By Pinky Khoabane, catch her on Twitter @pinkykhoabane
The term fake news has become the buzz-word following Hillary Clinton’s defeat and it has reached fever-pitch in recent days. I wrote a piece following the defeat: The folly of a media that takes sides and I made the point that the neo-liberal media, as it did during Brexit, had completely lost touch and wrote about its wishes as those of its reader. It has happened here in South Africa, where newspaper columns were dedicated to how President Jacob Zuma wouldn’t win a second term and he did.
The liberal media is still reeling from Clinton’s defeat and continues to find the perpetrators of this assault on democracy. The latest victims are Fake News.
The guardians of manufactured truth have been hard at work marketing a campaign that seeks to tarnish every piece of writing that does not conform to its propaganda and disinformation.
The term itself is not properly defined and has been used loosely to label those the commercial media does not like. It’s much like the classical smear campaign waged during the McCarthy and apartheid eras where anybody could be called a terrorist or a communist and therefore ought to be feared but worst, became the subject of brutal investigations which sometimes led to death.
Fake news has joined that list of evil words which threaten every aspect of our democracy when the truth is that the biggest peddlers of fake news are the commercial media that is now stalking all of us who refuse to accept their narrative.
In the classical art of propaganda, there is no attempt to debunk the facts in the stories we write but to rather label and smear. This is how propaganda works. Propaganda works on two levels to make any impact; it must reach the mass populace and it’s intellectual level must be at extremely low levels.
This phenomenon of fake news began with allegations that Russian President Vladimir Putin had played a hand in Clinton’s defeat by being party to the WikiLeaks emails which showed among others, Clinton’s roles in the death of Lybian leader Muammar Gadaffi and grave human rights atrocities including fuelling the Syrian war that has left hundreds of thousands of Syrians displaced and many dead.
The Intercept, wrote this about fake news: “One of the most egregious examples was the recent Washington Post article hyping a new anonymous group and its disgusting blacklist of supposedly pro-Russia news outlets — a shameful article mindlessly spread by countless journalists who love to decry Fake News, despite the Post article itself being centrally based on Fake News. (The Post this week finally added a lame editor’s note acknowledging these critiques; the Post editors absurdly claimed that they did not mean to “vouch for the validity” of the blacklist even though the article’s key claims were based on doing exactly that)”. https://t.co/jEjkWsRFmB
Following the leaks, the Clinton camp adopted a campaign to lie outright, The Intercept says. “…with no basis whatsoever — that the emails were doctored or fabricated and thus should be ignored. That lie — and that is what it was: a claim made with knowledge of its falsity or reckless disregard for its truth — was most aggressively amplified by MSNBC personalities such as Joy Ann Reid and Malcolm Nance, The Atlantic’s David Frum, and Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald.
Clinton camp chief strategist @benensonj: “I’ve seen things” in Wikileaks emails “that aren’t authentic” #ThisWeek https://t.co/LPQJBfACqz
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) October 23, 2016
That the emails in the Wikileaks archive were doctored or faked — and thus should be disregarded — was classic Fake News, spread not by Macedonian teenagers or Kremlin operatives but by established news outlets such as MSNBC, The Atlantic, and Newsweek”.
The South African news media has picked-up on this term and has also gone out on a mission to investigate the “fake news websites” and much in line with what Washington Post did, they have outed them. UnCensored was victim to one of these researchers, Kyle and Katie Findlay, who like the Washington Post couldnt quite determine whether we were “knowingly” or “unknowingly” retweeting posts by some “fake accounts”. Worst is when this group of anti-Zuma, pro-Rupert supporters say I “seemingly” was part of the campaign. They are scientists who did research but couldnt come up with conclusive findings. There’s no methodology set out to how they conducted their research. Such was their shoddy work they couldnt put their names to it. And they call it science which some mainstream media published. It turned out they were linked to The Daily Maverick. This is where we exposed their identities https://t.co/RtqloYjh9X These two people and their company have never come back to dispute our claims. The editors that have gone-on to disseminate this lie – Fake News – have never come back to dispute the facts in our story.
The real fear for the commercial media is that for the first time in a long time, there are alternative news sites which give the citizenry a different take on life – the stories which they (commercial media) ignore. They are being outed for their anti-black stance and protecting their elite masters.
Stigmatisation is the easiest way to obfuscate – Communist, Fascist, Putin Propagandist, Guptarite, Zumarite. ANC acolyte ….and now FAKE….all these labels are meant to drill doubt into the reader or the populace and silence writers. Who wants to be investigated by the powerful media owned by people who control every aspect of our livelihoods? I implore you to look at your reality today and see who owns every aspect of it.
These bully tactics date back centuries – to silence us. The commercial media have their backsides in the open – that they don’t produce real news and have had to rely on manufactured news. Here come little sites which produce news they’ve tried to conceal….its not a pretty sight. We shall not be deterred. We will continue to write.
This is the first of a series of articles on Propaganda and disinformation waged by commercial media