“No, I’m not answering your questions. Your organisation is a joke. You’re Fake News!” So shouted Donald J Trump at his last press briefing before becoming President Trump last week. Nothing like the new leader of the free world using a genuinely pernicious media trend as an excuse to rebut difficult questions from Journalists. Next the White House Press secretary Sean Spicer refused to take questions having publicly scolded members of the press like naughty schoolchildren, for reporting false stories about a low turnout at the inauguration. (Spicer Briefing)
Right now it seems no one is behaving like responsible adults, and Fake News is in danger of becoming the new normal. Let’s hope it’s the media who get back to good honest journalism to hold Trump’s administration to account, as Spicer’s performance looked like a metaphysical extension of the main man.
Fake News has been around since man first understood the power of the lie. It has had other names over the centuries like fables, folk tales, myths, legends and propaganda. Apparently sales of George Orwell’s 1984 are now on the rise as its themes of a disinformation dystopia resonate with a whole new generation.
The question is how do we fight back to accountability and truth. Celebrity power and influence seems to be on the wane. It did nothing for Hilary Clinton’s campaign and Madonna’s latest “blow up the White House” remark has only bolstered Trump’s cause and undermined a remarkable global protest about women’s rights. (Madonna Boom)
Online and social media channels are now the battleground where Fake News and counter “Truth” News will be played out. Whether it’s a Twitter war between Trump and Meryl Streep or a charity trying to drum up intervention and support against a dictatorial regime, this is going to be a war of attrition, where content is the ordnance.
Only last week the BBC announced a new debunk team to discredit fake news reports and prevent journalists from being duped. (BBC Reality Check.) In the old days that was simply called good journalism! Checking your source three times before reporting it as factually correct. But hats off to them for taking the problem seriously.
Here at Beagle we see ourselves as a part of the global communication machine. After all we’re a content agency and are working more and more with PR and Corporate Affairs companies who need us to tell their clients’ stories, in some cases to counter unfavourable opinion or even defamatory content that’s already out there.
We like to think we’re a company with a conscience and as such will have to make some moral judgements on whose corner to be in. But that’s fine. Society’s problems from climate change to refugee crises to demagogue presidents all seem to have reached a tipping point. The time for sitting on the fence is over.