Fake News and Other Fakes

By TinyCO2

I was just watching Sunday’s The Big Questions, available on BBC iPlayer, a discussion of fake news and whether the internet should be regulated.

First off I want to stress that there is fake news out there and the internet is responsible for some of it. So what?

The key argument from Dan Brooke from Channel 4 was that since they were regulated, why shouldn’t everyone be constrained? Well, my first thought was that even with regulation they manage to spout a lot of fiction during news slots. They manage the news by inserting a lot of opinion sections, and selectively interviewing the public. They prune the facts with an intent to deceive, even if they claim a lack of time as an excuse. That’s if they’re not just unashamedly putting out falsehoods. How many times have the news outlets interviewed someone about climate change and made no reference to their background if they push the warming message, yet done everything bar put up a flashing red sign to warn when someone isn’t part of the consensus? The BBC might have been mildly rebuked for Emma Thompson’s drivel on Newsnight but it certainly wasn’t punished for it. I then realised how very much they drive fake news but that they have a far more insidious way of invading people’s minds.

Just before the 3 month political purdah for the last UK election the BBC ran a drama called A Casual Vacancy, adapted from a J K Rowling novel where the author made a thinly veiled attack on the Conservatives. At roughly the same time Channel 4 aired a mockumentary called UKIP: The First 100 days, where few efforts were spared to outline what a disaster it would be if they won the election and what a monstrous lot UKIP MPs would be. Whether you agree with those views of the political parties or not, they were created with all the skills of the drama departments to simulate reality. How can that not be an attempt to influence? However, reality turned out to be stranger than fiction and you can now see the media treating a new victim to the same political manipulation but this time the target Jeremy Corbyn is from the left. I may not like the man or his policies but I’m aware that there are media forces working to get rid of him with all the tools at their disposal. Brexit is also being fictionalised in a multitude of ‘what if’s but if we compare the pre-Brexit predictions with reality, who could be accused of making fake news?

The other part of the discussion was about online abuse, and my first thought was ‘yes, that should be regulated’ but then I realised that the TV is where that abuse was born. Where did we all learn to be so aggressive and rude, especially when we’re behind the barrier of a screen or window? I’ll be honest, I swear like a docker. The main place that has come from has been the TV, with a much milder influence from printed fiction. Ironically, the internet is slowly weaning me off my foul language. I’ve probably lived a sheltered life but I’ve never seen serious adult physical violence in real life and yet on the TV, I can see rapes, murders and any number of atrocities on a daily basis, not to mention photographs and video of real events I would not naturally experience. I hear swearing and vitriol, the like of which I rarely come across in the internet venues I frequent. Yes, I’m sure I could find much worse than anything on TV somewhere on the internet but I’d have to go looking.

It’s TV that has systematically driven the appetite for violence. TV that then has argued against the proper regulation of itself and violent computer games, an area that like TV can completely engage a person in what it portrays. It’s euphemistically called ‘pushing the boundaries’. TV dramas and films regularly encourage people to empathise with violent individuals and groups. They paint them as anti-heroes and our allies.

During the programme they brought up death threats by the public. Unacceptable we’d all agree, but what could be more personal than an acclaimed author publicly fantasising about the assassination of someone the author hates, especially as it was based on true events? In December 2014 BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime aired a short story by Hilary Mantel where the author imagined the assassination of Margaret Thatcher. It is as fake and as biased as it’s possible to get, the only escape clause is that it is fiction and not news. In addition, the story was on the short list for the BBC’s 2015 Short Story Competition, which, although it didn’t win, was bounced around for a new burst of ‘news’. Was it OK because Mrs T was already dead? Was it OK because she was once the elected PM? Or was it OK because the BBC hated Mrs Thatcher too?

The TV media gets away with massive amounts of political influence by calling it opinion or comedy or drama. It imitates politicians, and attributes words and actions to them that are 100% fake. They generate fake news all the time and even hope that people will be influenced by it. I’m convinced that Trump’s victory and the Brexit vote were partly as a result of a backlash against the traditional media’s refusal to positively portray any opinion other than their own. If Brexiteers, Trump and his supporters are deplorable – well, we’ll be deplorable with knobs on.

