An excerpt from my latest column for the International New York Times on the panic about fake news:
In the past, governments, mainstream institutions and newspapers manipulated news and information. Today, anyone with a Facebook account can do it. Instead of the carefully organized fake news of old, there is now an anarchic outflow of lies. What has changed is not that news is faked, but that the old gatekeepers of news have lost their power. Just as elite institutions have lost their grip over the electorate, so their ability to define what is and is not news has also eroded.
The panic about fake news has given fuel to the idea that we live in a ‘post-truth’ era. The Oxford English Dictionary has even made post-truth its ‘word of the year’, defining it as ‘circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’. But just as with fake news, the truth, if I may still use that word, about post-truth is more complex than many allow.
Read the full article in the International New York Times.
The image is from a collage by C McCutch.
You quote highly relevant historical examples, but I do not think you could find precedent within a democracy of the repeated and sustained promulgation of falsehood by the pro-Brexit anti-immigrant UK press, or the mass fabrication of absurd fake news by the Trump campaign, compared with which the global warming denialist movement is a paradigm of objectivity, or the contempt for facts shown by the current US administration-in-waiting.
Nor does your article begin to explain the great success of the Brexiteers and Trumpists in persuading those who see themselves as having lost out to globalisation, to vote for policies or Presidents that will make their own situation worse. I hope that you will return to these themes.
“Many liberals see such voters as “deplorables.””
The writer’s last question is why that sentence of yours is true.
Very nice. Whether we like it or not, fake news is free speech.
Given the venue it might have been appropriate to also reference Walter Duranty’s reporting from Stalin’s USSR. (“Any report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration or malignant propaganda” he wrote in 1933 in the NYT.)