it’s just about impossible when you’re talking about the country and our electorate writ large.
Don’t get me wrong: I love satire. The Onion is some of the funniest and most clever satire out there. But unlike the stories masquerading as fact that show up in your Facebook Newsfeed, The Onion makes no secret of what it is.
Much has been made in recent days of the proliferation of fake news around the 2016 Presidential Campaign and how it may or may not have impacted the election. Whether it did or didn’t, we can say with certainly that fake news hurts every one of us: Republicans, Democrats, Independents and the politically unaffiliated.
I’m old enough to remember a what-now-seems-like quaint time in America when all you had to do was avoid the tabloid rack at the supermarket to keep your mind free of fake news and conspiracy theories. But not anymore. It’s no longer just incumbent upon each and every one of us not to take everything we read at face value—it’s our moral duty. (Consider adding one of these extensions to your web browser to make the job easier.)
Fake news is a call to action for anyone who doesn’t want the truth cynically twisted for political purposes of all stripes. We must remain vigilant; to separate fact from fiction so that we can make informed (properly informed) decisions about our own future and that of our great country. Yes, it certainly doesn’t help the cause when our President-elect made a now infamous statement to the contrary about what he believes are credible news sources.
Another version of Jefferson’s quote is even more ominous in light of the recent spate of fake news: “an informed citizenry is the bulwark of a democracy.” If we take this to mean that an informed citizenry is what stands between democracy and the tyranny of the government, then the message is clear: Fake news is an attack on all that we hold dear; its corrosive effect is already being felt across our country…and could, one day, even lead to our downfall.