Friday, February 3, 2017

Talking about Fake News

Ever since Donald Trump beat virtually everybody to be elected to the US Presidency, a lot of talk has been going around about 'fake news' being the means by which Trump managed to 'fool' the electorate, because of course those who voted for Clinton were the enlightened lot. This has been attributed to some sly teenagers in Eastern Europe, or to a 400 pound person in bed. The term was then taken over by Trump when he called CNN, 'fake news', which he has used repeatedly. It goes perhaps to the political genius of Trump that he showed the mirror to the mainstream media and used their own term on them!

But the term 'fake' has a certain connotation to it - it implies that everything coming from the media is the truth. In that respect, it is as much as a condemnation as it is self-praise. Except that it isn't true - the credibility of the media, world-over, is at such a low that hardly anybody believes what so-called journalists say. The trend of 'celebrity journalists' - people who are better known for their opinions than their ability to report news - has only added to this.
What we get from the media today is some facts, massively distilled through the fire of the journalist's personal opinions. And, as media is increasingly controlled by a few big corporations, these journalists then to be a part of the elite, possibly the most-hated class in the world today (and perhaps since the dawn of history?). Thus, trust in the media has declined. It didn't help that most big media houses were confidently proclaiming that Clinton would win the elections, and had to eat crow when Trump won.

So what really is fake news? There is the obvious candidate - downright untruths peddled as facts. But there is a more subtle form of fake news: opinions masquerading as facts. It used to be called propaganda once, but today it is basically CNN every night. The death of 'truth' came when news and opinions were melded seamlessly on prime time news. Trump has merely reminded the media of that 'fact'.

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