Of all of Trump’s rants, Fake News riles me most

The East African - - OPINION -

There truly are many won­ders in this life, like the Don­ald Trump pres­i­dency in the US that is hap­pen­ing to us all. While it is true that spend­ing time away from so­cial me­dia is healthy for you, and at this point it is also pru­dent, it is al­most im­pos­si­ble to look away from Trump’s Twit­ter ac­count.

I am not ashamed to ad­mit that he has me mes­merised to the point where the daily news sweep has to start with him. First, to make sure he hasn’t doomed us all to nu­clear war and once that fear has been al­layed just to see what has an­gered him.

Just by be­ing him­self, Pres­i­dent Trump has sin­gle hand­edly done things to the me­dia that I don’t think we have fully grasped yet. But the one that re­ally has me riled up is the Fake News is­sue. It seemed like such an eas­ily dis­missed joke at first, some­thing that a school­yard bully with no imag­i­na­tion would come up with. But if he has one skill, Pres­i­dent Trump can re­peat him­self to the end of days. Now this term has gained trac­tion.

What was wrong with all the old terms? They are so much more pre­cise. You can ac­cuse jour­nal­ists of bias, mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion, hav­ing poor facts, pro­pa­ganda. All per­fectly solid no­tions. But Fake News is just a hor­ri­ble ob­fus­ca­tion that makes ev­ery­one’s me­dia ex­pe­ri­ence worse. If only it had been con­tained in the US. Now it has spread to other do­mains. I am start­ing to see it crop up in lo­cal dis­cus­sions. It used to be that with rich po­lit­i­cal dis­cus­sions on pub­lic plat­forms like, say, Twit­ter, peo­ple could ve­he­mently dis­agree with each other with­out calling the facts they were dis­agree­ing about into ques­tion. Now all one has to do to scut­tle a good de­bate is claim Fake News and watch all the de­cency drain out of it. Worse yet is what it has done to jour­nal­ists.

Then Trump started re­peat­ing that aw­ful term and now me­dia is un­der siege all over the world Fake News has the power to con­vince peo­ple that facts and opin­ions are interchangeable.”

But of all the var­i­ous kinds of writ­ers there are, for some rea­son jour­nal­ists are seen as the worst of the bunch. More times than I care to re­call, I have heard peo­ple use the term as a pe­jo­ra­tive. So, jour­nal­ism is not an easy work en­vi­ron­ment, but it was still some­what de­cent and grounded.

Things were start­ing to look up with a lib­eral me­dia en­vi­ron­ment.

Then Trump started re­peat­ing that aw­ful term, Fake News. And now me­dia is un­der siege all over the world, and regimes that are dis­in­clined to scru­tiny or crit­i­cism have a new weapon at their dis­posal. Fake News has the power to con­vince peo­ple that facts and opin­ions are interchangeable. And that what you feel is how the world works.

At least be­fore this sit­u­a­tion, lies were lies and one could al­ways re­sort to courts of law over li­bel. Now ev­ery­thing passess through the court of pub­lic opin­ion and pub­lic opin­ion has lost its re­spect for fac­tu­al­ity. As a con­se­quence jour­nal­ists are, again, stuck do­ing thank­less work in in­creas­ingly dan­ger­ous con­di­tions.

Of course I am bi­ased. I love jour­nal­ism and jour­nal­ists and suf­fer from a ter­ri­bly ro­man­tic view of the me­dia. But be­neath that is a gen­uine ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the for­mat. How bor­ing, provin­cial and nar­row would life be with­out our me­dia peo­ple? How many times have in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ists saved us from the worst of our­selves?

It is not called the Fourth Es­tate for noth­ing. And that is what this Fake News dis­ease is at­tack­ing. The part of me that is rec­on­ciled to nu­clear win­ter and no longer fears Trump. But the part of me that loves jour­nal­ism will for­ever de­spise him for that Fake News dis­ease he has vis­ited upon us. Elsie Eyakuze is a con­sul­tant and blog­ger for The Mikocheni Re­por. E-mail: elsieeyakuze@gmail.com

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