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Fake News, Real News: History of Fake News

Fake News History: Films on Demand

Screenshot of film available from FIlms on Demand

Fake News Throughout History

John Adams mentions fake news in his diary. In 1769, Adams writes about spending the evening coming up with news stories to undermine British authority in the colonies.



portrait of Benjamin Franklin

In 1782, Benjamin Franklin fabricated a story about Native Americans sending scalps of colonists to the King, and printed it in a fake issue of a Boston newspaper. Over the next few years, this story was treated as fact and reprinted many times in other newspapers.



fictional creatures flying, walking, and swimming around a moon landscape, as imagined in the Moon Hoax story

In 1835, in an apparent attempt to boost circulation, the New York Sun published several articles about creatures that supposedly inhabited the moon. The story cited a legitimate scientist and many people believed it to be true. 



photograph of H.L. Mencken

In 1917, H.L. Mencken  published a ficticious history of the bathtub in the United States. It was repeatedly cited as fact, despite Mencken admitting that it was fictitious. 



photograph of Orson Welles speaking to a group of reporters, who are all taking notes on pads of paper

Stories of widespead panic caused by the 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds may not be so accurate after all

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