Fake News is a bane of modern media. I do not like it; others despise it. Those in power looking for conspiracy theories and obscurantism love it, surely. But how does this affect the general public’s perception and trust in the mainstream media, or even media generally?
Fake News is a unique oxymoron. It’s like false narrative instead of fantasy. It really is like saying, “True Fable.” It just sounds awful and off, but it’s the theme of 2017. In the era of social media, we have periods, and one is the fake news period. Whether spread by Russian bots or disgruntled members of society, it’s really a calamity for truth in democracies relying on them. Truth isn’t simply a value amongst a bunch of others. It could arguably be one from which many others derive meaning. What use is validity and reliability in scientific data if it’s falsely reported?
The news is a precious commodity in what I would probably lean into calling the commons. The commons, or the public good in the way the forests and most things in them were considered several centuries ago. I feel as though the news in an era of mass communication could and should be at least partially placed in that category. Democracies need informed educated – formal or otherwise – citizens capable of critical thinking. Those able to see through the nonsense spread by hundreds of Russian bots about Brexit or any other issue. If they are able but don’t, or are unable because they can’t, then we’re in for a real mess into the future.
We’re into a future where whatever dictates a leader gives on a whim goes completely unquestioned, not simply by a few but by everybody. Then that’s a recipe for a democracy deteriorating into an oligarchic plutocracy such as Russia, or an autocratic-leaning state such as the Philippines with Duterte, or even theocratic and a mixture of the aforementioned – as we find in Saudi Arabia.
So, has this made believing in the news more difficult? For me, it has made believing in the mainstream media narrative more difficult because it is not the same now. Reality is in competition with unreality, constructing viewpoints unlike ever before. Mostly, it is the speed with which misinformation and disinformation can spread. I fear this can bring out the worst parts of us.
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