The Daily Beast is reporting on how some high profile blogs have again fallen for fake news. The truly sad part about it is that it was fake news about a news organization’s news reporting. Could there be any story more easily verifiable? No, there couldn’t. Yet clickbait purveyors, Infowars and Gateway Pundit swallowed the fake news hook, line and sinker. Again. Allen West’s website was also suckered by a fake story about the Fort Lauderdale shooting conjured by the alt-right on Twitter.
The gist of the fake story was that CNN altered pictures of the Hispanic gunman to make him look more “white.” There were two problems with the story. One, it appears that CNN had not even released a photo of the shooter Esteban Santiago at that point. That should have been easily verifiable had the dupes bothered to check CNN before regurgitating the story. The second problem is that the photos being used to “prove” that CNN had doctored Santiago’s skin color were not even photos of the same Esteban Santiago.
Far rightwing figureheads immediately invented an elaborate and racist conspiracy theory that CNN had lightened a photo of alleged Fort Lauderdale airport shooter Esteban Santiago shortly after the Friday attack.
In reality, CNN had yet to air a picture of Santiago, let alone lightened a picture of him. The conspiracy also used a picture of an entirely different man named Esteban Santiago—not the alleged shooter.
Still, writers at websites like InfoWars and Gateway Pundit tweeted about CNN’s nonexistent Photoshop job. Former Republican Florida Congressman Allen West, who represented Fort Lauderdale itself, even tweeted about the conspiracy and linked to an article about it on his own website.
“Why is CNN attempting to make the shooter look more white? Bizarre,” reads InfoWars editor Paul Joseph Watson’s tweet, which had 3,500 retweets at press time.
Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft even wrote a story about the so-called incident, titled “Look How CNN Doctored Photo of Ft. Lauderdale Shooter Esteban Santiago,” which had 2,500 shares in its first hour on Facebook, according to BuzzSumo.
“It appears CNN doctored the photo to make the suspect look more white,” wrote Hoft. “Sad.”
Sad, indeed, but not for the reasons Hoft thought. Hoft later pulled the story when he found out it was fake.
One of the problems with the so called “fake news” trend on social media isn’t the existence of fake stories, it’s the lack of skepticism that makes people react to or run with stories that affirm their political worldview without even checking to see if they’re authentic. People who initiate false stories are to blame for the stories’ existence, but if you sell those stories to your followers as truth for the sake of getting clicks, you’re the real problem. Without your uncritical rush to be the first to spread the latest outrage, the fake stories would die on the vine.
Automatically believing every negative story about the main stream media, Barack Obama, or Hillary Clinton and rejecting or rationalizing every negative story about Donald Trump is not being conservative. It’s just being a hack.
You don’t beat a media driven by a political agenda by becoming media driven by a political agenda.