You've likely been told to never trust any one news source, as each one has a bias. With mainstream news organizations, that bias typically comes in the form of political favoritism—an intentional means of appealing to a specific, passionate demographic. They do it for the ratings. It's pandering, and most of us recognize it and resent it. But lately, there's been a new, even more nefarious force at work in the world of news. We've seen an increase in the prominence of "alternate" news websites with an objective entirely apart from that of mainstream sources—namely, propagating stories that work in favor of our nation's rivals and enemies abroad while fomenting discord here in the U.S.
I know, this sounds like some heavy-duty conspiracy-theory stuff, right? But take a moment to consider it: Russia has been hard at work perfecting their game in information operations since the Cold War began. The Kremlin works hard to contain or prevent unfavorable news stories about the Putin regime while disseminating politically and militarily expedient propaganda abroad. There's even some evidence to suggest that Russian intelligence has had a hand in ISIS information/propaganda operations. And they're not the only ones playing this game.
With the American public's increased proclivity for using the Internet to get their news and the prevalence of alternative or "fringe" news sites comes an obvious vulnerability, one the Russians and others have undoubtedly invested great effort to exploit. Those who seek out alternative news, thinking themselves too discerning to believe the stories reported by the domestic mainstream news media, have proven vulnerable to believing instead a contrived narrative invented by our nation's international opponents.
Sites such as RT (Russia Today, an "English-language news channel which brings the Russian view on global news") or PressTV (the Iranian version of state-sponsored news) broadcast misinformation, conspiracy theory fodder, and subtle propaganda, all of which drives an impressionable segment of the American public to be distrustful of or openly antagonistic toward the U.S. government, her laws, and her policies. These "news" sources are fomenting unrest purposefully, as it weakens our country from within.
These fringe sites have found a strange bedfellow with an unlikely sect of the American public: the uber patriotic, III% crowd. According to Ross Elder's very informative series on the subject, titled "The Patriot Deception,"
"Relatively ignored by other media outlets within the United States, RT did find an audience in an unexpected place – the American patriot and liberty movements. Rejecting any form of mainstream media as U.S. government propaganda, the patriot movement embraced the coverage provided by an outside perspective. The so-called patriot movement has evolved into a philosophy of paranoia, conspiracy theory, and distrust of the 'official story.'"
If this were restricted only to the tinfoil-hat types, that would be one thing. But many of these misleading stories are recycled and repeated by those who should know better—including those in the same mainstream media that RT and other such propaganda sources seek to usurp. Although RT began life as an obvious Russian propaganda machine, it has since gained some reputability simply by way of its pervasive articles and an undiscerning audience.
This could prove to be much more damaging to our public than the biased domestic news media. Although every news source has an angle or bias, few could be so devious as what these sites promulgate.
I'd strongly encourage reading the entirety of Ross Elder's series, "The Patriot Deception." It's enlightening, if also incredibly discouraging. But seldom has the expression "knowledge is power" been truer than in this case. If we can counteract the blind acceptance of this misinformation, shine a light upon it for the what it really is, then we can positively impact not only our countrymen's awareness, but our nation's stability and future.