Does fake news even matter?

Does fake news even matter?

Does Fake News Even matter?

In recent years, a common term thrown around is “fake news.”


Fake news has been treated as an existential crisis. Hillary Clinton blamed fake news propagated by the Russians for her 2016 loss to Donald Trump. President Trump repeatedly attacked the media for spreading fake news. Tech CEOs and government officials have taken unprecedented steps to restrict and censor stories deemed to be fake news.


One problem with this approach is that determining what constitutes fake news is often subjective. Many political activists deem fake news to be anything they politically disagree with. On more than one occasion, stories that were deemed fake news turned out to be truthful. The Hunter Biden laptop story was censored and dismissed as “Russian disinformation” right before the 2020 presidential election. By attempting to prevent a possible fake news story influencing an election, the censors may have influenced the election in the opposite direction.


Another problem comes from individual arbiters lacking intellectual discernment. They cannot process the nuances between reality and satire. The Babylon Bee clearly advertises itself as a leading source of fake news. Their stories are frequently censored despite their publicly stating upfront that their entire business model is humorous fake news.


Yet for those who are capable of going beyond politics, an even deep question arises.


Does fake news even matter?

Maybe people should be free to spread as much fake news as they want. Readers should be responsible for doing their own due diligence.

Honesty matters, but knowingly saying or posting something false should be an ethical matter, not a legal one.

This is not about politics. A person may post that they are worth 20 billion dollars and leaving their money to their dog. Why should it matter to the government that the person is a working stiff who does not even own a dog?

It is illegal to lie in a court of law or in a deposition. There are legal remedies for people who are victims of libel, slander, or defamation. Beyond those clear lines, why should it matter if a person chooses to post something online that is completely false?

Try going to a local bar. Plenty of people are lying about their age, income, occupation, and pretty much everything else in an attempt to impress a potential business or romantic interest.

Take the advertising industry. Their entire industry is about convincing people that they are ugly and hopeless. Advertisers then convince people that certain products will make them beautiful and hopeful. Does anyone really believe that a certain toothpaste will make you better than you were before?
If fake news were illegal, almost every internet and mobile dating profile would need to be shut down. So would chatrooms where people discuss everything from their stock recommendations to their foolproof cold remedies and home cleaning products. People buying every product they see on an infomercial or online advertisement should not blame others for their own gullibility.

Rather than criminalize lying, it should be the responsibility of individuals to think for themselves.


Until then, the answer is more speech for everyone. Let everybody embellish their wealth and beauty. Let everyone link to articles that are absurd on their face. Let everyone sell falsehoods if they choose. Then caveat emptor, let the buyer beware.


Let the online version of the National Enquirer insist that aliens from another planet are impregnating Hollywood celebrities. Maybe those alien children are rigging our elections by implanting microchips in our arms.


Let the craziest conspiracy theories flow wild and free. Given how depressing real news can be, maybe it is best that fake news be allowed to stay with us. It is better to expose thousands of preposterous stories than live in a nation denying Americans the chance to do their own vetting.

Lying is harmful. Letting government decide what constitutes lying is far worse.


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