Media

We asked a behavioural economist why Trump’s fake news is a good thing

By Oliver Smith 10 February 2017
Summary

You can't really trust everything you read anymore.

With so much unrest and upset in the worlds of media and politics, it’s not surprising that our behaviour is changing.

In an age of Brexit and Trump we’ve seen two political shocks that have rocked the establishment and left even the most conservative among us speechless.

Meanwhile, the rise of so-called fake news and “alternative facts” are undermining the very bedrock of society that we used to rely on.

Jez Groom, founder of behavioural finance and economics group Cowry Consulting, leads a team of psychologists, economists and mathematicians to help companies better understand their customers’ behaviour.

We sat down with him to find out how seismic political shifts and the changing media landscape is rewiring the way we think.

Read more: Can behavioural banking explain the financial crisis and tech bubbles?

Trump and the rise of ‘fake news’

Donald Trump and ‘fake news’ could actually be a really good thing.

In the run up to Donald Trump’s election in November 2016 we saw an outpouring of so-called ‘fake news’, stories and articles that were entirely false but masquerading as fact.

Since Trump’s election this wave has only intensified, especially with the President spewing many “alternative facts” himself.

Suddenly ‘truth’ and ‘facts’ have lost their very meaning.

But don’t panic, says Groom, this might actually be a really good thing.

Surviving in a post-truth world

“With the advent of the internet we’ve seen a proliferation of sources and an erosion of ‘true facts’,” says Groom.

“People are starting to questions these ‘experts”, are they really experts? Is there data to support this? And is it really significant?”

Yes, your Facebook feed may be filled with increasingly bizarre and fanciful stories, but most people don’t actually believe that these articles are true.

“In some ways, this might actually be a good thing,” explains Groom.

“Maybe people not blindly trusting sources anymore, beginning to question perceived ‘facts’, will actually make us more aware of what is and isn’t true.”

Donald Trump is training us to be more inquisitive, more sceptical of the news and ‘facts’ that we read.

“And that might not be a bad thing.”

A silver lining if you ever needed one.