I love conspiracy theories. I wrote a novella centered on the conspiracy theories and political machinations. (Not to spoil it, but it involves a takeover of the United States government by an insane dictator. But that’s another story.) The point is, I’ve spent a lot of time reading popular conspiracy theories.
Lately, a lot of attention has been paid to so-called “fake news” on social media, and the role they played in the recent U.S. Election.
I’m not sure why they are calling these stories “fake news”–they appear to be similar to the old conspiracy theories that flourished, beginning in the late 1990s. It’s part and parcel of what Warren Spector, the creator of the great conspiracy-theory video game Deus Ex, called “millennial weirdness”.
People who listen to the radio frequently are familiar with these things. A lot of strange ideas have been floated over the air on shows like Coast to Coast AM for decades now. It’s not new.
I think what is new is the politicization of conspiracy theories. In the old days, conspiracies were about the Illuminati or Extraterrestrial life, and those are never on the ballot. But now, the conspiracy theories are deliberately meant to certain political factions.
It may have started with the 9/11 conspiracy theories, which were inevitably explicitly political in nature. Or it might have just been that political strategists realized they could take advantage of people’s love for conspiracies in order to advance their aims. (Good strategists are always looking for any edge they can get.)
But I’m curious about is why the term “fake news” (which evokes something more like satirical sites on the order of The Onion) seems to have supplanted the term “conspiracy theory”. What reasons could there be for this?
Rush Limbaugh has been doing it for decades, Fox has always been fake news. Nothing new here.
That’s for sure.
I think this is your best piece ever. And I think the difference with the fake-news phenomenon and previous conspiracy theories is social media. And, of course, people taking everything they hear or read at face value without any deep-thinking on the subject.
Thanks very much, Barb! I’m glad you liked it. You are right about social media–it amplifies the fake news in a way radio never could.