When I was younger, much, much younger, I always had a tactic to avoid getting blamed by my parents for breaking something. A window with a football, a priceless vase or even the toaster (yes, that was my fault). I would firstly attempt to push the guilt onto my sister. And if that didn’t work, and most of the time it fell on deaf ears, I would then use tactic B – double down. “I might have smashed the vase but I almost broke the picture frame next to it that your great-great grandfather gave you.” This was my way, my early adventures, into doubling down. It seemed to work, to a certain degree at least. And if that failed I would basically deny it altogether, or as Trump is so often saying, it’s just “fake news.”
Of course those early childhood manners soon disappeared as soon as you get old enough to realise that sometimes you just need to hold up your hands and take your punishment. However, the Trump born term “fake news” seems to have caught on. And not just in the States. It quite clearly was “America First” (to use another Trumpism) but now the rest of the world is brandishing around “fake news” like it is a viable and meaningful phrase. In fact, the term was voted the phrase of the year in 2017, everyone loves it, even though it clearly doesn’t make sense.
The reason I am writing this is that over the past few months I have been accused of publishing “fake news” on more than one occasion. Oddly enough, and call me cynical if you like, the accusations have surrounded articles about Trump or the US in general. The more I dig, the more I research, the more it becomes as clear as the nose on my face that so called “fake news” is basically news that doesn’t suit your way of thinking. Whether it is positive or negative really doesn’t matter so much. If it is something you don’t want to hear then it is “fake.”
So does the same logic also apply to other bad news? If I get a letter from my bank to tell me I am massively overdrawn do I then reply to them saying that they are a “fake bank.” The doctor tells me to stop eating pršut or it will block my arteries and I will have a heart attack, no he is a “fake doctor.” The scales show that I am hideously overweight, “fakes scales.” A child is crying after falling from a swing, “fake tears.” A footballer misses an open goal, “fake striker.” The list could go on and on. I could have used this phrase when I was younger in fact. “Mark why are your school grades so bad this semester?” I can hear my mother questioning me. I should have said “Don’t worry, it’s fake news.” Although I have a feeling that I would still have been sent to my room to “think about what I have done!” You are late for work and your boss fires you, “it wasn’t my fault, I have a fake clock.”
The Telegraph wrote that “"Fake news" was not a term many people used 18 months ago, but it is now seen as one of the greatest threats to democracy, free debate and the Western order.” Strong words indeed. Or do we dismiss this as fake news as well.
Without doubt one of the factors that has led to this is social media. People find likeminded people and share news with each other. You need up with an echo chamber in which complete lies and untruths bounce around so much that people start to believe them. And then when they see an article that goes against this they are so shocked that it must be wrong. I am not saying that all news is “true news,” far from it, but if you consume what you read from a number of sources you can soon sort out the fluff from the truth. But if you only read articles with headlines that already fit in with your train of thought then of course you are going down a long, dark tunnel. Don’t get lost in the jungle of “fake news.” There is a reason that someone would like you believe that was it written is untrue. And it is probably the exact same reason I had when I tried hopelessly to convince my mother that I hadn’t broken the window but a “bird must have flown really fast straight into it.”
An American author once wrote “Honesty and integrity are absolutely essential for success in life - all areas of life. The really good news is that anyone can develop both honesty and integrity.”