Various polls ask the public questions along the line of Do You Trust the Media?. Not surprisingly, the “yes” number is much lower than the “no” number and generally trending downward. But, we should pay attention to the details. In a question like that are we referring to a particular type of media, and are we targeting specific media consumers. Attributes like that can make a discernible difference.
Fake News, Outrage and Hoaxes
In addition to the old guard mainstream media, New Media is coming of age. There are different formats like newspapers, magazines, online news sites, network television news, cable news and new twists on old arrangements. Then, of course, there is social media. The fairly familiar lines of the past between news and entertainment have been pretty much obliterated.
Even the so-called news sources today display questionable reliability or integrity when it comes to being able to trust what they say. What they report as facts may or may not be and even when they are they may be presented out of context. Even worse, when a story gets picked up, it can take on a life of its own regardless of how reliable it is.
In the contemporary media environment, online or otherwise, the more outrageous the story, the more attention it gets. This leads to all sorts of contortions including hyperbolic headlines, embellished storylines and outright fake news. A particular class of the latter is crime hoaxes. Unfortunately, they seem to be rather common.
So addicted are some people to the narcotic of outrage, that the mere fantasy of the attack is all they need to believe it true.
Crime Hoax Examples
A recent episode involving an attack on an actor made the headlines recently. After what has become typical treatment from the media and the audience, the story began to change. In the end, it turned out to be a complete hoax, planned and paid for by the actor.
But, at first, the story wheedled its way into every nook and cranny of the public arena, simultaneously gaining traction and outraged advocates. Yet another hate crime perpetrated against a fill-in-the-blank victim by a fill-in-the-blank villain. The outrage machine spins up to speed instantaneously, faster than a story can even be researched or verified.Such hoaxes are becoming common, even epidemic. There are hundreds of them, and several worthy authors have done yeomen's work compiling these lists from which I now draw. Here is a small sample of confirmed hoaxes... Click To Tweet
“Such hoaxes are becoming common, even epidemic. There are hundreds of them, and several worthy authors (here, here, here, and here, for example) have done yeomen’s work compiling these lists from which I now draw. Here is a small sample of confirmed hoaxes in just the last few years…
- A pro-gay Indiana church was vandalized with slurs, including one reading, ‘Heil Trump.’ It was actually the church’s own organ player who did it as a hoax.
- In Lafayette, Kentucky, a woman falsely claimed to have had her hijab stolen by white men wearing Trump hats.
- A Kansas man defaced his own car with racist slogans. Police soon concluded this to be another vandalism hoax.
- Vandalism at a Brooklyn synagogue originally believed to the work of an anti-Semitic vandal turned out to be the work of a black man with career experience as an ‘anti-hat’” worker for City Hall.
Sadly, there is no shortage of these stories although there does seem to be a shortage of common sense. The media needs to more vigilant and the audience needs to be less gullible.