Proving to have an incredibly short shelf life, the concept of fake news has jumped the shark. Not that most sane people need any proof of that fact, but media outlets continue to fall all over themselves in order to demonstrate that they, too, can ferret out dangerous fake news, even if that fake news isn’t actually news. One of the latest examples comes courtesy of Business 2 Community. Swinging onto the dangerously overfilled fake news-shaming bandwagon, writer Shawn Rice calmed people’s apparent (and odd) fears over a reported buyout of Chick-fil-A by the Southern Baptist Convention. Opening his piece with the recognition that the originator of the story, The Babylon Bee, is a satirical site, Rice was quick to point out that “The Southern Baptist Convention did not buy the fast food chain for $5.5 billion.”
duh, thank you, Mr. Rice.
In case you’re unfamiliar with The Babylon Bee, the satirical site introduces itself with the tagline, “The Babylon Bee is Your Trusted Source for Christian Satire.” If that’s too subtle, surely the article titles are clues to the fact that you may not want to take anything that you read on site too seriously. For example, a quick glance at the website’s front page reveals the titles “Scissors Raptured During Christmas Gift Wrapping,” “Worship Leaders With Ripped Jeans Show Significantly Higher Levels of Authenticity, Study Finds,” and “Russian Hackers May Have Interfered With Vote on Church Potluck, Local Man Suspects.” A story about the SBC buying Chick-fil-A included amongst those titles is one that most people would recognize as an article that is not meant to be taken seriously, even if they were previously unfamiliar with The Babylon Bee.
What bothers me isn’t Mr. Rice’s apparent belief that most people are incapable of discerning satire from real news without his help, however. It’s his labeling of satire as fake news and a satirical site like The Babylon Bee as a disseminator of fake news that I find troubling.
Shawn Rice has authored several “fact-checking stories, including “President Barak Obama Urges U.S. Soldiers to Question President-Elect Donald Trump” and “Donald Trump Named In Complaint by Democrat Super-PAC For Treason.” Lumping The Babylon Bee in with his “fact checking” articles, Mr. Rice creates bogeymen where there are none. In fact, referring to the obviously satirical story as a “fake story” calls into question his understanding of “fake stories” to begin with. Taking the shaming up a notch, under the sentence “Here are some examples of people spreading the fake news on social media,” Mr. Rice included the tweet from The Babylon Bee promoting its own satirical story. Mr. Rice followed up the screenshot of The Babylon Bee’s tweet with tweets from people who obviously understand that the satirical story is a joke.
There seems to be a frantic effort among the MSM to catch as many conservative news sources and sites within the hastily manufactured fake news net as they can. The endgame includes providing large social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, et al.) with an excuse to filter out anything that has even a whiff of conservativism. Those who control the press or, more specifically, those who control which stories people can read by shutting off the main avenues of access for information and news, will have an easier road to controlling, well, everything else. The pen is mightier than the sword, as playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton once wrote.
Sadly, I’m afraid that instances of obviously unnecessary hysteria about fake news will not prove to be the beginning of the end for the MSM’s witch hunt directed at conservative media outlets. Their censorious tentacles have too strong a grasp around the online platforms on which most people now receive their news and information. If an obviously satirical site and its blatantly satirical articles can now be shamed as “fake news,” I’m afraid that this whole “fake news” nonsense is going to get worse before it gets better.