One post-election 2016 viral-wonder—the crisis of “fake news” in the wake of the 2016 presidential election—was a logical and necessary outgrowth of the web’s sordid infrastructure, prurient daily pleasures, and neoliberal political economy.

Fake things abound on the internet—as do true ones, to be sure—because its current infrastructure is based upon amoral principles that do not measure, value, or correct for  candor or integrity. Rather, popularity, volume, consumption, sales, and entertainment rule the day and the form. As I argued in my 2011 on-line video-book Learning from YouTube, while there’s nothing wrong with any of these qualities per se, they are not the best forums to sustain and promote education, and they may be even less well equipped to support news, elections, democracies, or civil societies.

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Given, as I have established in truths 1-2 (and elsewhere) that the internet is a place where:

  • the true/false dichotomy disintegrates
  • deception and manipulation organize and popularize discourse
  • neoliberal values of corporate ownership and control trump all other moral systems
  • aggressive behavior rooted in racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic beliefs is permitted and often supported
  • the masking of real commitments and structures wedded to a brutal capitalism is pasted over with the thinnest veneer of entertainment and mock democracy
  • chaos and plenty mask dark and focused control for a singular few
  • expertise is flattened in the name of a bogus populism

We Americans helped, or at least allowed, the internet/ourselves to produce the conditions where our president reflects the norms and values of that place that most of us more and more frequently call home.

Further reading:

  • From Home to Public Forum: Media Events and the Public Sphere, by Barbie Zelizer
    “I think that consideration of the media as a whole is important when considering the rise you are claiming of the fake news. It is important to consider not just the role of the viewer in relation to spectatorship of the news but also to track the decline of certain types of viewership of the news, and how viewership of “fake news” diverges from an older form of spectatorship.” Recommended by Alia Haddad, PhD student in Cinema and Media Studies, USC
  • The Quantum Paradox of Truthiness: Satire, Activism, and the Postmodern Condition, by James E. Caron
    Caron cites Geoffrey Baym’s concept of “discursive integration,” a concept he offers as a way of speaking about, understanding, and acting within the world defined by the permeability of form and the fluidity of content. “Discourses of news, politics, entertainment, and marketing have grown deeply inseparable; the languages and practices of each have lost their distinctiveness and are being melded into previously unimagined combinations.”Both of these authors are part of a Special Issue of the Studies in American Humor: American Satire and the Postmodern Condition. I see the problem of fake news as a historical trend where on one side news has accommodated to feed what sells and what people want to read (click bait), and on the other side as Alex mentions, we are not aware of the complexity of the Internet, its politics and interests. I also recommend Evgeny Morozov’s critiques like The Internet,” Recommended by Emilia Yang, PhD Student in Media Arts and Practice
  • #100hardtruths-#fakenews: a primer on digital media literacy