Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Dealing with fake news, a new challenge!

News media today is witnessing a peculiar situation. With two new threats looming large, it is time that news media unleash its powers once again.   These are fake news from known and unknown sources and the push and pulls of the parties in power.  As a result, the news media are under threat of their own stature and sanity. It is crumbling under mounting credibility crisis. No other pillar of the state has such an opportunity as news media to foresee the vacuum building up and also take correctives and revive itself. News media is endowed with bubbling talent for that. 

No longer an exception:

Fake news in 2021 is no longer an exception. It has now become a phenomenon, a global phenomenon.  It is not limited to a few instances. Fake news is invariably motivated.  More against someone else’s interests and negatively oriented to dent on someone else’s goodwill or standing. And it is not so much personality centred as to do with political, economic and supremacy concerns. Even defaming by planting and spreading incorrect or calibrated news has become a practice. 

But the victims of this trend of course are the people and the systems created for rule of law and good governance. The foundations of conventional news media are at stake. Of course, fake news is a new nomenclature for what has been there all along but as an exception or as a deviation and as anti-social behaviour. Earlier, it was described as propaganda, disinformation, hate campaign, etc. Fake news now has become a career and acquired character of an “industry”!

Fake news is being talked coinciding with the more recent penetration of social media or new media.  While it is amply known world over that these new media have unleashed fake as a new trend, the roots are much deeper.  The foundations are in human greed, jealousy and the process of political and economic control.  The agencies which are supposed to take action against fake news sources themselves have become the source, particularly the governments themselves all over the world, the elected ones in particular. Wherever elections have become the arbiter of power control, the agencies tend to rely on fake news.

Governments too victims of fake news:

But, as a phenomenon, even the governments have also become victims of fake news.  Fake news has become a way of control and command of power and party politics.  Someone motivated is always behind fake news, with one or more collaborators, knowingly or unknowingly.  They have nothing to lose in the immediate context. But the onus is more on conventional media and active citizens including the academics to do something against.

It is now a technology drive:

Fake and faking of late has become a skill and an art apart from being a technology drive. It has now become even part of academic curriculum at higher end.  Amazon, WhatsApp, Facebook and the like have become the weavers of emerging new world moved by fake culture and driven by conflict of interests. A certain helplessness is evident all over the world about fake news phenomena. Agencies including the legal and academic are in a dilemma in grasping and assessing the larger consequences.  Even the UN agencies, World Bank and the like are in pursuit of grasping the trends and coping with.  Political leaders and market wizards with conflict of interest are having a field day. 

Fake ones are forging, disproving Darwin theory:

Charles Darwin might have found then that it was the fit ones who make it to the top. Today the fake ones are the ones forging without responsibility and accountability.  Fake news are no longer “hidden” as Vincent Packard visualised or as Noam Chomsky has been exposing “manufacturing of consent” for control and command of authorities more than fifty years ago. Their warnings did not prepare the world to snub and cope with the effects of fake news.

Linkage with cultural roots

If continue the course, fake news has threatening implications to the foundations of democracy and fundamentals of rule of law and governance.  The first institution to be concerned about and do something about to minimise the proliferation of fake news is conventional news media themselves.  Instead, so far they themselves have taken to, as if to go with the wind?  Globally, the concern about fake news is limited to news rooms, political rhetoric, and innumerable research studies.  Citizen sensitivity to what it is all about, its consequences and how to bachke rehna or save oneself from the fake news same way as cigarette smokers from cancer warning.  Fake news can never be eliminated without understanding the linkage with the cultural roots and prevailing political culture and civilised governance.

Dr. N. Bhaskara Rao
Dr. N. Bhaskara Rao
Dr. N. Bhaskara Rao has been crusading environmental activism with CMS Vatavaran (www.cmsvatavaran.org) movement last two decades.

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