Fake news? Comparing real and satirical headlines in the Trump era

    Now that a Trump presidency is officially no longer just a looming Eeyore-esque cloud over the heads of millions of Americans, there are two options: fight or flight. While the flight option initially may have sounded appealing, for most (middle-class) citizens, it was not going to be a feasible reality. Fighting, on the other hand, can produce meaningful results in literally hundreds of different ways. Peaceful protests, rallies and demonstrations aside, I’ve found that humor can prove to make even the most difficult pills a bit easier to swallow.

    The media has had a tough time making Trump’s questionable actions each day sound like hard news. That being said, the satirical media has had an even tougher time making their headlines sound more absurd than the real ones do. With that, NBN presents: ‘Fake news? Comparing real and satirical headlines in the Trump era.'

    Headline: Trump opens first full day on job at church

    Publication: New York Post

    Quote: “On the first full day on the job, President Trump prayed – and then went to CIA headquarters to promise to wipe radical Islamic terrorism 'off the face of the earth.'"

    Shock factor: Perhaps the most appalling aspect of this lead is the fact that it reads like a direct quote from a SNL weekend update sketch. Unfortunately, in all reality, President Trump and Vice President Pence really did pregame pledging to defeat the Islamic State and calling out the CIA for their lack of effort so far by attending an interdenominational prayer service filled with representatives from Muslim and Sikh congregations.

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    Headline: Mike Pence Disappointed in the 200,000 Husbands and Fathers Who Permitted Women to Attend March

    Publication: The Onion

    Quote: “'I can’t tell you how let down I feel by the heads of these households who did not simply give their wives and daughters a firm, decisive ‘no’ when they asked to participate in today’s demonstration,' said Pence."

    Shock factor: While Mike Pence probably actually spent the day of the women’s marches curled up in fetal position in the confines of his man cave, The Onion successfully manages to poke fun at the absurdly backwards views our current vice president holds toward women everywhere. This satirical piece nevertheless comes off as a scary reminder of who we chose to elect to one of the highest offices in the country, and consequently give the power to overturn legislation that could set women’s rights back decades.

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    Headline: Trump’s pick for CIA says he’s open to waterboarding

    Publication: CNN

    Quote: “In his most recent responses to questions on the subject, Mike Pompeo declined to address the effectiveness of such techniques, writing, 'I understand the disagreement over the past use of waterboarding and whether information could have been obtained through other less coercive methods.' He went on to cite a public CIA study conducted during the Obama administration that found while the program had obtained intelligence, it was 'unknowable' whether that information could have been acquired through other means.”

    Shock factor: There isn’t really any good way to play off the fact that this is hard, real news without laughter. While the headline sounds absurdly outlandish, the sad truth is that we live in a country that isn’t progressing, but rather regressing back into the Dark Ages where torture is an A-OK method of acquiring information.

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    Headline: Trump cake controversy turns out to have many layers

    Publication: CNN

    Quote: “The issue stemmed from a pastry parallel – a cake at President Donald Trump's inaugural ball Friday night mirrored one at President Barack Obama's in 2013.”

    Shock factor: It is with great regret and sorrow that I must inform you that this is actually not a product of the satirical media. While the headline easily scores a 10/10 due to pun usage, it’s quite comical that this was the sort of content produced on one of the busiest news day of the year: the inauguration.

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    Headline: Intel Chiefs Say Trump’s Twitter was Hacked by Four-year-old

    Publication: The New Yorker (Borowitz Report)

    Quote: “Based on these tweets, this particular four-year-old has a loose grasp on reality, lacks all impulse control, and is potentially very dangerous.”

    Shock factor: At first glance, this article may be easy to distinguish as satire. With a little more analysis of Trump’s social media, however, it becomes increasingly clear that the majority of his tweets could have been written by a small child. From the use of basic vocabulary (e.g. “Sad!”), to the less than satisfactory adherence to the AP Stylebook, Trump’s Twitter is in dire need of stronger security.

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    Headline: What’s in the Blue Box From Tiffany? An Investigation

    Publication: The New York Times

    Quote: “We asked a spokesman from Tiffany some carefully calibrated questions: 'What may have been in the box? Did the size suggest a particular item? Was there a special bow? Anything?'”

    Shock factor: While The Times is generally highly regarded for their investigative pieces, it is unclear how this story qualifies as either investigative journalism or newsworthy. The over-the-top use of rhetorical questions about the blue box furthers the possibility of mistaking this piece as satire, as the reader will inevitably come to the conclusion – “but who really cares?”

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    Headline: Trump says he’ll send in feds if Chicago doesn’t fix ‘horrible carnage going on’

    Publication: CNN

    Quote: "A policy like stop-and-frisk could save thousands of lives in a city like Chicago, just like it saved thousands of lives in New York.”

    Shock factor: I think it’s safe to say this is the first time I’ve ever seen the word ‘carnage’ used in a headline of an article that wasn’t about DJ Carnage and his seemingly random success in producing chart-topping singles. CNN’s use of employing direct quotes from the President into their headlines make the likelihood of citizens perceiving the articles to be satirical at first glance 10 times greater. While the article itself is factual as it sheds light on the gravity of the situation that Chicago faces in curbing violence, not even CNN can make the current leader of the free world sound even a little more well-spoken.

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    Headline: Trump believes millions voted illegally, won’t provide any proof

    Publication: CNN

    Quote: "Pressed for what evidence exists, Spicer would say only that Trump 'has believed this for a while, based on studies and information he has.'"

    Shock factor: While I truly pity White house Press Secretary Sean Spicer for having the hardest job on the planet right now, I’d also like to see these so-called ‘studies’ be brought forward to the American public to ensure that this isn’t really a parody of an article that The Onion already published.


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