When fake news hit the global stage of politics, and the results were undesirable, political leaders went up in arms. “When you open FB or Twitter, fake news is so-well packaged that it looks, and sounds like the real thing, and many people believe it is for real. And the damages are immeasurable,” said President Obama last week when visiting BK Merkel in Germany. The FBI had to pull out with full force when a vigilante, armed with a fully automatic machine gun, stormed the storage room of a famous hamburger shop in Washington DC, where conspirators claimed that Hillary Clinton had built an HQ for an armed attack on, and take over of the nation.The whole story was a complete fake.
The developments that led to fake news went gradually. About fifteen years ago, the ‘hypothetical’ question of journalists became very popular. “But Minister, what if the Russians manage to put the USSR back together again, and start a nuclear war against the West. Are you then ready, Minister??” The questions were as much nonsensical, as the answers the journalists were eager to hear.
Then arrived the period of the leading questions, all doused in strongly colored political ideological, which only condoned those answers journalists were ready to hear. “ “Minister, you proposed in the Parliament to register Antilleans, with little or no education, when they enter a Dutch Airport, as welfare immigrants. We did some research and found out that your great-great-great grandfather was a sailor on a Dutch Transatlantic ship. So, you are the son of a slave driver and are just acting out your family history. Isn’t that true Minister. Don’t you hate all non-whites?”
Propaganda is an integral part of every political campaign and consists mostly of confabulations, lies, and distortions. In absolute autocracies, the meaning of the State, no matter how convoluted, was the one and only truth. The “State of Deception” was an integral and one of the most compelling parts of Nazi Germany. Also, Stalin’s USSR, Mao’s China, ran on a constant out-pore of uniform, rehearsed propaganda. And when in the Middle-ages religions still ruled the world with absolute power, millions were killed, who could not accept the bizarre stories, and extreme dogmas of the Church; religious absurdity had to be accepted as holy and intellectualism routed out.
Fake news starts at the kitchen table when people gossip over local dignitaries, and especially those who are in their way. Smearing a person is an easy, daily routine and, demonizing just about anyone in public has to become a public entertainment. Psychologists analyzed the phenomenon to pieces and concluded that most of the hate against others is based on envy and frustration. The smaller the community, the more gossip and fake news. Social media made the world smaller by the day, and uncontrolled gossip easier to spread. Fairness and decency belong, in Sunday school.
The Constitution guarantees freedom of expression in the USA, but such is far from the truth in many other countries, including Curacao, which does not even have full freedom of the press. Fake news is here to stay. You better prepare yourself and your family for a meaner, ruder, less compassionate and unfairer society.
By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Opinion columnist for Curaçao Chronicle