Partisan activists who pose as “citizen journalists” have no stake in getting it right. They are not beholden to editors or to upholding any publication’s reputation. With minimal name recognition and a clearly political agenda, these operatives do have an incentive to get media and public attention by any means.
Just last summer, Alex Jones provoked a panic in rural Texas with fevered allegations that the real purpose of U.S. Army maneuvers there was to install secret armies of ISIS fighters in underground tunnels. He’s also persuaded thousands that the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in Connecticut was a “false flag” hoax aimed at confiscating their guns. Anybody believing that shouldn’t be allowed to walk off-leash in a city park, much less to buy an AR-15.
While conservative media outlets downplayed the fake news stories calling them “silly” and “nonsense,” nightly news programs on NBC, CBS, and ABC reported how fake news can have dangerous consequences.