Fake News and Propaganda Have Real World Consequences
Mankind has always used propaganda throughout history, but none more relevant than with the use of the internet. As early as the World Wars to the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, fake news has had an impact on America. With the easy accessibility to information, fake news plays a key factor to influence society through fabricating local headlines to skewing individual opinions of Presidential election candidates. Our opinions are shaped on an international level to sway our opinions on different nations, social issues, and world leaders. While it is true that one can never get all the details, it is crucial for one to search for the truth and to constantly evaluate it in retrospect as the greatest scientist and historians today do. The internet may be flooded with fake news, but it also allows individuals to easily have access to credible and fake news for one to compare. This luxury makes us responsible for the consequences of our actions online whether one is the blogger or reader. Fake news has real world consequences because of the strong influence of social media propaganda on culture, people’s self-image and health, and it is business scam for internet click-revenue.
Even before the internet, fake news had consequences for its persuasive effect on culture. Fake news’ strong influence causes propaganda to affect society even to the point of increased war efforts. Propaganda had a huge role in World War II in influencing peoples’ image of different nations. Artwork became another weapon in the U.S. Army’s arsenals with posters targeting Japanese individuals in a stereotypically racial and untrustworthy way (Robertson). The American people were lied to about these people and ended up dehumanizing Japanese-Americans. Eventually, Executive Order 9066 was passed due to the mass fake news about Japanese individuals and allowed the capturing, interrogation, and captivity of them in internment camps (Robertson). It is ironic that this fake news was being reinforced while “law-abiding Japanese-American citizens were herded into remote internment camps…while an all-Japanese-American division fought heroically in Europe” (Brokaw). Propaganda was used to justify holding Japanese-American people in internment camps and racial profiling.
While this example of propaganda had negative ramifications, there are positive examples such as Rosie the Riveter by Norman Rockwell, an iconic figure for advocating a positive image of women in the war effort and today’s general workforce and cartoons like Mickey Mouse were used to persuade people to buy war bonds (Mirza). While promoting war efforts is unjust, it helped to bring victory in the war. This event exemplifies that propaganda can have positive effects if people understand the true nature of the promotion. “The bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 caused the United States to engage in physical and social warfare in World War II” (Mirza). The American people were in a state of depression and hatred, thus negative propaganda was inevitably created to recruit members for the attack on the Axis Powers. Even during the time after the attack on Pearl Harbor, beloved Walt Disney, made propaganda to make U.S. civilians have hope in winning the war through buying war bonds.
Despite positive ramified propaganda by Disney and Rockwell, other cartoonist persuaded majority of the American people to despise the Japanese. The Japanese people, generally one of the kindest cultures to ever exist were generalized as spies and racially inferior even by famous author Theodore Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) (Mirza). The true intentions of the political cartoons were to stir up national pride to motivate Americans to enlist in the U.S. Army, but simultaneously, viewers were misled and developed a hatred for foreign and Japanese-American people. While these evident consequences of fake news were shown several decades ago, negative effects of fake news are still relevant today.
Fake news is not limited to just online articles; imagery plays a factor in people’s self-image and health. Social media and pop-culture magazines are full of inaccurate misunderstandings of race, stereotypes, gender roles, and health. We are more inclined to side with the most popular opinion which majority of the time is Hollywood’s side. “Hollywood’s definition” of gender reinforces these stereotypes which causes people to harmfully change their image. Take pictures of models for example. Spice Girl model, Victoria Beckham is being accused for posting images of young models whom look anorexic and ill. One view commented “please be responsible to impressionable aspects of your audience and use models who look healthy. There will be lots of girls and boys looking at this and sadly seeing skinny = successful” (Desantis) According to an adolescent study conducted in the United Kingdom, “six out of ten girls are choosing not to do something because they do not feel confident about the way they look” (Ramsey). Boys are not excluded either; male teens feel intimidated by not reaching the stereotypical benchmark of having a muscular physique. Psychologically caring more about one’s appearance degrades one’s human development socially, educationally, and even in sports, thus fake news about gender physique stereotypes must stop being reinforced.
