All the recent handwringing over fake news is completely unnecessary. Fake news should never fool anyone who has at least an ounce of common sense. It is easy for a reasonable person to detect. Come on, folks! It almost always comes in one of four forms: (1) “secret” information, (2) stuff that sounds too good to be true, (3) stuff that sounds too outrageous to be true, and (4) reports of intelligent people acting illogically or out of character.
The first category often includes conspiracy theories. Someone claims that they are revealing some information that is being kept secret from the public. Anyone should be able to identify such stuff as garbage. In today’s world, there are no more secrets. There is nothing that can’t be kept away from some persistent investigative reporter, and that's only if some insider doesn't leak it to the world first. Even classified information is often hacked and blasted all over the internet.
In regard to the second category, you should remember what your mother taught you when you were a kid – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. To quote, Meat Loaf, “there ain’t no Coupe de Ville hiding at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box.” Anyone who believes that kind of fake news might also be interested in some cheap beachfront property in Nebraska that I am selling.
And if you don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, you shouldn’t believe anything that falls into the third category. Remember, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. For example, if someone tells me they saw a bird fly past their window, I would believe it because I’ve seen birds fly past windows. But if they said they saw an elephant fly past their window, I’m not going to take their word for it. Why? Because I've never seen or been offered proof of such a reality-defying occurrence.
To illustrate the fourth and final category, let’s say that you read a report that Hillary Clinton had been planning to propose a law to ban all abortions. Why would she do that? She is a strong pro-choice politician. She would be acting out of character by doing something like that. Or suppose you read that President Obama was running a sex slavery ring in Africa. Why would he want to risk his place in history and put himself in legal jeopardy by doing something like that? It would be illogical.