Unraveling The Mystery Of Fake News: How Hoaxes Have Been Used Throughout History
In his book Bunk, Kevin Young explores the origins and prevalence of hoaxes and “fake news” in America.
He dives into how and why America is so caught up with alternative facts- and can we arm ourselves with the confidence to debunk them.
Young explains how lies, fabrication and moral corruption have been pervasive throughout history, but today’s digital age has led to an exceptional amount of fake news.
Understanding the form and function these hoaxes assume might help us better identify their truth from fiction.
Through his research, Young paints a detailed picture of some of America’s all-encompassing hoaxes – touching on the first ever case of “Fake News,” hoaxers who’ve pretended to be someone they aren’t, as well as a fabricated Pulitzer Prize–winning story.
We all know that our world has been consumed by alternative facts- and it’s time to start understanding why this is the case before we can begin to even attempt at fighting it.
The Origins Of Hoaxes And How They Inform American Culture
Hoaxes have been a part of the American narrative since the nineteenth century.
One example is the Great Moon Hoax of 1835, where Richard Adams Locke, the editor of a New York newspaper published misleading stories about moon life.
This was seen as a trait of American culture, as it showed that you can create your own truth and be whatever you want to be.
Nowadays, hoaxes spread easily due to the internet and Americans seem to care less and less about whether they are true or not.
This culminated in 2016 when Donald Trump, someone with an ambiguous relationship with the truth, was elected president of the United States – despite many people knowing he presented himself as a self-made man even though he was born into one of the most privileged families in America.
It’s no surprise then why hoaxes are so characteristic of American society today – they’re easy to believe and propagate, often erase complexities and offer simple solutions to complex problems.
They also offer a sense of comfort by replacing difficult truths but unfortunately become detrimental as they can spread quickly without consequence or criticism.
The Power Of A Hoax: Exploiting People’S Wishes And Making Its Purveyors Rich
Hoaxes are often created to appeal to the desires of those trying to perpetuate it or its audience.
Many times, the truth is disregarded in order for a hoax to be successful.
This was seen in P.T.
Barnum’s outrageous claim that he was displaying George Washington’s nanny–a 161 year old black woman named Joice Heth–as part of his show.
He used abolitionist sentiments as well as a fascination with America’s first president to bring in crowds and make money off of Heth without any thought to the truth behind what he was saying.
Similarly, spirit photography took off in the 1860s due largely to early practitioner Mary Todd Lincoln trying desperately to communicate with her deceased son Willie.
Though this hoax couldn’t prove spirits were real, those mourning their loved ones found solace in it and patronized Willam Mumler’s photographs regardless of whether they could actually achieve what he promised them.
Ultimately, a hoax thrives on exploiting people’s desires and disregarding the truth rather than caring about accuracy or honesty.
Race And Hoaxes: How Racial Pseudo-Science Has Been Used To Reinforce White Supremacy
It’s clear from history that hoaxes and racism appeared at the same time during the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century.
More often than not, you’ll find a racial element incorporated into a hoax.
The idea of categorizing humans according to race was very popular at this time and examples like P.T.
Barnum’s human zoo are evidence of this.
For example, “What is it?,” an exhibit featuring animal hide on a black man, was intended to link our ancestor to modern humans which was based on Darwin’s theory of evolution in On the Origin of Species published only months earlier in 1859 – further perpetuating racist and white supremacist ideologies during this time period.
While the abolitionist movement forced Americans to confront their enslaving ways, these racist ideologies have been propagated through hoaxes such as Rachel Dolezal’s 2015 reveal that she has been pretending to be a Black woman by twisting her hair and darkening her skin much to her parents shock – which eventually led to a controversy that raises questions about white privilege today.
Thus, we can conclude that these hoaxes ultimately serve to reinforce racism and white supremacy rather than simply being tactics for trickery.
Hoaxes Threaten The Cultural Narratives Of Minorities By Erasing History And Undermining Real Conversations
The most dangerous aspect of any hoax is the way it can create and erase cultural narratives.
Take, for example, thefake poemswritten by Araki Yasusada in the mid-1990s.
These supposedly written by a Hiroshima survivor were published in a book called Doubled Flowering.
In this text, Yasusada’s biography implies that there are no avant-garde cultural shifts in Japan so he looks to the West for inspiration – perpetuating harmful stereotypes about Japan as a mysterious “other” without any rich cultural history worthy of notice.
Hoaxes like this have also been used to restrict conversations on important social topics.
For instance, Tim Barrus’s fictional memoir “Nassijj” (2000-2004) created an entirely invented version of Navajo culture which erased real indigenous people in order to avoid engaging with topics such as conservation or change for these communities.
Hoaxes like this have huge implications for those affected: it takes away their voice and gives rise to inaccurate information that might be accepted instead of the actual truth.
Overall, it’s essential that we recognize how powerful hoaxes can be and ensure they don’t stop us from having meaningful conversations regarding cultures and histories around the world – both real and imagined
The Evolution Of Hoaxes From Wonders To Society’S Darkest Horrors
The twentieth century saw a major transformation in the nature of hoaxes.
Rather than Barnum’s presentations of wonder and delight, modern-day hoaxes draw on people’s fears and anxieties about the world.
On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles’ radio adaptation of H.G.
Wells’ The War of the Worlds sent shockwaves across the country when it failed to mention that it was a work of fiction.
Audiences believed that aliens were taking over, causing a nationwide panic.
This demonstrated how badly people feared what was happening around them and showed how deeply modern hoaxes played into these fears.
Then came Janet Cooke’s “Jimmy’s World” article in The Washington Post which perpetuated racial stereotypes while claiming to be true.
This case demonstrated not only that hoaxes could rely on our fears but also that they have the power to reinforce existing prejudices within society.
Overall, it’s clear that twentieth-century hoaxes transferred from an element of amusement to something much more sinister – one specializing in instilling fear and anxiety in an unsuspecting public.
We Live In The Age Of Euphemism: How Hoaxes And Racism Threaten Our Understanding Of Truth
It’s no secret that we live in the Age of Euphemism, where notions are being used to distort the truth.
The Hoax began its rise from the 1990s with a changing American narrative.
This gain in traction is directly related to the emergence of the age of information, or rather, the age of disinformation – when fiction is mixed with fact.
Take for example, how hard it was for America to find Weapons of Mass Destruction before invading Iraq; even The New York Times reported it without questioning whether it was true or not.
Then there’s Tom MacMaster, who wrote a Gay Girl in Damascus blog as an American-Syrian lesbian – though he was revealed to be a white American man.
It has become clear that many people aren’t concerned about truth but spectacles – much like when audiences went to Barnum’s show.
Going even further, President Trump stated climate change to be a hoax created by Chinese which reflects his indifference toward truth and his supporters’ superiority over minority groups due to racism present in our society today.
The truth remains clouded and we need to understand why certain stories turn into lies to bring about real change and honest discussions within our collective conscience.
Bunk is a powerful and compelling book that outlines the history and reality of hoax.
It argues that we are currently living in an age of disinformation, which means it is more important than ever to understand the impact of a hoax on our society.
With its roots tracing back to the beginning of the twentieth century, this book explains how hoaxes continue to perpetuate racial stereotypes and erase history.
Therefore, it ultimately serves as a reminder that we must be more vigilant than ever when presented with false information and challenge it at every turn.
Bunk is an essential read for those looking to gain a better understanding of how misinformation can shape the world around us.