People ignoring obvious facts, overstating statistics, or simply telling straight out lies (porkies, pork pies, Pinocchios and pants-on-fire whoppers) hit a new low standard in 2016. The Oxford Dictionary selected “post-truth” as its word of the year. They defined it as when “facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to our emotions and personal prejudices.”

Self-appointed social media commentators and amateur political pundits spread these fake news falsehoods by presenting them as REAL news stories. Sometimes ‘the unknowing’ act through ignorance but too often their actions are devious attempts to influence a desired outcome. This can be a political, financial or religious outcome. Uninformed readers, listeners and viewers swallow their lies as truth. “It has to be true. I saw it on XYZ.” Ignorance is no defence in law, nor in LIFE. ‘Fake news’ is made-up stuff, masterfully manipulated to appear as credible journalistic reports. They are easily spread online and as TXT messages or Tweets to large audiences who are duped to believe the fiction.

The more outlandish the story is, the faster dopes spread the word. Sometimes spokespeople offer an “alternative truth” – and that is really worrisome. For instance, during the US election: “Pope Francis supports X …” Mature citizens who read extensively know the Pope doesn’t get involved in politics. The same goes for Queen Elizabeth II. They might have a private view, but neither would declare it. “Scientists report X is the new magic cure for…” “Sports superstar X will switch teams…”

Immature citizens who spend way too much time playing games on their smartphones don’t have the knowledge to distinguish truth from fiction. But they are old enough to vote! In 2016, fake news spread like an incoming tide, with unprecedented speed and impunity. Instances:

Fake news: Hillary Clinton is running a child sex ring out of a pizza shop.

Fake news: Democrats want to impose Islamic law in Florida.

Fake news: Thousands of people at a Trump rally chanted, “We hate Muslims; we hate blacks; we want our country back.”

None of those stories – and there are many more like them – is true. But they are colourful and they appeal to people’s prejudices.
Fake news found a willing enabler in candidate Trump, who repeated outrageous falsehoods and legitimised false reports. For her part, candidate Clinton turned off undecided voters with her lawyerly parsing of facts that left many feeling she was lying. She provided ammunition to her opponents.

In 2017 we need to be prepared for a rash of half truths, stories with ‘spin’ and straight out lies.

Here are some of the websites which filter outlandish stories and declare them “true” or “false”. By reading the commentaries on these websites, you might know which ‘news’ is safe to believe.

Use the SEARCH box at each site.
The Trump-O-Meter is checking the promises made by candidate Trump in the 2016 campaign.

Note: Campbell Brown has been appointed a kind of ‘Fake News Ombudswoman’. She is funded by several large news organisations which want to protect their reputations for bringing us reliable news.
Needing her is a sad necessity in 2017.

If you Google ‘Fake News Stories 2016’ you’ll be amazed.
But maybe not.