When fake news does not admit itself to be fake, the public tends to believe it to be true – possibly until it causes consequences beyond expectations. Unfortunately, neither the U.S. nor China, or maybe any other nation, is immune to the spreading of fake news.
“People are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore,” Paul Horner, a 38-year-old fake-news writer, told the Washington Post in an interview earlier this November. “That’s how Trump got elected.”
When fake news is a game-changer
Horner regrets his actions, thinking that he helped put Trump in the White House. One of his fake stories claimed that more than 20 million Amish men and women living across the U.S. were endorsing Donald Trump for president.
The faux-article appeared as a top news search result on Google, and was shared by third parties such as the Trump presidential campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, Eric Trump, the second son of Donald Trump, and Fox News.
Still no fact-checking: fake news ferments in China
“Politics is not for fun,” a Chinese netizen commented on Weibo, pointing out how ridiculous it is that some would joke around with influential news or votes.
On Zhihu, a leading Chinese Q&A website, a netizen named Wang Jiyong, borrowed the idea from Horner’s fake story, and answered the question “How should we view Donald Trump becoming the 45th President of the United States?”
Together with the answer is a picture ostensibly showing some Amish people driving to vote for Trump. Among other points, the post opined that many amish are solid Trump supporters, albeit without being outwardly vocal in their support.
The question was answered by 4,498 Zhihu users, and Wang’s comment received 2,721 “thumbs-up”.
What would this picture imply if the “Trump” logo was a “Clinton” logo? In fact, one can trace this picture back to Instagram, where the sign on the back of the cart reads something markedly different to “Trump”.
Additionally, under the Weibo post that was forwarded with Horner’s news, no users who made comments seem to have the slightest doubt if the information is true.
An old Chinese idiom, “San Ren Cheng Hu”, means “three people reporting a tiger”; it references a story where three men caused a panic by repeatedly saying false reports that there was a tiger in their city. In other words, a lie, if repeated often enough, will be accepted as the truth.
So fake news, if spread wide enough, could make tables turn.
(Top photo from goodfreephotos.com)