“Beginning Nov. 1 of this year, the state of Arizona is implementing a mandatory school program designed for all children grades K-12 to help homosexual males and women become straight.”
In a state where gay rights is as divisive an issue, headlines like “Gay-To-Straight Program To Be Used In All Arizona Public School Curriculums Beginning November 1st” will make you do a double take.
Last Wednesday, the National Report published an article outlining Arizona’s plan to implement conversion therapy programs into all public school curriculums to help children “resolve their unwanted same-sex attraction.”
Right here is where the keen reader would sense that something is amiss.
The National Report is a news and political satire website, a la The Onion, which “reports” on everything from gun control to Vladimir Putin’s sexuality.
A quick Google search will pop up a disclaimer for the site, but if that doesn’t tip you off, clicking over to the homepage and reading any one of the bevy of ludicrous headlines hopefully will.
Despite this, individuals across social media sites were outraged last week when the article was published, quickly spreading the link and condemning the seemingly corrupt status of Arizona’s education system.
The purpose of satirical news sites has always been fairly straightforward: By presenting a fictionalized and comically exaggerated version of the news, we are forced to consider the actual state of current affairs and ponder whether these false scenarios may one day become a reality.
In that respect, this article succeeded.
Scrolling through the comments section of this article is not unlike scrolling through the comments section of an article on Reuters. Opinions ran the gamut from sheer outrage to wholehearted approval.
The use of the Internet to champion civil rights is not a new phenomenon. If you were using Facebook in March of this year, it was impossible to escape the cluster of profile pictures that had been changed to equal signs in order to show support of gay friends and family members as the U.S. Supreme Court heard two cases concerning same-sex marriage.
However, the fervor with which this faux article has been shared and criticized is a cause for concern.
In journalism, we are taught to avoid cynicism but always remain skeptical of what we are reading. When you share a link on the Internet, you are responsible for what follows.
While satirical news sites do not print the truth, they still expect their readers to understand the intent of the piece.
However, by not double-checking whether a story is true and omitting a disclaimer of your own, readers do a disservice to their followers.
Send Lorraine your best fake news stories at email@example.com or follow her at @lolonghi