Sharing fake news is value signaling

There’s a story making its way on the internet claiming that a mother in North Carolina was sent to jail for baptizing her daughter. Scandal! Religious persecution! Except, the mother did not have custody of the daughter, but took her anyway to get baptized. Ignoring a prior court order got her in trouble, not the baptism itself.

This, however, did not stop people from sharing the story to make some political point.

In recent years, I’ve noticed a trend among people on social media who share posts without doing cursory fact checking: when they are called out, they frequently do not admit wrongdoing. They either ignore the fact check all together, or they claim that they knew it was fake (yeah, right) but shared it because they agreed with the sentiment.

In a lot of ways, these sorts of fake stories are proliferated in an attempt to value signal. These people want to symbolically prove something about themselves. “It doesn’t matter if the story about the mother is false – I want people to know that I am a proud Christian!” If that is the case, then why didn’t the sharer say that first?