In a move of admirable self-criticism—one I feel sympathetic to as myself a card-carrying member of the American critical new media left—danah boyd asks “did media literacy backfire?”

“Addressing so-called fake news is going to require a lot more than labeling. It’s going to require a cultural change about how we make sense of information, whom we trust, and how we understand our own role in grappling with information. Quick and easy solutions may make the controversy go away, but they won’t address the underlying problems. What is Truth?”

boyd continues:

“The path forward is hazy. We need to enable people to hear different perspectives and make sense of a very complicated  —  and in many ways, overwhelming  —  information landscape. We cannot fall back on standard educational approaches because the societal context has shifted. We also cannot simply assume that information intermediaries can fix the problem for us, whether they be traditional news media or social media. We need to get creative and build the social infrastructure necessary for people to meaningfully and substantively engage across existing structural lines”

For More Sense-making:


In “20th Century Fox Gives Real Apology for a Fake News Campaign,” the chief executive of the public relations company Edelman engages in revealing doublespeak. He reflects upon the use of fake news in the industry, as well as in the recent, scandalous ad campaign for the movie A Cure for Wellness, for which 2oth Century Fox created fake health news from a fake newspaper (Salt Lake City Guardian): “It’s a very kind of perverse use of a genre that is really counterproductive.”


Extant faked image from the larger fake campaign, most of which has been removed from the internet.

Advertising and public relations—unlike the news or the governments that they pretend to report on in this campaign—have little to no obligation to truth-telling, fact-checking, well-being, or democracy for that matter. Their commitments are to their clients. All press is good press for products (and people as products) and the corporations that peddle them. Perverse manipulations of facts are the productive, counterproductive, and reproductive terrain on which the ad and public relations businesses—and the internet built on their revenues—thrive. The ad business, and the internet it and we produce by both clicking on ads and turning ourselves into advertisements that sell us to bidders for our attentions, is not and has never been an industry organized around keeping people well, nor has it pretended to be. elaborates on the deliberate, definitive, if potentially dangerous obfuscations of this 2oth Century Fox advertising ploy built from, as have been so many ads before it, a definitively “perverse” admixture of real and fake news:

An archived version of the [fake] vaccination article shows that it included real tweets posted by Mr. Trump in the past drawing a link between vaccines and autism. (The links is not supported by scientific evidence.)

Read More:

See More:

Today’s media consumer cannot trust the internet, its news, or networks—fake or otherwise. Given the wretched state of today’s internet, skeptical, self-aware interaction with digital data is a critical foundation for maintaining democracy.

A self-aware attention to the current conditions of the internet must become a most important self-evident truth to move forward. A very serious project of digital media literacy is critical for our democracy, and is a crucial place where scholars and our students, regardless of our fields, can make pivotal contributions. As citizens, we need to understand how the internet works—technologically, financially, legally, socially. We scholars and educators need to teach and learn how to better read digital media, to understand who makes it, owns it, and circulates it. We need to ask how and why it is structured and visualized as it is, and what truths and mistruths it states. We need to learn how and where to demand real and better news. We need to produce context for the rudderless fragments of information that circulate online, as well as the forums where we can share our findings, activities, and practices.

More Reading:

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


By this oxymoron I mean:

  • that contemporary (and past) media manipulations and deceptions exist on the internet in increasing numbers and with expanding reach
  • these have fomented crises during the recent election and current administration, as well as in the past
  • there are and have been lived, material consequences (of serious concern) produced in the confusing wake of this structuring contradiction, including the election of our current President (see #100truths-#fakenews #3 and reading list, below).

For more complexity see:

  • “Triumph of the Will”: Document or Artifice?, by David B. Hinton
    “What struck me about the way that Trump supporters view Trump is how similar it is to the ways in which Hitler was also viewed. Leni Riefenstahl was instrumental in creating the spectacle and artifice around Hitler and the Nazi party, and the ways that Trump has uses fake news mirrors some of that (even beyond the similarities of some of his proposed policies).”  Recommended by Jennifer Jee Cho, MA Candidate, Cinema & Media Studies, USC
  • Framing the Internet in the Arab Revolutions: Myth Meets Modernity, by Miriyam Aouragh
    “The attached article supports the idea of needing a more critical citizen engagement with the internet. Something else that this article does in a very understated way is point out that the relationship between the internet and produced fakeness/realness changes based on where/when we are in the world. Your op-ed points out that, in a Western/American context, the internet is our source for producing, consuming, and sharing fake content. But it’s just as important to note that the internet can become a place of very real Western (re)configurations of non-Western narratives, cultures, and social and political structures, effectively acting as a tool for the production of neocolonialism and its real effects.” Recommended by Mary Michael
  • My book, F is for Phony: Fake Documentary and Truth’s Undoing, edited with Jesse Lerner, University of Minnesota Press, 2006.
  • #100hardtruths-#fakenews: a primer on digital media literacy


Shortly after November’s tumultuous election, I wrote an article for JStor Daily, “Four Hard Truths About Fake News.” It began with a preamble that actually had three more truths embedded and then quickly followed with four more: “the real internet is a fake, the fake news is very real, and thus Trump is indeed our rightful internet president.”

  1. Today’s internet is built on, with, and through an unruly sea of lies, deceptions, and distortions, as well as a few certainties, cables, and algorithms.
  2. This week’s viral-wonder—the crisis of “fake news” in the wake of the 2016 presidential election—is a logical and necessary outgrowth of the web’s sordid infrastructure, prurient daily pleasures, and neoliberal political economy.
  3. Today’s saccharine hand-wringing and the too-late fixes erupting from the mouthpieces for the corporate, media, and political interests responsible for this mess are as bogus as Lonelygirl15.
  4. Today’s media consumer cannot trust the internet, its news, or networks—fake or otherwise. Given the wretched state of today’s internet, skeptical, self-aware interaction with digital data is the critical foundation upon which democracy may be maintained.

Only 93 more to go to meet my vow …

I hereby pledge:

  • To disrupt the new President’s First 100 days by posting #100hardtruths-#fakenews with linked actions, analyses and organizations committed to digital media literacy.
  • In so doing, I will produce a 100 point digital primer to counter the purposeful confusion, lack of trust, and disorientation of the current administration’s relation to media, offering instead a steady, reasoned set of resources seeking clarity and justice.

Let me begin by here offering #100truths-fakenews #8: FAKE! by DOVEMAN + TOM KALIN + CRAIG PAULL, January 22, 2017, one of several video projects these activist-artists are making to counter the administration’s wile media moves.

Yes, producing 100 points by Day 100, April 29, 2017, seems a little daunting, but I will be counting on my reasoned, practiced, committed, talented colleagues, across the media spectrum, to ease the burden (just see above!). While this administration may seek to addle us with media misinformation, disruption, and lunacy, I put full trust in our clear-headed community of conscience. Please do share possible contributions—in the form of writings, links, images, or actions—to the #100truths-fakenews primer via email, comments on this blog, or on my twitter feed, where I’ll be building a paired-down version of the project @mediapraxisme. The full-version will build here over the next 70 days.

See More: