The poison of fake news

You’ll never understand the pain of being at the opposite end of fake news until you are the one feeling it. Too many people have personally suffered or had their lives shattered by fake news. Few months before the election in 2016 a local morning paper quoted me in a made-up story saying that my opponent won thanks to corruption. Since the election was months away this was a deliberate lie. When I confronted the newspaper I was told, “it’s normal for writers to be creative when trying to make a point. No biggie”. Not only was I severely criticized, but my opponents greedily used this item during the campaign.

Fake news is not new. Pheme, the Greek Goddess of false news, was described as having multiple tongues and destabilizing those seduced by her trumpet thousands of years ago (see photo). I get that exaggeration and errors are inevitable in journalism, but fake news is something else -and much more dangerous: it is the spread of deliberate misinformation or fabricated stories with the intent to gain financially, politically or in popularity.

The bigger danger of fake news is when people act on misinformation. Hannah Arendt, in “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” asserted, “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi [..], but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction no longer exists.” Fake news has pointed out a major flaw of our democracy: it is unsuccessful in guaranteeing good governments since it is subject to the irrationality which fake news today exploits. I have argued before that the time has come to evaluate our Western-style democracy which has not been reviewed since it inspired the French Revolution in the 18th century. Paradoxically the internet’s democratization of news outlets has proven a danger to democracy. People don’t really believe what they’re reading in the mainstream media, so they’re even more prone to want to believe other things that people are spreading.

Fake news is like poison that is injected in small doses. It undermines the very fundamentals of a democratic society. So how do we stop it? A handful of countries are in the process of preparing legalization to curb this. One difficulty they face is to come up with a consistent definition of fake news. The second important difficulty is deciding who is going to implement such laws. Governments? Mainstream media? Why trust them if they themselves are sometimes part of the fake news problem? A more viable alternative seems to be independent fact-checking organisations to fight the problem. But maybe the most durable solution is to educate people how to pick up and understand what is fake.

I do not have a silver bullet. I do not think anyone does. What I do suggest is for us to have a national conversation on this matter. Sooner rather than later. Our peace of mind and democracy depend on it.

 

 

Author: alexdavidrosaria

Alex Rosaria is from Curaçao. He has a MBA from University of Iowa. He was Member of Parliament, Minister of Economic Affairs, State Secretary of Finance and United Nations Development Programme Officer in Africa and Central America. He is an independent consultant active in Asia and the Pacific.

3 thoughts on “The poison of fake news”

  1. I vision an agressive educational program including sosiology, politics and philosophy at a very early stage. This can be included in story telling sessions, philosophy, history, arts formation and civil-formation classes. These elements should be compulsory and managed by an independend social scientific platform. To safeguard the independent status of this platform and its authoroty it should be led (on a honorary status) by the govenor (out of reach of the popular vote for this matter is not to be handled in non scolar hands). The minister of Education should take care of the teaching conditions(school buildings, materials and teachers, pedagogics and cognitive content). This social scientific plaform should lead and complement the social philosophical aspects into the curiculum. To avoid conflicts in guidance it is of importance that this merge of contents is to be mandatory and managed by a social scientific board. Popular management (politics and democracy as we know it) is a treat and a weakening approach for the stability of the society. It may seem rigid, yet an independat civil and scientific formation platform may well be the pilar on which a society can grow.

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  2. I can agree with most of your points. Important is that this be independent of the press (Transparency International correctly said that this sector is performing way below par) and independent of politics. I would not have the Governor get involved with this however.

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    1. Thank you for your consideration, which I appreciate.
      The govenor as the proces manager is in nature a extra/non political person yet with and submited to the laws and regulations democraticaly.
      The ministerial and parlament power is political and thus not scientific nor logical by nature.
      The issue, social philosophical formation is to be handeled with non partial care.
      There can also be an agent such as the ombudsman with suficient mandate and independent by law to function,

      I am curious of your consideration of the person/player or function that would be the most appropiate and why?

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