September 13, 2017

History Now: Fake News

Extra, extra! OMCA's latest History Now exhibit is all about #FakeNews—past and present.

By OMCA Staff

Today, media bias and social media like Twitter and Facebook are raising concerns about the impact of #FakeNews. The history of using false stories to drive public opinion and change government policy goes way, way back. Our History Now exhibit, inside our Gallery of California History, explores the past and present of “fake news,” and it’s older than you might think! 
More than 100 years ago, the news media helped start a war between the United States and Spain. The publisher William Randolph Hearst in California is regarded as the father of “Yellow Journalism,” a type of newspaper reporting designed to increase circulation by sensationalizing, and deliberately falsifying, important news events. In 1898, Hearst’s newspapers began a campaign to fan the flames of anti-Spanish hysteria during a revolution that country was fighting in Cuba. Reporters fabricated gruesome stories of Spanish atrocities against Cubans, and called for U.S. intervention in the conflict. When the American battleship U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana harbor Hearst claimed, without proof, that the disaster was caused by a Spanish torpedo. 

These outrageous claims were designed to frighten Americans and demonize certain groups of foreigners. The worst part? It worked. Hearst’s yellow journalism is widely credited with pushing the United States into the Spanish-American War. When Frederic Remington, an artist hired to provide illustrations of the Cuban Revolution, advised Hearst that there would be no war, Hearst is said to have replied, “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the War.”

In our History Now exhibit, we invite viewers to Rate the News and respond to the prompt, “How has social media changed our news?” 

What do you think? Where do you get your news? How do you know what sources to trust?