Up until about a year and a half ago, I wasn’t aware that Breitbart existed, and once I did learn about it, I thought it was a joke site. It’s such an absurd web site, frequently publishing articles about Obama trying to destroy America, the liberal bias in the media, how terrible immigrants are, and why the gays are ruining democracy. What’s worse is that many of its stories aren’t even real. Instead, it layers its own articles as its sources, forcing conscientious readers to wade through several levels of falsehoods before finally discovering, yep, everything was made up.
However, Breitbart is not the only unscrupulous “news” source out there. In fact, there are many with liberal biases, including US Uncut, Daily News Bin, and Crooks and Liars. What all of these, conservative and liberal, “news” web sites have in common is the explicit objective of telling the “true” story, of eschewing “old media,” and of being a source for the “American people.” Each and every one of them would like their readers to know that they and only they will be telling you the truth – so feel free to blindly believe everything they say and ignore everyone else.
But the fact of the matter is that these news sources aren’t reputable. They don’t hyperlink their sources or organize them in any way you can find easily. Their sites are riddled with advertisements, making it difficult to even navigate them. Their writers aren’t vetted, and their articles aren’t well edited. Many of them don’t even have decent layouts (Case in point: the 1998-level header for the Daily News Bin.). There is nothing about these sites that signals, “respectable, reputable news source.”
And yet, I repeatedly see people deferring to them. All across my dashes I’ll see outrageous stories: “Hillary Clinton secretly meets with head of Goldman Sachs to preemptively choose Cabinet heads,” “Bernie Sanders tells delegates to ignore popular vote and switch to him,” “GOP leader suffers from extreme mental illness and should be pulled from the race.” And no one seems to notice how unlikely and poorly sourced these stories are.
I know that people want to believe what makes them feel best, but it’s irresponsible to use and disseminate information off disreputable sites. It contributes to the morass of misinformation that we’re all slogging through. It leads to false impressions about the efficacy of our government and the trustworthiness of our candidates. It cements prejudices and further divides people.
So if you read an article that is too salacious to be true, check it. And if you’re getting all your news stories from a site that won’t even pay for a decent graphic designer, fact-check those stories before sharing them. When information is wholly free and unchecked, it becomes our individual responsibility to make sure we’re spreading factual information. We owe it to ourselves, our convictions, and our fellow citizens to advance the truth, not our personal prejudices.