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The Breach: The Weaponization of ‘Fake News’

Lindsay E. Beyerstein

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In the latest episode of The Breach, host Lindsay Beyerstein is joined by award-winning journalist Brooke Binkowski, the managing editor of Snopes, to discuss the ever-evolving “fake news” landscape. As false stories loosely based on urban legends continue to gain traction on social media and elsewhere online, real journalism is increasingly lost in the noise. Binkowski explains how we arrived at our current crisis, what defenders of legitimate news can do to combat it, and the chilling toll her work at Snopes has taken on her personal life.

An edited excerpt:

Lindsay: Steve Bannon recently left his perch as a strategic advisor at the White House to return to Breitbart News to wage some kind of as yet undefined war against the enemies of his brand of populism. How do you think that’s going to affect the fake news landscape?

Brooke: I think it’s just going to add to an already weaponized and overwhelming fake news landscape. How much more “overwhelm” can you add, right? I think that he’s going to do what he always does and take out his personal rage on people using Breitbart as platform. I mean, that’s what he’s been doing for years. With the help of this whole network of trolls and bots and “pepes” and “kekistanis” and whatever they all call themselves, it’s going to spread and make people uncomfortable. But I don’t think that he has as much sway as he’s getting credit for. I don’t think he has as much influence even as he thinks he does. But I suppose time will tell.

Lindsay: I was perusing the “Top 50” page on Snopes. I noticed how many of the “Top 50” are actually basically political dirty tricks, things like the fake Antifa Manual. It’s interesting how those things go together and go together in the Trump campaign that you guys got like Steve Bannon of the fake news and Roger Stone of the dirty trick. They just seem to have this natural affinity for one another.

Brooke: Yeah. Isn’t that weird? It just goes to show you, well, I could pick any number of salty-sounding proverbs for this. But I’ll just go with birds of a feather.

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Transcript (PDF)