The world has marked the freedom of the press- or recognised how it has failed to in the past year, protect the very ‘watchdogs’ in our society. The day’s relevance can in no terms be underestimated, especially in a time when journoseverywhere continue to suffer prosecution.
In the Reporters without borders report of 2018, it had been estimated that 84 media practitioners suffered deaths in connection with their work, with 66 of such being recognised journalists. (The numbers differ depending on your source: refer to Amnesty International)
Already in 2019, ten journalists have suffered death – 174 others are imprisoned with 167 non-journalist whose works are connected to the practice suffering imprisonment across the globe.
The picture, as painted above, gives much credence to the importance the World Press Freedom Day, as has been celebrated yesterday. Much in particular is the decision to focus attention on democracy as reflected in this year’s theme of “Media for Democracy.”
A solid democracy, in my opinion, is one which is built on information accessibility- This is only achievable in the presence of a free press within a robust media environment. The threat, however, to this is disinformation.
In a news report carried by the Associated Press, the rising tide of the phenomenon of fake news was said to have dominated discussions at the World Press Freedom day event staged in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Apparently, the concern of all is, the world’s democracy is being threatened.
Fake news is obvious- I shudder to say it has lived with us since the world’s foundations were set in place. No one deserves blame but ourselves for its prominence in today’s age, especially, with our insatiability at sharing anything message, without little efforts at verification.
In our urge to unmake the perceived enemy, we grab every opportunity to spread falsehoods about him (enemy), even without sparing a minute to read in-between the lines for the truth.
We have become too simple-minded, assuming truth at face-value without considering the repercussions for not fact-checking.The attitude of assuming truth at face-value does not only threaten democracy but peace anywhere.
Fake news’ emergence can’t be hung on the neck of any modern man, but all. It might have gained prominence with the elections that brought the Donald Trump administration into office, as it’s widely presumed, but the term is only a reinvention in my opinion.
If anything at all, the genesis of what we currently sugar-coat as fake news can be traced to the days of Adolf Hitler. He institutionalised it, making devastating gains of it by racking one of the deadliest havocs to have been recorded in the annals of humanity, the Holocaust.
Call it propaganda, but it sounds better as disinformation. If it was bad then, it’sworse today.
Whatever his motivation, he achieved it by preying on the minds of the simpletons of his generation to achieve his end.
The Holocaust, as infamous as it was is a by-product of the modern day fake news. And no one can claim distaste for it, without distasting fake news. In my layman’s understanding, fake news is nothing but a reinvention of the ideology that “make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”
Indeed, “all propaganda has to be popular and has to accommodate itself to the comprehension of all the least intelligent of those whom it seeks to reach.”
If there’s anything to be happy about, then it should be in the fact that a man like Hitler never existed in our generation, especially, considering the havoc he rained on humanity with media in its simplest form. What couldn’t he have achieved with it in its current glamorous state?
Propaganda, as well as fake news, thrives on the media, numbers and simpletons. Simpletons who take truth at a face-value. And this is the import of my write-up, we have become to simple-minded, critiquing nothing- sadly, believing anything.
How can do we stop the modern craze in the name of ‘likes and shares’, so that the fears, as exercised by world leaders at the Ethiopia World Press Freedom does not become a reality?
Let’s shun being hypocrites since fake news thrives on reach and numbers when it doesn’t get the shares (retweet, hashtag, forwarding) it wouldn’t get the desired reach.
Let’s be critical- let’s question the motivation behind the meme, the trending videos, hate speech and the defamatory texts. The fact that it speaks evil of the people you are opposed to ideologically, religiously or politically doesn’t it make it factual.
Quoting the tech guru Jaron Lanier, I would admonish we avoid the ‘wisdom of the crowd.’ The fact that the text, video or meme received massive shares doesn’t authenticate it. Don’t follow the masses in popularising the untruth.
Regardless of the iota of truth in the message, its tendency to harm any democratic space makes it a disinformation. Let’s not give it a ‘leg’ to gain the unnecessary reach.
You can’t hate Hitler but be a participant in sharing fake news. The new Holocaust upon us is heralded by fake news, the earlier we stop it, the best for all. Otherwise, we shall once again send the world to its knees.