After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News Movie Poster Image
Bitter, upsetting, but enormously informative docu.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 95 minutes

Parents say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

We're committed to diversity in media.

We're updating our reviews to better highlight authentic stories and accurate, diverse representations. See something that needs to be addressed? Suggest an update to this review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Movie has very little good news to share, but it's determined to at least shed light on insidious practice of "fake news," giving viewers a chance to potentially identify fraudulent stories. Warns viewers not to trust things they see on Facebook and other social media platforms without question. One section -- in which an interviewee uses fake news to benefit a liberal politician -- literally wonders about whether "two wrongs make a right" or "if everyone else is doing it, then it's OK."

Positive Role Models & Representations

In an indirect way, the movie celebrates the legitimate journalists who continue to fight and do good work and find the truth, even as things grow more and more difficult, with more and more obstacles in their way.

Violence

Scenes inside a gun shop, with many guns shown. Story about a person with a gun attacking a pizza parlor where families are eating. Images of police arresting that person. Angry berating, insulting. Rage, yelling, arguing. Upsetting social media posts.

Sex
Language

Strong bursts of language, with uses of "f--k," "f--king," "s--t," "bulls--t."

Consumerism

Walmart mentioned and shown (as part of conspiracy theory). Facebook mentioned and shown (Mark Zuckerberg's congressional hearing).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News is a documentary about several instances in which false or fraudulent information was deliberately spread, sometimes leading to violence. It's very upsetting but also informative and essential for older teens and up. Expect to see strongly violent imagery, from berating, insulting, shouting, and arguing to images of guns (some scenes are set inside a gun shop), stories of someone with a gun attacking a restaurant, images of the attacker being arrested, and images of ugly social media postings. Strong bursts of language include uses of "f--king," "bulls--t," and "s--t." The movie warns viewers not to trust things they see on Facebook and other social media platforms without question.

Wondering if After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News is OK for your kids?

Parents: Set preferences and get age-appropriate recommendations with Common Sense Media Plus. Join now

Continue reading Show less

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

In AFTER TRUTH: DISINFORMATION AND THE COST OF FAKE NEWS, several alarming instances of "fake news" are explored, beginning with the so-called "Pizzagate." Based on the hacked emails of Hilary Clinton's campaign manager, conspiracy theorists decided that the Comet Ping Pong pizza parlor in Washington, D.C., was the hub of a human trafficking/child-sex ring. Alt-right radio personality Alex Jones perpetuated the theory, and finally someone armed with a gun attacked the restaurant. Other conspiracy theories involve a military training exercise, the murder of Democratic National Convention employee Seth Rich, and an attempt to smear and discredit special counsel Robert Mueller with a fake sex scandal. Ultimately, the documentary concludes that fake news is the equivalent of weaponry, that its use is dangerous, and that there's no clear end in sight.

Is it any good?

One journalist compares sorting through "fake news" to "bathing in garbage," and, indeed, this documentary is a very tough sit, but it also offers tools for viewers to start identifying this poison. Directed by Andrew Rossi (of the terrific Page One: Inside the New York Times), After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News is a complex disentangling of its subject -- and, in the end, it offers no clear answers. But it includes many unforgettable moments, mainly the emotional results of the featured disinformation attacks, such as anger and sorrow. Comet Ping Pong owner James Alefantis is heartbreakingly uncomfortable talking about his story, and he finally breaks down while telling it.

In another sequence, a press conference is held by alt-right lobbyist Jack Burkman and conspiracy troll Jacob Wohl to try to convince mainstream journalists that special counsel Mueller has been accused of sexual assault. The journalists see right through the ruse, but the trolls keep doubling down, apparently without shame. One reporter angrily explains that he didn't even run the story because mentioning it at all would give more power to the lies. Another scene shows the aggressive, acerbic Jones raging at and berating a CNN reporter for being "fake" (ironically) and even having it filmed. It's enormously upsetting -- as are many other moments in After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News -- but it's also informative and essential.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News' depiction of violence. How did the movie make you feel? How does violence in the form of words and threats compare to physical conflict?

  • In what ways can you find out if a news story is "fake"? What does "media literacy" mean in the context of fake news?

  • How would you describe the movie's opinion of social media platforms? Do you agree? Why, or why not?

  • One interviewee used "fake news" to sway voters into selecting a liberal politician rather than an alt-right one. Did he do the right thing? Do "two wrongs make a right"? Does the fact that "everybody is doing it" make something OK?

  • Have you ever unknowingly reposted or helped spread a fake news story or a rumor? How did you feel about it later? What could you do to stop it?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love documentaries

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate