An exchange over WhatsApp with a friend on the purveyors of ‘fake news’ has resulted in this post.
In general, someone pithily described news as such:
Ordinary people in extraordinary situations and extraordinary people in ordinary situations.
Of course, that is only partial dimension. News often need not involve people.
Similarly, fake news can be defined as such, in my view:
- Reporting news that did not happen
- Not reporting news that happened.
- Then, there is a third category of reporting that is not an outright lie but falls well short of being authentic. Incomplete, distorted and partial reporting that changes the understanding of the reader of the news from what was intended by the source. So, the medium inserts itself rather heavily in influencing the understanding of the reader or the purveyor (it could be visual). That too is fake news.
Whether it is weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, whether it is the poisoning of Skripals, whether it is chemical weapons deployment (or not) by Assad, what is fake news and what is not? See this blog post, to get an idea of what I am saying.
What about selective leaking of information that was exchanged between two individuals or institutions in confidence with the formal or informal understanding that it would remain confidential?
Anything that seeks not to inform fully but to ‘manipulate’ the understanding of the receiver towards a conclusion that the originator wants them to reach, through deliberate concealment, withholding of releavnt information and/or its deliberate distortion or its incomplete conveyance is, in my view, fake news.
Viewed in this light, much of what passes for news these days is fake news. One needs to read multiple sources or try to go to the source data or speech or paper oneself to get the full picture or a better picture.
Finally, it is also true that we – almost all of us – are prone to attaching the label of ‘fake news’ to that convey a view that we do not agree with. We would rather consume more readily and more unquestioningly news that confirm our priors. Again, that is in our nature. Cannot single out anyone as guilty of this. But, we should be conscious of this inherent fallacy in us.