THIS POST IS FAKE NEWS

An obituary for fake news

Obsession
2016
Obsession
2016

The term “fake news”—which originally referred to articles with fictional content, but which was later used to describe literally anything online that you disagree with—died on Wednesday at a press conference in New York City.

The cause of death, according to observers, was a mixture of overexposure, blunt trauma, and complications from president-elect Donald Trump shouting “You are fake news!” at a CNN reporter trying to ask a question about an unflattering news story.

In truth, “fake news” had been weakened after months of attacks from howling Twitter eggs, enraged Facebook aunts, and internet commenters who use a Confederate flag for their avatar. President-elect Trump’s outburst, however, proved to be the fatal blow, rendering the term “fake news” hollow, absurd, and lifeless.

Fake news is survived by its relatives: disinformation, propaganda, branded content (née native advertising), and those ads about Florida women who doctors HATE for discovering a homeopathic cure for neck fat.

The term was born following the 2016 election, after it was revealed that untrue articles, making bombastic claims about politicians and invented by professional trolls attempting to sway the vote (or just make some quick cash), had proliferated on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

It won the attention of president Barack Obama, business executives like Mark Zuckerberg, and every media columnist in the entire world. It was used accurately, and with great precision, for about 25 minutes.

And then things went south.

Internet users began using “fake news” to refer to op-eds they didn’t enjoy, unfavorable news about celebrities they liked, and undesired sports outcomes. A New York Times article with a misspelled name in the 19th paragraph would be derided as fake news on conservative blogs and White Power message boards. CNN could post a story about literally anything in the world and the top 600 comments would all be “FAKE NEWS!!!!”

So while the term “fake news” initially described stories like “Hillary Clinton ADMITS Running Child Soldier Training Camp Out of Local Olive Garden!!!” it was soon co-opted to attack articles like “Unemployment Rate Drops to 4.6 Percent” and, ironically, “Fake News Spread Quickly on Social Media Platforms Like Facebook and Twitter, Study Shows.”

Eventually, “fake news” lost all meaning whatsoever. Everything was fake news, which meant nothing was real. The term was dead, like “biased journalism” and “slow news day.”

A memorial service will be held on January 13th, at the German church that right-wing news outlets falsely reported had been burned to the ground by Muslim rioters screaming “Allahu Akbar,” but that actually sustained minor damage due to a stray firework on New Year’s Eve.

In lieu of flowers, journalists suggest you subscribe to an actual damn newspaper.

Follow Jason on Twitter. Learn how to write for Quartz Ideas. We welcome your comments at ideas@qz.com.

home our picks popular latest obsessions search