Monday, 30 January 2017

Flirting Between The Borders of Clickbait And Propaganda

There has always existed a large number of publications that released ‘fake news’, but the issue has become significantly more prominent during the period of the 2016 US elections. In times like these, where media has such an overwhelming upper hand in possessing the power to influence and inform the public, it is imperative that only verified and reliable news is published. News agencies, publications and likewise have the responsibility to speak of the objective truth and only the objective truth. Sadly, responsibility is not always legally binding.

I’m not talking about tabloid-esque fake news, the painfully obvious fake news. The fake news that does not seamlessly blend into the pool of reliable information. I’m not talking about the ones with headlines that read “ALIEN ENDORSES TRUMP” that are so boisterously fake that even plastic Barbie dolls shy away from titles like these. (FYI, this is really a headline). No, rather I am talking about the ones that not only claim to be real, but the ones that actually read like real news.

Take FOX news for example. One of the biggest news agencies in the US, one of the most watched news channels in the US too. To show you why this statistic is so ridiculous to me, let me explain that FOX Business Network once published a deceptively edited video of Barack Obama to “argue that he encouraged illegal immigrants to vote when in fact he had said nothing of the sort if you go back to the original transcript”. Those who constantly surround themselves with other, reliable sources of news (take the BBC, the NYT, CNN for example), may easily be able to recognise the fraudulent features of FOX news, perhaps even get a good laugh out of it. But what outsiders don’t recognise is that those who rely on FOX news, don’t.

This is where selective politics kicks in. Sometimes, the media can gain power by spoon feeding consumers what they want to hear. This is not to say that the media ‘spoon feeds’ its users and viewers, and those who engage with the media should be smart enough to use it merely as a source of data and information and form their own opinions from it henceforth. But a large part of media is also simply about amassing a large viewer base. (Because that’s what capitalism is - the end goal is always profit. In media, larger viewership = larger profit). It’s a simple concept, but a dangerous one. There are people, colossal amounts of people, who genuinely believe in this fake news, purely because it aligns with what they already believe in. By feeding off of what its viewers want to hear, news agencies akin to FOX News gain trust among its viewers. The rest? They don’t wanna hear it. I’ll go as far as to say some are in denial of it; refuse to hear it.

Let me reach a short conclusion. Fake news is dangerous. It’s dangerous for all the obvious reasons and so much more. By spreading fake news, one is breeding a following of people who fall victim to propaganda without realising it. 

I have always felt strongly about the wonderful influence the media can and has had on the masses. This is something that I have consistently been fascinated in, the reason I wish to pursue a career in journalism. I wouldn’t dare say that I could ever single-handedly rectify this, I can’t help that there are people out there soaking in this fake news faster than a sponge can soak up water. But I hope to work towards a new generation of journalism and media that swears by the publication of the truth.


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