TV is full of fake news, violence and personal abuse, and it expects to continue supplying it with hardly any restraint. It is a testament to the public that we’re not a massively violent and abusive society. It seems that we are pretty good at separating fact from fiction after all, no matter how it is presented or by whom. The dismay from any of those complaining about fake news is that it doesn’t fit their views. We’ve always been in a post-truth world but now we’re a consumer-driven, rather than supplier-driven, fake-news world. That sounds like an improvement to me, even if the traditional media like to sneeringly call it ‘populism’.


  1. The lamentations of Dan Brooke from Channel 4, and the wider legacy-media, remind me of an excellent article I read in the Financial Times, around 1995: The article asked the question “So what really is the role of a formerly-state-owned behemoth like British Telecom in a post deregulation environment?” They came up with the answer: “Its role is to shrink.”


  2. I’ve intentionally stopped watching the BBC – particularly BBC “News” because it was just so appallingly “fake news”. And indeed, since I’ve stopped watching, it has just become even more obviously biased. Likewise Channel 4 (which usually brings me out with the comment “has someone turned on BBC again?” – because it is just like the BBC completely biased).

    But the thing which made me think is when you talked about rapes, murders etc. and foul language YES!! Come to think about it, I seldom see/hear them except when watching TV.

    However, the reality is what we are seeing is the “dinosaur media” trying to kill off the “small furry mammal media”. And to put it bluntly: they are wasting their time. They are the past, social media is the future and all they really want is a return to the good old days where there was no social media to show up how blatantly biased they have been for most of our lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One thing you missed was the issue of “experts”. What seems to have happened with the internet, is that people outside the traditional “gatekeepers” in academia and media, suddenly found that they had easy access to in depth research in subjects like Climate (and history). As a result, it became very easy for people with spare time to quickly research a subject of interest in depth (like Climate).

    So as a result of the internet and free access to expert knowledge, a lot of people became subject experts without the “liberal” baggage that comes from being in academia. And what they found was that academia had been basically lying about a lot of subjects: using its supposed status as “expert” to push a political view dressed up as “expertise”.

    That viewpoint, is basically the view of the “public sector” – or more accurately those who are condensing parasites on the public purse. And for obvious reasons they are universally hostile to what is called the “private sector” – or more accurately, those who earn the the money that the public sector then tries to convince everyone else should be handed over to them using their media and academic propaganda machine.

    OK, in reality it’s not so black and white, but the new experts who developed their expertise outside academia tend to be more sympathetic to the private sector, and the traditional “experts” tend to be sympathetic to the public sector and usually hostile to the private.

    And that is why the public sector BBC, public funded channel 4, public funded academics etc. are all beginning to hate the internet revolution (which ironically they created). Because whilst they originally saw the internet as an ideal way to force their views on everyone outside the public sector, what they are finding now, is that the views of ordinary people and therefore a large number from the private sector are now dominating the internet and in many subjects (like climate) the level of expertise outside academia is now greater than that inside.


  4. By TinyCO2..

    “I was just watching Sunday’s The Big Questions, available on BBC iPlayer, a discussion of fake news and whether the internet should be regulated.’

    Indeed, regulated by whom? Who has the skill to ‘regulate’?.. My Kitten is a fine preditor, she brings me critters and birds that she has disabled, before eating them alive! Good kitty! Preditor She plays with me, but does not challenge the top Earth predator that demonstrates ability to detonate nuclear weapons upon other Earthlings. Let us hope that Earthling’s insanity is never allowed to propagate to the rest of the Universe! -will-


  5. Check with Paul Homewood never Paul Matthews for any consideration of “what is, or may be”!


  6. The only fake news the real news has been able to claim so far has been a story saying that the Pope endorsed Trump was supposedly doing the rounds before the election. There’s no attempt to work out how many saw it, let alone how many believed it, let alone how many were swayed by it.

