By VennerRoad, 19th Jul 2017
The term fake news is now a well-recognised phrase, but how accurate is even non-fake news?
Fake news cartoon.
For those of you growing up in the age of the Internet and especially the age of social media, it is difficult if not impossible to imagine a time when we were not surrounded by a constant stream of news bulletins, but of course it was not always the case. Traditionally, news was a state monopoly and was rigorously controlled. The censor was a post in ancient Rome.
The emergence of a so-called free press may have led to both more news and more viewpoints, but it did not lead necessarily to greater honesty, and certainly not to greater accuracy. In order to demonstrate this, let us examine one relatively unimportant and long forgotten story from a pre-social media world.
On January 20, 1976, a local newspaper reported that a housewife in the Yorkshire village of Scissett had been attacked in her own home the previous day:
“POLICE are looking for an elderly man, possibly a tramp, after a housewife was assaulted in her Scissett home”.
The victim was said to be 35 years old. Dozens of police officers were brought in on the search, but on January 23, the same paper reported that:
“POLICE have dropped their hunt for a man who allegedly indecently assaulted a Scissett housewife.”
This was because “We are no longer looking for a suspect,” said Chief Superintendent James Hobson.
Months later, the national press picked up on the story. A correspondent for the Guardian wrote on May 5: Spinster’s rape story was false - this was a report on her appearance before Huddersfield magistrates, where she is said to have pleaded guilty to wasting police time. Her age was given as 37.
It should be noted that whatever details it included, there was only one fake story here, the one told by the non-victim. She did not claim to have been raped, only attacked, and indeed the Guardian article makes it clear there was no allegation of rape, but the headline is misleading.
She was described initially as housewife, then as a spinster. A housewife is not a spinster.
Finally, if she was 35 at the time of the initial report, she could not have been 37 less than four months later.
Again, let it be stressed there was only one outright liar in this insignificant if rather sad tale of a lonely and/or depressed woman seeking attention, but a surprising amount of misinformation crept into it.
Now imagine how much misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, spin and even grotesque lies there must be in many of the stories we read, hear and see every day. Who is correcting them? Who has the time to pore over every detail, every quote, every inference, every statistic? Unless the story is an important one, probably not many people, and even then many media outlets will continue to parrot the lies.
Let us look at the two major protagonists in the recent US election campaign: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Both are controversial figures, if for entirely different reasons. Mrs Clinton has been mired in financial scandals since she relocated to Arkansas to be with her future husband. Had she not failed the examination for the Washington Bar, her life and indeed the history of the world may have been very different.
There is little doubt that Mrs Clinton is an habitual liar; many people have made compilations of her lies and uploaded them to YouTube. Even allowing for the lapses of memory we all have from time to time, her dishonesty and hypocrisy are there for all to see. Her husband may be far more plausible, but as former Clinton adviser Dick Morris said, their marriage started as a love affair, then became a business partnership, and finally a RICO. But does it extend to murder?
On YouTube and other social media websites you will find professionally crafted videos that include documentation on the Clinton death list. A large number of people known to the Clintons have died in apparently mysterious circumstances over the years, including suicide, but do any of these claims stack up?
One of the lawyers on this list was Herschel Friday, who was not only a lawyer but a qualified pilot; he died when the plane he was flying crashed near Little Rock in March 1994; he was seventy-two years old. By that time, the Clintons were already well ensconced in the White House, and it is difficult to see what connection he had then with Bill Clinton, why he would be of interest to either of them, or how the President could reach out and order his assassination, especially in view of the way he couldn’t keep secret his sordid assignations with a starstruck Monica Lewinsky.
The claims made about Donald Trump are just as ludicrous; like Bill Clinton they include taking liberties with women, but the lies and nonsense in the mainstream media - lies that are ongoing - beggar belief. Claims that he and people close to him somehow colluded with the Russian Government to steal the election have now been running for a full year. These claims include that he was being blackmailed by the Russians on account of his meeting with prostitutes in Moscow, that his companies have been used to launder drug money for the Russian Mafia, and that his son-in-law if not the man himself is a Russian agent.
Many of the claims made about Trump have been thoroughly debunked, but that doesn’t stop the mass media repeating them.
At a lower level, ordinary people are sometimes the victims of mass media lies. Most people have little if any recourse, the law of libel being open to both rich and poor, like the Ritz, but very occasionally, when the lies are utterly grotesque, the law will step in. This happened with the Hollie Greig hoax and the ludicrous Hampstead Satanic abuse affair, but although the mainstream media would go on in both cases to report accurately on what didn’t happen, there is no convincing the true believers.
We end with a few words about statistics, which are often thrown around by advocacy groups and politicians. Many of these statistics find their way into the mainstream media where they are parroted as proof positive of some grave social injustice that warrants an immediate change to the law. A good or rather a particularly bad example of this are statistics relating to gender.
Here is a quote from the odious man-hater Catherine MacKinnon: “Women do two-thirds of the world’s work, earn one-tenth of the world’s income, and own less than one-hundredth of the world's property”.
Can this be even remotely true? If you live in a big city, or even if you don’t, look out of your window and ask yourself how many of the buildings you see were constructed by women? When you turn on your bedroom light, who is responsible for it coming on? Turn on your kitchen tap; who ensures the water flows from it?
Much property is owned by governments, and is therefore held in trust for the people. Many art galleries, museums and even libraries are owned and operated by charities and similar bodies for the benefit of the public. Much private property is owned jointly, often by husband and wife. Even if a man is the sole home owner, he will generally be held financially responsible for his wife. And for his daughters.
Yet these statistics - which were not invented by MacKinnon - and similar, are thrown around with gay abandon in newspapers, on TV, even in Parliament. They too are fake news.
Even statistics that are 100% true can be misleading. For example, there are no teenagers sitting as judges of the Supreme Court - zero percent. Does that constitute age discrimination?
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