Elbowing its way into contention as the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year (and it’s still only February), “fake”, particularly when used as the adjective in “fake news”, has dominated the discussion among pundits, the news media, and various regimes around the world. Alas, the word “fake” could well win the annual award for its new meanings, as it continues to be misused, both in connotation and tone.
“Fake” has historically been a synonym for deceptive/false. In recent weeks, however, the slogan “fake news” has served as a substitute for thoughtful analysis and more than one-deep examination of ideas. A thoroughly exasperated CNN anchor Don Lemon abruptly shut down a panel discussion when guest Paris Dennard continued to parrot what Lemon called Dennard’s “stupid talking point” of “fake news”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lrb-yuvqf4I Rather than disagreeing with a point, its users instead use “fake news” to denigrate opposing views via oracularly-posited dismissive language, in this case labeling a story, a body of work, or an organization as overarching “fake news”. To be effective, this mantra is repeated, often, wearing down the patience of the opponent and diverting the attention of the audience from the original substantive issue(s). Breaking the link between audiences and media is a time-honored propaganda technique that is becoming more popular around the world.
Resort to this oversimplification of a debate also erodes the richness of our language. A more articulate method of disagreement is to say “your reporting is missing the more important issue, which is…” or “one might question the intellectual/factual foundation of your assertion”.
If the misuse of “fake” regarding news wasn’t enough, we now have “fake countries”, vice “illegitimate regimes”, thanks to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who called Israel a “fake” nation at the quadrennial International Conference in Support of Palestinian Intifada, always at the top of the social calendar in Tehran.
This week the world was also treated to a fake flag of the U.S., featuring 51 stars, which greeted U.S. Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to the European Union headquarters in Brussels. Fake flags should not be confused with false flags, spyspeak for misattribution, which we discussed in an earlier altcia article. The 51-star flag might be a first draft for a new U.S. flag when Northern Virginia is formally admitted to the union. NOVA already is treated as a state by the Washington Post, which always capitalizes its references to the area.
The bottom line: when you hear “fake”, ask yourself who is really doing the faking.