It was during a semester spent in Washington, D.C., during college that I first remember encountering fake news. I was leaving the Roosevelt Memorial near the National Mall when I overheard a family on vacation having a political discussion: George W. Bush was going to suspend the 22nd Amendment and declare himself president for life.
This wouldn’t have seemed odd to me, a naive 20-year-old who had experience with crazy college students: but the people making these allegations were the parents, and not the children. Teens and the politically immature were prone to believing in crazy conspiracy theories, but at that point, I thought that people grow out of conspiracy theories that they hear through the grapevine.
Since then, the grapevine has grown into a world-wide web, and political tribalism has become more entrenched. People are now prone to believe all sorts of crazy conspiracy theories, but when it comes to politics, they’re most likely to follow the trends defined by whoever holds the White House: either in favor or against.