The liberal side of the internet has a serious problem in the form of far too many websites that people mistake for actual news sites that use clickbait headlines and highly distorted articles to feed into the confirmation bias of their intended audience. And it works. Far too many people, including some of you I’m sure, are falling for it.
I see links to these sites on my Facebook feed dozens of times a day and it makes me want to smack my head into a wall, often shared by otherwise intelligent people who consider themselves to be skeptics. And yet they will share a link to an article with headlines like “Trump DESTROYED by MSNBC host.” Here’s a good rule of thumb: If a word in a headline is in all caps, it’s probably bullshit. And most of the time, if you read the article — which studies show most people don’t bother to do before sharing it — you find that it doesn’t fit the headline at all. The headlines are often wildly exaggerated or just plain false.
So why do so many people share this crap? Primarily because of confirmation bias, I think. They support Hillary (or Bernie) and hate Donald Trump, so if the headline says something bad about them, they’ll share it. If the studies are accurate, about 60% of them don’t even bother to read the article to see if it contains any evidence that matches the headline; if the headline fits the narrative in their head, they share it. Sadly, when you call them out for this and point out that what they shared simply is not true, or at the least is vastly exaggerated, they often get angry rather than being reasonable about it.
This is something the right has been doing for a very long time. Sites like Newsmax, Breitbart and many others have had this as their core strategy for making money from the moment they were created — use outrageous headlines and highly distorted articles that match the mindset of their audience, wind them up into a frenzy, and watch the pageviews roll in. It’s highly disappointing to me that the left has begun to emulate them, as if accuracy simply doesn’t matter as long as it advances their ideological agenda. I expect better from the people on my side of the fence.
So herewith, a near-definitive list of the sites that I think should not be cited. Print it up and keep it by your computer, or keep the list on your phone or tablet. When you see clickbait headlines, stop clicking on them, and especially stop sharing them. And if you feel I’ve missed any, please add to the list in the comments.
Blue Nation Review
The Freethought Project
Politicalo (almost anything that ends on lo; these sites specialize in taking accurate statements from politicians and then adding false quotes to them that are much worse than what they actually said)
American News X
The Other 98%