CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 9 December 2017

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Fake news is just an alternative fact

The new word added to the official lexicon of Australian English for 2016 is Fake News. The editors of the Macquarie Dictionary define the term as “disinformation and hoaxes published on websites for political purposes or to drive web traffic,” as well as being “incorrect information being passed along social media.”

An ultimate example of fake news could read, Pope Francis backed Trump. Release: Incredible statement why? Spread this news everywhere!

A great statement as there are many people around who would like to believe it so in the true tradition of fake news, they would run with it and disperse it at will without any fact check.

This is the ultimate objective of Fake News, which the editors describe as capturing “an interesting evolution in the creation of deceptive content as a way of herding people in a specific direction.”

The editors say that they had short listed 15 words that could have qualified as the official addition for 2016, but in a year that saw a double dissolution election in Australia, presidential elections in the United States of America and The Philippines, as well as the Legislative Council vote in Hong Kong and a referendum on leaving the European Union in the United Kingdom (UK) to name a few, the prevalence of fake news in all the campaigns had such a huge impact on results that its tick ahead of the other 14 is well earned.

The UK referendum saw terrible distortions of fact about immigration; The Philippines saw persons who have any involvement in the drug trade arbitrarily redefined as not being human (without being allocated a new category) simply on the authority of the candidate from Davao, Rodrigo Duterte; Australia heard that its incumbent government had singlehandedly stopped human trafficking in boat people; and Hong Kong pretended its election had something to do with democracy.

A common complaint of people voting in all the elections was that they simply did not know who to believe and, consequently, who to vote for. This also reflects a decline in the impact of official media, which was once respected for at least getting its facts straight.

But fake news has, in its short life span, already spawned another new phrase, alternative facts.

They also clear the way for us to dismiss any information from any source that we don’t like or don’t agree with, a bit like saying, “It is un-Hong Kong!”

It also serves to strengthen what is an extremely influential alternative fact in our world today, that self-identification is everything and is in fact so strong that it can determine reality, which means that you are not who are, but who you think you are, an alternative fact that means you are someone else.

Almost ironically, fake news has really caught on in a world where facts have never been so easy to check and verified news sources so readily available, but the Internet also makes it easy to sift news, making it easy for us to remain in the echo chamber of what we agree with or want to hear.

But maybe the bottom line of the new inclusion in the Australian dictionary is that fake news can indeed become fact in a post-truth world. JiM