Fake News, Frustration, and Media Effects

Hey everyone!

This week I’m giving a brief overview of my experiences and classwork relating to media effects and will focus particularly on Fake News. I haven’t added much on how to spot false media, but there are plenty of articles out there that do this pretty well.

During my second semester at American University, the topic of Fake News came up more and more regularly in classes across the academic spectrum; you know the situation must be getting pretty dire when you find yourself discussing current events in your Finite Mathematics class.

Beyond the expected manipulation and slimy rhetoric of the American political scene, Fake News refuses to be defined by a single category such as propaganda or media bias, which just leads to frustration and polarization such that CNN viewers and Fox viewers viciously accuse each other of being easily swayed by the inaccurate reporting of their respective news source. According to a Monmouth Poll, as of April this year 3 out of 4 Americans “believe that traditional major TV and newspaper media outlets report ‘fake news.'”

This enormous application of an almost impossible to define term results in general confusion and anger as people become more and more hostile about information that does not fully encapsulate their beliefs. Every news article’s facebook comment thread has turned into a place where vitriol is spewed and people say stuff they’d never say if they weren’t behind their laptops– or maybe they would.

We seem to be utterly sure that the sources we follow are telling the truth, while others are reporting lies and inaccuracies, forcing ourselves into tinier and tinier bubbles or “walled gardens” where we block out anything that does not perfectly compliment our worldview. This, plus the added effect of constant information overload through TV and mobile devices, creates a climate where the impossibility to sift through all the articles, videos, and posts that appear on our newsfeeds plays a role in further polarizing us.

For my classwork, I wanted to look deeper into the way in which we observe and respond to media, and to highlight both the process through which stories come to be formed and how a society can be shaped by the media it consumes.

In my Writing 101 Course, I decided to look at the application of “post-truth” rhetoric and how information can be manipulated through a literary analysis of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, Or the Modern Prometheus. I was drawn to her creation of a multilayered narrative and wanted to make a connection to the way in which contemporary news corporations have to choose how to present the information they receive. You can check out that paper here.

I also hope to be a part of the discussion about the ways through which media actually can reshape the conscience and ideologies of a society. One of the most interesting problems we face with media effects today is that everyone thinks they are immune to media influence– this is called the Third-Person Effect (Yeah, it’s a Wikipedia link, I’m lazy).

The point here is that while people tend to believe that they are less likely to be influenced by media than others, everyone is susceptible, and being aware of that is the first step to media literacy– no one is immune. I wrote an analysis of Social Learning Theory, a psychological theory of behavior, and hyper-masculinity as a specific media effect, which you can take a look at here.

Thanks for reading everyone, I am trying to fit a lot in at once so I can avoid barraging you with blog posts every week! If you’re interested in discussing anything I’ve written always feel to get in touch!

Author: Braeden Waddell

Hailing from Waldoboro, Maine, Braeden Waddell is a junior at American University studying Journalism and Latin American area studies. Waddell is an avid podcast listener, an aspirational chef, and a two-wheeled transportation enthusiast currently suffering a minor setback. His long-term career goal is to work as an investigative reporter for a podcast similar to Post Reports, Reveal, or In The Dark. His choice to attend American University was inspired by desperate need to leave his 5,000-person town in rural Maine and enjoy the benefits of modernity he lacked at home, such as a cable internet and being able to go to a grocery store without seeing upwards of five people from his high school. Fun fact: Waddell only learned to ride a bike 3 weeks ago. Fun fact 2: While Waddell loves to cook, he is less knowledgeable with the art of baking. He can only bake one thing: Banana Bread. But, it’s damn good banana bread.

One thought on “Fake News, Frustration, and Media Effects”

  1. It is a very complicated topic, because along with media biases, we have our personal biases that color how we hear or read or the news, or anything else for that matter. Two people can be in the same place at the same time, witness an event, and still their interpretations may be vastly different. So while we can know 2+2=4, a lot of other things do not have one answer.

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