So, in re Friday’s post, I read this over the weekend, the announcement of the final installment of What Was Fake, a Washington Post column devoted to debunking Internet rumors and so forth. It’s not that the author has run out of material, but rather, it’s more she’s run out of hope of ever improving things, mainly because of the rise of fake-news sites.
I try to curate my friend list, and subsequent news feed, so a lot of these things don’t get through. So I was a little surprised to click a link within that story and find this one, about a fake-news entrepreneur who consistently fools credulous readers. This would normally be a reminder that some people simply don’t understand satire, but I found this passage depressing:
Where debunking an Internet fake once involved some research, it’s now often as simple as clicking around for an “about” or “disclaimer” page. And where a willingness to believe hoaxes once seemed to come from a place of honest ignorance or misunderstanding, that’s frequently no longer the case. Headlines like “Casey Anthony found dismembered in truck” go viral via old-fashioned schadenfreude — even hate.
There’s a simple, economic explanation for this shift: If you’re a hoaxer, it’s more profitable. Since early 2014, a series of Internet entrepreneurs have realized that not much drives traffic as effectively as stories that vindicate and/or inflame the biases of their readers. Where many once wrote celebrity death hoaxes or “satires,” they now run entire, successful websites that do nothing but troll convenient minorities or exploit gross stereotypes. Paul Horner, the proprietor of Nbc.com.co and a string of other very profitable fake-news sites, once told me he specifically tries to invent stories that will provoke strong reactions in middle-aged conservatives. They share a lot on Facebook, he explained; they’re the ideal audience.
This is so dispiriting. The country doesn’t need this much ignorance, especially hate-driven ignorance.
So, now that we are officially On Vacation, and in the grip of the holidays, expect nothing much from here, other than an occasional photo, linkage, whatever — I have a lot to do. Cleaned two bedrooms and a bathroom today, which was about as much as I could manage on a mild hangover. It actually made me look forward to my January teetotaling, which I am serious about this year; one dry month with maybe, maybe one night off for the auto-show gala, but maybe not. Stocking up on Pellegrino and lime, and of course, lots of Diet Coke.
So a quick pop to the bloggage, then:
A nice little feature on Jim Harrison, Charlotte’s neighbor, reported just before his wife of 55 years died.
Looking for something to read on your days off? You’ll absolutely find something in Longform’s best of 2015 roundup of very readable journalism.
Any Raffi fans out there? I am, and #notashamed about it at all. A nice piece on the man and his career in New York magazine.
Let Christmas week commence.