Daryl Ilbury

Fake news? Nothing new.

In media, Politics, Scoundrels on January 24, 2017 at 8:47 am

gadaffi-was-a-woman1Mainstream media is getting all frothy about ‘fake news’ as if it’s a new thing. It isn’t of course. So why all the bother? There are two reasons, but before I get to them, let me explain why it’s nothing new.

I took this photo while walking past my local newsagent on the Sunday after the death of Muammar Gaddafi, the deposed leader of Libya, on 20th October 2011. The paper claimed that according to an autopsy, Gadaffi was…well, you can read it in the headline.

Now you have to be a special kind of stupid to believe something like that, and yet there would have been readers breathlessly repeating this story over a beer or a cup of tea later that day. Of course, there would have been others who would’ve laughed about it.

The fact is, it was written by a ‘journalist’, edited and then published by a mainstream newspaper. All along the process, it would’ve been known the story was fake, but it was published nonetheless.

But there was a subtle nod to the possible dodgy nature of the story in the masthead. UK tabloids such as The Sun, The Mirror, Daily Star and Sunday Sport, publicly herald their tabloid nature right there on the front page, in their title: white, on a red background. It’s almost like a warning flag: ‘herein lies possible fake news’. In a way, it’s honest subterfuge.

And that’s one of the reasons why the fake news you’re hearing about in the mainstream news is such a big deal: it’s more insidious. It appears alongside real news under mastheads that seem so, well, ‘non-tabloid’. Readers no longer have the red tab to warn them. The people writing the stories also don’t seem to do so with a wry eye; more with the equivalence of malice aforethought. To make things worse, the stories are finding a firm footing in that most unguarded of news outlets: social media.

The second reason for the noise about ‘fake news’ is tied to the fact that it’s running amok from the conceiving grasp of mainstream media; and there’s a word for that: guilt.

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