The parallel between false beliefs and fake news.

Jayme Johnson
2 min readJan 7, 2017


Internally, people go through an identical process when they hold false beliefs compared to changes in headlines when they go through the editing process. The media has recently reported that the Russians hacked a Vermont power grid and the headlines reflected that. Then the headlines were changed to reflect the fact that the power grid itself was not hacked. It was just the hacking of a laptop associated with the company. I won’t get into the specifics of this example, but you can read more about it from other sources.

When people manufacture headlines of their own, it is often temporary, until further evidence comes in. Different people have a different tolerance for dealing with the levels of uncertainty. The more skeptical a person is, the greater amount of uncertainty they are dealing with. Someone who needs to feel secure in their beliefs — whether they are right of wrong — needs more security. They hold on to beliefs longer until they find evidence to dismiss those beliefs, or they manufacture evidence to support those beliefs. In many ways, it is like a form of speculative knowledge. The belief is seen as true, instead of being seen as true, so far, or partially true.

There isn’t much of a point to hold on to beliefs, if there is a good chance they’re wrong and the future evidence ultimately paints a different story. There isn’t much of a point to hold on to beliefs if you could Google your concern and find out the answer in a matter of minutes. When you don’t know what’s going on, guesses and beliefs are only useful in a pragmatic way if they give you security in the face of highly uncertain times. But aiming for certainty doesn’t mean it has pragmatic value in regard to actual knowledge of the event in question.

Security and feeling certain is not equivalent to knowledge. “Headlines” that go on in the mind in the initial moments of an event can often be frighteningly inaccurate, especially the greater shock that the event causes in the person. When there is an ongoing news story, the headlines can also change as new information pours in. If every “headline” was believed in the mind as they poured in, the person would probably be an emotional mess, because of the inaccurate beliefs. For example, if someone was under the influence of psychedelic drugs and started to believe every hallucination as literally true, instead of merely accepting what they were seeing, they would be an emotional wreck. They might even call the maker of the company who manufactured their lamp to ask them if they purposely placed a glowing image of the Buddha inside it.

As the media bombards the public with headlines on a daily basis, it’s easy to see how many would feel unduly persuaded and influenced by so many changing headlines. This would especially be the case when entire groups of people are believing certain headlines without evidence and retweeting their “findings” to thousands. Certainty gets marketed and sold as knowledge and the various media companies make money off this certainty.