Fake News is a buzzword of the moment; let’s face it, there’s always one or two buzzing around, and Fake News is currently a favourite for debate on TV and in the press. The CIA’s conviction that Fake News had a detrimental part to play in the recent US Presidential Election has been manifested as a finger-pointing exercise in the direction of Russia. However, the WikiLeaks revelations over American phone-tapping of prominent world leaders such as Angela Merkel that emerged a couple of years ago has been conveniently absent from the CIA narrative in this holier-than-thou exchange of playground taunts on the part of the super-powers.
The presumption by professional media people re Fake News is that Joe Public, denied the privilege of his parents paying for his education and therefore not being very bright, lacks the intellectual capacity to distinguish between the real and unreal when it comes to headlines and must be ‘protected’ from his stupidity by introducing regulation. Satirical news sites may pedal evidently untrue joke stories along the lines of those that constitute the middle section of Private Eye, with most being so patently ludicrous that only a complete cretin would mistake them for the genuine article; but these are not the sites in the sights of the would-be saviours of the plebs.
Curiously, those that seek to crush Fake News consider it a solely online stain on their honourable profession; the blatantly Fake News that Fleet Street and TV have promoted for decades has evaded their critical radar. The personal agenda of a newspaper or television station proprietor has a direct influence on its editorial, however much the media outlet denies it, and this facilitates Fake News on a grand scale. Ever since the ‘exposure’ of Jimmy Savile as the most evil human being ever to walk the earth in a tracksuit five years ago, the proliferation of Fake News that has spewed forth from the mainstream media has far exceeded the previous lies generated about Hillsborough or the McCann’s.
The cost-cutting pensioning-off of many of Fleet Street’s finest veteran scribes has seen them replaced by a generation for whom enough ‘victims coming forward’ in an ejaculation of juicy hearsay is sufficient verification for the accuracy of a story. Should the target be a dead man, all the better; but death is no impediment to Fake News, mainstream media style; and the latest ageing entertainer to earn the unenviable nickname ‘The Octopus’ is duly hung, drawn and quartered by the Court of Public Opinion as presided over by the press even before an actual Court of Law has had its say.
The notorious and utterly reprehensible BBC TV coverage of the police raid on the home of Cliff Richard probably did a good deal more damage to Sir Cliff’s reputation than a thousand online rumours simply because BBC TV reaches the kind of audiences an internet conspiracy theorist can only dream of. Consequently, to have the mainstream media and the political class laying the blame of society’s ills on the doorstep of social media is an astonishingly hypocritical accusation that underlines the arrogance of the mainstream media and its fear of competition emanating from the world outside the bubble.
The Old Boy Network that cannot be infiltrated by people who weren’t born into journalistic dynasties resents the usurper that has exposed its members as the lazy laurel-dwellers they are; the thought that state-educated Proles can string together a sentence and garner an audience in the process is the most dangerous threat their cosy clique has ever faced. As the representative of another clique destabilised by the changes in the democratic landscape, Labour MP Chi Onwurah (yes, her!), remarked on television over the weekend that social media ‘has empowered…the WRONG people’; she also advocated sanctions and regulation.
Yes, it may be true that many of those whose voices ring loudest and with the greatest unexpurgated rage on social media are the same unhinged individuals who once reserved their incandescent anger for aiming at passing buses; yet what are so many of our high-and-mighty Fleet Street residents but the same unhinged individuals, albeit ones fortunate enough to have a father/grandfather/godfather/uncle able to bequeath a lofty tabloid platform to them in their last will and testament?
Often, the content of the daily column is as nasty and unpleasant as any to be found online; the Glenda Slagg types revel in their grotesque cartoon personas, as cosseted from the targets of their vitriol as a motorist is from the pedestrian he aims abuse at from the safety of his driving seat or the most malevolent keyboard warriors singled out as uniquely beyond the pale. The distinction as viewed by the mainstream media is that the newspaper troll is somehow superior to the social media troll, despite the fact that neither is more qualified than the other to dispense bile.
When it comes to Fake News, the ability to generate malicious mischief usually based on some in-built prejudice or intense dislike of a person or group of people is essentially classless. That doesn’t justify its most appalling moments; it merely demonstrates how the internet has enabled the poacher to become the gamekeeper.
© The Editor