Fake Take

Oh, fake news. It’s all the thing these days — but it’s nothing new for people to believe anything they read.

Americans have been gullible for a long time, and 100 years ago, journalist H.L. Mencken put it to the test with a story titled, A Neglected Anniversay. Mencken concocted a history of the bathtub in America, filling it (the story, not the bathtub) with fake facts that to readers seemed perfectly reasonable. The story was so successful that it was widely cited for years afterward.

You can excuse the American public in 1917 for not checking its facts — indeed, for most of the 20th century, research meant going to the library or cracking open the home encyclopedias.

Today, checking facts is easy. It only takes a moment to figure out if a story you see on Facebook is real, with a bit of Googling or a visit to Snopes.com.  By the way, Snopes says there are so many fake stories out there that they’re having trouble keeping up.

But this isn’t really about the truth. People who read something they want to believe aren’t going spend time figuring out if it’s true or not. You probably have a few of them on you Facebook feed — and the only truth they care about is the one in their head.

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