Disreputable and satirical website Last Line of Defense posted a news article that the Hoboken New Jersey mayor Ravi Bhalla had banned the use of the word Christmas. The problem is that every major element of the story is entirely fiction. While Last Line of Defense admits that the article was satire and entirely fabricated, the story highlights the dangerous influence fake news can have on the mainstream media and celebrities/elected officials.
While though Last Line of Defense admits the story is fabricated, several other “facts” in the story point to signs of fiction.The discrepancies of fiction and reality become transparent when the article references Bhalla’s choice of worship. Bhallla is Sikh, not Muslim. Political satire and misinformation have used his turban to make him subject to Islamophobic jokes and satire. Though the mayor may not celebrate Christmas, he obviously holds no contempt for the holiday or those who celebrate it. Bhalla even made Christmas related posts complementing local children on their carols and wishing those who celebrate the holiday a merry one.
The rumor was popularized on Facebook as it was commonly shared and tagged by users. The bogus story was fueled due to the so-called “war on Christmas”, a debate that questions if it is ethical to say the phrase “Merry Christmas” to everyone as it is a religious holiday that not all people celebrate. By portraying Ravi Bhalla as a sensationalist Muslim and an unlikeable figure, the story developed Islamophobic propaganda. With both of these elements combined the story was enough to attract attention from a heavily right-wing base
While the story is branded as satire, it can still damage the reputations of news outlets and misinform countless people. The story had been shared widely, and ignited an uproar amongst many readers. The problem is present when a reader can’t recognize the discrepancies between one of these satire writing outlets and a reliable news outlet. Readers should always check the facts, and make sure they’re really receiving news, not getting toyed with by satire writers.