Fake news is a problem on the Internet, but look who is talking
Donald Trump is now the President-designate of the US and Democrats and liberals are driving themselves crazy trying to pin the blame on something or someone to make sense of exactly what happened. Most of the Democrats-friendly media was so sure of Hillary Clinton becoming the president that Newsweek published an issue in advance showing Hillary Clinton as president on the cover page and the Washington Post was already having a party in celebration of Hillary Clinton becoming the president. So wrong was their grasp of reality.
Since most of the liberals and Democrats are not in the habit of self-analysis (so self-assured they are) they’re looking for a whipping boy at every nook and corner and finally they seem to have found one: fake news on the Internet.
Fake news on the Internet is a serious problem but fake news as a concept isn’t unique to the Internet or something unique to the recent rise of Donald Trump. The people who have benefited from the concept of disseminating fake news the most are actually the Liberals and intellectuals that subscribe to an ideological bent of mind that underpins the political posturing of the Democrats (I know, a bit longer sentence). In the name of serious news many misinformation campaigns are carried out.
Barack Obama may be genuinely expressing his concern about the rising menace of fake news on the Internet and the sort of impact it has had on the recently-conducted presidential elections, it isn’t just one side that benefits from fake news, and unless this is accepted on a broader scale, no lasting solution can be found.
Also, if you think that people are believing more in fake news rather than real news, why exactly are they doing so? You can be condescending and assume that people are not smart enough, or you can go to the root cause of the problem that may eventually solve your own problem.
In India we have had what they call “atrocity literature” that is just another form of fake news. Atrocity literature is used by individuals and organizations in India to tell it to the world what sort of atrocities are being committed on minorities and people of lower castes in India. Most of these are fake news but since they are propagated by the so-called “prestigious sources” people all over the world lap them up like gospel truths.
Just like Donald Trump, immediately after Narendra Modi became the PM there was a deluge of news about minorities being targeted. There was this news about churches being vandalized in Delhi because Christians were being targeted and later on it was found these the so-called “attacks on churches” were simple cases of theft and break-ins.
In West Bengal there was news about is 70-year-old Christian nun being raped by Hindu fundamentalists and the news was covered by all mainstream newspapers in the West including Washington Post. Later on it was found that the dastardly act was carried out by Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh. The same mainstream news publications that had published multiple articles and opinion pieces on Hindu fundamentalists raping a Christian nun suddenly moved on and there wasn’t even a single article or opinion piece telling the truth.
Take this video as another example:
In this video the world-renowned author and human rights activist explains to a Western audience that the people burned alive in Godhra (the act that triggered the 2002 Gujarat riots) were “pilgrims” coming back from the destroyed Babri Masjid, insinuating that the occupants of the ill-fated bogies were not innocent. The mosque was demolished in 1992 and she was talking about an incident that happened in 2002 but observe how she is mixing up both the events to drive-forth her agenda of demonizing the victims. This is just a small instance I could quickly find because I remembered it.
Another dude cooked up the story about him being threatened by an autorickshaw driver because he was carrying a leather bag made of cowhide. Later on he confessed that he made up the story because he hates Hindus (cow is considered holy by Hindus).
The point is not that this person created a fake news story, the point is, whereas every major English-speaking online and off-line news publication — both Indian and international — published articles about how this person was targeted by a Hindu autorickshaw driver for carrying a leather bag made of cowhide, nobody followed up with the actual story. The moment the truth came out, the topic was dropped. This happens all the time. A fake news is published but when it is revealed that it was fake news, nobody does a follow-up.
Publications that do a follow-up are immediately labelled as communal and Right-wing.
In America there has been a spate of such stories where African Americans and other immigrants are being targeted by people emboldened by Donald Trump’s victory. A Muslim woman made up a story about her being attacked by Donald Trump supporters.
Hundreds of such stories about various atrocities and injustices being committed in India are constantly planted. Yes, atrocities and injustices happen in every society but in this case, the number of occurrences are multiplied hundreds of times. The problem is less about mistakenly publishing fake news and more about not undoing the damage later, purposely.
These instances may seem grim for a technology blog but what I’m trying to explain is if fake news is a problem the source of this problem is being looked for all the wrong places. Yes, the supporters of Donald Trump may had planted many fake news stories like “Hillary Clinton is actually a giraffe”, the real, more sinister fake news comes from the side of the Democrats. In India, more vicious and sinister fake news comes from the Indian Left-lib-intellectual class. These bits of fake news don’t just have political impacts, they have lasting social and cultural impacts that go very deep.