Jim Guy reveals the truth about fake news.
The truth about fake news
The idea of “fake news” has recently entered the public’s vocabulary. But it’s not new. We are constantly bombarded by disinformation in the media, false reviews online, false video testimonials and the centuriesold culture of false advertising.
Dishonest public information is out there and has been for a long time. Everybody knows the Internet conveys untrustworthy information at so many levels. And it shows us that all news/ information can be manufactured or concocted. Facebook and Google are only now beginning to take action against regularly using their platforms to disseminate false information.
It’s one thing to think of fake news as a prankish ploy by some news agencies within the vast media universe. But it’s quite another when governments deliberately engage in the practice. Journalists now have to navigate through a barrage of rumour and deception just got to get to the truth. Rumour has a dangerous presence in all of the news we consume – locally, nationally and globally.
In his terrifying novel, “1984,” George Orwell describes a “Ministry of Truth” which dispenses outright lies and propaganda. We know the real world consequences of false government information from when the Nazis created the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda under Joseph Goebbels, a master of illusion.
Governments that fabricate or turn their backs on the truth deliberately foster mass confusion and public doubt. Fabricating news stories can benefit a government, especially when the tainted information goes viral and infiltrates legitimate news feeds.
During the U.S. presidential election campaign and every day since his inauguration the president’s administration has twisted and stretched the truth. He has regularly attacked the national and international media, wanting to discredit the profession. His strategy is to create public doubt about how the media gather and report the news, especially about the president.
In the bubble of presidential advisors around this president, Kellyanne Conway made her alarming reference to the use of “alternative facts” – now the norm in presidential press releases. The administration denies obvious truth; they utter obvious lies. Could this alone be a predictor of dark times ahead?
Canada is not immune from the presence and spread of fake news. Fox News deliberately identified the shooter in the Quebec City Mosque killings as Moroccan. The truth is that he is a Canadian and Quebecois.
At the political level, Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch’s campaign manager admitted releasing false information. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s ministers were openly deceptive, often making blatantly false statements during Question Period. The Liberals can’t hide either. In fact, all parties have been in contempt of parliament in their utterances.
The opportunities are there in the social media to falsify the truth. Social media have become a free for all to manipulate political and government information.
The prime minister’s media arsenal as well as those of all premiers have the potential of regularly navigating the truth about their governments. Our governments do not always release the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Managing the spin and direction of the news is a desirable professional skill for a job in the Prime Ministers Office.
When journalists are too critical they can be “burnt” in retaliation. The government deliberately feeds them false information and they are burned by it when the story proves false. Fake news makes some journalists look foolish and threatens all of us. Under these circumstances, the first casualty of investigative journalism is the truth.
After all is said and done democracy is the real victim of manipulation by the media and the government. The only defence we have is public awareness and constant vigilance.