In January this year President Trump presented his “Fake News” awards, The New York Times led the list. But fake news is all the rage: a modern phenomenon which seems to have been born at the last presidential election. And it is true that the modern world is particularly vulnerable to it, although it has a somewhat longer history. Pontius Pilate arraigned Jesus citing fake news and in the Middle Ages fabricated stories of murderous Jewish activities were circulated successfully, and ultimately bloodily. Ironically, similar stories with similar objectives and similar outcomes were used by the Nazis, and believed as readily. The idea that we upright Brits would not have been fooled by such propaganda, in the same circumstances, is dangerously optimistic.
The target of course is mobile vulgus or the “fickle crowd”. It has always been with us – as the use of the Latin phrase indicates. Its characteristic is its tendency to believe the evidence which supports what it would like to be true. There is no doubt that while the universal mob response can be tracked through history it has become more common through the press, the radio and television. Today we can add social media.
Fortunately, none of us belong to a mob. Really? The tendency to accept evidence which supports our own view is shared by the educated, the politicians and the man in the street. And I include myself. The only hope of defence is an internal scepticism through which we continually interrogate evidence which appears to support what we think to be true. That’s difficult.
The difficulty is reinforced by the discovery that our brains are set to reward us when we find that our opinion is shared amongst the groups to which we belong. It appears that in the earliest times, safety required that communities should be united in their views. Conformity was safe, disunity was dangerous. Moving, as I do, between various Catholic groups I find that only a few minutes are needed in order to know what kind of opinions are acceptable in that group. It is ironic that the Catholic Herald, the first Catholic newspaper to have an uncensored letters page, was criticised over sixty years ago, often from high places, for encouraging the laity to express their views, and to have a liturgy in their own language. If the Herald had had its own way there might have been no need for Vatican II!
If the mob response has always been with us we should note that available methods of communication may be the key to its extent. Remember how the power of printing enabled the Reformation to publish the Bible in the vulgar tongue, and the circulation of other key documents. Without printing power that great cultural change might never have taken place. Perhaps its most powerful stimulant is social media: enabling a staggering capacity for the mob to communicate to thousands of people. It may well change the culture of our society, and indeed of our democracy, as did the invention of the printing press. As an example, a tweet, originally sent to about 40 people, which declared that anti Trump protesters were being bussed in for disrupting pro Trump demonstrations, went viral. It was shared some 16,000 times on Twitter and 350,000 times on Facebook. And so a new mob was formed. Trump himself is no fool: he uses twitters, absurd as they may seem to some, because he knows the predilections of his own mob.
Another example of the mob instinct is the principle of “safe places”, sadly found in our universities. Speakers on sensitive topics may not be acceptable to university societies, and speakers not pleasing to the students may not be invited. A similar mob demands that statues and monuments of historical figures associated with unacceptable activities should be removed. Do we not need their memorials to remind us of the dangers of allowing cultures to influence our moral values without questioning them? As the philosopher Santayana said “Those who cannot remember the past are destined to repeat it.” We appear to be bringing up a generation which cultivates its prejudices and takes care to avoid any challenging questions.
When Churchill spoke of democracy as the worst form of government except for any other he warns us implicitly of the dangers of democracy. The danger today lies in the capacity of social communication to form overnight enormous mobs whose members are blind to any values outside those of their group. Mobs don’t think: they emote. But each member has a vote. Much importance is placed on the democratic vote to choose Brexit. I accept that, but did you feel that you had enough reliable information to make a rational choice? Or were you, like me, forced to rely on your emotions, or the emotions of the mob to which you belong?
Another excellent topic.
The requirement for ‘enough’ information on which to make a ‘rational choice’ bothers me. That;s putting it too high (I think). For all important questions, the minimum information we can expect is what will stop us making ridiculous choices. And ‘information’ about what? If you are for ‘remain’ you think that what is vital is the economy (and how it will develop after ‘Brexit’), If you are for leaving the EU, you think if is more important to have ultimate control over our rulers – the opportunity, if they’re not doing a good job, to throw them out at least once every five years. Nor do we get to pick our MEPs. They are picked by their party in order of preference – and if they pick one you don’t like, your only hope to be rid of him may be to have him convicted of fraud.
