You know the hype about fake news has jumped the shark when a fake news site is warning everyone about supposed fake news sites. That’s precisely what happened this week when an obscure political site called Modern Liberals gained a bit of traction by publishing a list of supposed “fake news sites” that should be avoided. The trouble: every site on the list is very much real, and many of them are highly respected independent news outlets. But the site that published the list is in fact a fake news site. So how did we get here?
The trouble began earlier this year, when Facebook was still allowing fake news sites – the kind which simply make up phony stories out of whole cloth – to run rampant. Even though Facebook has since banned nearly all of those sites and the problem has largely gone away, the public became increasingly hesitant about the matter. That opened the door for con artists to take advantage of the public’s fear by publishing supposed lists of “fake news” sites that included a number of very real news outlets.
Some of the bottom feeders creating these intentionally inaccurate lists of “fake news” were obscure or failed political writers trying to harm the reputations of the legitimate news outlets they couldn’t compete with. The most notorious instance came from a washed up political blogger who named Ed Brayton whose career had so thoroughly dead-ended that he’s now reduced to writing about politics on a religion blog called Patheos. He put out a list of supposed “fake news sites” in September which consisted of two hoax-style fake news sites and fourteen real news sites. Despite his intentional dishonesty and the total lack of evidence he offered, some people got caught up in the paranoia and took his list as fact.
Other people looking to get in on the action were random individuals who simply wanted attention for themselves. For instance an assistant professor named Melissa Zimdars published a list of supposed “fake news sites” which quickly went viral, simply because she had the word “professor” in her title. The majority of the sites on her list were once again very real and respected independent news outlets. After she faced massive blowback from the readers of these sites, she spent a week shuffling names on and off her list without explanation to try to cover for her total lack of initial research, before she finally took the entire list down. She later admitted in her own fine print that she had largely copied the list from the above referenced religion blog guy.
Even as some social media users continue to take these two very fake and widely disgraced lists of supposed “fake news” as gospel, now comes a third such list. But it comes with a twist. The con artist who created this latest list, Manny Schewitz, upped the ante by plagiarizing the faulty list from the religion blog guy, and removing the handful of sites that actually were fake. This makes him the first person to publish a list of “fake news sites” in which every single news publication on the list is in fact real. It gets even worse for him.
Schewitz published his phony list on a site called Modern Liberals. It bills itself as being a combination of commentary and “satire.” But its typical headlines include the following, which I won’t link to the corresponding articles because his entire site is a fraud. However, you can google all of these for yourself for confirmation:
– “Eric Trump In a Real Snit Because Daddy Gave Ivanka The Good White House Office”
– “Dan Quayle Offers Donald Trump Spelling Lessins”
– “Army Corps Of Engineers To Install All-Seeing Eye On Top Of Trump Tower”
– “President-Elect Trump Names Himself As U.S. Diplomat To Russia”
This is the guy whose word you want to take about what is and is not real news? Not only is Modern Liberals full of fake news, it’s not even inventive fake news. He calls it satire; the rest of us would call it low level fake news crap that we all wish would never again show up in our Facebook feeds. No wonder this guy has an axe to grind against the very real and respected independent news outlets he’s libeling on his phony list, all of which are far more popular than his obscure site; he’s simply a crappy political writer. Schewitz also appears to run an even more fake site called Political Garbage Chute, which probably tells you all you need to know.
But if you really want to know more about this Schewitz clown and how con artists like him operate, my counterparts the respected independent news site Crooks and Liars have published an excellent takedown exposing his sham. And my counterparts at another respected independent news site, Americans News X, dug into this guy awhile back and discovered that “Manny Schewitz” may not even be his real name. Naturally, these two respected news sites are on his list of supposed “fake news” sites, because that’s just how con artists like Schewitz operate.
It appears Schweitz used to write for another real and respected news outlet called Forward Progressives, before parting ways with them nearly a year ago. So naturally, the real news site that fired him is also now on his list of supposed “fake news” sites. The pattern becomes clear of how these “lists” come into existence: they’re always just dishonest publicity stunts by nobodies trying to make a name for themselves, or dishonest stabs at revenge by resentful losers who tried their hand at political journalism and failed.
So this is where we’re at as 2016 comes to a close. Even as members of the public are rightfully being told to scrutinize the news they’re consuming, some of them are instead looking for any shortcut they can find. It’s how they end up falling for fake lists of supposed “fake news” sites from low rent religion blogs, glorified grad students masquerading as legitimate professors, and now from the fake news sites themselves. Not one of these lists has ever been remotely accurate. All of them have been created with the intent to deceive the public, either for attention or for revenge. We must be vigilant about the news we read. But we must be even more vigilant about the con artists seeking to take advantage of our fears.
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