October 8, 2021

LeadershipLimited Government

Fake News in American History

By: Peyton Holliday

When Al Smith lost the election in 1928 opponents stated that he sent a telegram to the Pope telling him to “Unpack”. Why on earth would the Pope need to unpack after Al Smith lost the Presidential election of 1928? Two words: Fake News. Since the rise of DonaldTrump the term, “fake news” has become a calling card for both sides of the aisle.. Whether one side is saying that Trump lost,or the other saying that Trump really won, and there is a conspiracy to have him back in office, both sides have claimed fake news. This is not a new phenomenon.

If we rewind time 100 years, we find our country in a similar boat. While technology and modern America was on the rise, there were plenty of ways for fake news to circulate through newspapers, rumors, telegrams, and other mediums. The 1928 Democratic Convention was held in Houston, Texas and there were already wild rumors happening. From an argument about whether hamburgers and hotdogs were allowed to the elevator being too slow for one fellow so  he pulled out his gun and shot it four times, the times of 1928 were about as rocky as they are today.. 

The biggest fake news of the day was that Al Smith, a Catholic running for President, was in communication with the Pope and helping him to build helping him to build a tunnel to DC from Rome. As outlandish as this sounds, it was rumored and believed by people so much so that it led in-part to Al Smith losing the election in 1928. In addition to that incident, one school district in Florida sent notes home with students telling their parents that Al Smith would nullify all Protestant marriages if he became President. These statements helped to seal the deal in 1928 for Herbert Hoover. 

Looking back into the history of our country there are reports of fake news from our founders. John Adams stated, “There has been more new error propagated by the press in the last ten years than in the hundred years before 1798.” Benjamin Franklin created a fake newspaper that circulated as fact throughout the colonies. These examples go to show that fake news has been a part of our country even before we were a country. 

Seeing these examples, one may wonder why fake news has risen to prominence once again. It is easy to put the blame on one person or another, but fake news has always been there and always will be. Some people will point it out, others will defend it, and there will always be a group of Americans that believe it. While fake news continues to circulate, on both sides, we can combat that fake news by looking for reliable sources. Find the sources that back their stories up with more than just their opinions. Find sources that give you links to other sources on the same topic. Find sources that you can trust to give you the information that you need to understand what is happening in the world. 

We may not be able to stop the circulation of  fake news entirely, but we can certainly share the honest news sources that we find with others. Be known as a reliable person who knows how to navigate the news world and present articles of truth to those around you. It only takes a little extra work to figure out what is true, what is taken out of context, and what is really happening in the country around us. Taking what you now know about the history of fake news, be more thoughtful about looking for the truth and presenting it to those around you.