Fake news and/or alternative facts PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 02 October 2017 14:39

By  Remedios F. Marmoleño

In the past we got our news from the reports of journalists to their media outfits, whether these were  print media or the equivalents on radio or TV. The reports were not always 100% correct in the details but the substance was usually correct. The byline also gave us a certain degree of confidence in determining whether the report could be relied on or whether it was simply a PR release.

A good example of sleuthing by journalists was the series of  reports  in the Washington Post of the Watergate Scandal at the time  and which led to the resignation of Richard Nixon as president of the US. The story of how the scandal was discovered was good reading  in itself. The role of media in this case  demonstrated very clearly the power of media in policing government activities and  how that same power, if used professionally, protects the public good.

The entrance of the Internet and of  social media during these times facilitated the timely release of information to the public.  While the speed of the spread of news  was made possible by Internet technology  a serious negative factor also came in: How far can we rely on the truth of these news? Is the news reliable or is it fake news? Is the information something we can consider as fact or is it alternative fact?

In countries where the sense of freedom of speech is  very strong and guarded zealously from being curtailed, fake news presented a dilemma.  For the more discerning the statement  “You have a right to your own opinion but not to your own facts” came to be the guidance needed without having to suppress freedom of speech.

This dilemma  came to be  because   supporters of certain famous names had the propensity  to post favorable comments  about their admired personality even though the comments were untrue. The converse of this was also evident – fake news would be brought up about personalities who were not admired.

Very active in posting  positive “news” about their admired personalities, these unofficial members of the media were just as active in bashing those who  might not be one with them and who  would post their own  “news” about a personality in the opposite camp.

The posts of the bashers and the admirers can be looked at from the perspective of “You have a right to your own opinion but not to your own facts”.