by Nolan Higdon

Since the 2016 U.S. presidential election, “fake news” has become an omnipresent idiom in American discourse. As someone who has long been concerned with propaganda, I initially lauded the post-2016 discourses about fake news.

However, I soon recognized that the attempts to understand and combat fake news were undermined by a narrow focus on the fake news emanating from Donald Trump, Russia, and conservative news websites. As a result, most of the solutions for mitigating the influence of fake news beg for a broader understanding of the actors involved in producing and disseminating content such as political parties, members of the press, and other nations including the U.S.

Furthermore, rather than empower governments or corporations to act in the McCarthyite tradition of demarcating truth and journalism for the electorate, we need a solution that addresses Americans’ inability to delineate objective journalism from fake news. This will prove more effective than the governmental solutions which are tepid at best, and the techno-utopian proposals, which represent an abdication of democratic responsibility to the very industry that has exacerbated the fake news problem in the first place.

I wrote The Anatomy of Fake News to develop and expand access to critical news literacy education. It is the most promising approach for empowering Americans to determine the differences between objective journalism and fake news.

An effective critical news literacy education is rooted in a broad understanding of the definition, producers, themes, purposes, and influence of fake news combined with the exploration of power, resistance, and liberati