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funkdaddy's avatar

Does satirical news bear some responsibility for the current "fake news!" phenomenon?

Asked by funkdaddy (17624points) September 22nd, 2017

Have sites like The Onion and shows like Colbert Report made people more likely to believe that news organizations or “the media” as a whole are more likely to be fake?

Or, another way, have those satirical outlets made it easier for viewers to believe news that is actually fake because it seems to be more reasonable than what you’ll see in a satirical outlet?

Question prompted by a discussion with a woman who said she doesn’t believe news stories anymore after being fooled by some shared on facebook by “people (who) think they’re so smart”. So basically Onion-like stories made at least one individual decide it’s safer to just not believe in news at all. That’s her revenge basically.

How widespread is this do you think? How would you correct that, if possible?

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13 Answers

janbb's avatar

I think that satire does possibly contribute to the unwillingness to believe in true news but I think the internet and purveyors with a deliberate agenda are more culpable. The decline in critical thinking skills by the populace and the increasing polarization and segmentation of the news media are other significant factors. I would suggest to people who dismiss all news as fake that they verify a story in two reputable news sources – perhaps The New York Times (which arguably skews left) and The Wall Street Journal (which arguably skews right) before relaying it but that is probably wishful thinking.

I do think there are many people in America who don’t recognize satire and also, to be fair, that real events have become so fantastical it is hard to separate the true from the fake.

flutherother's avatar

The woman you spoke with is wise not to trust ‘news’ shared on Facebook but it is not so wise to extend this distrust to established and reputable news media. One we begin to distrust these news sources we are in serious trouble as without them we are stumbling about in the dark.

Satire is a form of comedy and is quite different from ‘fake news’. Unlike satire, the intention of fake news is malicious and is intended to deceive. If satire is believed by its audience it has failed, if ‘fake news’ is believed it has succeeded.

LostInParadise's avatar

How do you satirize Trump? You can’t do any better than using direct quotes. The problem is that the real news is so bizarre that it can’t be distinguished from fake news.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t know.

For as long as I can remember there has been some satire around. I’ve never liked it very much.

I don’t like The Onion. I don’t like an entire article or “news report” saying something in a serious manner when it’s total BS. I think it can get passed around and people don’t realize it’s satire. On shows like SNL, which is a comedy show, I’m fine with it, but I usually don’t find it very funny.

Shows like Colbert are not the news, they are also comedy, but certainly take on real current events. The loyal audience I think does know the difference between the factual information and what is just satire and comedy.

Fake news is something else. Shows like Colbert do care about facts in my opinion. They aren’t making up things, they aren’t starting a rumor. That is not their intent at all. Fake news, in my opinion, purposely starts a falsehood to manipulate people, or passes along a rumor not researched.

I think the thing most contributing to fake news is purposeful lying and exaggeration, because of bias and because people want to think the worst all too often. Lack of integrity, lack of fair play, lack of the golden rule.

Zaku's avatar

I would say no, but that it is involved

Satire points out how ridiculous the non-satire news is, and hopefully jolts people out of their usual mental perspectives. That’s how it’s always been…

The difference in recent years and decades is that, particularly in the USA, the non-satire news and the actual subjects of it, have been less and less worthy of any sort of consideration other than satire. To the point that we have had many preposterous elected officials who should by all rights never have been given any consideration as potential candidates, nor should they be allowed to continue in office.

Now, satire may give rise to cynicism, which may in part lead to cynical voting, and contribute to the amazing behavior of our political parties in offering and supporting clown figurehead candidates.

As for media and journalists, I suppose perhaps satire has normalized some outrageous stories, and certainly it’s become harder to tell the difference when there is so much actual flying BS. Certainly we have a situation where almost all the mainstream news is now corporate owner and intentionally biased in one way or another, so some people turn to both alternative news and satire, and there are also wacky or just flawed alternative news sources, and people sharing headlines to their friends without even reading the articles, and click-bait sites… so there’s lots and lots of noise… and the POTUS parrots a fair amount of it… and it’s overwhelming how much noise and info there is, and many people give little serious attention to it… so there’s a blizzard of noise.

So again, I’d say news satire is involved in the blizzard, but I would not say it is responsible for it. Often satirical news seems to ring far closer to the truth than non-satirical corporate news, especially in the last 20 years or so.

Darth_Algar's avatar

No, I do not believe that it does. Satire has existed forever. And satirical “news” has existed for as long as legitimate news publications and programs have existed. That people are no longer willing to think critically is not the fault of The Onion.

Dutchess_III's avatar

No. It’s stupid. If people believe that stuff, that is so patently ridiculous, they don’t have the brains to recognize a real news source.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The woman in question needs to be taught to do her own research.

I guess I’m known as the Queen Fact Checker on Facebook. I’ve had several people ask me to fact check certain articles. It confuses me. Why can’t they check themselves?

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

I really don’t have an answer for people who can’t tell the difference between satire, fake news and fact-based news. They usually aren’t imbeciles. I think they are just lazy and don’t check things out before buying into them—and those who can’t tell the difference between satire and everything else, probably don’t possess a sense of humour. Call it another form of willful ignorance. I really don’t have a lot of sympathy for them either. I am certainly no genius and haven’t attended an English Lit class in 50 years, but I can tell the difference.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Honestly, anyone who takes something as absurd as this seriously probably deserves to be duped.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

LOL. My hometown newspaper had a large plaque hung high above the entrance to the newsroom. It read, “If your mother tells you she loves you, check the source.” I think that is a good rule for all of us.

If there is anything the least bit fishy about any news story that, if false, would make a damn fool out you and damage your credibility if you repeated it—check the source.

Catnip5's avatar

@flutherother is pretty much right. Any news sources coming from social media like Facebook should really be taken with a grain of salt. She’ll be a lot wiser to avoid hoax steaming solely from parts of the internet. I’ve also been avoid similar chain letters for those reasons too (even through text messages and such). Same with talk shows, comedies, and sketch shows that are mostly just there for entertainment.

I feel a lot of things could’ve generally contribute to the ‘fake news’ mantra. Especially among those that choose not to do their own research. Though satire has been around for so long, in many forms, that it should be able to have the least influence behind that regards.

seawulf575's avatar

I don’t know that satirical outlets are responsible for fake news, but I would say that they most definitely help mold public opinion. Most people don’t think too deeply about political things and as such, they hear the comics putting forth opinion with the attitude that there is no possible other side to a story. That impacts a lot of people.

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