It’s the latest invective political pundits and political morons throw at each other during those live panel debates on TV. Fake news is big news. Google it and you get more than 14 million hits. Donald Trump (who knows a thing or two about faking) didn’t invent fake news but his behaviour and prevarications produce an internet manure that helps fake news grow big and strong, or big and long, just like Pinocchio’s nose.
I think fake news is becoming easier and easier to sell because in this time of ugly partisan and personal attacks and counterattacks, more and more people are tempted to simply find the news that agrees with their point of view. And people are entertained and attach some credence to “truthiness” when late-night comics make us laugh. Meanwhile, Truth sits whimpering in the corner.
Before fake news gained a real toehold in the world of media, arguments were fought over which news agency or reporter said what about whom. Now debaters can just blurt out a fake news accusation and a story dies on the spot or is mortally wounded whether it was written by some faker or a seasoned journalist working for the New York Times or the Globe and Mail.
I saw a headline today suggesting that fake news is corroding democracy. I don’t think so. It’s living proof that democracy works and freedom of speech, subject to the laws of the land, is alive and well, even with all its warts.
The lesson for those trying to get their message out is to be doubly sure of the message. Inoculate the message as much as possible against a fake news flu. Do not say or write anything you can’t back up with hard facts. Be clear. Be straightforward. Do not mislead by excluding important facts. And if it isn’t true, don’t try to sell it to the rest of us. Once you are somehow implicated with a fake news story, remember that accusation can live on forever in our hyper-connected world.