Similarly, on really serious questions – like Should you divorce your wife? (which I hope is unlikely to trouble blog readers) facts (after a preliminary check) may be much the least important factors in any decision.
Similarly with ‘climate change’ – which I will leave for the moment, but expect (if allowed) to come to later – everyone thinks scientific facts are enough to settle the matter. Wrong! Science, economics and politics are involved – and the greatest of these is politics, There is much less disagreement about the established science than most think.
For reasons which are not clear to me, I am having problems with sending my introductory email, via Virgin Media. I will be looking further into this. Sorry.
Its a wonderful blog indeed. And I’m taking the time to just acknowledge that fact right now. Thank you Quentin – always informative, well researched giving grounds for serious reflection.
I like your clear thinking and well reasoned arguments. You can usually give a good chunk of historical or scientific data to back up your position and some very clever prose to advance it.
I appreciate the work you put into it for us and always there is a different view to consider even when the topic comes up again.
And the fact that I disagree with most of it, most of the time, probably establishes your work even higher in the opinion of my fellow bloggers here.
No email at this end but none necessary as far as I am concerned.
Now I am going to take the time to digest it all a bit more. Thank you again.
Well said, Galerimo!
As you say, Quentin, there has always been fake news. It’s what people want most of the time. Many people hate to hear criticism of the royal family, even when it is justified. They don’t want to hear that their future king was an adulterer, but if he were, no doubt, he had a good reason. They like to think that the photograph of Princess Elizabeth working under the bonnet of vehicle during the war, was true.
Fox’s book on protestant martyrs was accepted by the protestant population as accurate of accounts showing the cruelty of Catholic authorities. Hochuth’s play about Pope Pius XII’s treatment of the Jews was widely accepted in 1960s, even though it was straight forward communist propaganda. Pius XII’s silence is still criticised by many today even though the Jews of Rome had nothing but good to say about Pius.
The Catholic authorities are not innocent of pumping out fake news. In fact they have always done so on a huge scale.
The answer to the problem is to educate each generation to a high standard and to teach them to read and talk round a subject before they take a stance. Unfortunately, universities are not doing the job.
Nice examples, Geordie. I must say, though, that I’m sorry to hear that the photo of the Princess Elizabeth under the car bonnet was a fake – I thought we were more innocent in those days (certainly I was). Are you sure – or just cynical?
I have a pious observation, that Our Lord was Himself the victim of fake news with the accusation to Pontius Pilate that He intended to replace Caesar.
And another one, that there are people, and I know one quite well, who think that news and reports of space exploration are all faked.
Brexit – “reliable information”. Who might we rely on? Surely all information, particularly on an emotive subject, always contains the influence of those who are delivering it. “There is no knowledge without value”. Is “scientific information” – or any information, for that matter, totally innocent, objective?
Yes. One wins an argument (in principle) by making a stronger case than one’s opponent. But one emphases one’s strong points and minimises points against one. A scientist is supposed to set out fairly all the pros and cons. This however is a counsel of perfection. One may come over as a ‘sophistical rhetorician, inebriated by the exuberance of his own verbosity, gifted with an egotistical imagination that can at all times command a series of interminable and inconsistent arguments, to malign an opponent and to glorify himself”. There are neutral scientific facts – specific gravity of liquid mercury at 0 C – but a table,say, of toxicity of pesticide residues is not necessarily so, because it needs to be compared with other risks, eg of using other, or no ,pesticides.
Fake News, a relatively new term that denotes falsehood, deviousness, meant to incite. Also, those who engage in False News on social media and the press and television, engage in reverse psychology, that is, saying another says this or does that, when it it might be totally untrue, but it is true by those engaged in Fake News.
Fake News, has a political agenda too. For example the situation in America about President Donald Trump. Fake News accuses him, first one thing, failing that another, then another. And so it goes on.
Many universities in the States and elsewhere are a hotbed of nutcase Professors indulging in so much Political fake news and inciting impressionable students to take to the streets. Ban anyone who disagrees with them, even to taking up violence.
