Everybody these days’ claims that the opposing side to them is spreading fake news.
However, with every side claiming that the other is spreading fake news, which side is the real culprit? It appears to be both. In fact, fake news appears to be rife. It spreads like wildfire. How do we know who to believe?
Sometimes fake news can have dire consequences – it can even lead to major bloodshed and war. And it is nothing new. It pre-dates the internet. In fact, it has probably been occurring since the dawn of time.
Fake news is a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate disinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media.
Below we analyze news stories to see if they contain fake news. Some of these stories impacted the world in life-changing ways.
1. Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction
After the Twin Towers attacks on 9/11, many of the American people sought revenge. As a result, the government at the time decided to unleash, what they claimed, was defensive retaliation.
After sending troops to Afghanistan, George W. Bush decided to send further troops to Iraq. The claim was that Saddam Hussein was hoarding weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
News agencies took the government’s word for it and reported the information to the public. But were there really WMD? Surely the President of the United States is trustworthy as a source?
Much bloodshed and horror ensued. No-one wanted to go to war, but the government and the media were saying that the US would be under threat if they did not. But were the sources of information used to justify the invasion actually reliable?
When looking at an article written by Judith Miller, in the New York Times, we can try to fact-check. She makes an ambiguous reference to an Iraqi scientist. Miller alleged that the scientist revealed evidence of WMD to an American military team in Iraq.
However, conflicting evidence emerged during the years following. Carne William Ross gave damning evidence that there were no such WMD. He gave his testimonies during the Butler Review in 2004, and the Chilcot Inquiry in 2009.
Ross was the UK’s Iraq expert during 1998-2002, at the UN Security Council. He was a negotiator of sanctions and weapons inspections resolutions. He also was privy to the intelligence about whether or not Hussein had WMD. Ross claims Iraq had none.
All in all, there is no evidence available to prove the claims that there were WMD. Ross testified that he saw none. Bush had not even been misled. And the media fell hook line and sinker for this fake news, that led to millions of deaths.
2. Gulf of Tonkin Incident
In August of 1964, President Lyndon Johnson ordered a retaliatory attack upon the Vietnamese. This would later evolve into the notorious Vietnam War.
Johnson supposedly received intelligence claiming that North Vietnamese torpedo boats had attacked two US destroyer ships. He used this information to justify passing a resolution to enable him to use military force against the country.
Gradually this snowballed into the Vietnam War, which caused a lot of devastating loss of life. But were the intelligence sources correct?
In 2010, previously classified transcripts from the Vietnam war era showed grave doubts about the validity of Johnson’s actions. Horrifyingly, there was no evidence that the US destroyer ships were ever attacked.
What eventually came to light, was that Robert McNamara, the then Secretary of Defense, had deliberately mislead Johnson. The destroyers had been supporting South Vietnam’s attacks on North Vietnam. A few days before the alleged attack, North Vietnam had indeed attacked one of those destroyers.
However, the provocative attack that led to the retaliation likely never occurred. There is no evidence. Johnson went ahead and escalated military action without it.
The New York Times promoted this fake news which led to the bloodshed of the Vietnam War.
3. The Arab Spring and brutality in Bahrain
A CNN journalist Amber Lyon took a team to Bahrain to cover the Arab Spring, and how it was affecting the country. Once there, she and her colleagues felt shocked at the brutality of the regime.
When she returned, she claimed that CNN International refused to air her documentary, called “iRevolution: Online Warriors of the Arab Spring“. However, the documentary aired on regular CNN.
Many conspiracy theorists are claiming things about the incident that are not true. This leads to the propagation of fake news. All of the conspiracy sprouted from CNN deciding not to air her documentary on CNN International. CNN International is a different organization to the CNN that broadcasts in the US.
Lyon became suspicious of CNN International’s disinterest in also airing her documentary. CNN International claim that it never intended upon broadcasting it. She immediately became concerned that the media outlet wished to hide her story.
Fake news spread regarding the incident, which included claims that the US Government paid CNN for what content it wanted to broadcast. This is not ever clearly understood. The commercial operations of CNN are a separate entity to its editorial operations. But Lyon disputes this to be just a weak excuse.
