Wed | Jun 19, 2024

Letter of the Day | We lose when fake news is accepted as truth

Published:Monday | April 22, 2024 | 12:06 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

National daily newspapers in the UK have long been aligned to either Conservative or Labour parties, and on most days their front-page headlines will indicate which political party they favour. In the United Sates the cable news networks have similar affiliations; with Republicans controlling Fox News, while Democrats dominate on MSNBC and CNN. Partisanship is so strong on these networks, that it must sometimes be difficult for anchors and commentators to keep a straight face when reporting what passes for their version of ‘impartial news’.

At least these news outlets have editors to exhibit some kind of control, even though it may be bigoted, and most other democratic countries have similar media structures. However, there are no editors on the Internet – also known as the ‘disinformation highway’ – there are no warning signs nor guardrails, with unwary users ending up in the ditch, or mistakenly taking the off-ramp to Chaos City or Crazyville.

In 1845, in Edgar Allan Poe’s story about a hospital for the mentally ill, its administrator stated: “Believe nothing you hear, and only half of what you see.” That was well over a century before the Internet was even thought of, but Poe’s adage should really be considered carefully today, when so much disinformation flows freely on each and every information technology device. For example, the holy war in Gaza is fertile ground for influencers of all religious stripes to ply their trade, in hopes of roping in millions more gullible followers, along with constant complaints of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Conversely, sceptics and non-believers feel relieved that they had never bought into Hebraic or Koranic scriptures, regarding them as mainly myths and fables.

I have received online messages that quite simply beggar belief; for example, last week a link to a website called WIN ( worldisraelnews.com) with a story titled ‘Gaza stores filled; markets overwhelmed with goods’. The story accompanied a photo of a market stall filled with fresh vegetables and fruit, supposedly in Gaza, but could have been literally anywhere in the world. Of course, if it were true, then all those months of pictures and stories about starving Palestinians would have been absolutely wrong. The tragedy of workers from the World Central Kitchen charity bombed by the Israeli Defence Force would have been false, as would the US government’s plan to construct a floating dock on Gaza’s coastline to supply food.

That was only one story of multitudes that are floating around on various websites that are so obviously fake news, but some folks accept them as true. Back in the day, an acquaintance labelled me as an antagonistic, anarchistic agnostic; a triple-A rating suits me fine in pointing the fickle finger of fate, and when it comes to this particular fake news, Jews lose.

BERNIE SMITH

Parksville, BC

Canada