We are so used to seeing “FAKE NEWS” at the end of one of Donald Trump’s erratic tweets that we may not realize how many others are using fake news and alternative facts.
During Brexit, the remain and the leave campaigns had entirely different figures on immigration. The public were given two figures for one subject. One was right and one was an alternative fact. It’s hard to spot the difference.
In Ireland, the Government released a waiting list for patients waiting on hospital care. An investigation by RTÉ, the state broadcaster, found the actual number to be higher if you considered those with an appointment date but still waiting. Again we have two lists, two different figures. Depending on your political or personal beliefs, one is a fact and the other is an alternative fact.
We could continue with a list of examples of alternative facts but the point is that alternative facts stem from dishonesty from the political elite. If the remain and leave campaigners have different numbers on immigration they should state clearly how they came to those figures.
- Do they include British citizens returning home from emigration?
- Do they include people who arrive in Britain just for a connecting flight?
- Do they exclude Irish people because of the Common travel agreement?
All these questions can lead to different answers and skewer the final figure and ultimately skewer public opinion. That of course is the aim of the politicians and their spin-doctors.
Fake news is different. Fake news is a lie. The infamous “Bowling Green Massacre” was a lie. Fake news is an attempt to smear the opponent and it appears if you are caught spreading fake news the punishment is minimal. So why not give it a go?
Fake news also keeps journalists and reputable news outlets chasing and investigating stories which do not exist and, as a result, take resources away from the stories that matter.
Following the inauguration of President Trump, the main broadsheet newspapers were discussing the “Fake News” of the crowd size on the Hill. Meanwhile, President Trump was signing executive orders under the radar.
It is up to reputable news organizations not to chase fake news and alternative media down the rabbit hole. Solid reporting will win out. But! In a war of opinion, alternative facts and fake news there will only be one winner.