A few people have asked me about my penchant for fake news after I started sharing Onion and BabylonBee articles. I’d say that, for me, it all started at or around inauguration of Donald Trump. Sadly, satirical news sites such as The Onion and BabylonBee are just as “real” or true as the mainstream media.
When we try to determine the validity of any news content, we must ask ourselves, “What motivated this article?” If you look at the direction of the news industry over the last few decades, the small town newspapers have disappeared. We now have a few large news conglomerates like CNN and MSNBC. Why is this?
MONEY! It’s all about money. I worked at a newspaper for a few years and I can tell you, the money is in the advertising. However, to attract advertisers to your platform, the newspaper needs interesting, captivating content to attract readers. Advertisers won’t spend money to advertise with a paper that doesn’t draw or maintain readership. This is why the smaller city/town papers have disappeared.
When I worked at The Shelbyville News, the paper was known in the community as The Shelbyville Newsletter. The content back then seemed to be nothing more than community self-interest stories or gossip. Who really wants to know that Suzy now sells vanilla scented candles in her store in addition to the pumpkin spice? Everyone knows Suzy, so they don’t need to read about it in the paper–they already know!
The content that drew readership was the obituaries and police blotter–the exciting posts. People don’t want to read about people that lead the same boring, everyday lives they do. They want to read something exciting! They want to read that Johnny got caught peeing on a lamp post on the town square and that he was sentenced to 3,000,000 hours of community service. They want to know that Suzy was selling drugs out of the back of her shop to boost sales of candles and incense
Why? Because those are “exciting” stories. Something that brings a little danger or conflict to the town.
Jump forward to 2017 and the major news outlets are all driven by this desire to post the newest bit of scandal. It is said that sex sells, but that’s not all. Excitement, conflict, danger, controversy all sell too! How often do we here about a major news source releasing a story only to find out days or weeks later that it was not verified? Why did they do it? Because in a more connected world, chances are if I am holding a piece of juicy news, then Megyn Kelly surely has it too. So, it becomes a race to be the first to report it.
After the story is found to be false, it only adds fuel to the fire. How could they do this to us? Why did they do it? What really happened? How are they going to be punished? The only thing to wash the false story aside is the next big piece of news! And, it goes on and on and on…
This is why I choose satire. With the “Fake/Real” news, it’s always bad. Something inciting conflict, confusion, etc. We really never learn the real story because 7 billion people all have a different take on it.
In the case of satire, it pokes fun at real events, stereotypes, etc. For example, an article I posted earlier this week “Unforgiving Sin Actually Dancing, Baptist Scholar Claims”. Obviously this is fake, so why do we read it? We read it because it pokes fun at our idiosyncrasies. It’s widely known that Baptists have potlucks and don’t dance.
It’s all about choice for me. Do I choose to get caught up in all of the gossip, hate, and violence in the world, or do I choose to laugh a little at the absurdity of it all? This isn’t to say that I don’t read the news, it just means that I’m more discriminating in the news I read. Does it really matter in the grand scheme of things that The Donald said something stupid on Twitter? What about the $1 billion of weapons we’re sending to another country?
On the first: who cares? Yeah, it’s a little “unpresidential”, but we all knew who we were getting–a non-establishment, loudmouth that would stir things up. (That’s something I actually like–time to get away from business as usual and stir things up–maybe then we can get back on track) On the second, yeah, I care about that. I’m not sure WE can be trusted with $1 billion in weapons, so I sure don’t want to see some other questionable regime get them.
Unfortunately, there’s more of the first to weed through to get to the second. So, yeah, after I peruse the “real” news, I go to the satire to find something to lift my spirits. Rather than getting angry, upset and cause a fight over a stupid tweet, I’ll spend my afternoon laughing that someone thinks the Apostle John actually owned a King James Bible.