It’s rare that a news story will do so much to define a year. But so it is that 2016 could be remembered as the year of the fake news story.
During the year’s first week in August, it was CNN that claimed that the US has become a “post-truth” society. It was a stunning claim, so shocking that a few hours later NBC News chimed in to clarify that it was not a “post-liberal era”, but “a world where facts are malleable, where politicians can’t be trusted and truth is relative.”
In other words, fake news could be no more than an unfortunate consequence of the rise of “the rightward drift of the US”. While that’s true, it has a number of flaws as well. First of all, fake news can do damage, but only for a short time. Most people aren’t so dumb as to believe things that are clearly wrong.
Second, fake news can be very effective in driving people to a certain point. The rise of fake news allowed people to vote for Donald Trump. The Trump supporters who were most upset about his comments and behaviour were those whose memories of him were dim, especially his racist views and his attitude to women, immigrants, Muslims and those suffering from the consequences of climate change.
These people are not fools, but they are susceptible to deception, and Trump’s supporters may be especially susceptible.
Third, fake news can also provide the “truth”. This often seems like a dubious claim when applied to US politics. Yet it is just such a phenomenon. A great number of political articles claimed that the election of Donald Trump amounted to a victory for Hillary Clinton. Some of that article in question was paid for.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Hillary Clinton in her speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president. Photograph: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AFP/Getty Images
And it worked. As a result, as a result of the “fake news” phenomenon, a very bad year of elections has ended with Trump winning enough states to win the White House. And it got so bad that, when Trump called for a boycott of the NFL in February, he did so to protest “disrespect of our great American anthem” and the “pathetic disrespect for our flag and country”.
It is hard to imagine that an American general, such as Clinton, could even be as bad as Trump would have been. The idea that we could elect one candidate with absolutely no experience of the