OPINION: ‘Fake news’ on rise pre-Trump


Donald Trump has made the term “fake news” famous but really this is a development that has been building quite steadily throughout all world communities over recent years.

Intentionally misleading and deceptive is probably the most accurate definition for “fake news”. Many of us remember when sarcasm and wit used to be great for the soul but sadly even this now seems to be morphing into fake news.

Blogs and social media are increasingly fake news distributors. I personally am very conscious of the risks of sinking into this fake news morass when putting together my monthly opinion piece. Opinion pieces, built around facts, where the writer then gives his perspective, for or against, should not be allowed to deteriorate into fake news.

Locally and nationally, our politicians, from a wide range of beliefs, are increasingly resorting to ever more exaggerated and poorly researched statements aimed at an increased popular vote.

The winners, and in particular the winning teams, seem hellbent on joining the fake news train as they duck and dive over past statements and promises so as to keep alive their chances of re-election.

The most common approach by politicians regionally is to string together a series of unqualified statements that individually may be factual but leave the recipients with a seriously flawed understanding of the overall consequences.

Our newly appointed Minister for Global Warming has set new environmental goals for New Zealand, while also suggesting that unless we achieve these goals large areas of our land could be flooded from rising sea levels.

He has started his term using fake news from day 1 by failing to clearly explain that sea levels are a global phenomenon and therefore only a collective worldwide response could possibly reduce our tidal flooding risk.

During 2017, so as to apparently meet the needs of foreign tourists, several local politicians made very public statements pleading for taxpayers nationally to fund the building of new tourism facilities throughout their regions.

Claiming foreign visitors solely drive public toilet demands is in my view intentionally misleading and deceptive. New Zealand residents also need public toilets when away from their homes and their numbers visiting our towns are far greater than international tourist numbers.

The journalism profession historically demanded quite high standards of reporting accuracy, taking quick and decisive action against those who digressed.

Today, with the electronic media developments, blogging, social media, those standards now appear to be long gone. Let’s hope that the medical, legal and financial services professions can maintain their standards and are not the next to sink into “fake news” to support their agendas.

Fake news and rampant political volatility, locally and nationally, doesn’t bode well for the future of mankind.

Timaru resident Jim Scott is a former Air New Zealand chief executive officer and a strategic consultant to small-to-medium nterprises.

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