So pervasive is Fake News that many people, especially young people, believe their poisonous narratives.
In a sense Fake News as been around for melenia. It seeks to influence and control agendas and narratives. This tells you it is not democratic, but Communist in nature.
What is at stake with all this Fake News going about? Everything from shutting down the West;
Communist takeover; getting rid of Christianity and lastly to killing one way or another millions of people from off the face of the earth.
Who are involved most in Fake News? The elites of this world.
Essentially they are peddling lies in one form or another, and we all know who the father of lies is, don’t we? These elites are under his control, doing his bidding to end humanity and thwart God’s plan and purposes. How made can these elites and unelected bodies get? Fake News is producing uncertainty, putting people against one another. It is very dangerous and we should all be on our guard.
Sorry for the error in the last paragraph it should read….. How mad can these elites and unelected bodies get?
In an effort to understand human nature it looks like we have to stay with our foundational myths. Now we move from the garden of Eden to the tower of Babel.
It is all about lies and the communication of the truth. Adam was telling the truth when he said he was naked. But what was his purpose in doing so?
Things were not better because they happened long ago. The arrival of lighting had a much greater impact than the invention of the printing press. People who could read could now see what they were reading for longer. And that increases the chance of greater understanding. But it didn’t stop the Black Death sneaking up.
Our technologies have advanced far quicker than our personal development as human beings.
The simple fact is that we have not got any new rules for using new electronic media. However the basic effort to establish that facts are correct and that public interest is being served would help for starters.
True, when it comes to our institutions of learning and the acquisition of knowledge through research and tradition you would expect more from third level institutions like the Universities.
But, like the health systems, where the business model prevails, benefits are designed in the long run for shareholders and not patients or students. Funding from the private sector enables government to evade their responsibility in both these areas. So the chemical companies and big business who provide the money to run the place have a much greater say in who gets invited to speak and who doesn’t.
And Churchill again? I love the scene in “Darkest Hour” when his secretary is banging on the door of the loo to get him to speak to the Lord Privy Seal. Churchill howls from behind his locked door “tell him I’m sealed in the privy and can only deal with one sh** at a time”.
I am not quite sure what you mean by ‘foundational myths?’
It reminds me about the ‘builders’ in 1st Peter 2:7-8. ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone and a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.’
Who were these builders mentioned here. Were they not the religious leaders, the Pharisees, Teachers of the Law?
Yet when Christ came, because He did not fit their prejudiced narrative, they rejected Him,
and spread Fake News concerning Him and had Him crucified. They got the ignorant crowd baying with the same prejudiced narrative.
Who are the ‘modern day builders?’ Are they not the elites, the religious elites, the scientists, the philosophers, the ones who think they know, but don’t. Who reject Him from their narrative and spread their poisonous Fake News about Him. Who get the world repeating their atheistic narratives and the crowds repeating the same Fake News.
The modern day builders are the ones who think they are building the modern day utopia,
ridding the world of true Christianity and rejecting Christ. Oh yes, they would be crying crucify Him like they did when Christ was on earth, all because He does not fit their narrative or utopia.
Yes, these builders of old had Christ put to death. The modern day builders of Civilisation do the same. The reject Him.
Oh yes, one can reject Christ passively, not following Him, believing in Him or obeying Him. And, like the baying masses have him put to death out of ones life out of one world and replace it with the Fake News of the modern day builders.
Ah, but the time is coming when this stone these builders rejected, after death, the Judgement and they who rejected him will have to look Him in the face and be Judged accordingly. And, that is not Fake News!
I am cynical. Or should I say a realist? It is only recently that I have come to consider the photo a fake. There’s no oil on her hands; no tools; no cloths. It just looks staged. It is the way the royals and their advisers have manipulated the people since Diana that has made me doubt anything that they say or do.
We have learned in recent years and the death George V was engineered in order to catch the morning papers. The evening papers were not considered good enough for the announcement of royal death.
I could go on.
