The air has been thick with statistics on both sides, with conservatives and the far right usually fingered as the culprits. Actually, fake news was purveyed on both sides. Ben Carson did not, for example, say that the ghosts of aborted babies haunt hospitals. Mainstream media sometimes publish fake news too. The Burlington Electric Company’s grid was not hacked by Russia, as the Washington Post recently claimed. Apparently, the Post staffers had not followed the conventional rule of phoning the facility to check before running the story. But did it make much difference anyway?
As it happens, claims for social media’s awesome power aren’t new to the 2016 election. Similarly dramatic claims were made after the 2008 election. Back then the outcome was welcomed by the proponents of the social media power, so we were unlikely to hear much about the perils of fake news.
Indeed, as “astroturf” investigator Sharyl Atkisson observes, before mid-September 2016, fake news was hardly mentioned. Concern arose among Clinton allies thereafter via progressive site Media Matters and caught on widely from there in traditional media.
Either something happened rather suddenly to social media or there are more conventional explanations for Clinton’s loss. Let’s look at some of the latter:
It wasn’t fake news that made the difference; it was missed news. More.
Reality check: Remember, however, that when the progressives get back into power in the United States, they will have long lists of people to punish. We had better enjoy freedom of information from there while we can.
Note: Germany is worried about fake news: A classic. The underlying assumption is that the people are not restless on account of things they know about personally.
See also: Part I: What is fake news? Do we believe it?