On October 2018 an episode of The New York Times’ podcast, The Daily, included an in-depth interview with the creators of the site Madworld News— Cory and Christy Pepple. The site that they created was a Facebook page that was in favor of the conservative side or right wing of politics. This website has many posts that pertain to showing the conservatives in a positive demeanour while also including posts that exaggerate the actions of the left wing in a negative light. Many fact-checking websites, such as Snopes, claimed that this website expresses many notions of fake news. The Pepples blatantly said, “The most reliable way to make a story grow is to make the audience angry.” The Pepples were knowledgeable about what they were doing and knew they were deepening the division between the two opposing sides. The motivation behind the publishing of this content was not only to share conservative insight and negatively depict left-wing news, but also to gain more views which in turn increases their profits.
The United States was built on the foundation of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. With the aid of technology, the process of spreading one’s words has become an easier task. There are thousands of sites on the web that pertain to one sharing their perspectives of certain topics whether that be in a blog format, social media posts (like the Pepples), or publishing news stories. As time progressed, the use of the terminology and the distribution of fake news— the mass spreading of information that is deemed inaccurate— had grown more apparent in the nation.
Fake news tends to take the form of one spreading their opinion about certain topics, while claiming the information presented is factual. The idea of truth grew very abstract and, according to Roberts-Miller, developed the characteristic of “genetic fallacy.” Robert-Millers’ text goes into depth about demagoguery and how it has impacted the type of news we are being exposed to in the nation. Demagoguery inhibits the characteristics of group identity (loyalty of one side), need (recognizing what the opposing group’s ideals are, and punishment (not being open-minded or accepting of the ideals of the opposing group) – all influencing how one interprets a truth. She touches upon the foundations of democracy and how one’s political view influences what one perceives to be real or not real. People that lean more toward a specific group tend to be in favor of all of the actions and the reputation of that group. With that being said, if there are statements that oppose the ideals of that specific group, supporters will deem the statements as false. Roberts-Millers says that, “ We don’t realize we’re engaged in the genetic fallacy because it appeals to our (often incorrect) intuition that people like us (members of the in-group) are essentially trustworthy, and people like them (members of the out-group) are not. When we operate that way, we aren’t just treating members of in-groups and out-groups differently; we are perceiving them differently” (37). Genetic fallacy describes the dynamic of the ‘in -group;’ People that reside within this group only believe in what appeals to them and they oppose the ideals of people that are apart of the ‘out-group,’ or people that do not have the same ideals as them. Furthermore, in-group members only deem information as accurate if it pertains to their ideals and deem it as inaccurate if it opposes their ideals.
While some people are blind to the spread of fake news, those who are not use this to their advantage. Many people use specific methods to spread their beliefs onto others by the tactic of exaggeration. Spreading false or hyperbolic content help people strengthen their specific communities support or help spread news at a rapid pace. This often deepens already existing political divisions. Authors like the Pepples use their knowledge about genetic fallacy to spark strong emotions between both the in-group (the right wing) and the out-group (the left wing). Although many out-group members believe that the information set forth by the Pebbles is inaccurate, members of the in-group believe otherwise. The Pebbles evoking strong emotions from both groups helps spread the information and also furthers the growth of the subjectivity of the truth. Just like Madworld News, there are multiple sites that evoke and thrive off of division between the out-group and the in-group. With the growth of this fake news and the subconscious practice of genetic fallacy, the concept of truth is growing more and more subjective.