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EditorialsUp Front 11/17

Up Front 11/17

Interviewed by Chris Anderson for a Ted Talk, the journalist and broadcaster, Christiane Amanpour, recalled her first reaction to the ‘internet superhighway’. She had hoped that the advent of a new and widely available method of communication might make the world a more open and honest place. She had thought that the proliferation of platforms on which we could get our information would mean that there might be ‘a proliferation of truth and transparency and depth and accuracy’ and that we would have access to ‘more democracy, more information, less bias’. She has since concluded that this is not the case. In fact, many would say that the world has lurched in the opposite direction, and that fake news and the growth of populist and selfish agendas are winning the battle for hearts, minds and votes—well, minds and votes at least. One reporter recently pointed out that the populist has four main tactics: tell big lies, no matter how verifiable the reality; repeat the lies over and over and over again; promise everything, no matter how impossible or contradictory, and make the story about the individual—‘vote for me, only I can fix it’. It is a tactic that has been successful for manipulative people since man first discovered the value of misrepresentation, a very long time ago. The difficulty today is that methods used to proliferate lies are far reaching and immediate, and once implanted into the consciousness of a large enough group of people, they become the shared memory. In November, the current US President will celebrate the anniversary of his election and probably continue his efforts to brand many traditional media outlets as peddlers of ‘fake news’. However, honest journalism was born out of a belief that lies should be constantly challenged. So CNN launched an advert recently to battle the President’s attempt to brand them as fake news. A voice-over, sounding not unlike the US President, speaks over an image of an apple. ‘This is an apple,’ says the voice-over. ‘Some people may try and tell you that it’s a banana. They might scream “banana, banana, banana” over and over and over again. They might put “BANANA” in all caps. You might even start to believe that this is a banana, but it’s not. This is an apple.’ Incredibly, the trolls were out in force immediately claiming the ad was condescending, and spoof versions proliferated at speed. However, we can learn from this—it turns out that the truth, for some people, can only be a banana.

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