Sunday, December 11, 2016

Fake News From The Left

For all the hoopla about "Fake News" doesn't The Left have "Fake News" too? The answer is yes--kinda--but not the way people usually mean it.

How Do People Usually Mean It

People on the right talk about The Left's "fake news" meaning "news that doesn't tell the story I think is right." In this, they describe any mainstream media outlet as "fake news" (usually CNN). Strictly speaking, if CNN is "fake news" (because it is biased) so is Breitbart (oops!).

No, fake-news is an actual thing--but as an epithet, left-fake news is just "news."

But Isn't Some Liberal News Fake?

Of course--news outlets liberal or otherwise--get fooled by hoaxes. They make mistakes. Sometimes they make stuff up. That happens--but not in large quantities. Mostly large mainstream media outlets have a bunch of people whose job it is to make sure they aren't telling outright lies.

This is not the case for Internet News Sites in general. 

Why Doesn't The Left Have Fake News?

The reason the left doesn't have "fake news" is that the economic and media-bubble incentives for it simply don't exist. 

What's that you say? Bullshit? 

No--sorry, guy: The Omnivore knows this stuff cold.

Media Bubble Incentives: News runs on clicks and by selling advertising. That's true across all spectra. However, most liberal readers are willing to go to mainstream news sites so there is little incentive to create alternate news sites with the same news. You can say this is because the mainstream news sites are full of lies--but that's not true.

Signaling: One of the key features of conservative fake news is that forwarding pro-Trump (or whatever) stories is a way of saying "I'm in the club." If it outrages liberals, all the better. Because of a mistrust of the mainstream media there is a serious difficulty in people on the right reaching a consensus about what "really happened" in any particular case.

As such, you don't get branded a liar for spreading fake news and, depending on where someone tries to debunk you (snopes) you may get additional social cred for standing up to the "mainstream media lies."

As such, The Left doesn't have the same incentive to forward fake news: if they send it and it gets debunked by a fact-checker they don't look like they're "in the club"--they look like idiots.

Easy Debunking: The second part is "easy debunking." If you trust the mainstream media it takes 2 seconds to debunk fake news. This is a major part of the "left-wing" immune system. 

Not Trained: Conservatives have been fed a steady diet of apocalypse for the past 8 years. Here's an example from 2014. Liberals, for a variety of reasons, have not been trained that way. As such, they are (currently) less inclined to believe end of the world headlines or end-of-America outrages.

That could change under president Trump. We'll see.

What You Should Know

The problem with right-wing fake news isn't, per-se, right-wing philosophy or right-wing stupidity--there are similar issues on the left. The problem is that the kind of totally-made-up apocalyptic news that gets spread virally without an ounce of truth to it has mechanical difficulties operating in the Liberal info-space. This is why, again and again, attempts by fake-news vendors to target liberals have failed.


  1. People on Team Blue generally share memefied arguments and statements of opinion where folks on Team Red rely on fake news. Those arguments and opinions are often bad and dumb, but it's a lot harder for an opinion to be *fake*.

    1. Correct. Both the left and right have their share of biased and misleading news--but the full-on-fake thing is a property of right-wing discourse and lack of trust in anything resembling a sane media.