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The Parmelee Post’s Definitive Guide to Spotting Fake News


Published December 10, 2016 at 8:00 a.m.
Updated December 12, 2016 at 5:26 p.m.

  • Dreamstime | Bryan Parmelee
We here at the Parmelee Post have decided to take a brief break from the Pulitzer-worthy investigative reporting you’ve grown to expect, and to instead address a growing concern within our community and the nation at large.

It has recently been brought to our attention that certain “journalists” have been deliberately spreading fake news stories. This threatens the very fabric of democracy, which our nation’s largest banks and businesses have paid so handsomely to construct for us. You know things are getting bad when you can’t even flip on a 24-hour news network without hearing that fake news is contributing to citizens being less informed, and that we all must stay tuned after the commercial break to learn more.

But what is “fake news,” exactly?

Facebook pundits across the political spectrum seem unable to agree on an exact meaning, but the definition seems to expand as one’s sense of humor contracts. For example, many of our readers might be quick to suggest that the only dangerous fake news stories are the deliberate hoaxes written for and shared by extreme right-wing individuals — who already avoid facts as if they were a universal background check, anyway.

These readers might even go on to explain that more moderate and left-leaning individuals, who typically value facts, are not easily fooled by conspiracies or hoaxes, but appreciate fake news as a form of satire to help them feel slightly better, if only for a moment.

Others suggest that, although there are clear differences between deliberate hoaxes, satire and insufferable year-end lists, only the “media-savvy” are informed enough to see those differences. Therefore we should suppress fake news in any form.

The Parmelee Post disrespectfully disagrees with the last assertion. We believe that lumping all fake news together, and trying to censor it all, would create a very dangerous president — er, precedent. We also believe you don’t need a communications degree to distinguish fake news from real, satire from hoax, or one's head from one's ass.

In fact, recent studies have shown that the majority of our readers are among the most intelligent, attractive and best-smelling news consumers in the world. For the sake of others, however, we have compiled a useful guide to spotting fake news so that you, your families and your alt-weeklies will be safe from harm.

This list is intended as a jumping-off point and in no way claims to be a definitive guide.

The Definitive Guide to Spotting Fake News

  • Check the URL — Web addresses that included words like “freedom,” “liberty” or “Putin’s Pet” are all dead giveaways.  
  • Check the grammar — Are there egregious spelling errors? Is it written entirely in Russian? Nice try, comrades!
  • Check the author's bio - Most fake news writers are thirtysomething males with fewer than 100 Twitter followers. Is he wearing a fedora in his "staff" picture or, I don’t know, a fucking unicorn mask? Seems suspect!
  • Check your mother-in-law’s Facebook page — Did she share it? It’s probably a fake! Aren't married? Check a bigoted relative's page! No family? Check r/The_Donald!
  • Check for edited photos — Does the photo look fake? For example, if you see a picture of Ted Nugent shooting a flaming arrow across a boardroom table, check Wikipedia to see if he actually holds a bow right-handed or left. The photo may have been altered!
  • Check the illustrations — Is there a cartoon frog anywhere on the page? You have accidentally entered the dark net. Burn your browsing device immediately (if you're using a Galaxy 7 you can skip this step), and spend the next four days in the shower.
  • Check for boringness — Is it boring? Good! The real news almost always is.
  • Check for anger — Does the article/post/tweet make you angry? This could be the sign of a deliberate hoax trying to get you to shoot up a pizzeria. Or, it could be a sign that you take yourself too seriously. Either way, go outside and bury your head in the snow until the feeling subsides.
  • Check for links — Are there links to actual news stories included throughout? Maybe it's heavily based in reality and trying to make a point instead of just trying to get page clicks!
  • Check for tags or icons — Is there a massive "humor" icon next to the headline? Inconclusive. Proceed with caution.
  • Check the comments — Just kidding. You should never under any circumstances read online comments.
We hope you’ve found this list useful. We understand that when reality is stranger than fiction, it can be difficult to have a good laugh now and then. But, for the good of our journalists, our reputation and, of course, democracy, we’re begging you to never stop.
The Parmelee Post is a weekly series featuring tough investigative reporting on news that hasn't happened. Yet.