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.

4 Responses to Fake Take

  1. The expression “Fake News” should be a reference to stories in The Onion.

  2. As a resident of Slingerlands for 30 years, there are days when The Albany Smudge seems to have a much better grip on the local ‘reality’ than the TU or WNYT.

    If we have another major water main break, maybe we can build the Dirty Dutchmen Water Park (and Casino?) on Fisher Boulevard.

    • I’ll say this for the TU, when it’s good it’s still a lot better than the best local TV story you’ll ever see. There, I managed to spit that out. Having said that, the paper’s never felt more thin and tired. I keep reading the same stories over and over again with new names and minor details changed, particularly from their most celebrated writer.

      Prediction: in coming years, the paper’s staff becomes even younger and more inexperienced, rather like local TV newscasts. Maybe that won’t be such a bad thing.

      BTW, I understand that one pays extra for a “Dirty Dutchman” in Amsterdam’s red-light district…

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