Donald Trump’s inauguration brought with it the term most used by this president and his office yet. The term ‘Fake News’ has been used by Trump and his team to oppose, debunk or slam any question they do not wish to answer. For the sake of clarification, this term means the spreading of false information that is manipulated to look like credible journalism mostly made possible and aided by social media. We have witnessed the leader of the Free World accuse prominent news agencies of falsifying information yet while viewers gawked at Trump’s administration the truth remains that most people around the world cannot distinguish between what is real news and what is fake.
Recent studies have shown that people tend to deem a piece of news false if its content stands in opposition to their ideological views and beliefs. Today the line between what is real and what is fake in the world of news has been well and truly blurred. The rapidity with which great quantities of information are dumped on people has created a silent infectious disease of mass confusion. This bombardment has left consumers of information exhausted, no longer having the energy to sift through the murk to discover the truth in a world of falsity and this is where the ailment of our society lies. People worldwide are receiving millions of fragmented stories, headlines and manipulated images on an hourly basis ranging from politics to health and even religion.
Message applications such as WhatsApp allow for the circulation of such information to the masses relying on a snowball effect starting from a single person’s contact list. The forwarding hysteria knows no time constraints for one could receive said message at any time of the day or night as if the fate of humanity depended on it. These ‘news/informative’ pieces whose origins are unknown and writers almost always anonymous are taken as truths thereby making their way into day to day conversations and even used as advice for self-medication remedies. The result is a culture that is guided by questionable information offering a shallow and debatable knowledge of the world.
As a direct consequence of this ‘surface-scratching’ culture we are witnessing the professional journalistic, scientific and educational institutions suffer for if readers no longer care about fact-checking, credibility or references where does that leave the entities that dedicate their entire resources towards their procurement?
It is indeed a sorrowful state that even in highly educated societies this affliction seems to be taking hold, a state that demands the valuing and aiding of credible sources. People must refuse to be a cog in the ‘Fake News’ churning machine by putting a halt to their instinctive forwarding habits for it is one thing to learn something false and another thing entirely to aid in teaching it as truth.
If a topic intrigues you, learn more about it, if a news piece moves you then find out the details and when approaching a conversation please do not make WhatsApp knowledge your only point of reference.
A society is but a sum of its parts and if its most crucial one, its knowledge, is although not lacking but has become tainted then a society’s future will be too. The stream of information that cuts through a society is ever-flowing; at times even flooding the world, much of it needs to be filtered because just like the rest of our planet we have managed to dump our waste in that too.
This article was first published in The Gulf Today newspaper on 26 Feb, 2017 http://bit.ly/2mqGcX7
Arabic version of this article was published in Al Khaleej newspaper http://bit.ly/2mj0ogS