Film Theory: Is Fake News KILLING the Internet?

Film Theory: Is Fake News KILLING the Internet?


“Extra extra, read all about it! Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise bought by Disney! Full cinematic universe plan! Negan spin-off series coming for the walking dead! Marvel vs DC movie plan for 2022! Former reality TV host elected president!” Man, really can’t believe anything you read these days can you?” “Hello internet, welcome to Film Theory! Where today, a show dedicated to concocting half-baked theories about movies and TV, is talking about the mainstream media lying to you. In other words, we finally reached theory level conspiracy! Let’s face it, 2016’s biggest theme and media, both television and online, was the issue of click baiting. Coming up with over-the-top hyperbolic extreme headlines, and a shameless attempt to get people to click. But that’s nothing new, it’s always been around you say. But what used to be just a mild annoyance, took on a really sinister tone this year. As clickbait gave way to it’s far more dangerous – relative – fake news. Websites and newspapers blatantly lying to you, and then passing it off as fact, just to get a headline that gets you to click. It’s been an especially hot topic in the aftermath of the presidential election, where the news is now being blamed for swaying voters, suppressing voters, creating scandals, and worst of all, outright lying about simple, INDISPUTABLE facts. Like which candidate got more votes! Seriously, do you for a hundred percent certainty know who got more votes in this year’s election? According to the headlines, it’s been flipping back and forth for weeks. And when you can’t get a straight answer on something as objective as how many people voted for the leader of the free world, then you’ve got yourself a problem. Probably the most high-profile example of this was facebook, getting hammered over election stories appearing in people’s news feeds that had nothing to do with the facts. So you don’t even have to look to headlines that big for fake news. Despite these fear-mongering articles from supposedly reliable news sources, you’re not going to get Lyme disease from your christmas tree, the White House did not ban nativity scenes from their christmas decorations, and Fidel Castro was, shock of all shocks, not a professional baseball star. Now for all you new theorists subscribed to the channel, it’s our annual tradition near the end of the year on both game and film theory to end with a meta theory a state of the union address about a major theme of the year, trend in the industry that you need to know about. So, why should you care about this episode when you’re here for another disney conspiracy, or to tell me that I was wrong about rogue one, or to complain about Doctor Who part 3, still not being uploaded. Well one, most importantly because this is real life and not some fictional movie, and two, because we’re all the targets. You, me, your family, my family, your friends, my… cat, because misleading you is big business. And you deserve to be informed of how everything from the evening news, to your local newspaper, to online blogs is attempting to manipulate the way that you think, and by extension, the way that you act. Actually have a couple other theories related to this one that are specifically about YouTube, that are over on the game theorists channel right now, so if you haven’t seen those, click here to check them out. So also be links at the end of the video. And if you’re loyal game theorists coming from over there, welcome, my arms are open to you. The theories are just as depressing on this side of the internet. Now go ahead, kick back, and get ready to never trust anything you ever see online, ever again. Let’s call a spade a spade, 2016 was a sucky year. It was a year full of international crises, racial tensions, surprising celebrity deaths, and a very, very tense presidential election. And all along it seemed like the media was just going about doing their job of reporting. But ask yourself this, how much of what you see is real even from the sources we consider to be the most trusted in the world. How is it possible, in the information age to have false stories get treated as fact is the whole media machine just asleep at the wheel, or what’s really going on here? So to understand media of today, we need to take a stroll down memory lane. Fake news is way older than you think, dating all the way back to the mid eighteen hundreds, with the first daily newspapers started being sold by newsboys on the street corners. Think Newsies, but with a lot less singing, and a lot more of newspapers hiring urine-soaked bums to shout headlines. These newsboys literally had to shout headlines to get people to impulse buy papers each and every day, which meant one thing the headlines had to be catchy. One might say they had to be, click-baity. That’s right, click bait actually predates the click. Once people started realizing that exaggerated catchy titles and fun headlines would sell more papers on the street then cut and dry news stories, the age of yellow journalism began. So what’s, ‘yellow journalism’? well, if you’ve read facebook newsfeed since, uhhh, since the facebook newsfeed became a thing, then you’ve already probably seen it. Yellow journalism is quote/unquote news that’s badly researched. Mostly guesswork, and has lots of big statements that are supported by very little fact. Some of the most successful papers in this era were papers like the New York Tribune, and the San Francisco Examiner. But what made these papers stand out from the crowd was the types of news stories that they covered. You see they specialized in the sleaze, exaggerated gory crime stories. Stories about political scandals and corruption. The New York Tribune became especially successful off of it’s racist coverage, and strong anti-immigrant stances. Sound like anything you’ve been reading this year? Maybe? Sure, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture, but it definitely sells newspapers, or in the modern case of digital media, gets people clicking. And from there, once people have clicked, or bought the paper, it doesn’t really matter what the content is or whether the headline was true or not, in fact in the heyday of yellow journalism there were companies who liked it better if the story was false, because then the paper could run an exposé, then an argument, a rebuttal, or some sort of angry response drawing out a clickable headline for more and more papers on those clickable subjects. Keeping people coming back to stay on top of a scandal, that wouldn’t have even existed if the newspaper had done their homework in the first place! which begs the question, why do we