Thanks to one certain resident of the White House, the term fake news is everywhere. It’s on our Twitter timelines. It’s taking over movie promotions. And now the pervasive and SAD! term has found its way into soapy TV spy dramas about feminists with great hair. TGIT soul series Quantico seems to be the first show ever to take on fake news by name.
As with countless fake stories before it, the drama of Quantico’s “Mockingbird” begins with a report of an unverified dangerous incident. This time, an explosion allegedly occurred at a chemical storage plant in rural Virginia. Things start getting weird when actual federal agencies aren’t reacting to the reported crisis after two hours and no one is even on the scene.
Soon enough Blair Underwood, I mean, Owen Hall, is explaining how Internet fake news works and magically pulling up video that proves the so-called "report" is doctored. Within seconds Owen has figured out there’s "something in that town" the malevolent fake news forces want, and they’ve used a "viral lie" to evacuate the area.
Although “fake news” is now as much of a sarcastic meme as many other things associated with Donald Trump’s surrealist Twitter account, Quantico shows the extremely dark side of the new digital hoax trend. The rabbit hole of the case leads Alex (Priyanka Chopra) to a vast “troll farm” that’s been hired by a nefarious security firm to clear out the town.
The Quantico team eventually figures out the firm isn’t looking for something in the sleepy Virginia burg, but rather someone — namely, Mallory Haines a former senatorial “media guru” who actually "created stories that weren’t always based in facts." Prior to the events in "Mockingbird," Mallory created a story claiming a local bakery wasn’t supportive to veterans, in an effort to bolster her boss’s reelection campaign. While the story was fake, someone believed it and shot up the establishment, leading to 11 very real civilian deaths.
Now the original fake news expert is being hunted by men with guns who used fake news to find her and silence the loose end permanently.
While Quantico exists in a fiction world, the storyline has a real-life parallel. North Carolina man Edgar Welch fired multiple shots Washington D.C. pizzeria in late 2016 after reading online that Comet Ping Pong was home to an underground Hillary Clinton-affiliated child sex trafficking ring. Though no one was injured in the disturbing "Pizzagate" incident, patrons were terrified as Welch stalked around the establishment brandishing an AR-15 and revolver.
Although we wish dangerous fake news would have dried up by now, the folks at Homeland have an entire (terrifying) plot line around paid right-wing trolls this season as well. Let's not make this a trend, okay?