While fake imagery influences many teenage girls’ self-image, there are many prominent campaigns for helping models maintain healthy weights and propaganda used to promote products to fight eating disorders. Fortunately, the National Press Photographers Association is taking strides to help models. In September 2017, Getty Images and the NPPA decided to ban all “photoshopped” images of models due to help women who struggle with bulimia and self-image. Even models themselves take for granted the effects on others for trying to live up to the norm’s unrealistic standards of beauty (Young). Many celebrities who had eating disorders while struggling with trying to live up to Hollywood’s beauty standards. Examples include Whitney Cummings, Nicole Scherzinger, and Demi Lovato who all began campaigns to help youthful males and females to have self-confidence in the way they look.
Despite these efforts, not all photojournalism or magazine companies abide by these standards. Magazine producers such as Glamour, Redbook, Elle, and Men’s Fitness have used photoshopped images to appeal to “Hollywood’s standard of beauty.” Ads in magazines tend to influence individual’s appeal to physiological needs and make them think they need to look like the thin female model or the ripped man with the abs. Fake imagery is also costing the “U.S. healthcare system billions of dollars every year” due to people becoming depressed, crash dieting, or using drugs because of the impossible standards of beauty created through imagery (Ramsey). “Ads sell more than products. They sell values, they sell images, they sell concepts of love and sexuality, of success, and perhaps most important, of normalcy.” (Kilbourne). The intentions of the propaganda may be good, but if the imagery of the product’s effects may be portrayed by a model that has been altered to look slimmer. This forces viewers to starve themselves or take it to other extremes.
Besides the magazine industry, fake news has real world consequences because it is a business scam for internet click-revenue or partisan for individuals to get elected into world leader positions. Apparently, becoming a fake news reporter on Facebook is a lucrative job. “I make like $10,000 a month from AdSense,” Paul Horner, a Facebook-focused fake-news writer said (Ohlheiser, 2016). The money comes from ads, provided by the self-service ad technology of companies such as Google and Facebook. Anybody can make a site and put ads on it which makes ad revenue an easy business startup. Fake news and publicity was a key factor in putting Donald Trump in the White House. In 2016, news was constantly being misleading to deter people from voting for certain presidential candidates while mixing into the flow of mostly true stories about the election. Once the news is shared, it ends up being conversed by the public, and then the media further popularizes it. One may argue that people are more inclined to click on credible websites such as, CNN for their information than the small amount of click revenue from fake business sources and that a leader who was backed up by publicity and fake news would never make it to a world leader position. While that seems rational, people are more likely to look at Facebook before investigation news on CNN, The New York Times, or the Washington Post. Facebook has been a crucial source for the spread of these fake stories (Ohlheiser, 2016). When a prominent person shares fake news, people end up believing it since it came from a “reliable” person. A chain reaction then begins as it makes its way to the media and even more news is posted about it. The amount of increased ad revenue then become profitable to fake news bloggers and Facebook. With the vast number of fake news sites that not only generate ad revenue for itself, but also for companies like Google and Facebook, getting rid of fake sites could possibly cause loss of revenue for Google and Facebook (Ohlheiser, 2016). It comes down to an issue of money and morals for these large companies.
Propaganda has been and will always be present in history. It influences society’s ideals, influences war, cause people to struggle with their health and self-identity, and even has become a lucrative scam. Fake news may have the original intentions of helping people know the difference between credible and fake sources through satire, but it becomes hard to find the time to search for the truth when fake news is mixed with real ones. Dannagal Young states “If people were smarter, fake news wouldn’t be a problem” (Nsikan, 2016). The problem is that children are most prone to believing fake news. A study at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education reveals that majority of children are most prone to believing fake news. Conductors of the study were shocked that of the 7,800 recorded student responses, “more than eighty percent of middle schoolers believed that ‘sponsored content’ was a real news story” (Domonsoke, 2016). The youthful subjects had trouble “telling fake accounts from genuine ones, dissident bunches from impartial sources, and advertisements from articles” (Domonsoke, 2016). Humans tend to “cherry pick” the first result they see on a search engine. While paying attention to detail takes “too much time,” it can have mass consequences like reinforcing racial stereotypes, increasing U.S. health care debt, eating disorders among children, and putting problematic leaders into power. The internet may be flooded with scams, but it also allows individuals to easily have access to credible and fake news for one to compare. This luxury comes with the responsibility and consequences of our actions online whether one is the blogger or reader of scams.
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