You might think that AWD News gets this coveted Ethics Alarms Honor by having one of its hoax news stories prompted a threat of nuclear retaliation against Israel by Pakistan’s Defense Minister.
You would be wrong. That embarrassing response from a Pakistan official with a penchant for saber rattling is just moral luck. The story that “The former Israeli Defence Minister has threatened to “destroy” Pakistan-after Pakistan said on Thursday it will send Sunni fighters to Syria” was a hoax, and since no other news source was reporting it, the fact that Pakistan’s defense minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, allowed his confirmation bias to take over his brain, and leaped to the assumption that it was accurate just shows that Pakistan has an irresponsible fool in a key government position.
The hoax story would be just as unethical if nobody paid any attention to it. This hoax site is among the worst of the worst. It isn’t trying to be funny; it’s just trying to cause trouble. The assholes publishing this crap surely puffed up their little pigeon chests with pride after learning that their lie caused an international incident, embarrassed Pakistan and made the pages of the The New York Times.
As with other hoax sites that have been Ethics Alarms Unethical Websites of the Month, like The News Nerd, 4KTLA and News Right Now, the hoax story in question isn’t clever, funny or satirical. Though other hoax news sites bury the announcement of the site’s bogus content at the bottom of a home page, in fine print, or in the “About” page, it’s nowhere to be seen on AWD News, and unlike many of the others, it has the look and feel of a legitimate news website.
Why do they do it? Well, why do vandals deface works of art? Why do hackers plant computer viruses? Why do arsonists set fires? It’s all the same: pathetic, useless, emotionally stunted and ethically warped people who derive satisfaction from causing gratuitous harm. They have always been with us, and blights on civilization. Technology just provides a means for more of them to do more damage.
There is no excuse for a nation’s official or anyone with access to a computer believing as story like this, or wouldn’t be, if we could rely on the real news organizations doing their jobs objectively and competently. Unfortunately, they don’t. Someone like Asif should have been made suspicious by the fact that the story that sparked his response hadn’t appeared anywhere else. But the current mutation of journalism that plagues society routinely includes the partisan tactic of ignoring legitimate news that biased journalists would like to withhold from the public. This happens literally every day. The most popular form of “fake news” spread by mainstream media sources is the absence of reporting, the fake news being that something that did happen and is newsworthy didn’t.
That’s why hoax stories can be effective at deceiving people who should know better. Until real news sources become objective and reliable, the hoax news sites will continue their assault on truth and order.