Ironically, fakes news has gone viral. No, not just fake news but the subject of fakes news in and of itself has gone viral. Media journalists of all platforms, channels, niche markets, and hues have spoken out and written about the (not-so) new phenomenon of “fake news” propped and pumped up by social media. Inflamed by the current fire of daily social media postings and shares, digital content in the 21st century has taken on a new fold where deliberate hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation are fluidly published and extolled on various websites—-all for the purposes of entertaining, informing, raising awareness, scaring, and—-believe it or not–educating many. But, beyond the appeal to consume and disseminate fake media content in printed galore or video streams is the heart of the true engine behind fake news—-cynicism. Cynicism is the precursor for such content creation aimed in the speed of light to be the first to “break” a story. Cynicism is the driving motive for anonymous trolls to flood social media timelines for the purposes of initiating a response in news content and kicking in high gear anger, fear, frustration into warped action, negative responses, and perplexed feelings—-even afterthoughts.
As the most contentious presidential race in U.S. history winds down in collective memory fake news has proven to be the aftershocks of the earthquake that came to be in America’s electoral process that culminated to a Trump victory to the White House. Broadcast journalists, beat writers, correspondents foreign and domestic–have all chimed in on the subject of fake news and its tendency–motivated by the surprise victory of Trump in November. Journalists and pundits have taken a meta-journalistic look into their own news business 24/7 cyclical operations from all aspects through social media handling and actual mainstream media reporting. What they gathered were known and unknown entities working in varying platforms, sites, and channels via the world wide web spewing content without fact-checking, corroborating sources, researching backstories, substantiating leads, and other necessary elements to journalistic work ethic. They called out names, they identified fake news content with the jaded and pejorative term “conspiracy theory”, they even hinted at advice to viewers, readers, and consumers on what better ways to take in content on TV, internet and social media. But, they left out one thing in their lashing-out analysis—-the cynical disregard to established order—-part of the motif of the 2016 U.S. presidential election cycle from the primaries to the general race.
Academics, think tanks, bloggers, and some activists predicted the moment in the transcendence of the internet age at the turn of the century where unlimited, Google-released information would be matched and over-matched by content real and fake, small and big, true and false. Cynicism as both an emotional roller coaster rush and a sit-on-the-sideline jadedness skews growing viewers tendency to seek media coverage beyond discernment. And, rarely does cynicism encourage one to do homework on what’s going on especially when messages and factoids are consistently delivered in today’s up-to-the-minute coverage. Where content is all too available coming in from all different directions unasked of the viewer-consumer focus becomes somewhat of a distraction in news at a local to global level. Sensational headlines and attacking soundbites lead the way. Mix the saturation of media content in an advancing technological age where opinions and punditry replace hardcore, impartial news gathering emotion takes on a different guise in being informed. Watch any ESPN sports morning and afternoon show to confirm this point. Google searches are done with a snarky attitude. Wikipedia becomes all too reliable source sought comically in a rush for quick, summed-up info. Here we insert human frailties and insecurities in mixed, conflating feelings toward celebrities, politicians, and athletes with the open space of everybody’s opinionating. What we get is—-cynicism unleashed in the field of endless information. More anger, vitriol, and distrust toward the established elite media political class seemingly un-curbed has shifted consumers response to media content and even re-asserted a brand new approach to news consumption and gathering.
Whether it is out of jealousy of popularity and class privilege, frustration from the voiceless and those whose perspectives are far too marginalized, or simply anger of die-hard sports fans cynicism has swept across the land among all people of all demographics which then taints the very platforms and channels in which they follow. The comments section in most YouTube videos are clear examples of cynicism unleashed. Viewers-consumers seek out their “own” truth to what’s going on to appease their mood and behavior at the time not giving mind to the fall into delusions and misinformation. Trump voters along the ride on the Trump train wanted to believe wholeheartedly in all the dark, sinister stories of Hillary Clinton’s behavior and use of connections via her email scandal. Even middle-of-the-road, independent, not-sure-who-to-vote-for citizens took in the past histories and business dealings and connections real and fake of the two candidates as a big conspiracy ready to make victims out of many as a way to justify their eventual pick. Pizzagate became the latest of fake news story debunked driven primarily by emotional highs of its perpetrators and followers in demonizing the Other—-in this case, the Democratic Party. Cynicism is what allowed fake news stories and promulgators like Alex Jones to become mainstream entities with a growing following of “believers”. Donald John Trump became the product of fake news in the re-tweeting of unproven conspiracy theories and the lambasting of media entities that reported negative stories about him. However, Trump did not create fake news nor help propel it as a new fad. After all, fake news has always been around–in the form of hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation that came along with news content of current events for generations. Trump, the ultimate celebrity-politician (part of two hated groups today) allowed fake news to become mainstream and, sadly, accepted among a growing and real voting bloc of a cynical constituency.