    Scottish Sceptic, Channel 4 news seems to be the home for people who were too BBC for the BBC. The TV people have been trying very hard to kill off the written media because it’s biased (not left wing) for a long time. ‘But we have to be neutral’ is their favourite moan against the right wing news papers, with no awareness that they’re biased the other way. It’s coming as a shock to them to discover an even wider gulf on social media. The public stopped trying to get the BBC to be truly central a long time ago and they’ve convinced themselves that no protest equals no opposition. The internet finds its own centre. During the election runup, Question Time tried in vain to get a politically balanced audience but it turned out that members of the right wing puplic didn’t want to spend their time being jeered at by a left wing audience the way normal BBC debate programmes usually turn out.


  7. Will Janoschka, ‘regulated by whom?’ is a very good question and Facebook has expressed a desire to do just that. Given the sluggish way that Facebook and Twitter have responded to their platforms being used for terrorism it’s curious why they’d be fast off the mark dealing with news that they plan to deem fake. I think we all suspect that climate scepticism is an area they may try to paint as untrue. One of Paul Homewood’s posts the other day demonstrated how a real news story can lie. It was about the different tornado graphs and how better recording of minor tornadoes gives a false impression of increasing activity, whereas the F3s and upwards have declined.


  8. Re that letter (Paul, 9:41 am). Donald Trump has already had the benefit of advice on climate from yet another professor, one Will Happer. I suspect if we had scales to measure wisdom and scientific penetration, Happer would outweigh the 100 signatories lumped together each time. [Some insight into his thinking can be found in this interview published on WUWT a few days ago:
    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/01/10/the-william-happer-interview/ ]

    But Bob Ward’s letter is not a complete waste of time and attention. The list of signatories might make a handy checklist for progress with draining the CO2 Alarm Swamp in the UK, supposing, just supposing, funding for their adventures started to dwindle. I notice the Met Office is absent from the list, and I also notice the word ‘evidence’ is used some 7 times in the letter and that is quite interesting.

    I think by ‘evidence’ they must largely mean ‘conjecture illustrated by complex yet inadequate computer models’. Actual provision of evidence from them would be welcome, but the reservations they would surely feel duty-bound to include would not make for a snappy letter. I hope that the Cabinet Office, for example, will invite provision of this evidence in due course. Perhaps to a Royal Commission on CO2 Alarmism – but there I go, day-dreaming again.

    One fairly recent attempt to provide such evidence is reported on here, and turns out to be less than convincing: http://www.climateconversation.org.nz/2015/10/scientist-give-us-evidence-we-cause-climate-change/ . The attempt lacked proper reservations but a selection of them has been helpfully added by the folks at the link to help us get the attempt in context. A reality-based context that is. That always helps in the struggle against Fake News, Fake Assurance, and even Flaky Science.


  9. One of the things I dislike about 24 hour news is that instead of covering more news stories, they just speculate about the same number at greater length.


  10. Fake News does not seem new or novel to me. Maybe Intentionally Fake News is what is. How tragic to be producing it unknowingly.


  11. J Ferguson, over at Dan Kahan’s Cultural Cognition blog, he says he is giving a talk at AAAS in February about fake news. The abstract starts with

    “The advent of “fake news” disseminated by social media is a relatively novel phenomenon, the impact of which has not been extensively studied.”


  12. Hi Paul,
    In the early ’70s i worked in a drafting room with a guy who did piping (not the musical kind). He was very skilled and was able to transform an hydraulic diagram to something which could be built (and maintained) complete with the correct spacers, elbows, spools, couplings, etc. The room may have had 20 people in it all doing architectural and engineering design. Discussions across the room would break out from time to time. Our hero would frequently voice opinions based on not even a tangential understanding of the news of the day. We were unable to identify a source of many of his ‘understandings.’

    So finally someone asked.

    It was his bowling league. He read nothing, did not consult the evening news on TV, nor any other source but his colleagues at the bowling alley.