What Lyon’s real concern is is that she feels that the government restricts journalists. She claims it does this by making them afraid that the government will indict them to reveal sensitive sources. Lyon states that all news outlets, not just CNN, are afraid to publish stories deemed to come from terrorist sources.
This, in her opinion, is because the Obama Administration is pushing an anti-Iran agenda. Lyon has, however, allowed the notorious fake news anchorman Alex Jones interview her. This does put her credibility into question with this association.
If the US Government is trying to fight terrorism by controlling the free press, this is concerning. But we have no evidence.
4. Fox News hired a fake CIA Agent
Fox News has a notoriously bad reputation with most people. So when the FBI revealed that one of their core sources was fake, many were not surprised.
Wayne Shelby Simmons managed to spend well over a decade pretending to be an ex-CIA Agent on Fox News. He was a regular and popular commentator called upon frequently to give his take on current affairs.
His fraud not only saw him presenting fake news on television, he even was able to gain audiences with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
What is most horrifying, is that Simmons influence stirred up false propaganda that could lead to real world violence and war. Luckily, the FBI were about to sniff out his lies, and throw him in prison.
But this question begs to be asked: Why did Fox News fail to check his validity as a source in the first place? We will likely never know.
Fox News is an entertainment web-site and has no desires to present quality and real journalism. This is why they were not called to testify in court.
Which also seems to show that you should not feel shocked when Fox News continuously presents fake news. Fox News itself admits that it is just there for entertainment, not facts.
5. Fox News and the Contrived war on drugs via anti-marijuana propaganda
Anybody who uses Fox News as an actual news source is being duped. Even Fox News admit their purpose is to merely entertain.
While 45% of the news they present is current and topical, 55% of their programming is merely commentary. This means half of what you hear and see on Fox News is opinion, not fact. Unfortunately, this propagates fake news.
One of the most perpetuated myths in history has been the demonization of marijuana. Not only does Fox News perpetuate this myth, it enables outright lies of the most ridiculous nature to be broadcast about it.
A year ago, celebrity Doctor, David Samadi, appeared on Fox and made some extremely ridiculous claims. He claimed that marijuana causes heart attacks and that babies become crack addicted when their mothers smoke weed. Clearly, this is just fake information.
There have never been any deaths from smoking marijuana. On the other hand, each year sees 480,000 people dying from smoking tobacco, and 88,000 people dying from alcohol abuse.
The war on marijuana began as a racist ploy to arrest anti-war protesters during the Vietnam war era. Despite Nixon knowing that the evidence was to the contrary, he created a lie that weed should treat as a Class I drug.
In fact, scientists have known that marijuana is harmless to people over the age of 25 since the 1940s. For people under 25, it can create memory loss and brain damage, if overused. But once the brain is fully developed, it has no negative effect. And of course, there are no deaths.
You will find more statistics at Statista
How to fact check for fake news:
Most fake news is easy to detect if you take the time to pay attention. People perpetuate fake news when a propaganda headline fills them with strong emotion, usually anger. Most of the time, people don’t even read an article. They will share it on social media based solely on the headline and associated image.
Recently, the exposure of Paul Horner as a fake news hoaxer came to light. Shockingly, this could hypothetically suggest that President Donald Trump became elected solely on the back of fake news.
Horner purposefully made mock news sites that mimicked actual news agencies. However, if a clever person looked closely, they would detect that the URL was fake.
So in order to not become duped, you can take the following steps to get to the tin tacks of the truth. Scientist and author Emily Willingham suggested the following guidelines:
- Check the URL – is it the real site or one that mimics a familiar one?
- What is the date of the article? Is it old news?
- Evaluate reader bias: What do the readers want to hear? Is the article solely designed to enable them to hear that?
- Evaluate writer bias: Does the writer have a political or financial agenda?
- Double-check the evidence. Are they expecting you to take their word for it?
- Verify sources. What is the bias of the sources they use? Who are the sources they use? Do they even provide a source?