December 2016        

“False news” how are you!

Robert Navan

The term “false news” has been getting a lot of attention in the media since the election of Donald Trump.
     So far there doesn’t seem to be a satisfactory explanation of the term, or a definition of just what constitutes false news. Does it, for instance, include the kind of lies constantly spewed out by the likes of Fox News? Does it include the acceptance by nearly all the mainstream media in the United States (and many other countries) of the lie about “weapons of mass destruction” that was used as an excuse for the war on Iraq?
     We all know the consequences of that lie, and the hundreds of thousands of lives lost and still being lost.
     On Saturdays the Irish Times rolls out its big guns in the Opinion and Analysis page. Patrick Smyth in his column on 19 November (“Fake news is bad news for Facebook”) quotes a report on Buzzfeed News that “the best way to attract and grow an audience for political consent is to eschew factual reporting and instead play to partisan biases using false or misleading information that simply tells people what they want to hear.”
     This is by way of a complaint about Facebook. Many people on the left would probably feel that this is an apt description of the everyday work of the mainstream media; but “eschewing factual reporting” seems to be quite a good definition of false news.
     The Irish Times took up the theme a few times over the following days, and Angela Merkel also got in on the act, but nowhere to be found was a definition of what constitutes “false news.” Anybody who regularly visits the internet, especially Facebook, will be aware that there’s a fair amount of nonsense and stories that need to be taken with a grain of salt.
     The recent death of Fidel Castro has proved to be a major occasion for most of the media to eschew factual reporting. The main thrust of most news items and opinion columns was constant repetition of words and phrases such as dictator, tyrant, murderer, human-rights abuser, torturer, and labour camp overseer. The list is endless, but the requirement to furnish some proof of these claims or any attempt to back them up with facts has been forgone. There’s a saying that is attributed to Joseph Goebbels: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
     Goebbels went on to state that “the truth is the greatest enemy of the state.” The latter words might explain the rush to condemn the Cuban Revolution. After all, one of the biggest threats to our western economic system is the threat of a good example.
     In the Irish Times of 30 November 2016 Kathy Sheridan had a column headed “Michael D got it wrong on Castro.” In scraping the bottom of the barrel to illustrate claims of torture in Cuba, she mentioned the case of Hugo Matos. If she means Huber Matos Benítez, one-time comrade of Fidel’s, she didn’t mention that he was released from prison in 1979, or that he may have been involved in a CIA plot to overthrow the government of Cuba.
     Even if we ignore the latter possibility it seems a bit desperate to dredge up a piece of history that is thirty-seven years old. One wonders how many torture victims have flown through Shannon Airport on rendition flights since 1979!
     For many people on the left of society it’s not so much about “false news”: it’s mainly that our mainstream news and opinion is so one-sided, biased and often inaccurate that it is perceived by many as false. In fact social media and access to alternative sources of information on the internet have often been the only means of getting truthful and accurate news.
     A mischievous person might suggest that the anger from the mainstream media commentators is because they are in danger of losing their monopoly of “false news.”

Home page  >  Socialist Voice  >  December 2016  >  “False news” how are you!
Baile  >  Socialist Voice  >  Nollaig 2016  >  “False news” how are you!