WITH DAN AGBESE
themselves to the scene. But there is no let up, what with the khaki not looking so shiny any more. We would be asked to choose between the corrupt and the less corrupt. There are no angels in politics. All the hallows in politics are tainted. Never forget that.
Facts sans facts. Facts without facts are a common media fare in an election season. They usually consist of false information dressed up properly as facts intended to damage a political opponent. A dead giveaway is when a politician calls God as his witness that the facts he places before you are facts. The obvious difficulty here is that neither the editor nor his reporter can call on the almighty to authentic the facts given to them. If, therefore, the editor takes the politician’s word for it, he is likely to do worse than goof. The politician who readily swears is a dangerous news source.
Forged documents. This is a serious problem in an election season. My first serious experience with this was in 1983 when I was editor of the New Nigerian. One morning, my managing director dumped a large brown envelope on my desk and told me it was from the minister. No, it did not contain money. It contained a 32-page document. It detailed a purported plan by one of the leading politicians of that era to send the Shagari administration packing with the force of arms.
The document seemed believable with all its lurid details but it was entirely fake. Expect politicians in all the political parties to dump similar forgeries on editors. No editor can be too careful. The rule of the thumb here is: if you cannot independently cross-check a document, the chances are, it is a forgery.
Fake news. This is a new global development. As noted earlier, fake news is manufactured information with little or no basis in fact. It is targeted at achieving some sinister or unholy objectives. It would be a mistake to think that our politicians are not sufficiently adept at this. I believe they are. If it comes to this to secure some political advantages, none of them would hesitate to resort to it. The problem with fake news is that it comes from multiple sources. It has the capacity to relentlessly bombard the public space. It operates on the principle that falsehood repeatedly purveyed by the media morphs into truth. Remember Goebbels and the Nazi propaganda machine and be wise.
The brown envelope. This usually refers to money distributed to reporters at news conferences. The brown envelope has mutated into a more intractable system by which politicians manipulate the news media to suit their purposes. The size of their generosity cannot be contained in a brown envelope any more. Beware of the suddenly rich reporter on the political or business beat.
The blame game. Someone in the past did not do well by the country and its people, hence we are where we are now. In politics, failure is usually blamed on others. It is the name of the game. Political campaigns are official times for self-promotion. Always read between the lines.