Very fair comment, Geordie. I think I’m convinced (against what I would prefer to believe). George V’s case I’ve read about before. and am less sceptical of. But I have the impression that this (if real) was a personal initiative of the doctor involved, rather than one organised by the Royal Household (I hope so, anyway) If not, it would give some credence to the contention that that sort of medical killing for convenience happens all the time, so needs to be made legal and regulated, I hope and pray that is quite false.
There is a monumental positive in awareness of the eternal ‘fake news’ (lies) coming to the general populaces knowledge … the onus is now on the individual to do thier own research, internally and externally, to find what is real & true. And coming to thier own conclusions before joining the ‘vulgar mob’ which suits them.
Those that do, and choose love, will find ‘truth’ amongst many differing persuasions, and it will dispell the myth (fake news) that other ‘vulgar mobs’ are the enemy to blame for …. whatever.
Some of all mobs, and of thier own, could be / will be, but not all.
Unless that mob is hell bent on destruction of others, of course.
There is a perrenial truth of spirit available for all to recognise and follow (and it’s becoming more ovious) when we do, it’s recognised in others. And that ‘not so vulgar mob’ becomes the norm for ‘truth’ – full of mistakes as it still is. No ONE is perfect.
When that ‘not so vulgar mob’ is active amongst the majority the fake news will begin to deminish and truth amongst people be experientially lived. ………. Untill then we must question everything; fake or not; and carry on being the best we can.
The down side is that the ‘powers that be’ WILL use it to dictate what is ‘true’! 1984 was a prophetic book!
(My spell checker seems to have stopped so apologies, if you need them, for the spelling, never was my forteeeee).
“We wuz framed , guv..honest! ”
Personally I have little sympathy with that argument with regard to Brexit. Little England voted leave for far less savoury reasons than misinformation I’m afraid. Mostly it marked a definite reversion to mob self interest. Probably fair enough to say there was a lot of spin coming from all sides but for anyone with a brain and an interest the papers and the net were awash with material. There is an argument that we get the governments we deserve and it seems to me we got the referendum result we deserved also. None of that is to say the ‘leave’ brexit vote was wrong, just that in the main it was mob self interest that won the day. By the way, did we really land on the moon?
I find you comments on Brexit pompous and self-righteous. I voted for Brexit for a number of reasons. I have an Economics degree and I speak fluent French. I have a number of French friends who would love to have the opportunity of a referendum and they are not right-wing facists. The corruption among the Brussels’ clique is outlandish. Neil Kinnock was supposed to sort it out but instead he sack the Dutch civil servant who had blown the whistle.
The political elite in the European Union have been unchecked for years and they are the masters of fake news. Anyone with a brain and an interest in the papers and the net could find so many examples of European mismanagement that they wouldn’t need tp revert to mob self interest. Common sense would suffice.
Sorry for your sensitivities,
Did you read the bit that said
“None of that is to say the ‘leave’ brexit vote was wrong:” ?
I have been a bit bothered about the term Quentin uses, ‘The vulgar mob.’
It would be an error to assume that many of those who participate on social media are as described the vulgar mob.
This goes way back into the masters of Fake News the Roman Catholic Church or which many other churches has followed in the same vain since.
For example, centuries ago the Catholic Church forbade anyone to read scriptures, and the Scriptures had to be interpreted by them and referred to errors that would be made by the vulgar mob.
That was not only fake news, it was also reversed psychology blaming everyone else as the vulgar mob of the very errors they were making.
Religion, politicians scientist and various other groups like to control the narrative and unless you agree with them you are somehow one who is part of an ignorant vulgar mob.
Social media has its faults, some very serious ones, but it is there and it is informative amidst those that now seek to control it.
It does not surprise me that so many in their ivory towers are feeling uncomfortable, start name calling, asserting a reverse psychology of the very things they are guilty of.
Where does all this land up I ask myself? It is very dangerous, but those who presently weird power
are the real vulgar mob. There are others of course who would use social media like a vulgar mob reeling in those that like them are. But they don’t last very long.
But I am concerned about the vulgar mobs that continue to exist as mentioned, causing division, hatred, religious intolerance and fear.
sorry for my error – in the last paragraph —– it sould read: but those who presently wield power.
