A friend has pointed me to a weekly feature in the Washington Post called “Intersect.” Each week’s entry begins with “What was fake on the Internet this week?” and proceeds to list leading hoaxes, stories intended to be satirical that were taken as true, and the like.
So that’s where we are–in a media environment where no one knows what’s true and what’s fabricated, an environment that has made my students distrust the accuracy of pretty much everything they read on line, an environment that feeds and reinforces crazy uncle Ray’s darkest suspicions and conspiracy theories, and lets us all troll for “evidence” that supports our preferred beliefs.
I’m not sure what to call the media overload we live in, but I’d hesitate to call most of it journalism.
I had two immediate reactions to the existence of this (very useful) site. First, it testifies to a phenomenon I’ve previously noted: we have a large number of elected officials and public figures who are walking self-satires. Be honest: if you saw a headline to the effect that Sarah Palin or Louie Gohmert or Michelle Bachmann said Martians had landed and were having sex with antelopes, wouldn’t you believe it? Aren’t they all perfectly capable of saying something like that? Who could blame you for being credulous?
Second, this is exactly where real journalism needs to go. We need more sites devoted to verification (or debunking, as appropriate) of assertions made by our political class. That used to be what journalists did: when Partisan A proclaimed a fact, or made an accusation about Partisan B, real reporters investigated it and told us whether it was true. We need more sites like Politifact and Factcheck and Snopes….not because they are always right, but because–unlike so much of the rest of our current media sources–they are at least trying to get it right.
By the way, I know it’s disappointing, but Mattel really isn’t coming out with a Burkha Barbie…..