IN THE LAST FEW WEEKS, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and CNN have abandoned the high standards that they once had by fabricating news with the intent of misleading the public about the Russian hacking case. However, just a few months ago the same media groups supposedly, launched a campaign to eradicate false news being fabricated by the independent media, bloggers and social media. They alleged that the increase of false news was representing a threat to society.They called for citizens to engage in their campaign to protect their rights. that part of the traditional media maintains a double standard rhetoric. While engaging in campaigns to eradicate false news they adopt the same illegitimate positions by implementing a new editorial line presumably imposed by the government. Let’s scrutinise some cases of false news published by the traditional media:
ON DECEMBER 23th, the Republicca (an Italian magazine), published an interview of Julian Assange conducted by Stefania Maurizi. An Italian journalist, who has worked with Julian Assange and his organisation “WikiLeaks” since 2009.
After Assange’s interview was released, the Guardian published a misleading article written by Ben Jacobs. It made two false claims. The first appeared in the headline:
“Julian Assange gives guarded praise of Trump and blasts Clinton in interview.”
The second claim appears in the first paragraph:
“Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has offered guarded praise of Donald Trump.”
Both claims are easily demonstrably false, by reading the original interview.
As a matter of fact, there is no trace of the claims written by Jacob in the original interview.It indicates that Jacob intentionally fabricated the facts of the article to gain some popularity and damage Assange’s reputation. As further evidence, once Stefania Maurizi, Gleen Greenwald, and other honest journalists pointed out the false article, the Guardian amended part of it.
The Guardian Amendment:
- This article was amended on 29 December 2016 to remove a sentence in which it was asserted that Assange “has long had a close relationship with the Putin regime”. A sentence was also amended which paraphrased the interview, suggesting Assange said “there was no need for Wikileaks to undertake a whistleblowing role in Russia because of the open and competitive debate he claimed exists there”. It has been amended to more directly describe the question Assange was responding to when he spoke of Russia’s “many vibrant publications”.
ALTHOUGH the Guardian amended the article, the damage was already done. It had already been shared by thousands of people on the social media. The public does not generally read the same article more than once so a large number of people are still misled. By its part, the journalistic community has shown its concerns and has requested Jacob give more explanations about the motivations behind his actions. Unfortunately, Jacob has not given any explanation yet.
THE WASHINGTON POST:
ON DECEMBER 27th of last year, the Washington Post published an article alarming the population about that Russian hackers penetrated into the U.S. electricity grid through an utility in Vermont.
it contained serious accusations from Vermont officials. The state’s Democratic governor, Peter Shumlin, said:
“Vermonters and all Americans should be both alarmed and outraged that one of the world’s leading thugs, Vladimir Putin, has been attempting to hack our electric grid, which we rely upon to support our quality of life, economy, health, and safety. This episode should highlight the urgent need for our federal government to vigorously pursue and put an end to this sort of Russian meddling.”
The reaction of the media was dishonest and outrageous by spreading false information and falsely alarming the citizens.
A few hours later, it was found that the article was false. Surprisingly, according to sources from Vermont’s utility, the Washington post did not even contact them to confirm whether the information was authentic or not.
As the Guardian did with Assange’s article, when it was revealed that the article was false and after some journalists exposed it on the social media, the Whasighton Post amended part of the article.
AS IN THE GUARDIAN’S CASE, the article was amended, but the damage was already done.The readers do not usually read the same article twice, and it had already been shared by thousands of people on the social media. The Washington Post still have an “excellent” reputation by the general public (who are not experts). This makes it difficult for some of to verify whether a story is fabricated or not. However, it is irrefutable that the article generated a high social alarm and hysteria. There is also clear evidence that it was deliberately fabricated to make think people that “Russia was attacking the U.S.”.
ON JANUARY 4th, Phil Mudd, a counterterrorism analyst for the CNN, asserted during the New Day’s Show that Assange was a pedophile. The same day, WikiLeaks warned CNN that if it did not rectify the situation during the next 48 hours, Wikileaks would sue them.
After three hours, CNN announced that it had deleted the link to the interview on its Twitter account, and attached a statement announcing that there is no evidence of the assertion earlier that day by Phil Mudd.
Phil Mudd’s intentions were to mislead the public and make them think that Wikileaks is a suspicious journalistic organisation led by a pedophile. Once again, CNN rectified the error, but the damage was already done. CNN has millions of viewers on a regular basis, and most of them do not follow its Twitter account. It suggests that a great proportion of the public did not have the opportunity even to see the correction.
WHY IS IMPORTANT to point out the false news? The media has a highly hypnotic manipulative capacity to make people think that everything said by them is authentic. It has been used numerous times in other countries to influence elections, or instigate revolutions. So it is important to ensure that the citizens are well-informed about what is surrounding their lives on a regular basis, regardless of the subject. However, some governments are resisting it by dictating news to some traditional media outlets.
No one should blame journalists working for the traditional media unless they participate in the fabrication of news. But in case the current editorial line continues being dubious for some more time, they should consider whether or not to keep working there and accept its new editorial line.
THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN false news and it will be impossible to entirely eradicate them. However, the implementation of some mechanisms that teach the citizens how to think critically may decrease, which is the real impact that false news have in society. It is also important to call the traditional media to return to its high standards that it once had. This would be the best way to almost eradicate false news and prevent unnecessary geopolitical conflicts that may soon turn into wars. Honest journalism is that which always pursues truth, regardless of the situation and the case. Hopefully, the media, which is fabricating news, will soon reconsider its positions. Until then, critical thinking will be the only effective weapon that society will have to resist false news.