The Facts of Life: Is this good (fake) news or bad (fake) news?

Did you read the New York Times article, “‘Fake News’: Wide Reach But Little Impact, Study Suggests”?

It’s interesting and/or disturbing. Because the study found that among adults who consumed news, only a quarter got into fake news items and — despite our sense that people who licked up fake news were ignoramuses — those same people also got their real, factual news from mainstream media.

An excerpt (with a bit of my bolding):

But now the first hard data on fake-news consumption has arrived. Researchers last week posted an analysis of the browsing histories of thousands of adults during the run-up to the 2016 election — a real-time picture of who viewed which fake stories, and what real news those people were seeing at the same time.

The reach of fake news was wide indeed, the study found, yet also shallow. One in four Americans saw at least one false story, but even the most eager fake-news readers — deeply conservative supporters of President Trump — consumed far more of the real kind, from newspaper and network websites and other digital sources.

So. What does this mean? Were people actively brainwashed? Were people taking in fake news and checking its credibility against fact-based news? Or were people ignoring real news and fake news and voting for Trump anyway?

Is it possible that fake news does not have the sort of fearsome influence I, for one, dread?

Or is it possible that people are just plain old dumb on their own?


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