have this problem? Are reporters just bad? Are news outlets just less selective about the stories they run? Why are news companies and TV networks still going if they’re clearly bad at their job of reporting news? Well, the reason, is that reporting news isn’t their job. They’re not actually in the news business. They’re in the advertising business. Most news companies don’t make money from the news, they make money from the ads that are sold alongside the news. Reporting on current events is just filling time, giving them content to get you to watch, and to read, so that way you’re there when the next ad starts to slot in. These news companies aren’t making money off of the article, they’re making money off of what’s above the article, and what’s next to the article, and popping up over top of the article, and then flashing and auto playing in the middle of that article Man! The internet looks completely different when you turn off your ad blocker. I can’t understand how people can use the internet when it looks like this. Ugh! So step one is to stop thinking about the blogs that you read as news sites, because they’re not, they’re product isn’t news. It’s advertising space. Take this line of thought to it’s logical conclusion, and you get something that makes a whole lot of sense when you stop to consider it. YouTube isn’t a video platform, it’s an advertising platform. Facebook isn’t a social site, it’s an advertising site that happens to have pictures of your friends’ babies to lure you in. Google? It ain’t making a whole lot of money off of it’s search engine, or the new tech that it’s producing, it’s all about the ads. According to Bloomberg businessweek $76.1 billion dollars, or around ninety percent of Google’s income, is coming off of it’s ad business. To cite a former executive from the company, quote, ‘No one wants to face the reality that this is an advertising company with a bunch of hobbies.’ Creating products, where it can then place ads. And news is just a fancy word for a genre of entertainment, stories that may, or may not be real to get your attention and sell some commercial breaks in the process. But I hear you rightfully asking, ‘Is clickbait actually doing any harm outside of being mildly annoying? Nothing lost but a little bit of time, right?’ Wrong. It turns out that not only does the media do a good job of figuring out how to get people to click on fake news, they do an even better job of getting us to share that fake news. One thing we’ve seen a lot of this year is reaction compilations. Don’t laugh, don’t cry, don’t cringe, emotional response is huge on the internet, and that applies just as much to regular news, as it does to YouTube. But not all reactions are created equally. It turns out that after a hundred and fifty years of media coverage, news outlets have pretty well figured out what emotions are better at getting people to share than others. So let’s look at the five major emotions as we’ve been told by Inside Out. Any guesses as to which one gets people to spread news the fastest? Is it disgust, like the pictures of redneck eighties prom photos? Or is it happiness, like all those videos of dogs greeting soldiers coming back from Afghanistan. Awe stop the clip I’m going to lose it they get me every time! But I’m not likely to share it because not even the warm fuzzies can top the most powerful emotion for fake, news anger. An influential study of 200,000 twitter users in China conducted, by MIT, showed that angry posts on social media are three times more likely to be spread through shares or retweets, than any of the other emotions. And if you look back across the news this year, you can see that it’s true. Look at the top stories that dominated headlines: racial tension, senseless violence, people’s rights being threatened, but then look at the posts that got the most shares. Reasoned arguments and analyses, aren’t the posts pulling in the big numbers, it’s the emotional responses. The rants, the raging, in that moment of anger why would I check to see if that story is real the headline is right there and from a trusted source and is so rage-inducing that I have to share it, right away. It prompts an immediate reaction. There’s no time for fact-checking, because the immediate response, is to hit retweet to tell everyone we know about this so that they can be as enraged as we are. Because seriously, Scott what are you thinking? Disney is gonna take away all the scary murdery elements that has made FNAF into what it is to this day. you’re diluting the brand by selling it to Disney, man. Come on And as you might imagine this starts to get real dangerous, real fast, we’re in an age of ripple effect entertainment where one small post, or one small story can escalate and grow, and grow, into a much bigger much, more massive, much more dangerous thing. A world where one person posts a fake story on reddit, or manufacturers a fake news image on Twitter, it picks up momentum, gets some upvotes, some retweets, suddenly smaller blogs are picking, it up larger accounts start to talk about it, hashtags starts to trend, until it’s all the way up to the mainstream media and big-time news outlets. and at that point, no one has actually gone back to check the original source. In fact it’s almost impossible to find that original source. Bandwagoning has made it into a reality. If you want a concrete example then look no further than 2007 and the iPhone 4. the blog engadget reported on authority that the iphone 4’s release date was getting pushed back from June to October, and potentially later. In less than 15 minutes after that article was published, I kid you not when I say this, Apple’s value as a company, dropped by four billion dollars. Four. Billion Dollars in 15 minutes. And as I’m sure you can guess, the engadget article was a complete hoax. Luckily Apple was able to clarify the situation and recover most of the lost money by the end of the day, but it just goes to show how dangerous this stuff can be. Especially when it’s influencing the candidates that we vote for. The way that we choose to spend our money, and the way that we feel about other people, and other cultures. So click bait and the fake news that it generates can be a real problem. But what can we do? Well, newspapers have been dealing with this model for a long time, but way back when yellow journalism was a problem, one of the first big answers to fake news, was designing a system that wasn’t based on selling papers on street corners anymore. It was based on, of all things, subscriptions. How is that better? Well, take for instance the New York Times, one of the first subscription-based newspapers. When they had a subscribership they could count on, the newspaper no longer