Checking the Facts (or Fiction)

April 9, 2020, by Sean McMahon, LHC Program Manager


We’ve all had our experiences with fake news. I mean real, legitimately fake news. The catchy headlines that beg you to click them because they’re so outrageous and you’re already biased towards believing anything so infuriating about the people who disagree with your interpretation of reality.

Wait a minute. I don’t want to get ahead of myself here. It’s hard to remain unbiased, especially when we’re surrounded by news outlets propelled by a 24-hour news cycle and the expectation of high viewership. It’s hard to remain unbiased when we typically surround ourselves with people who agree with us. It’s hard to remain unbiased when we’re human.

Maybe we shouldn’t be trying to beat fake news at its own game – inciting anger, promoting tribalism, and engaging in all sorts of fallacies. Instead of diving into some of my more recent experiences with crazy, incendiary headlines in the past few months (off-the-wall commentaries on presidential candidates, the president himself, the current pandemic, and a host of other things), let’s look into why the click-bait works so well, and how these sorts of things spread.