That the media isn’t the most reliable source imaginable has long been known. Sure, reputable news websites and newspapers won’t often fall for the truly false information, and at worst will be one-sided or biased, but we live in a time with so many possible news sources that a large group of them is bound to make some mistakes. After all, for many, it’s all about the views and the shares, and that means that fact-checking is the least of their worries. Despite all that, though, due to the fact that there is a wide public to correct any mistakes, good-willing news websites are generally very reliable. The exception, then, are satirical news websites.
The idea of satirical news is great, and in the past it has always served a great function. Satire allows for ways to criticise in a light-hearted manner, and it can make politics more interesting for those who are tired of all the boring stories. Basically, when it is properly done, it can provide some much needed diversity in the monotony of the actual news.
But times have changed. We now not only live in a time in which the internet rules, but also one in which headlines rule. Attention spans have shortened with the huge increase of information, so people are much more likely to scan an article than to read it in full. With satire, that’s a problem. One might miss the obvious sarcasm and will only pick up on the “facts”, causing them to form all sorts of views that can lead to all sorts of problems, especially anger. It can lead companies to unfairly lose their image and it can lead people to become unnecessarily critical of “society”, something which in turn can lead to more negative thoughts and lowered engagement.
Now… so far I’ve only talked about the problems of obviously satirical news articles. But not all of them are equally obvious. For instance, yesterday I had a completely different topic for this blog, and it is only this morning that I’m writing all this. See… I was going to talk about the severity of the US justice system and the failure of people to empathise with addicted gamers, based on an article entitled “15 Year Old Who “SWATTED” Gamer Convicted Of Domestic Terrorism; 25 Years To Life In Federal Prison”, and the comments that were made because of it. This article, by a website called National Report, showed no sarcasm whatsoever, and the only clue towards its fakeness was the fact that the punishment was awfully severe. But hey… I’ve seen enough real stories about the US justice system that it didn’t even surprise me.
Fortunately, I do of course do plenty of fact checking because I only write these things once a week, so a few Google searches later it was clear that the story was completely fake. But that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t reported on by multiple other news websites, or that the many comments on Facebook included huge amounts of anger at the boy, claiming that this punishment was the least he deserved. People took it seriously, because unless you know that National Report is a satirical news website, there is no way of knowing whether or not it’s true. By now, though, there are so many of these websites, that it takes an awful lot of time to find and remember them all.
In the end, this kind of reporting leads to false information. With social media, fake stories can spread like wildfire while the claims that a story is fake will die out rapidly. Time and time again, people lose their faith in companies and governments due to fake stories, some of which can linger for years as people talk about all sorts of topics. These all damage our society, yet still, somehow, we tolerate it. Satirical news websites still have many regular viewers who marvel at the comments, feeling proud to be able to make fun of those who are not in on the joke, which is not only a pathetic way to improve your own self-worth, but it also completely ignores the damage it does.
Satire has lived out its purpose. In written form, it is not fit for the 21st century, and it might save the world a whole lot of trouble if we realised that.
Just one more week until university starts again, so hopefully on Monday in two weeks from now, I’ll be overflowing with inspiration! I’ll be studying politics, so that should be good!
For now, though, don’t forget to rate/share/like this post, and if you have any thoughts of your own, please do leave them in the comments! And if you’re new here? Feel free to like the Facebook page for regular updates, or try having a look at the list of most popular posts!
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