Former Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren penned an op-ed for this morning’s Los Angeles Times, titled: Who’s to blame for fake news?
In the piece, Van Susteren recalls first hearing about the increased attention and impact of fake news on the 2016 American political landscape while travelling across southeast Asia and the Middle East, regions where she says “journalists who try to work independently are often threatened, arrested and even shot or beheaded.”
While she admits that the increased influence of fake news in the U.S. is indeed a problem, any talk of shutting down websites or censoring what people can see or hear regardless of veracity gives her pause. “A free press is fundamental to a free society,” says Van Susteren, “and curtailing it is an even bigger threat to our way of life than fake news. Besides, banning content won’t solve anything.”
Conspiracy theories are nothing new. Van Susteren brings up bogus stories of 9/11 being an “inside job” or tales pertaining to the JFK assassination and the grassy knoll. But what does scare her is an increase in the amount of people who believe stories that are totally false:
Pope Francis wouldn’t and didn’t endorse Donald Trump. An FBI agent involved with Hillary Clinton’s email investigation wasn’t found dead in a murder-suicide. These memes were launched by specious Internet sites as satire or were put out as purposeful misinformation. Their spread could have been halted by a more skeptical public.
But we delude ourselves if we think that this problem originates only with online trolls and heedless consumers in the thrall of the Internet and social media.
Why are more and more people believing these fake news stories? She believes journalists and reporters from acclaimed news outlets deserve blame for not consistently doing due diligence in their reporting:
Part of the reason fake news is so easy to believe is that fringe stories no longer read or sound all that different from too many of the real stories. Too often, both have little or no sourcing; they lack context and they get disseminated with almost no fact-checking. Sometimes the fake stories look, sound or read better than real ones. And both are chasing the same thing: ratings or online clicks…If we are squandering that freedom of the press, don’t just blame Facebook or Twitter. Blame all of us.