As we start off 2017, a controversial trend from 2016 has carried on into the new year. The issue of fake news being spread through the press has become one of the many controversies surrounding President-elect Donald Trump.
Earlier this month, news sources reported that both President Barack Obama and Trump had received reports of unsubstantiated claims that Russia may possess compromising information about Trump. Once these reports came out, people all across social media immediately jumped to the conclusion that Russia had helped Trump win the election. It was believed that the Russians had leverage that could be used to manipulate the president-elect.
Yet, many who believed the claims ignored the fact that they were unverified. The reports that Obama and Trump received were merely speculation and, therefore, are the equivalent to something in a gossip magazine. The claims in these reports have since been dismissed by some, with Trump himself stating in a Twitter rant that the claims were another way for the media to attack him.
Unfortunately, this controversy has only furthered the divide between the media and the president-elect. Trump openly trashed a CNN reporter at a press conference he hosted on Jan. 11, saying that the news outlet was fake news. It is believed that this trashing was motivated by CNN’s stories about Trump’s connections to Russian leaders.
As can be said with most political debates, there is no right or wrong side on this particular issue. News outlets have the right to report what is going on as long as they do it honestly. The outlets that reported on this story all did so while emphasizing that the claims in the reports were speculation and not fact.
However, Trump has the right to be frustrated with the media in the aftermath of the emergence of these reports. The current president-elect is one of the most divisive figures to emerge in American politics in the 21st century. There are so many Americans who hate Trump and will take any opportunity to vindicate their hatred of him. So, when major news outlets run with a speculation-based story that makes Trump look bad, it serves as another reason for the anti-Trump detractors to rip him apart.
This is one of the reasons why the prevalence of fake news in media is so dangerous. There is so much divisiveness in the United States that many people do not know who they can trust anymore.
In the face of personal doubt and distrust, the one outlet that people should always be able to rely on for the truth is the press. Yet, there are so many news outlets and so many conflicting reports on various issues that it becomes hard to know exactly which outlets to rely on.
These issues are compounded by social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook, which can cause the most frivolous and untrue of stories to spread like wildfire. With people not knowing what to trust and who to rely on, they can look to the wrong source to provide them with information.
It becomes especially problematic when certain news outlets create content, not with the intentions of informing the public, but rather making a profit or making people of certain political stances look bad.
The consequences of fake news can be detrimental. Back in December, a man fired shots at a pizzeria in Washington D.C. because he read a fake news story stating that Hillary Clinton was part of a child sex operation that was running out of the basement of the restaurant. Innocent people could have been killed because someone was provided with false information about an imaginary conspiracy.
If someone was willing to commit vigilantism over a completely fictional story, imagine what someone would do regarding a speculation based story being pushed by major news outlets like CNN.
With the president-elect being so divisive, it is important that all news outlets be responsible and report all of their news honestly. If just one news outlet acts irresponsibly, it can lead to someone making a dangerous decision that could have consequences of disastrous proportions.