Is all news fake news? A postmodern dilemma

Post modernism has created an epistemic relativity to research endeavors, application of research results, and the foundations of leadership. These effects present real dangers to research (scholars), application (practitioners), and organizations (organizational decision making). Is society experiencing a paradigm shift or is fake news a deliberate attempt to distort reality?



The 2019 Reuters Institute Digital News Report found trust in the news fell from 44 to 42 percent; for social media it is 23 percent. Among major countries, the US had the fourth highest concern with 67 percent of survey respondents being apprehensive about what is real and what is fake.  A Pew Research report (2019) found that 50% of Americans see made-up news as a bigger problem than racism or climate change, while 68% of Americans stated that it has a significant impact on Americans’ confidence in government.


Zhang and Ghorbani’s (2019) overview of online fake news identified three basic characteristics of fake news: Volume, the amounts of fake news content on the Internet are massive; Variety, fake news comes in multiple forms including errors, rumors, satire, misinformation, false statements, fake photos masquerading as valid information, fake research; Velocity, the real time nature of most fake news makes it seductive and hard to control since many sources disappear before they are identified as false.  Even seemingly objective reviews are tainted.  Ahmed (2017) found 88% of customers relied on online reviews with 72% believing positive reviews are the mark of a trustworthy business.


Bartlett (2017) recommended ways to fight fake news: Use critical thinking (Stanford found bright, well-educated, tech-savy students could not separate news from advertising or figure out the source of stories). Statista (2018), in a survey of trust in the news, found 80% of 18-29 year-olds see fake news as a major issue. Given this finding, teaching critical thinking becomes a vital part of education. Use technology to counter fake information. Algorithms have been developed to police some social networks by automatically deleting articles that appear to be faked.  However, to date, these have been less successful than initially hoped.  Another suggestion is to utilize the tools used to create fake news to combat it.


A Statista (2019) survey found the leading social networks used for news in the U.S. were Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook Messenger. Although 34% of U.S. respondents reported trusting social media, 23% reported they almost never trust news on Facebook.  While 52% of Americans believe online websites regularly report fake news and for 67% this causes confusion, only 27% are confident they can recognize fake news. 


Straightforward methods can combat fake news.  Most of these are related to critical thinking and information literacy.

 -Asking questions like: Does the news item seem too good to be true?

 -Building in fact checking.

 -Obtaining your news from a variety of sources.

- Check source reliability and triangulate.


Statista (2012) reported 42% of College graduates felt their education contributed extremely well to their critical thinking and problem-solving skills and 45% felt it contributed pretty well.

Critical thinking is mostly associated with rationalism and seems like a dichotomy to use it in the same sentence as post modernism. Could critical thinking about fake news resolve the postmodern dilemma and, if not, what are the solutions?



This publication has been peer reviewed.
Publication Type: 
Conference Proceedings
Conrad, K. A.
van Niekerk, H.
Year of Publication: 
Journal, Book, Magazine or Other Publication Title: 
[APS Poster Showcase]. APS 2020 Convention, Chicago, IL
Date Published: 
Monday, June 1, 2020
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