It’s the current buzzword in the political arena – fake news.
When Donald Trump threw those soundbites at CNN accusing the news organisation of falsely reporting that he, (now President of the United States), was compromised by Russian intelligence, he caused an uproar, and the buzz phrase immediately became the trend.
So, what exactly is fake news? It’s structured lies developed into news articles that spread like wildfire via social media with the sole aim of misinforming readers. It can be anything from an outright hoax to deliberately misleading propaganda, but always with a political purpose. The objective is to get the reader to believe something that is not true but, more importantly, to create confusion and get that same reader to doubt everything, including real news.
Mr Trump and many other politicians are shamelessly out to profit from fake news. They throw the buzz phrase back to their critics when they find themselves cornered with nowhere to go. Their intention is to undermine the credibility of the media that is critical of their dealings and associations. They shrug off press reports as fake news because they want their own version of reality to remain unchallenged and unquestioned.
That the story eventually turns out to be true, as in the case of CNN’s reports on Donald Trump’s Russian entanglements, is another matter. The point being made here is that unscrupulous politicians will insist on shooting the messenger by wielding power and influence granted to them by their privileged status in the hope of killing the actual message. It is a direct attack on journalism.
If truth be told, these tactics are not a novelty, and fake news has always existed within sections of the media that presented false or partially untrue stories as fact. So why has the term dominated the news recently? Essentially, it’s to do with the power of Facebook’s top stories algorithm when, during the last three months of the US presidential campaign, fake news stories from hoax sites generated more shares, comments and reactions than real news content from major news sites.
How can we tell the difference between fake and real news? Well, to start with, we should check the source. In our eagerness to share everything on social media sites like Facebook, we may not be aware that we’re disseminating false information and propaganda. In other words, lies and more lies.
If a story with a headline such as The Pope has Endorsed Donald Trump for President is as big as it is true, then it’s expected to feature as a headline-grabber in all the leading news portals, in both online and printed versions. If it doesn’t appear everywhere, then it cannot be real. In fact, it was not.
We are living in the era of post-truth politics, when emotions are more influential than objective facts, and when dishonesty seems to be the order of the day. Sadly, we’re choosing to ignore something the world has known since its creation – that only the truth will set us free.