had to worry about whether their headlines where clickbaity enough to sell to the same customer every day, they had a consistent source of income that they could rely upon. That in turn, left the journalists relax a little bit enabled them to print more normal-looking stories, and maybe even spend some time fact checking. For the subscribers, meanwhile, they were supporting a product that they believed in, and that they trusted to deliver regular content. Lots of newspapers still have a subscribership model, and it’s exactly because of this. If you’re financially supporting the paper, it shouldn’t have to rely on sleazy tactics to stay afloat. But okay, that’s all fine and dandy for traditional media, but a lot of traditional media is dying, and here on YouTube, we hear about one thing, more YouTube! So what’s the cure for clickbait here? well, actually it’s the same thing. YouTube has subscribers. Sometimes people I work with ask me why subscriber numbers matter so much to creators, and really it’s for the same reason as it mattered to the newspapers. YouTubers count on subscribers to keep coming back, and supporting the channel. Sure those viewers aren’t paying a fee for that subscription, but it’s a generally reliable source of income. A system based on trust. I trust that those four million people subscribed to the channel like the videos that I make, and then a fairly sizable number of those people will be checking back on every upload that we do, so, I can make more of them, and in turn, you trust that my videos are going to be good, and so you keep coming back. It’s a great system. So when YouTube starts changing the visibility of our videos to subscribers, and subscribe views drop, or they start implementing new systems, like ring the bell to get notified of everything that the channel does, rather than some of the things that the channel does. Well, it presents a big problem, because it’s YouTube breaking down that system of trust. Artificially cutting off that line of communication, and throwing YouTube creators, and their fans, into this weird dark area where we can no longer communicate with each other. So as a result, what do you see when that happens? You see more channels turning to clickbait. Turning to sensationalized titles, turning to the Youtube version of yellow journalism, to try and get their videos seen for just, one more day. If you can’t count on the stability of the platform, you start resorting to content that’s the lowest common denominator. But funny enough, it’s also possible that the final solution is YouTube Red. Yeah, that thing. For those of you that don’t know, or have successfully triggered it out of your mind, YouTube Red is YouTube’s subscription service. making the site ad-free, in an effort to move away from advertising revenue. There’s other stuff too, like access to some pretty great shows, like RhettandLink’s buddy system, oh and I suppose there’s MatPat’s Game Lab, too. That was, alright. I enjoyed it. but all shameless self-promotion aside, when YouTube launched it we as YouTube viewers weren’t exactly welcoming it with open arms. Reports were piling in both on and off the site, that red would kill the YouTube community by taking money away from the creators. And that revenue across the board would drop for everyone. But now ask yourselves this: What actual data did you see in any of those articles? Was it rational arguments about what this meant for the site, or was it clickbaity titles that were designed to make you feel angry, and upset, that YouTube was changing, that you are better dead than red. And so you wanted to go out, and share that video, because now we can look back at the data, and I can honestly say across all the channels that I help consult, it has only increased the amount of money that they earn above and beyond what they would be earning in ads anyway, granted, the system was and still, isn’t perfect. YouTube honestly must have hated me during the lead up to Game Lab over on the game theorists channel, because I complained about a ton of stuff related to Red, but a lot of our fears came from, once again, people looking to make a buck. Peddling in fear to make a profit, and causing the public to rebel against a decision that quite honestly, helps creators make better, higher-quality projects, and if nothing else earns more revenue per view than they would otherwise. All while helping to stifle this fake news problem. So what do we do? Who’s gonna fix all this? The answer is, no one but us. At the end of the day, videos only go where we, as the audience will follow. Your viewing choices matter. And they matter a lot. So, in 2017, there’s no election, but vote with your view. Knowing when and how you’re being manipulated is half the battle. So support creators who do good work, not just the ones that make you feel angry or who talk about issues without any real information. We do have the power here. And it’s our obligation to do the research ourselves, because as you’ve seen, no one else, is gonna do it for us. But hey, that’s just a theory one half of this theory, because if you want to see more, click this annotation, or the top line of the description to check out a different perspective on this issue over on my channel, game theory. In that video, which is timed to release exactly at the same time this one comes out I, look at the complaint a bunch of youtubers had been having about declining views, and we analyze the real reasons behind it is it entirely YouTube’s fault, or something else? The answer, will shock you! How’s that for a clickbaity lead-in? So anyway, click on the giant flashing add to go over there and check it out. And hey, make sure that you, ring my bell, right there, that- that Bell thing. Like I said earlier this episode, the subscription mechanism working properly, is one of the best ways to combat all of this. So, ring the bell and keep your fingers crossed, that, my videos continue to show up for ya. We’ll be back to normal episodes next time, but until then remember, that’s just a theory, a film theory! Aaaand cut! If you want an amazing first look at all this, check out the book ‘Trust me, I’m lying’ written by Ryan Holliday. Who worked inside these systems and learned how to exploit them, both for his own benefit, and for his clients’. But why listen to me when the back of the book says everything you need to know. quote, ‘Why am I giving away these secrets? because I’m tired of a world where blogs take indirect bribes, marketers help write the news, reckless journalists spread lies and no one is accountable for any of it. I’m going to explain exactly how the media really works.’ End quote. Now if that doesn’t peak your interest, I don’t know what will. Or maybe I do?

