On Tuesday, President Trump held a rally in Phoenix, Arizona. A photo purporting to show the crowd at the rally was featured prominently on Lauraingraham.com, with the caption: “5 miles of Trump supporters waiting to meet POTUS in Phoenix.”
There's only one problem — the photo wasn't from the rally, but from the 2016 Cavaliers championship parade.
After CNN's Andrew Kaczynski pointed out the blunder on Twitter, and retweets amplified the news, the photo and caption were removed from Ingraham’s website.
According to The Daily Beast, this photo is actually a running gag from Chris McNeil, “a Columbus-based social media marketer” with a penchant for trolling. Whenever there's a rally or protest involving Trump, you can expect McNeil to post the photo to his Twitter account, claiming it shows Trump’s yuge crowd sizes. Without fail, someone always falls for it.
This is a perfect example of knee jerk politics, which can be found on both sides of the aisle, and in every facet of political belief. Progressives, moderate Democrats, Libertarians, establishment Republicans, conservatives, and Trump supporters — all of these differing factions are vulnerable to the knee jerk process in which one sees something with which they strongly agree, and run to share it on social media. Ingraham’s website just so happens to be the most prominent example this time around.
There are those for whom this will seem rather trivial, but this “trivial” incident is simply a microcosm of a much larger political problem. Rather than take the time to cross-reference and examine news before sharing it — whether on social media or elsewhere — we often run with whatever we see, so long as it's agreeable. This behavior only serves to muddy the water and embolden critics who can point to the recklessness of sharing “fake news,” and label the individuals or group who did it “liars.” A label like that sticks, and impairs the effectiveness of further discourse.
Always check the news you want to share. It's that simple. We've all fallen victim to overzealous sharing, but (and I loathe this phrase) now more than ever, it's important to tread slowly and deliberately, only sharing what we’ve carefully analyzed.