    I would submit that social media is bowling league writ large.

    ps. I sought out the piping museum on our first visit to Glasgow and much to the amusement of SWMBO I discovered that it did not feature valves, fittings, victaulic couplings which I had been looking forward to, but a device with which to conduct assaults on the ears of nearby musicians.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. JFerguson. You post reminded me of my long-depated father who was a pipefitter (thus someone who might have physically constructed what someone like your colleague may have drafted). He worked shifts (preferring nights) so often went for weeks not hearing any news on the radio. Nevertheless he always had strong opinions on current events. Later I discovered all his opinions came from his daytime shift mates.
    It may be that with social media we are returning to the position before radio news (but writ much larger) where information and opinion is spread primarily not mouth-to-mouth but tweet-to-tweet.


  14. Alan,
    After a lifetime’s exposure to folks who were able to misinform themselves without the assistance of social media, I suppose the delta is the extent of the problem and that all of the social media readers see the same thing rather than a story which has evolved (devolved?) via word of mouth.

    There is also the credibility provided by reading it on the internet.

    I first heard the doubt about Obama’s place of birth the weekend before the 2008 election when I was ringing doorbells in his support. Guy came to the door, for some reason suspected that i was a vet (I’m not) and invited me in to hear the whole story. My reaction was that it seemed likely that a defect like this in O’s qualifications would have surfaced earlier in the campaign and appropriate action would have been taken if there was anything to it. I also doubted that Obama, himself, would have persisted in this race with such a problem.

    My host was really convinced having read the thing on two different web-sites. My reaction had no effect whatever since my thoughts were verbal, or at least I think that’s why I wasn’t able to talk him out of it.

    So i guess ‘fake news’ is one more annoyance we’ll have to worry about.


  15. The real fake internet news is essentially gossip and is as old as the hills. Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong but the internet offers something very new. As Scottish Sceptic writes, we can find out facts about issues that were never available before. That doesn’t mean people can’t be misled but it opens up a new way the public interact with complex issues. In the past a scientist could just say ‘trust me I’m a scientist’ but now, if they want to maintain the upper hand, they need to answer the annoying questions and have all the necessary justification readily available online. If the global temperature series were company results, can you imagine the furore if they were altered on the sly? And if you could justify the new version, you’d be investigated for getting it so wrong in the first place. Are the current versions fake or have they been fake for decades?


  16. Your article is having an effect! Two hours ago the Guardian
    accused Boris Johnson of comparing the French president, Francois Hollande, to a Nazi. They’ve since changed the headline to “Boris Johnson uses WW2 comparison to criticise French president’s stance on Brexit.”


  17. LOL. It’s so common to spin the truth, they hardly know that they’re doing it. It’s what’s so funny about the fake news kerfuffle.


  18. Present Central Intelligence Agency . Joseph Lambert, the CIA’s director of information management,
    Who is to be acceptable reference from the corrupt US government . Joseph Lambert, the CIA’s director of information management, John O. Brennan, · ‎Mike Pompeo , Might as well consult your local pond frog! CROCK!!!


  19. Is this a sign of the End of Days? John Gummer (aka Lord Deben?) channelling a dead Maggie Thatcher in the Guardian in an attempt to influence a right wing American government it despises. I laughed so much I Gummered myself.


    Whatever Maggie believed when there was very little climate evidence and she wanted to push nuclear, she would have had no truck with it or renewables today.


  20. I’m aware that she changed her mind but not that it was as far back as that. I got the impression her initial support for it was in part driven by a desire to promote nuclear.


  21. The advent of the Guardian trying to suck up to a Repulican president is quite informative. Harking back to Mrs T is somewhat slimey. For once Gummer doesn’t use that title he prefers. Probably because it makes him easier to link to Maggie and partly to make hime look like an ordinary guy. Lord Debben is easier to link to his climate advocacy and troughing in recent years.

    How alarming for the Guardian to have no significant influence over the US or the UK governments. Brexit will wipe them out in Europe and Labour are pulling themselves apart. It leaves them with the BBC as their main ally.


  22. I wrote the first part of the comment above 😀 I guessed it was bin fodder but I couldn’t resist. The Guardian likes to think of itself as unbiased and internationally popular. It must have stung to write positively about Mrs T. Conservatives were supposed to say ‘oh well if Maggie was for cutting CO2, I’m sold on the idea.’


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