This is not fake news: Author tells you what is


Screenshot via Zoom

Nolan Higdon during his presentation Oct. 20.

Weston Hopkins, Editor-in-Chief

The Los Medanos College Honors Transfer Program hosted a Zoom meeting with author and Diablo Valley College professor Nolan Higdon Oct. 20 to discuss his new book The Anatomy of Fake News: A Critical News Literacy Education.

The Honors Program Director Jennifer Saito hosted this event, the second in a series of three revolving around the upcoming election. Higdon prepared a powerpoint presentation for the event, highlighting the key ideas from his book.

Higdon began by describing what news is, and how the concept of “fake news” came about. The phrase “fake news” became popular during the 2016 election cycle, especially when then presidential candidate Donald Trump took hold of the phrase and changed it to be his own. He then cites a few examples of what fake news is, such as believing Barack Obama was born in Kenya or the U.S. finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Both are not true, but many U.S citizens believed at the time, and still do believe, these things to be true.

From there, Higdon delves into the topic of who produces fake news? Self-interested actors, state-sponsored propaganda machines, satirical fake news, nation-states, political party propaganda and even the traditional press can all be contributors to fake news, the themes of which typically fall into nationalism, hate, fear, and celebrity gossip.

“They try to plant these lower human emotions and generally exploit real fears or feelings people are having with false content,” said Higdon.

With so  many instances of fake news, Higdon questioned whether or not fake news is effective? Higdon cited a study by three MIT scholars that stated 

“Fake news is 70% more likely to spread on the internet than truth.”

Higdon moved on to possible solutions to combat fake news, one being education. He suggests that a media literacy component be added to education in order to help students critically think and use media responsibly, just as they would with other texts. Which leads to his next point, how to deconstruct the news. 

“The answer is always investigate, fake news wants you to react. It wants you to share, get mad, and bring it up to other people. Don’t do it, investigate it. See if it has any legitimacy,” he said.

Higdon also talked about the importance of checking publishers, authors, whether or not the evidence holds up under scrutiny and who might benefit by the message being put forth. After he finished his presentation, Higdon fielded questions from the attendees.

The next and final event in this series will be taking place Oct. 29, for more information please visit the Honors Program website.