Response to PBS NewsHour

After viewing the PBS NewsHour clips, it is clear that the topic of “fake” or “junk” news has taken the media by storm in the past two years. Modern day fake news entities and “trolls” are prevalent in our society, and comparisons can be made to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The questions of why junk news is made and who is responsible for circulating it all come down to the point that we are simply over-analyzing this issue. The truth is, fake news has existed for centuries. Whether it be yellow journalism or propaganda, fraudulent news has circulated to capture the emotion and attention of hundreds of thousands of people throughout modern history. Whether it be American anti-Spanish propaganda to gain public support for the Spanish American war, or vibrant, attractive posters of the Soviet Union to secure Stalin’s position as the new people’s God, fake news and propaganda has the same goal: to win the attention of society through emotional manipulation. Nowadays, internet “trolls” have taken this old technique and revamped it through the use of social media and the internet. A large enough “news agency” can create hundreds of articles in only a few weeks that are seen and shared by thousands of people. But who and why are they doing this? What are they trying to accomplish? If we look back at the 2016 U.S. election, fake news was everywhere. The truth is, most of these fake news pages and websites were traced to a small town in Macedonia, known as veles. A town of 50,000 with high unemployment and an average wage of $4800, Veles was responsible for over 100 sites that were pro-Trump. Most of the people who run them are internet-savvy teenagers who experimented with both left-wing and right-wing sites. One 18 year old who runs a site stated how over 300 people in Veles wrote for fake news sites. He has accumulated more than $60,000 of ad revenue in six months, more than both of his parent’s earnings, combined.

Having this evidence, we can start seeing why fake news is made. It is a gold rush! Macedonians don’t care about our elections, they care about clicks for ad revenue – a lot of it. The ones responsible for circulating fake news are in many impoverished towns throughout Macedonia, Romania, and Russia, and most of them really need money. Social media giants like Twitter and Facebook have the means to suppress fake news, and are partially responsible for circulating it. In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, we see the “Bureaux of Propaganda” and the “College of Emotional Engineering.” We don’t see the exact details or examples, but we know that propaganda is prevalent in the World State through hypnopaedia. The novel’s mentoning of propaganda reminded me of my parents’ stories about propaganda growing up in the Soviet Union. Every day in grade school, a class period was devoted to watching propaganda films and watching generals speak about the glory of the U.S.S.R.. Thankfully, such a place does not exist anymore, but the novel can easily make a connection to today’s fake news. Both the novel and current day fake news both work to capture the emotions of the people. In Brave New World, the propaganda agencies work to keep the population under control, maintaining stability in society. In today’s world, the sources of fake news are motivated by money rather than controlling its readers.