What is real, and what’s a hoax these days? Better question: does any of it even matter?
No, said The Washington Post on Friday, not it does not. Caitlin Dewey, The Post’s digital culture critic, announced in a post that the site will be discontinuing its “What was Fake” column, a series begun in May 2014 to debunk “an epidemic of urban legends and Internet pranks.” The column was devoted to sussing out internet hoaxes and doctored viral videos, many of them shared widely on Facebook and other social media sites.
Dewey’s reason for ending the column, she writes, is that in 2015, hoax stories are just not worth it any more. These kinds of stories, she says, are pretty much exclusively shared by the type of person who already believes that that story is likely to be true. For instance, a middle-aged conservative person is most likely to believe that, say, this story about an Alaska judge calling for President Obama’s arrest, is true. She writes:
... the sort of readers who would unskeptically share such a far-fetched story site are exactly the readers who will not be convinced by The Washington Post’s debunking.
Hoaxes have become negligible because the truth of the story doesn’t matter to readers any longer. If that’s so, does the truth of the news matter, then? Do we matter? Does anything matter?