The Rockford Files

Why Fake News Matters

Fake news, as I discussed last month (“Faking It,” The Rockford Files), is a very real problem, though less for the reasons commonly given (the potentially destructive effects it may have on our “democracy”) and more for the fact that it both flows from a lack of concern for truth (and thus says something about the character of those who consume and disseminate it) and reinforces that lack of concern through the “rush” that sharing fake news (on social media especially) provides.  (As Aaron Wolf explains in his Heresies column this month, social media encourages this disregard for truth through the short-term dopamine “hit” that one gets from striking out at one’s enemies, real or imagined.)  The explosion of fake news, or rather the credulity with which it is accepted and promulgated, is in the end just another symptom of our subjugation of culture (of which the transmission of truth must always be not merely a central concern but the central concern) to politics, in which the only “truth”—or, at least, the only one that “matters”—is winning.

A sober, rational discussion of the danger of fake news has been hampered by the problem of definition: What, exactly, qualifies as fake news?  In the roughly...

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