I understand fake news to be a deliberate broadcast of an untruth or misleading statement. In the case of Brexit the discussions were not fake in that sense. They were founded on an almost complete ignorance of the structures of the EU and the many institutions within it and our relation to them and how our economy and society function. This was compounded by a civil service emasculated by many of its functions having been transferred to Brussels.
The digital revolution gives everyone an opportunity to speak thus bypassing the editorial actions of newspapers and traditional media. At present it is rather like the tower of Babel except that people are separated by strongly held incompatible ideas rather than different languages.
I agree that the antidote is a good education. However, we are in a weak position when it is accepted that 20% of teenagers are illiterate and innumerate in relation what they need to function in society.
‘founded on an almost complete ignorance’ – a faked ignorance? Or just a refusal by the powers – including the press – that be to educate the masses, maybe?
Withholding information is just as ‘fake’ as putting out lies.
The claims for education, necessary though it is, depends on controlling the narrative.
Science too with its claims, along with most of modern day religion and psychologists
demand we agree with them or one is ignorant. Really?
The EU is doomed to failure and anticipate it will fail around 2020. Unelected bodies too like the EU will get a shake up as people see what these unelected bodies and quangos do and the Fake News they spew out.
Climate Change in terms of the Fake News changed regularly to meet their false narrative is embarrassing to say the least and not scientific at all, just modified and corrupted computer models which is not science, just projections of their Fake News narratives. It is out to destroy the West; shut down its production, limit its agriculture to practically nothing.
Practically speaking these real vulgar mobs that actually do control the narratives, seeking to build their modern day utopias, always fail, just like they failed in the past.
It seems the meaning of understanding has changed too, it now means one who agrees with the real vulgar mobs narratives.
The response of social media to all the Fake News spewing out of news, political religious,
educational, scientific, psychological and universities does not come out of nothing, they have woken up to the facts they are being conned, ripped off financially, lied to by Governments abused by religious leaders (not Christian at all) and all those other groups mentioned above.
The real vulgar mobs as mentioned, are not those who appear on social media, but those who control the narratives, the power, the money.
The new criterion for reception of truth as reported in the news is now “the pub test”.
If the item would we received with credibility and approval in an atmosphere where the mood is relaxed and the audience includes ordinary folk, both the quirky and the sophisticated then Australian journalism now meets its new standard. Does it meet “the pub test?”
So the vulgar mob has another platform from which to operate its keen discernment.
Not much has changed on the landscape of Babel!
Ah, the truth of bar room banter! How i miss it!
Surely our ‘vulgar mob’ relies on (a quote from today’s daily meditation from WCCM) “So this image that Jesus gives us of himself as the way, as the gate of the sheepfold, allows us to think of him as the centre, as the one we find who helps us to keep our balance. He is there to help us to stay on the way. He helps us to stay on the way, to stay balanced, and then we can live in the world of mundane things and they actually become less mundane, less boring, because they begin to show their meaning and their relationship to the mysterious aspect of life, which we can also respect, we can also make time for.” …… for ‘way’ read truth!
For more people (religious or not) are seeing through the ‘fake’ into the real meanings and values hidden by the vulgar.
G.D. I maintain that “fake news” should be distinguished by the intention to ‘contrive out of poor or sham material’ or ‘to alter so as to deceive’; otherwise it could just mean anything you disagreed with.
Nektarios. By education I mean the traditional learning of subject matter comprised of the hierarchies of facts and concepts as in Mathematics, physics, history, literature, languages, music etcetera developed and added to through millennia which gives the student a basis to detect contradiction and factual error and also to contribute to knowledge; as opposed to the view of knowledge as pages on the internet not to be learnt but to be accessed when needed as proposed by Andrew Marr’s radio guest without a suspicion of the non sequitur.
Which is what politicians (mostly do). On the Brexit particularly.
“..By education I mean the traditional learning of subject matter comprised of the hierarchies of facts and concepts as in Mathematics, physics, history, literature, languages, music etcetera developed and added to through millennia which gives the student a basis to detect contradiction and factual error and also to contribute to knowledge; as opposed to the view of knowledge as pages on the internet not to be learnt but to be accessed when needed…”
This gives good insight into one aspect of the problem. I have a very bright lawyer/ daughter in her early twenties. She tells me the problem is not so much that the’news’ is ‘fake’ but that she and her peers have no means of filtering the information deluge taking place via the internet. One ‘page’ is apparently as good as another ‘page’ yet both might be diametrically opposed in content.
