Media outlets across the country have been buzzing about “fake news” being a problem ever since the Democrats’ plethora of losses on election day. This problem didn’t pop up because of the election. It was rampant well before the first batch of candidates announced they were running in early 2015. In fact, it’s been around since the early days of the internet. The fact that it has such a prominent spotlight on it today is a bitter response by the left to point a finger at anyone other than Hillary Clinton and Democratic leaders.
That’s not to say that the problem isn’t real. As someone who reads every headline from over a hundred sources every day for my conservative news aggregator, I can verify that fake news has been an actual problem for a long time. It comes in different forms, the most prominent being the spinning of minor news into apocalyptic click-bait headline writing by sources desperate for advertising dollars, but the core problem is universal: the only way for smaller publishers to compete with bigger ones is to be very aggressive with their bullhorns and quite loose with the truth.
The biggest problem is that it works. Medium-sized sites like Salon and Conservative Tribune are building little empires from it. Bigger outlets like Buzzfeed and Breitbart are getting rich from it. While I’m personally not crazy about the technique, it’s effective and as a small-government Federalist I will defend their right to present their version of the news any way they wish. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t a problem.
Our society has been conditioned to search for solutions whenever there’s a problem to be solved. That’s natural, but for whatever reason most have missed the obvious one. It shouldn’t require sites like Facebook or Google to censor news from this site or that one, though as private businesses it’s their prerogative to do so if they wish. There’s no need for people to publish blacklists to help “victims” avoid the embarrassment of sharing stories that aren’t completely true. It definitely doesn’t require the government to step in and decide what to consider fake news and what to consider real. That’s a form of censorship that would take us all down a very dark road.
The solution is simple. Just like we should let the business world work out its problems through free market capitalism, we should allow the media to work out its own problems with free speech journalism. Let the media police the media. Let the people make decisions based upon trust and research. Just as someone can choose whether or not to buy at Walmart or Target, they can also choose whether they want to read their news on the New York Times or Infowars.
Sites like Newsbusters and Media Matters work the “truth beat” for their respective ideologies. Newsbusters points out the flaws of mainstream media and leftist media propaganda. Media Matters highlights every conservative perspective and tries to spin it as evil. That’s free speech journalism. That’s how it’s supposed to work.
Instead of trying to find solutions to the fake news problem, the media needs to police itself and the people need to be discerning. Just as “caveat emptor” has been a call of prudence for consumers, perhaps “inspectoris discernerem” should be the rallying cry for news consumers to be more careful with what they read and share.