Hornbill Unleashed

April 25, 2017

Fake news and those who propagate them

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:01 AM

Deception and propaganda are highly influential tools political movements and warfare. These elements are developed with one purpose in mind – to manipulate public opinion.

Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian general and influential military theorist stated aptly in his book ‘Vom Kriege (On War)’, “War is nothing but a continuation of politics with the admixture of other means”, if you were to consider a broader definition of war as something that goes beyond military strength and artillery, the word could figuratively signify a more sinister embodiment of the present political warfare we now face.

The recent US Presidential election introduced global citizens to the term ‘fake news’; lies thinly veiled as news – a phenomenon that is nothing new and is as old as civilisation itself. Donald J Trump’s victory in the presidential election had the entire world focus on the deluge of false information and fictitious stories, particularly on social media, which many thought played a central role in his success.

For centuries, politics relied on more than just mere data and facts; it was and still is driven by ideological frameworks where interpretations of certain information are seen to be crucial elements that can make or break any socio-political structure.

Recently during the 16th Asian Media Awards, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak reminded the country that it was ‘the duty of publishers, editors and reporters to maintain readers’ trust and to fight to the last this tide of fake and false news that threatened to turn truth into a purely subjective matter, with little relation to actual facts’ and continued to address how foreign activists exploit and exaggerate “crackdowns” on free speech in Malaysia.

The narrative adopted by the prime minister closely resembled the diatribe deployed by Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte; which has lead to many of us to believe that therein lays a sense of desperation and misplaced vigour that struggles to placate an increasingly doubtful Malaysian society.

Dictators and pseudo-democratic governments are notoriously known to control mainstream institutions and traditional media outlets by curbing every ounce of freedom. Restricting expression and speech made it easier to manipulate news and distorting information to ensure political longevity and control over the mass population.

Consider this, Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s master propagandist, was in charge of producing Nazi propaganda with the sole purpose to present Hitler in the most positive light imaginable. Under Goebbels, one of their major principles of misinformation was “if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth”.

Conveniently, this idea was lifted, adapted and exploited by our ruling regime; hence, for the past several decades, Malaysians have witnessed how truths were stretched and lies fabricated to justify some of the most crucial decisions that were made.

In the past, socio-political frameworks were constructed mainly from the political divide between left and right. Each presented different ideological hypothesis where analysis of similar facts were interpreted differently and policies were crafted based on the outcome of thorough discourse.

Identity politics rather than ideology

Today, the same political frameworks are formed by identity politics rather than ideology. Our society is (without a doubt) fragmented and now based opinions on perspectives based on race, religion, education, language, gender, urban and rural habitation, sexual orientation and social class. As a result, rational discourse has been replaced by emotional drivel where instigators allow very little space to debate and deliberate purposefully.

The practice of disinformation can be traced back to Sun Tzu (a great Chinese general, military strategist) who famously quoted “All warfare is based on deception”. Therefore the challenge for us today is how quickly fake news is transmitted; the anarchic seepage of lies is made possible by malicious cybertroopers and the trolls, who cunningly exploit modern society’s short attention span.

We no longer read articles but base our knowledge on headlines that catches our attention as we scroll down our Facebook newsfeed. In a sense, our intellect and logic have been taken hostage by those who feel left behind by globalization. Consequently, this is why social media has become our generation’s political weapon of mass destruction.

Clearly, Malaysians have reached a critical juncture in modern history, we must diligently ask ourselves, how can we endure the bane of fake news and will we continue to only read the news we want to hear – whilst sitting comfortably in our echo-chambers? The answer lies within us – the people.

The time is ripe for us to exercise logic and conscientiously, dissect every type of information we digest. Politicians, academics, scholars, and writers must now cautiously handle their messages, principles and values as part of their core framing. The truth may require scepticism and patience but creating a well-informed society is a crucial step that can combat the insurmountable challenges that lay within the cyber domain.

SYERLEENA ABDUL RASHID is DAP Wanita national assistant publicity secretary.
Source : @ Malaysiakini


Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: