Jim Guy re­veals the truth about fake news.

The truth about fake news

Cape Breton Post - - CAPE BRETON - Jim Guy Dr. Jim Guy, au­thor and pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of po­lit­i­cal sci­ence at Cape Bre­ton Univer­sity, can be reached for com­ment at jim_guy@cbu.ca.

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.

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