We’ve seen a lot about fake news lately – from the Cambridge Analytica scandal to Donald Trump’s Twitter, everyone is talking about it. But have we actually sat down and thought about it? How did we turn from inquisitive minds to gullible masses?
Fake news is not new, people and governments have been lying to the masses in one form or another since the beginning of time. Rewriting the past or even the present takes many shapes and forms. However, in the most connected era of all time, is there still an excuse for allowing this to happen?When information started coming out that there may have been Russian interference in the US election through the spread of disinformation (another form of Cold War, something the Russians know a thing or two about), what we needed to ask is how they managed to convince so many people.
We need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves: how did we get here? Why were we so willing to believe anything and everything that was spoon-fed to us? I’ll give it to the Russians, they’re probably quite good at what they do. A good lie always involves a certain degree of truth. So the alternative stories they proposed would have always been appealing. Still, this was not some vicious attack where a guy hits someone over the head with a bat and steals their wallet. No. For the manipulation to work, we would have had to see that guy, decide he is trustworthy, open the door to our house and let him in. And when the time came to cast a ballot, we apparently wilfully handed him our wallet.
So in this race to find the guilty party, should governments, the media and, indeed, individuals take a step back and own up to at least part of the responsibility?
If we’re unhappy with the result of an election, then it’s up to us to make sure next time we all do better. Those sitting there screaming now should have put their backs into making sure their friends, neighbours, family or colleagues were exposed to not just social media propaganda, but also other perspectives in order to actually understand the events of our time. So many of us did nothing. One hopes there is a lesson to be learned.
And I agree with James Comey: if people are unhappy with the result of an election or vote, they should vote differently next time and take charge of their own destinies. Our role, as the media, is to make sure that, however people vote, they are aware of what their choices entail. The same goes for governments etc.
We are all dealing with a generalised crisis of faith, and hoping for some miracle does not do what we need the democratic system to do: make people take responsibility and put in the effort to actually understand reality.
The real one, that is.
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