Half-truths are the new truths. Fake news about immigrants or gay people spread in part thanks to conservative-funded think tanks, holds Emma Grey Ellis of Wired. Funded by conservative groups, they cherry-pick data from studies and spin them so they fit their agenda. By never outrightly lying but presenting conclusions based on flawed evidence, these groups create an air of legitimacy that makes them highly popular among conservatives. In the age of the internet and social media, this kind of poor journalism thrives immensely.
Blame the partisans. Fake news has emerged in particular due to the partisanship in American politics that pits both sides against each other, suggests Amanda Taub of the New York Times. Partisan tribalism makes people more inclined to seek out and believe stories that confirm their pre-existing biases, whether or not they are true. Over the past decades, the rivalry between Republicans and Democrats have become more antagonistic. The entangling of identity and politics has made reading and accepting fake news an act of loyalty to one’s group.