It’s the topic du jour thanks in large part to the fact that it has been shamelessly embraced by our President-elect who has become a walking, talking supermarket tabloid.
“All I know is what’s on the internet,” he famously remarked.
You’ll find it in e-mails and web sites that publish hoaxes, propaganda and disinformation to drive web traffic inflamed by social media.
Fact checked? Sources? No need for that. If it ridicules someone you oppose, well, then, it must be true. It may be garbage, but if it's presented as red meat, people will bite.
Indeed, it mirrors modern-day politics where debate is now a knife fight and those with differing opinions are enemies to be crushed.
It is malicious gossip created anonymously in the dark corners of the Internet and produced for profit by those who put cash above conscience. It is the work of conspiracy theorists who give paranoia a bad name.
It is reminiscence of the tin foil hat set who used to fire off single spaced typewritten letters to newspapers written in all caps and headlined, “Wake Up America!”
Now, thanks to the internet, they have the entire world as an audience.
I have been a soldier of long standing in the war against this gibberish. It seems I have a number of family members, friends and acquaintances who have generously included me on the mailing list of these harebrained chain letters.
Their numbers include accountants, lawyers, engineers, business owners, doctors, people who at one point in their lives must have learned critical thinking skills but now embrace vitriol.
I know exactly when this stuff started landing in my e-mail queue. It was the day Barack Obama was sworn in as president.
Over the next eight years, I was informed that Obama is a Muslim. Not just a Muslim, but a Jihadist. He installed a prayer rug in the Oval Office. He was sworn in on the Koran, not the Bible.
He refuses to salute the flag. He has a secret plan to take away our guns. He is using a Cold War-era mind-control technique known as "Delphi" to coerce Americans into accepting his plan for a United Nations-run communist dictatorship.
Obama's efforts to force banks to lend to African Americans in the mid-'90s led to the subprime mortgage crisis that killed the economy in 2008.
He plans to deliver the country to Islamic jihadists who will convert our churches to mosques, veil our women, toss our liquor into the Pacific Ocean and pack the halls of Congress with radical clerics. He is a fascist. He is a socialist. He is in fact the Antichrist.
I'm still waiting for one these websites to run a correction that says, "For the Record: Everything we wrote about Obama is wrong."
Hillary Clinton had no sooner declared for the presidency than she was branded a lesbian who had an affair with Yoko Ono. She once said that children should be raised and trained by the state, and parents should have only a secondary role. She and President Obama were charged with being “accessories to terrorism” by the Egyptian government.
Hillary is in fact a tool of the Dark Lord Lucifer sent to oppose Jesus Christ in the Last Days.
Like any newsperson, I dutifully researched some of these claims and explained to my chain mail buddies that these so-called facts didn’t hold up upon examination.
I further pointed out that if any of these claims were even remotely true, it would be front page news and that the good people of America would be marching on the White House with torches and pitchforks. Neither of which happened.
I should have known what would come next. I was informed that the media, me included, was involved in covering up these claims and was part of an insidious conspiracy that included untold millions of people.
One texted, “I’m glad I don’t live in your world where everything you read is wrong.” Which is something I could have said to him.
Ultimately, I decided to lick my wounds and live to fight another day, directing these true believers to Snopes instead. I had reached the point where I was incredulous that people could believe this stuff.
Then Trump was elected.
I have not lost faith in the American public, however.
Post-Trump, the New York Times has seen "a net increase of approximately 132,000 paid subscriptions to our news products," the media giant told CNBC.
The Washington Post’s surge in new sign-ups parallels the Times,’ according to published reports.
Though the Post, a privately owned company, doesn’t release much data on its business performance, it said that ”We began to see a strong surge in digital subscriptions over the summer, and those numbers continued to increase through the month of November. Our monthly average of new subscriptions (July through November 21) is up 73% from the first half of the year.”).
The Los Aneles Times saw a 60 percent increase in new digital subscriptions in the weeks following the election according to the Columbia Journalism Review. For the month of November, the paper added more than four times as many new subscribers as it did during the same period in 2015.
At The Wall Street Journal, orders and new subscribers were up 300 percent on Nov. 9, versus an average Wednesday.
It appears Real News may be trumping Fake News. And that’s Good News for all of us.
Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector1.