How to Avoid the Real Fake News

The best way to combat wild conspiracy theories is through media literacy

Jennifer Victor
GEN
Published in
4 min readAug 20, 2019

--

The “first-of-its-kind” “Misinformation News stand” on Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street, one block from Times Square, in New York City. The Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) erected it “to educate news consumers about the dangers of disinformation in the lead-up to midterms”. The news stand contains totally fake periodicals with fake headlines and articles. Photo: SOPA Images/Getty Images

ItIt seems like Americans are increasingly skeptical of the media, and it’s easy to see why. President Donald Trump repeatedly attacks the credibility of major media outlets, calling them “fake news” as recently as last week, and claiming that he is victim to a larger conspiracy of foes aligned against him.

That’s of course ridiculous. And so were comments made last week by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who blasted the Washington Post for what he perceived to be biased coverage of his campaign, claiming the paper’s editorial content is influenced by the beliefs of its owner, billionaire Jeff Bezos. (Sanders has been an outspoken critic of employee wages at Amazon, Bezos’s company.)

Whether they intend to or not, both Sanders and Trump are fear-mongering, and playing on Americans’ most paranoid instincts. And while the onus is undoubtedly on the politicians to speak more responsibly about venerable news outlets, it also brings into focus just how vulnerable people are to conspiracy theories.

It seems our social conditions are ripe for the spread of conspiracy theories.

--

--

Jennifer Victor
GEN
Writer for

Associate professor political science, Schar School Policy and Government, George Mason Univ.; Congress, parties, campaign finance, networks. Blogger @MisofFact