My personal filters were formed during the eighties when I was at university in my mid twenties studying Politics/Economics and Philosophy whilst eagerly engaging in various protests and student movements. This means that at least I have a perspective from which to weigh information put before me and to spot underlying bias.
Here’s a good case for learning from our children. I think your daughter has got a good grasp of what is going on with fake news.
I agree that education does provide knowledge from a “sometimes” increasing repository as mentioned above. But you would have to agree that without the cultivation of a critical faculty it may not lead to much. We have plenty of highly educated failures in our world.
Part of the problem is that it is hard for a positive critique to be understood in such an ego driven world. People often hear “put down” when a thoughtful critical evaluation is being offered. And to be honest there is a lot of vile abuse on our internet that hardly even amounts to opinion.
And another part of the problem is that we deserve all the fake news we go looking for. A by product of our electronic age is the self perpetuating insatiable appetite it generates for more and more information, titivation and scandal. The web is a great advance in our time but it is addictive.
In summary then, I would agree that an education which includes critical awareness along with the self discipline of selective use of electronic media would definitely contribute to the improvement of well being for the vulgar mob.
It may not eliminate fake news but it would render a lot of it as useless. Like democracy does to royalty.
When it really comes to Fake News and why they do it, it is not a game now, it is a battle for your mind, not to influence one, a sector of the population, but whole countries and their Governments so much as to totally control everything. This is what is meant by the New world Order, and it is posivitively evil, none more so than those who control the money.
Unelected bodies like the the UN and the EU commissioners and certain religious leaders not to mention the unelected IPCC who control the narrative on climate chage which is Fake News are not the real vulgar mobs, but pawns in the hands of those elites who control the money and the power.
So sophisticated is Fake News it is difficult to decipher what is really going on, changing the narratives to suit themselves.The IPCC is just a case in point when their Fake News narratives where found out and proven to be false, they have had to revise this several times, note not change the overall Climate Change narrative just their computer models which is not climate science. They never seem to give up, even when found out.
Google up Agenda 21 and see what is behind all this Fake News, like I say it is not a game.
Yes, Agenda 21 has been alive and kicking for many years … but of course it’s ‘fake news’ they say …. that’s how it’s been hidden.
Mind you there are plenty of people aware of it that still ‘comply’ to it’s insidiousness. Money & power for the weak minded!
I know Agenda 21 has been around for many years. Only recently have the Communist UN tried to activate it during the Obama presidency, who is a communist. It was a plan thought up way back in the early in the 1940s.
But Agenda 21 is only one of many plans, and their plans are being found it. But believe me, these wicked people will never give up.
I notice the tone of the posting on this topic of Fake News as though it was some joke, but it is much more serious than that.
Before Fake News was just limited to a country and internal affairs, now it is global and into everything. Perhaps you feel too comfortable, think it does not effect you or others. Perhaps you think what you are being told is too far fetched for any Government(s) to deploy. Think again.
We knew about mass immigration for example, part of Agenda 21 orchestrated via the UN
was going to happen, but so unbelieving are we, so trusting of those in Power we cannot believe it is going to happen.
Take a look at the UK and the EU. See what is happening in Sweden. This is not mere immigration, but a Islamic takeover attempt throughout Europe and America. It is not about immigration, but gettting rid of Christians and Christianity, the family the culture, changing the whole demographic.
For God’s sake, let us all wake up to what is really happening.
‘Please Sir, can I have some more?’
I have posted an article on my iPhone to SecondSight, several days ago. Can you locate the damn thing and publish it, please?
I cannot trace the item you mention. I suggest that you send your contribution in your normal way.
John, is it not still in your Sent list, and you can send it again?
I apologise John, for such a silly suggestion, as of course it won’t be in any columns, being within WordPress. It seems to have just happened to me also on the next topic, very frustrating.