Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.


The best of solutions journalism in the sustainability space, published monthly.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Bill Roth headshot

The Dangers Of A Fake News Economy

By Bill Roth

Your health and job may be at risk if fake news influences the American economy like it has our recent elections. I'm talking, of course, about the purposeful sharing of unsubstantiated claims to create an emotional connection. Fake news shaped, some would say defined, Election 2016. Now fake news is poised to reshape our economy, environment and lives.

As a consumer or business, are you ready for the fake news economy?

Two Americas

Election 2016 surfaced two Americas. The 47 percent of voters who chose President-elect Donald Trump have been defined as Heartland America. The 53 percent of voters who did not vote for President-elect Trump can be defined as Information Age cohorts.

Heartland America President-elect Trump won 3,084 out of America’s 3,141 counties by an overwhelming 7.5 million votes. These Heartland America counties have the following demographics:

  • They are exposed to manufacturing job loss.

  • A majority of voters do not have a four-year college degree.

  • Their jobs are tied to 20th-century technologies.

  • These counties represents only a third of America’s annual economic activity.
Information Age cohorts
The 53 percent of voters who did not vote for President-elect Trump can be described as Information Age cohorts. Most live in 57 counties. Their key demographics include:

  • Living in cities like New York, San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, Seattle and Portland. They can also be found in urban communities across America, including Indianapolis, Tulsa, Salt Lake City and other Heartland America cities that are being rejuvenated by urban millennials.

  • The 57 counties where most Information Age cohorts live generate approximately two-thirds of our country’s economic activity.

  • Information Age Americans start businesses or hold jobs that design, build, maintain, finance, sell or manage 21st-century technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), social media, connectivity, smart manufacturing, renewable energy, batteries and medical smart tech.

  • Demographically, Information Age Americans have greater diversity and a higher percentage of college education.

An America divided by fake news

Election 2016 surfaced another way of defining our divided America. Heartland America embraced fake news. In fake news, Heartland America found an emotional connection with their view of an America diminished by immigration, global trade, government regulations, diversity and crime.

Information Age Americans associate fake news with disinformation and propaganda. Fake news postings refute their view that the world is at risk from climate change and unhealthy food mass marketing. Fake news frustrates them over a focus on preserving 20th-century technology jobs rather than winning economic growth through the adoption of smart/clean technologies.

The fake news economy

Our free market economy is based on informed consumers making prudent decisions that serve their best interests. Fake news threatens this by influencing consumers to make decisions on unsubstantiated claims that enflame emotions. Here are just a few examples of how fake news could reshape our economy, environment and lives:

Climate change. A widely circulated fake news piece just claimed that global warming is an El Nino weather effect and that temperatures will begin to cool. Science (and mathematics) documents a hotter earth due to manmade emissions with temperature variations around this higher average temperature. Based on research done by the Department of Defense and NASA, if American consumers accept global warming fake news, the result will be lower economic growth and higher risk of war.

Human health. Fake news stories often promote an American right to consume what we want. This consumption “manifest destiny” is great news for the sale of Big Macs and Coca Cola. The associated costs is a national weight crisis that threatens to bankrupt our country and maim human health.

Jobs. Fake new stories often promote the saving of jobs through jaw boning companies to keep manufacturing plants in the U.S. plus better negotiating trade deals. The technology reality is that the world is on the cusp of an AI and IoT revolution. Around the world, manual labor will be displaced by smart robotics and autonomous vehicles connected to an intelligent supply chain.

Smart manufacturing holds these three implications for Heartland America:

  1. Increased economic growth from the location of smart manufacturing plants

  2. Increased job opportunities for work associates trained to work in smart factories

  3. Massive manual labor job loss.

Heartland America faces a real threat to its future if it relies on fake news’ focus on preserving 20th-century manual labor jobs. Look no further than Mississippi’s Golden Triangle for how Heartland America can achieve economic growth by focusing on 21st-century technologies rather than preserving 20th-century jobs.

Education gap. Fake news also ignores the education gap underlying Heartland America’s economic challenges. America, most especially among manual labor Americans, has an educational disadvantage. America is mid-pack among countries on math and science educations. The damage from this educational gap will only increase as the 21st century embraces smart/clean tech.

By 2020, two-thirds of jobs are predicted to require a postsecondary education. Fake news may align with Heartland America’s emotions, but it is their education in science, math, business, finance, economics, human health sciences, engineering, coding and sustainability that will determine their economic potential.

Fake news is no free lunch

The fake news economy cannot escape the economic truism that there are no free lunches. A fake news economy may align with Heartland America’s emotions. But it will fail to achieve sustained economic success by focusing on saving jobs that are based on 20th-century technology.

The 21st century’s economic future is based on Information Age technologies like connectivity, big data, AI, IoT and smart/clean tech. Fake news may ignore this reality or even attempt to block it. Doing so will make real news as Heartland America suffers a diminished economic future from losing competitive advantage in a world embracing 21st-century technologies to achieve lower costs, reduced emissions and sustainable jobs.

Image credit: Flickr/Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

Bill Roth headshot

Bill Roth is a cleantech business pioneer having led teams that developed the first hydrogen fueled Prius and a utility scale, non-thermal solar power plant. Using his CEO and senior officer experiences, Roth has coached hundreds of CEOs and business owners on how to develop and implement projects that win customers and cut costs while reducing environmental impacts. As a professional economist, Roth has written numerous books including his best selling The Secret Green Sauce (available on Amazon) that profiles proven sustainable best practices in pricing, marketing and operations. His most recent book, The Boomer Generation Diet (available on Amazon) profiles his humorous personal story on how he used sustainable best practices to lose 40 pounds and still enjoy Happy Hour!

Read more stories by Bill Roth