'Fake news' to be major
issue as Trump takes power
By Cary Brunswick
The proliferation of managed news, propaganda and fake news, which often are outright lies, will be one of the major issues of the new year and likely in the years to come. And that is only because so many people believe them.
I don’t like the term “fake news,” though I’ve often used it myself. News that is not true, or at least is not based on facts, is a lie. Placing the word “news” in the phrase “fake news” lends too much credibility to what is really a lot of bull. A lie.
It doesn’t matter what the motive is for those who want to spread lies on the Internet. They are still lies, and fact that so many people take them to be truth has become one of our era’s major problems.
And you’re right. It doesn’t help that the president-elect is always telling lies that most people seem to believe are facts.
Lies, presumably, have been around since humans first learned to talk instead of grunt, though even the meaning of those sounds and gestures could be used to convey untruths. Lying, about your neighbor at least, was prevalent enough to be forbidden in the Ten Commandments, though far down on the list at No. 9.
With the invention of the printing press in the 15th century it became possible to disseminate lies to a much wider audience rather then relay their passage by word of mouth. And, often, it was almost impossible to know the difference between what was true and what was not.
In the 19th century, newspapers openly had a point of view and in our own country often were known as Republican or Democratic in their slant on the news and opinion. It wasn’t until early in the last century that the ideal of objective journalism gained favor, leading readers, listeners and eventually viewers to trust their sources of information. That trust, however, made it possible for authoritarian governments, such as the Nazis in Germany, to fire up propaganda machines. Other governments, including our own, often tried to manage the news, and that practice continues today.
“If statements were printed, they must be true” was a belief that, unfortunately, has carried over to our modern digital age. The Internet and social media have made the
spreading of lies instantaneous and too many people suffer from the delusion that whatever is posted online must be true.
The late media critic and television producer Danny Schechter warned of “fake or fudged news” as early as 2000, before the prevalence of social media. “As individuals, we also have to take responsibility for our own media choices,” he said then, cautioning that “reliance on minimal sources can be dangerous to mental health and growth.”
President George W. Bush and his administration were experts at managing the news and lying to convince the public that an invasion of Iraq was warranted and necessary. And Bush and his cohorts were notorious for handpicking town-meeting audiences and even staging fake news conferences.
And now, with all the social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and so many websites that have an ax to grind in one way or another, it is becoming more difficult for even open-minded people to know when the news they encounter is bogus. After all, people can be convinced to buy certain products by advertisers, so it’s not surprising they will believe what they see on the Internet.
The outlook is not positive, according to historian and author Jacob Soll, who wrote in Politico magazine recently that real news is not coming back in a meaningful way because so many people do not “rely on professionally reported news sources and so much news is filtered via social media and by governments.
“And as real news recedes,” he continued, “fake news will grow. We’ve seen the terrifying results this has had in the past -- and our biggest challenge will be to find a new way to combat the rising tide.”
Facing that challenge will be even more difficult under a Donald Trump presidency. We can expect more strenuous attempts to control the flow of real news and, through lies and fakery from his bully pulpit, the touting of his vision of our nation and the world.