With the inauguration of the Trump presidency, the battlelines have been drawn in the contest between falsehoods and truth. Help is on its way as Alan Austin plucks a few useful tactics from his anti-humbug arsenal.
THE CONTEST between fabricating falsehoods and telling the truth is old as the story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Throughout modern history the balance has tipped one way and then the other.
The world is now in a dangerous new phase, as confirmed by three recent events.
The second – far more serious – was when Trump yelled at Acosta “your organisation is terrible!” and “you are fake news!” This followed a controversial CNN report the day before about Trump, Russia and the U.S. intelligence agencies.
It is a highly destructive development when those who do strive to report accurately in a world of rampant lying are falsely accused of being the fabricators. Especially by an elected national leader.
Hence definitions are important.
Wikipedia’s is reasonable:
‘Fake news is a type of hoax or deliberate spread of misinformation in social media or traditional news media with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically.’
That does not include CNN. It does include Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News. It includes hundreds of websites that have lied maliciously about Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton throughout the recent election campaign. Media watchdog fakenewschecker lists more than 370 websites which fit that definition. Confusingly, some have names such as World Truth, Accuracy in Media and Truth Feed.
Australia is a significant theatre of the current war. The three developed countries whose mainstream newspapers and TV have been most seriously contaminated by fake news are the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. This is principally the result of the malicious influence of media proprietor Rupert Murdoch.
His pace-setter in Britain was Kelvin MacKenzie, editor of The Sun in the 1980s. He shamelessly concocted stories damaging to politicians, celebrities and ordinary citizens with no remorse whatsoever.
That tradition has continued and flourished since. In 2012, a parliamentary inquiry found Rupert Murdoch was "not a fit person" to run a company.
Australia’s most notorious fake news generator is a “journalist” with Murdoch’s Herald Sun – Andrew Bolt – who has been found to have fabricated “news” by the Victorian Magistrates Court, the Supreme Court and the Federal Court.
In the notorious Eatock v Bolt case, the critical issue on which Bolt was found to have violated the racial discrimination act was his lack of truth.
The judge determined that
"... the facts asserted in the Newspaper Articles that the people dealt with chose to identify as Aboriginal have been substantially proven to be untrue."
'the critical issue on which Bolt was
found to have violated the racial
discrimination act was his lack of truth'
Bolt has also been found by academics and others to have fabricated or spread untruths regarding the environment, climate change, the stolen generations, Julia Gillard and other matters. Bolt is not alone in Murdoch’s Australian stable.
The third significant event this week in the battle for truth and openness was President Barrack Obama’s decision to commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning from 35 years to seven. This followed convictions relating to her sending 700,000 files containing classified information to WikiLeaks — and then on to the rest of the world.
Here – at last – was a blow struck for transparency. Yes, Manning broke the law, yes she was duly tried and convicted. But her conduct served more than any individual course of action in living memory to inform the world of vital realities which governments illegitimately wanted hidden.
‘These releases were a crucial historical event of the 21st century, and of the post-WW II order. Their particular effect was to expose the Afghan war as a bogged-down, directionless mess in which both Afghans and Allied soldiers were dying to no purpose, and to confirm the arrogance, hubris, deceit and mendacity that turned Iraq into a slaughterhouse and created the conditions for Islamic State to emerge ... Above all, it simply made us question why all this stuff should be secret: why should relations between states be conducted by “cables” between smirking Oxbridge graduates spread throughout the world?’
So the war intensifies. Fortunately, tactics for those who believe truth is worth protecting are available.
1. Refuse to pay for publications which lie. Yes, we should read them. We should read everything. But we should not support them. Nor should writers and other staff work for them.
2. Boycott advertisers who pay them. For example, access The Australian at the library and note the advertisers. Email them our intention to withdraw custom until they email back to say they have stopped funding that outlet.
3. Post “fake news” in the comments box after anything fabricated online. This will alert others and discourage the fabricators.
4. Report fake mainstream media stories to the Australian Press Council.
5. Advise MPs we will not vote for parties which, in government or opposition, advertise in fake news outlets.
7. Financially support publications which report accurately through subscriptions or donations. If we can contribute our talents also – as writers or promoters – then that too.
This campaign should unite conservatives – who want valued traditions safeguarded – and progressives – who want things improved. It should be joined by people of faith – all faiths – particularly those whose scriptures teach that Satan is the father of lies.
This will be fun some of the time, but frustrating and disappointing more often. We will not win every skirmish. But we will not lose them all either. Unless, of course, we walk away from the fight.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
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