How are we not smarter consumers of news in 2021?

False news and distortion of truth are not raw concepts— from Orson Welles’ “War of the World” during the 1930s to the modern misconstruing posts, these have frolicked around the spaces of humans in both traditional and modern media. However, why do we still fall victim to these counter-information? Did humans fail to develop over time? Or did troll culture, clickbaits and sloppy journalism augment alongside humans?

Fake news peddlers and trolls
Long before the post-modern era, numerous have already been convinced to accredit warped facts. In fact, in mid-1700s, false news about King George II’s illness during the Jacobite rebellion in Great Britain have already proliferated. It was natural that people would believe the make-believe dilemma, by that time, as the story was picked up by publishers and republished. Conversely, in the post-modern era where technology breathes and paper trail is more perspicuous, false news should easily be cabbaged— unfortunately, it is not the case. Why, exactly?

I can only offer my fifty cents, but as a tender journalist coming to bloom, I have observed and concluded that people and consumers are not to be blamed entirely for the advent of false news. The reason why hoaxes and the infodemic are in the state of propagation even with the flourishing use of technology is in the latter itself— the internet has expanded so wide that it became an unilluminated stretch for the trolls themselves to exhaust. However, we cannot incriminate the internet for improving in accordance to the needs of the people; the one to point at are the trolls and online gremlins that gave birth to spoof news and deception.

The fact that trolls exist even in the year 1700s, in an era without social media, speaks loudly about the fact that while the impish exists, the more trickeries there are to subsist. We cannot simply push all the blame on the consumers— and while sure, they might and could have fact-checked, the thing is, not everyone is well-informed and technology-literate to do so. On the point, why is there a need to fact-check?

Sloppy journalism
This brings me as well to my next point, sloppy journalism. It is evident that most journalists are able to dwell with their golden creed: To write for the masses and to serve the people. Nonetheless, there are some who would like to skip fact-checking, over-sensationalize a story for the hits, robotically transcribe an event without proper pegs, or resort to lampoon-ish satire without properly issuing a disclaimer. These may seem little, but these are avenues which start to unfurl false news— and considering the online population, these may spread like wildfire.

In the name of responsible reportage, sloppy journalism should be halted. As journalists are viewed by the people as reliable and trustworthy, a single error committed intentionally changes the story. This may result in the sudden distrust of citizens in media— labelling them as “presstitutes” in the fallacious spirit of hasty generalization. This damages the reputation of the news print sector indefinitely.

With these factors weighed in — false news peddlers, trolls, clickbaits, and sloppy journalism; we should, thus, also examine the way our consumer behaves.

Hypodermic Needle and Narrative Paradigm Theory
While I personally believe that most citizens are not gullible with erroneous news and information, some are still passive — hence, the escalation of fake news and infodemic. Like the hypodermic needle theory promulgated by Harold Lasswell in the 1920s, trolls have taken the liberty to the wield the ‘media gun’ and fire the bullet of fake news onto the heads of the audiences. Thus, some people remain “actively passive” in reacting to certain media contents.

Moreover, the placement in the digital era should also be considered— and withal, this is far more serious as citizens, now, have the ability to repost. Today is also a crucial time; given that false news can spread like conflagration through the internet, mass hysteria during the pandemic is inevitable. A common example could be vaccine hoaxes and misinformation announced by anti-vaxxers. One ridiculous hoax believed to be true by most in the internet is a post which states that vaccine-takers have started to eat other human’s flesh.

Also, with people being natural story-tellers as suggested by Walter Fischer in his narrative paradigm theory, citizens are more often susceptible to believe news through convincing word-of-mouth. The culture of “Marites” has only made the situation worse. Like “chismis” which gets nastier from person to person, news may also be spread in the same manner— it gets more twisted and exaggerated from point A to point Z.

However, even with these communication theories proven correct, people should not be shamed for unconsciously spreading misinformation.

Instead, the anti-defeatist attitude is that the enlightened portion of the population should educate these people. While others are close for criticisms, a resolute attitude is to continue attempts until their shells are softened.Retrograding back to the first set of questions… humans’ generation has developed gracefully that while others are still unconscious false news peddlers, a large chunk of the population are already educated about the matter. However, troll culture, clickbaits, and sloppy journalism did augment along the progression of humans, paving way to an even more extreme form of disinformation.

Now, as the fragment of politically- and technologically-aware populace— albeit, some have not been smarter consumer of news in the current times, it is our responsibility to offer to them the valuable points that we have to offer. In order to develop a stronger fight against false news and disinformation, all should be educated, and it only takes teamwork to achieve so.

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