37 thoughts on “Film Theory: Is Fake News KILLING the Internet?

  1. Me: Getting told that the internet if fine and fake news is fine by my friends who call me paranoid
    Me: Watches this
    Me: Stands up and flips a table
    Me: I FRACKING TOLD YALL BUT NOOOOO

    note: See? We need more videos like this. Praise this man. And his cat.

  2. I don’t really care about politics, but I at least used to think that Hillary Clinton got more votes, but due to the way voting works, Trump won by getting more votes in a system of states, as confusing as it can be.

  3. 5:00 You mean like your Hollow Knight video? Haha jk I love ya MatPat. But seriously, you were way off on that one, and I would love to see a response to mossbag's response to you. Although I should thank you for getting me into Hollow Knight in the first place 🙂
    Keep on Theorizin!

  4. I am a fucking idiot mi actually believed the things he said at the star and the I saw the title and was like “you fucking idiot”

  5. You give the information too us I honestly don’t think I would know over half the stuff I do without these videos you’re not only someone who comes up with amazing ideas but you also give other people knowledge that is above their grade level

  6. i got youtube red because i hate commercials and so i could close the screen while the video continues to play

  7. Laughs in German Tagesschau

    (Explanation: the Tagesschau is a News „Show“ at the end of the day (20:00) and is 15 minutes long. What makes it „special“ is that it’s produced by the ARD, the German tv Station which is paid from taxes, so they don’t have to rely on ad money. They’re not allowed to show ads after 20:00 o‘clock or on sundays. There is a second news programme by zdf which is exactly the same system, yet they still air different news (in the detail, the top themes are the same))

  8. For some reason my phone speaker made the audio sound like it was coming from a original ds and kinda bitcrushed. Can someone help?

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