Corporate news would have you believe that all news spread on social media and through independent sources cannot be trusted and are part of the so-called “Fake news” movement.
It has become the new trend to label anything and everything not bought and paid-for as “fake,” but when we begin to look at real and fake stories throughout history, the truth is that corporate media has been spreading false and misleading narratives for decades.
So if you want a taste of the real “fake news,” take a look at the list below of some of the biggest whoppers in the history of corporate, mainstream media.
- Innocent Teens Implicated in Boston Bombing: In the immediate aftermath of the Boston Bombing on April 15, 2013, internet sleuths and news media latched onto the image of several different teens who they believed were suspects of the bombing. These young men’s images were spread online as well as being plastered on the cover of the New York Post as “bag men,” simply because it was believed they might have contained the pressure-cooker bombs in their backpacks. But none of that was true, and the men were harassed, threatened, and intimidated for simply being present at a national tragedy.
- Tweeting Derails a Murder Trial: In 2012, a murder trial was delayed by six months when a reporter accidentally photographed and posted an image which revealed the identity of one of the jurors presiding over the case.
Ann Marie Bush attempted to capture a scene in the courtroom while avoiding to show any of the jurors in the case. Due to a glare, Bush was unable to see the juror through the lens, but he was featured clearly in the photo she posted online. The mistrial that resulted could have ended the entire case, a major mess-up for a simple tweet.
- Balloon Boy Deflates: In 2010, a preposterous news story took over the airwaves which alleged that a young boy had been taken away on a hot air balloon and was currently floating through the atmosphere with no control and no contact with the earth below.
Richard and Mayumi Heene said in September that their 6-year-old son Falcon,had been taken away in the hot air balloon. He was later found hiding in his family’s attic and it was revealed that the entire “balloon boy” narrative was a fame-grab from Falcon’s parents. This wasn’t the last stunt they pulled, but it was their most successful as the media lapped up the interesting story without hammering down the questionable details.
- Weapons of Mass Imagination: Though we generally blame the Bush Administration for the blatant lie about weapons of mass destruction which led to the war in Iraq in the early 2000s, the media played an important role in spreading the false information and creating a sympathetic view toward war at the time when the public should have been the most skeptical.
Studies which were performed in retrospect of the terrorism-fearing era show that media sources purposefully and improperly hyped up the fear of terrorism rather than providing a realistic picture. Without such a sympathetic media, the public may not have been so keep to head into war and we might have avoided the fruitless endeavor altogether.
- 9/11 Report Gone Awry: In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, mass information was spread on news media all over the nation as reporters shared incorrect information without any evidence. Among the mass disinformation was a report from NBC News which declared that a bomb had gone off at the Pentagon, an incorrect statement. If reporters had been more responsible in their reporting on this important day, we may have avoided the rampant conspiracy theories that the event inspired.
- Y2K Insanity: In the months leading up to the new year in a new millennium, widespread panic broke out about what would happen to computerized systems all over the globe when the numbers changed from 1999 to 2000.
The story began at Time Magazine in 1998 when the term “Y2K” first rose to prominence. The so-called bug was purported to be difficult to fix and might result in the breakdown of everything electronic. Though officials easily put the changes into place, Time again fear-mongered about Y2K again in January of 1999 with a magazine cover titled, “The End of the World?!”
- The King of Fake News: Stephen Glass published dozens of stories on reputable news organizations for years before it was discovered that most of what he reported on was either embellished or outright false. Glass’s lies were so egregious that he was forced to repay the news organizations he had lied to more than $200,000, but his ability to spread so much blatantly false information is telling. Why didn’t his editors fact-check him? Why did he get away with his lies for so long?
- JFK Assasination Mix-up: As is often the case, initial reports coming from national tragedies are often wildly inaccurate. When John F. Kennedy was shot in 1963, conflicting reports said that JFK was fine en route to the hospital, while others said that not only was JFK dead, but his V.P. had also been shot. Additionally, NBC Radio reported JFK’s death before an official report had been made – though they were correct, it could have been yet another massive misstep if he had survived.
- Dewey Defeats Truman: Likely the most famous instance of fake news in corporate media was the infamous headline from the Chicago Daily Tribune which declared incorrectly that Gov. Thomas Dewey had defeated Harry S. Truman in the presidential election of 1948. Due to a printers’ strike, the newspaper was forced to send its daily paper to the presses hours before it would have liked to.
Similarly to the 2016 election, all polls indicated at the time that Dewey would soundly defeat Truman, but when the results rolled in on election night, Truman was triumphant. Later, Truman was photographed holding the Tribune’s most famous cover headline and declared, “That ain’t the way I heard it!”
- All Safe on the Titanic: In 1915, initial reports sent out by the Baltimore Evening Sun declared that all of those on-board the doomed Titanic had found safe refuge on life boats and that no casualties had been reported. As anyone who watched Rose and Jack try to climb aboard a floating door know, that was simply not the case.
The paper headline “All Titanic Passengers Are Safe Transferred In Lifeboats At Sea,” was clearly the result of misinformation and in fact more more than 1,500 individuals perished at sea on the unsinkable ship.
The moral of the story is that just because it comes from corporate news does not mean it is true, and just because alternative news sources may be labeled “fake news” doesn’t mean that the label is accurate.