MEET MR SWENEKAF
Black And Scottish -
The more sinister aspect of the social media phenomenon raised its ugly head once more in BBC Scotland’s Black And Scottish, an otherwise life-affirming documentary made by black film-maker Stewart Kyasimire and featuring his beautiful, bright and bouncy eight-year-old daughter, Yasmin.
At one point, Ncuti Gatwa, a young actor, born in Rwanda and raised in Scotland, recalled his schooldays in Dunfermline, when a bunch of his classmates set up a Fake News: A True Story -
Have I Got News For You star Ian Hislop delved into the origins of one of Donald Trump’s favourite expressions with Fake News: A True Story. He started by taking us back to the 1830s, when an American newspaper printed a story about two men shooting each other over a dog. It was totally false. When a rival paper printed the same story, it was proof that the paper had been lifting articles from the paper that published the fake racist page with him as the target. Ncuti, after graduating from drama school in Glasgow, is now a highly successful actor with a featured role in a major American TV series to his name. I wonder how far his former tormentors will get in life.
That was one of the few downbeat moments in this affectionate look at the lives of three generations of black and mixed race people who were either born here or have spent so much of their lives here they are proud to call themselves Scottish. story. The clue was in the name of one of the men mentioned in the original story, a Mr Swenekaf, or Fakenews read backwards.
Hislop went on to have more fun with the story of the New York newspaper that, in 1835, claimed a high-powered telescope had discovered life on the moon. The story was serialised over a number of weeks, accompanied by lurid drawings of batwinged humans chasing unicorns, and indulging in peculiar sex acts. Hundreds of sensation-hungry readers queued outside the paper’s offices as each new edition hit the streets. Hislop was delighted to report that the paper in question was called The Sun. It sold for one sixth of the price of its rivals, and made millions for its proprietor.
The documentary took a more serious turn when Hislop revealed that, during the First World War, Britain’s Ministry of Information stood over a story that Germany was boiling down human flesh to make soap and explosives, even when the bureaucrats knew the story wasn’t true. The actual story was about animal flesh. The knock-on effect was that the world at large was inclined to be sceptical when, a generation later, reports of the Nazis’ Final Solution began to filter through.
Nurture won out over nature in more than one of the young men and women featured. One young woman, in a distinctly Glaswegian accent, told how her parents wanted her to behave like a proper African daughter, but she just wanted to be like her school pals. And, by the look and sound of her, she won.
Rastafarian and SNP councillor Graham Campbell said that his Scottish surname was proof of Scotland’s part in the slave trade, as the slaves were usually given
In more recent times, a story posted on social media claiming that Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton were running a paedophile ring from a Washington pizza parlour almost led to a bloodbath when one man believed every word of this hogwash. He travelled hundreds of miles, armed with an assault rifle, burst into the cafe and emptied his weapon into what he thought was the door to a tunnel leading to the White House. In the event, it was the door to a broom closet and all he did was riddle a couple of computers stored therein, but it could have been a lot worse. The irony of him shooting up the instruments that spread the story was not lost on the presenter.
The documentary’s main contention was that people will believe what they want to believe regardless of how incredible a story might seem to a more neutral audience.
A further contention was that Donald Trump’s constant use of the phrase fake news was an attempt to cast doubt on all news, thus muddying the waters, when true stories about him emerge.
There was much food for thought in the programme. It was a nice balance of humour and information, and Ian Hislop was just the man for the job. their owner’s name. He added “We’re walking exhibits of a crime scene,” but he did say it with a bit of a twinkle in his eye.
Perth comedian Bruce Fummey had a tear in his eye, as he waxed lyrically on the beauty of Scotland, but the last word went, deservedly, to young Yasmin: “I would want other black and mixed race girls to be brave. Don’t let other people hurt you. Just be yourself.” Spoken like a true Scot, if ever there was one.
Journalist, writer and broadcaster Ian Hislop was the perfect host for Fake News: A True Story