How A Fake Denzel Washington Story Turned Into Alt-Right Propaganda

11.15.16 4 weeks ago 17 Comments

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Denzel Washington has never endorsed Donald Trump. In fact, he actively raised funds for Hillary Clinton. Despite that fact, dozens of media outlets, and millions of people, have seen stories stating that Washington was all in on Trump. This is more than exaggeration or packaging. The story is fake, from headline to footer.

Fake news has been at the center of debate over the last few days, as many believed it helped sway the election. Mark Zuckerberg has strongly denied Facebook could ever influence something so huge, but his own employees disagree with him and are formulating guidelines for vetting websites — which they plan to bring to management. Despite Facebook’s professed lack of concern, the company is joining Google in removing ads from fake news sites. Which means this is probably being treated like a much bigger issue internally than we realize.

Still, that’s only half of the equation. We’ve already discussed the importance of piercing “filter bubbles” — aggregations of links and posts that cater solely to your beliefs and interests — but it’s also important to grasp how fake news, whether through malice or incompetence, spreads, and how it aggregates on Facebook and other sites. Here’s a step-by-step guide to how it works, and how to spot it.

Step 1: The Kernel Of Truth

The words that article puts in Denzel Washington’s mouth are completely real, they’re just not said by Denzel Washington. They’re said instead by Charles Evers, former Mississippi politician and brother of Medgar Evers, a civil rights leader assassinated by white nationalists in 1963.

How To Spot It: Simply copy-and-paste any quote you find that’s questionable into a search engine and see what comes up. If you do this with Evers, you’ll find the original New York Post interview as the second link. The first is a Snopes page debunking the article we’re analyzing.

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