How we got here

When fake news and bots took over our lives

Illustrations by Steve Brodner

Click on the image above to view this graphic as it appeared in the magazine.


 

1850-1987 Not long ago the national conversation was based on commonly shared facts, arrived at through professional journalism, via newspapers, TV, etc., held to account by multi-sourced and fact-checked information.

 

1987 Under President Ronald Reagan’s FCC, the fairness doctrine was dropped, removing required balance from broadcast reporting.

 

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Mid ’80s Cable TV expands. Talk radio takes over AM radio, touching emotional buttons, rather than professionally reporting news.

 

2010 The Citizens United Supreme Court decision allows unlimited corporate spending on political ads. Intentional misrepresentation rules the airwaves. The conservative Koch brothers help build the Tea Party and push false theories about President Obama’s birth certificate.

 

2015 Social media makes muddling information much more profound. It soon becomes difficult to establish the difference between stories generated by social media bots and YouTube celebrities and ones from trained journalists.

 

2016 By Election Day, the damage had been done. Media, instead of providing news, manipulated reality, changing the perceptions of millions of voters.

 

2017 A propaganda-media-complex became so dense and confusing that many escape into ever-distracting universes of electronic fantasy, and endless space, free of any journalism.

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Steve Brodner is a graphic artist and commentator. His art has won many major awards in the world of illustration and cartooning and has appeared in most publications in the US. He teaches narrative art at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.