Calling “fake news” an epidemic would be far from an understatement. In fact, this characterization is more accurate than not.
While impossible to get exact figures, it is clear to anybody who uses social media that fake news is rampant. You will often see stories from unheard of pages that are generally click bait, but this is not the larger problem. The big problem with fake news is it’s use by “trusted” media outlets.
Oftentimes when people hear the term “fake news”, they assume the news must be entirely false. This is not always the case. Media outlets and publications alike have learned ways to manipulate their narrative so that the story has shades of truth to it, but is overall a biased story.
With “Fake News Flashback”, we hope to tackle stories that were proven to be far from the truth or just patently false. You see, fake news has been featured on all corners of the media-sphere and sometimes garners plenty of traction. What never does however, are the retractions.
Which brings us to our first example, the emotionally hard-hitting story of the Iraqi refugee who’s mother died as a result of President Trump’s travel ban.
On January 31, 2017, a Muslim Detroit resident told the local Fox affiliate that his mother had died as a result of President Trump’s travel ban. The man had been an American for 20 years, and served in the Army as an interpreter. He claimed his mother died from an illness while stuck in Iraq due to the travel ban.
Of course, the story was a big lie. The story was retweeted and shared tens of thousands of times on social media platforms. Major media outlets like CNN and The Huffington Post also ran stories/segments on it. Washed up celebrities came forward by the dozen to virtue signal.
— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) February 1, 2017
— HuffPost (@HuffPost) February 1, 2017
Everything began to unravel when an imam came forward. Husham Al-Husainy, an imam from Dearborn Michigan, told Fox 2 that the story was a lie. Al-Hussainy confirmed that she had died on January 22, days before the travel ban was implemented.
To their credit, many publications wrote about the lie, such as The Washington Post. However, the retractions never made the rounds like the initial story did. We also never got retractions from virtue signalling celebrities desperate to stay relevant.
This is par for the course with fake news. As the old saying goes, “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get it’s shoes on”. Fake news stories become media sensations, especially when they are emotionally charged and enforce already established narratives. It is up the people to do independent research and call out fake news where they see it. Otherwise, narratives rule supreme over facts.