Since Brexit and the election of President Trump, there has been much discussion in the Mainstream Media (MSM) about “Fake News” and how it was used to influence the unsuspecting people of Britain and America to vote the “wrong way”.
In this article, I explore the phenomena of “Fake News “ and will show that rather than being a recent invention of the alt-right it is the de facto default position of much of our news, as it is presented to the public, by the MSM.
So confident are the BBC at identifying “Fake News” that they have produced a handy guide “How to report fake news to social media” and they have run an article on “Fake News” for children through the CBBC channel. The Guardian has had several articles on Fake News.
The definition of “Fake News” promoted by the MSM seems to be a simple.
“ This story was made up, or, more sinisterly, there is an allegation that a foreign power is engaging in generating “Fake News” to influence the democratic choices of the free world”.
Although to suggest that Western governments do not try to influence the governments and policies of foreign powers is absurd, as this has always been the raison d’être of diplomacy. However, whilst all this may well be true, it is my contention that “Fake News” is much, much more than this and is indeed endemic within the MSM. It is my assertion that most news is in fact “Fake News”, other than information that is rigorously and unambiguously provable in a mathematical sense of the word “proof”, in that it is news that you do not agree with.
Here are some examples of “Fake News” techniques that are deployed by the MSM to promote, what I would see as, their mainly progressive and statist agenda:
“Fake News” by Commission
Someone has deliberately made this news up e.g. the apocryphal, “Freddy Starr ate my hamster” lies at one end of this spectrum but a small publicity event by a celebrity or organisation, which is then uncritically promoted by the MSM, lies at the other. A news outlet may report on the actions of an organisation such as the Institute of Fiscal Studies, thereby providing an anchor for a supportive news story promoting a leftwing perspective. As far back as 2011 The Spectator published a leader stating that “‘institutes’ funded by research grants (which means, usually, tax money) will always argue for more expensive meddling by the state and that the Institute for Fiscal Studies was “the most striking example” of this.
“Fake News” by Omission:
An incident or situation is ignored because it doesn’t fit to the prevailing narrative of the news outlet. The rape crisis in Sweden or the recent and ongoing riots in France are often cited as an example of “Fake News” by omission.
“Fake News” by Collusion
“A third of UK lives on inadequate income, says think tank” is an article based on a report that uses a definition of inadequate income that includes couples earning £38,000 pa! A think tank produces a report and the media then highlights this information. Often the providence of the think-tank is ignored but is given spurious gravitas. Alternatively, a Social Science department will produce qualitative, self-referential research and this is given uncritical publicity. The output from other think tanks are ignored or attacked at launch.
So invidious is “Fake News” by collusion that a successful think-tank who continually produces evidence that goes against the progressive/statist narrative will be neutralized by the creation of a mirror image think tank but with an alternate and often similar name. For example Migration Watch (launched 2001 and funded solely by donations from the public) was particularly effective at attacking the open borders policy of the Labour Government and achieved a high degree of credibility even from its opponents. The subsequent rise to prominence of Migration Observatory launched in 2011 within Oxford University and funded from the public purse that promote the benefits of migration was not, in my opinion, coincidental. One of Migration Observatory’s key funders is the Charity “Unbound Philanthropy” who openly promote a globalist agenda of open door immigration.
“Fake News” by Framing
When progressive ideas/ideals are attacked from the right, those attacks are described using active verbs such as “rebutted” or “dismissed” whereas when small government ideals/ideas are attacked from those of a statist persuasion these are described using passive verbs such as “defended” or the charge is “denied”.
E.g. “Trump tries to explain remark about Sweden amid confusion” BBC; or “ The Brexit gamble “ Guardian, both 20th Feb 2017.
A common technique deployed by the BBC involves a media package on a government initiative being prefaced by an attack on the proposition by the statist opposition even before the launch of the proposal is aired.
“Fake News” by Prominence/Prioritisation
Here the MSM chooses only those stories which support their agenda. At best this is due to confirmation bias within the newsroom, at worst and conspiratorially, is this being driven by embedded organisations such as Common Purpose? There is a galaxy of newsworthy articles that arrive in the newsroom on a daily basis. Only those articles that can be used to promote the progressive agenda are selected. For example, it may be that hundreds of “black on black” knife attacks occur every year, whereas a “white on black” attack, whilst significantly less common, can be promoted as a “Racist attack” which can be then used to drive through social change in line with the statists’ agenda.
Alternatively, the MSM may focus on the tragic death of a single child on a single day so as to promote a particular agenda, ignoring the sixteen thousand other children under five who died that same day somewhere on Planet Earth of disease, malnutrition, war etc.
“Fake News” by Distraction
This technique is deployed by the BBC when an event is too large to ignore but runs counter to the progressive narrative. I call this the “Oh look! A squirrel!” technique.
“Fake News” by Crowding Out.
Undue prominence is given to peripheral news items rather than spend time on a substantive event that runs against the progressive narrative, thereby crowding the story out and denying it the appropriate airtime. Yesterday, Monday 20th February 2017 there was an excellent example of this “Fake News” technique when the significant and welcome news that Amazon had announced five thousand jobs were being created in the UK, in graduate level STEM industries (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics). This was not supposed to happen under Brexit according to the remoaning narrative of the MSM, so was ‘crowded out’ by the BBC on Radio 4. The BBC placed more emphasis in the morning news on the fact that two UKIP Branch Chairmen had resigned in Liverpool, which had suddenly become much more pertinent because of the Stoke by-election (irony alert!).
“Fake News” by Tone
A newsreader can change the meaning of a news article or cast a dubious slur on an individual by the way he delivers the news package merely from the tone and emphasis they place on a word or phrase. President Trump recently alluded to this in his now famous Press conference (Feb 16th 2017)
Organisational culture is invisible when viewed from within the institution. There is a prevailing zeitgeist within any newsroom and an unconscious, let alone conscious, bias is inevitable. This is acceptable within news organisations with an open approach to their political bias. However, diversity of opinion is needed within the newsrooms of organisations who portray themselves as unprejudiced purveyors of the News and are funded by taxation i.e. the BBC. It would be interesting to know how many BBC journalists are sympathetic to President Trump or who voted to leave the European Union and support Brexit. Indeed it is my suspicion that the BBC newsroom for example would, at best, have a small minority of individuals who voted Conservative, an overwhelming majority of LibDem and Labour supporters and none who voted UKIP.
So, why now the sudden interest in “Fake News” by the MSM? It is my contention that with the disintermediation of news brought about by the advent of social media, the stranglehold of the news agenda that the MSM has enjoyed since the invention of the printing press has come to an end.
The MSM no longer gets to filter and pasteurise the News, they are now merely several news channels amongst a constellation of alternative channels and it is reacting, as any vested interest group threatened by a disruptive technology reacts, with fear, threats and a gasping incomprehension of the new technological landscape. This was beautifully encapsulated in the recent and yet already famous discussion between Sebastian Gorka President Trump’s aide and BBC Evan Davis on the flagship news programme Newsnight, where Gorka explained unequivocally that,
“We are not going to put up with distortions from people who believe that they have a monopoly of the truth simply because they have a sixty-year-old masthead above them”.
And so, in summary, it is my assertion that, apart from clear fabrications, “Fake News” is just news that you don’t agree with, and the MSM, the progressives and the establishment are just going to have to “suck it up”, just as readers and viewers with a less statist perspective than the purveyors of legacy MSM have had to endure since the mid 1960s.